Friday, July 5, 2013

Eating Clean - Mushroom Lentil Meatballs

Hello Lovelies!

I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July.  Mine was very quiet and it was GLORIOUS!  I know many of you have a nice long four day weekend like I do and I also know many of you might have gone a little overboard with some not so stellar food choices yesterday - it happens.  Those two situations make this post's timing absolutely perfect!

Mushroom Lentil Meatballs!!  Yes, they are as yummy (and as healthy) as they sound (and if they don't sound particularly yummy to the carnivores out there, trust me.  I've had three meat eaters try them and the reactions were all very positive)!  I have been trying to post about this recipe for a very long time now, but it's taken me making this three times to finally tweak it enough to get something that looked like a meatball instead of a Nilla Wafer.  While my first two attempts tasted fabulous, the consistency was off and they didn't look the way I wanted them to which was unacceptable because this recipe is pretty involved and very time consuming (which is why a four day weekend is the perfect time to share it).

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let's look at the two star ingredients here.  Mushrooms and lentils are fabulous choices to create faux-meatballs as both  mushrooms and legumes of all kinds are great meat substitutes.  Of all the legumes, lentils are an especially good choice here because they are quite dense - something that is incredibly important to keep our meatballs in tact.  If making these little guys didn't take so damn long, I would be making them constantly (perhaps next time I should make a double batch and throw half in the freezer) because they really are incredibly healthy!  Mushrooms have many health benefits which include providing vitamin D, vitamin B, and antioxidants, while lentils contain a whopping 15.6 grams of fiber per serving!  We all know that fiber is essentially good for everything, so let's just move on.  Armed with that information, maybe this lengthy process will seem less cumbersome.

So, throw on your apron, select your cooking soundtrack of choice, and pop open that bottle of red that you'll be using later on.  It's time to make some (non)meatballs!

-1 cup uncooked brown lentils, rinsed
-2 bay leaves
-2 cups organic vegetable broth
-12 ounces or 20 medium size organic brown mushrooms (I used crimini)
-2/3 cup dry old fashioned oats
-1 cup organic Italian parsley
-1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup red wine
-1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
-2 eggs, beaten
-salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, bay leaves, and vegetable broth.

2.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes.  You want your lentils slightly under cooked.  (I think the first two times I made this, I cooked the lentils too long which contributed to my meatballs not holding their shape)  Remove from heat, remove the bay leaves, drain, and let cool.

3.  In a food processor, combine the cooled lentils, mushrooms, oats, parsley, oregano, thyme, and crushed red pepper.

4.  Pulse together until mushrooms are mostly broken down and well combined, but still kinda chunky.  This photo is from one of the first times I attempted this recipe and it's actually a little TOO pulverized - live and learn.

5.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions until soft and slightly browned.  Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds before adding the lentil mixture.  Without adding any additional oil, cook between 5 and 10 minutes until the mixture is browned.

6.  Stirring constantly, add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

7.  Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste and wait for the mixture to cool.

8.  Preheat oven to 400.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

9.  Once cooled, add the Parmesan cheese and incorporate fully before adding the two eggs (WELL beaten).  Combine well with your hands and begin forming your meatballs.  They should be approximately the size of a golf ball (though I think mine were slightly larger).  Place on cookie sheet - I get about 18.

10.  Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes.  I would suggest just monitoring your meatballs after a half hour or so.

11.  Bake until golden.  The last two times I made these, I didn't understand how something that started off brown could actually become golden, but they did this time and they were PERFECT!!!

For any of you who do not eat meat and sometimes wish you could partake in spaghetti and meatballs, this is your ticket!  I made some whole wheat linguine with sauce, added a few of these, and topped it off with some Parmesan and added a salad.  SO good!!

I mentioned more than a few times that until I started tweaking the original recipe I found on Pinterest, these did NOT come out the way they did this last time.  Through trial and error (and recipe modification), I am going to share a few things with you to ensure that you do not end up with burnt mushroom lentil Nilla wafers.

1.  Don't overcook your lentils - and by this I mean do not cook your lentils all the way through.  Under cooking them helps hold the meatballs together.  Do not worry about crunchy meatballs, you're baking them for a while which will finish the job.

2.  Be careful not to overdo it in the food processor.  You want the mixture chunky.  My rule of thumb is as soon as the mushrooms are broken down enough so that you can incorporate them into the meatballs, stop.  The lentils are small and if you go overboard, you'll end up with a smooth mixture.

3.  Don't add additional wine to your saucepan.  Drink it instead - it's good for you.

4.  As it relates to the point above, there's a lot of waiting around with this recipe, make sure you save some of the wine for dinner!

5.  If you are attempting to shape your meatballs and the mixture is too moist to hold shape, I suggest adding more oatmeal.  They should NOT look like this.  You can see that they are too moist.  You can also see that I plopped them down onto the sheet and tried to shape them there...

6.  I have an older oven (the joys of apartment living), so I now bake them on the middle rack, with an empty cookie sheet on the rack below to temper the heat a bit.  I also bake for about 25 minutes at 400 and then turn the heat down to 350 for the last 10 minutes, since the first time I made these, I had burnt bottoms which was less than ideal.  CHECK YOUR MEATBALLS!!

7.  If you do not heed the warnings above, you will end up with this:

Big difference.  HUGE!

If you take the time to make these (and I definitely think you should!), tell me what you think.  I think they're divine!!

Buon Appetito!!

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