Broccoli Meatballs? Reallly? Yes, Really.

I don’t know about you, but my preparation of, or suggestion of broccoli to the youngest members of our tribe is rarely met with an enthusiastic: “Oooooo broccoli!” I confess I find it hard to understand as broccoli was one of the only vegetables I willingly ate as a child, but I digress. When I make broccoli (despite their admission that my preparations are better than most thanks to this broccoli secret) there is usually at least a few faces that range from disinterest to disgust and either an implied or directly stated requirement that it be eaten regardless of how you feel about it because it’s broccoli. Why should they (and by they I mean all of us) eat their broccoli?

If you’re a data hound looking for reasons to eat broccoli, check this out (lots of graphs for you). If you prefer paragraphs to charts, give this one a go. The long and short of it is that broccoli is one of the richest sources of nature’s good stuff out there. It’s so great it makes the Mayo Clinic’s list of top 10 healthy foods. I’m gonna assume at this point that you at least logically believe that eating broccoli is a good idea, even if it has not been your favorite in the past. I would suggest that this preparation is a winner and just might turn your broccoli feelings on their healthy little hearts.

Vegetarian Times says: “Broccoli Meatballs.” Okay, there’s a lot of problems with that name for a dish. First of all “broccoli meatballs” just sounds weird. Secondly the fact that these little gems are called “meatballs” suggests that they have meat in them, which they do not. Admittedly simply calling them broccoli balls would likely not increase their appeal. Even I, a broccoli lover, am not particularly interested in eating broccoli balls. These little dealios, strange name or no, are really quite delicious, packed with nutrition (they include yet another ingredient on the Mayo Clinic’s top 10 list, almonds), and pretty simple to prepare. So let’s get on with… broccoli balls or bust! Okay, yeah, still no on the broccoli balls.

Broccoli Meatballs (adapted from Vegetarian Times Broccoli Meatballs with Garlic-Tomato Sauce)

  • 4 cups chopped broccoli (original called for just florets, but that’s wasteful, so peel the stems and go for it)
  • 1 c raw almonds
  • 2 t sesame seeds + 1 t salt in a 1/4 c measure – fill the rest with nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 11/2 T dried basil
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh spinach (shut the door – it’s another super healthy Mayo Clinic approved food!!)
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 flax eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment. Steam the broccoli until just fork tender (maybe 10 minutes). It should be bright green and not mushy. Remove from steamer and allow to cool. Pulse almonds in food processor until ground. Place in mixing bowl. Pulse broccoli in food processor until mostly chopped. Add spinach and pulse a few more times and then add to ground almonds. Add all remaining ingredients except for the flax eggs and stir to combine. Add eggs and stir until combined. Shape mixture into meatballs.

  

We made 12, but I would make more smaller ones next time. You will have to press a little to get them to stick together. Place on baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until browning on the outside. Serve wherever you might consider serving meatballs. We had ours in mini pitas (a slight size mismatch there) with some leftover Easiest Pasta Sauce EVER, a salute to my old favorite a meatball sub. Sauteed green beans on the side made it a super green dinner bonanza. Delish! Since then I’ve had the leftovers with pasta, on a salad, and on a bed of rice with more nutritional yeast. All of them were great, so I give this badly named nutritional powerhouse a super Sis Sisters thumbs up! Eat well, be well friends!

  

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Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma. Continue reading

Veggie Basics: What to Put In There

It is oh so easy, when talking about how to improve our diets, to get stuck in the language of deprivation.  Don’t Eat This, Don’t Eat That, Cut That, Avoid This, This Will Make You Sick, This Will Make You Bloated, Stop Eating What You’re Eating, Don’t Eat What You’re Thinking, You Shouldn’t, You Mustn’t, Don’t, Don’t Don’t EAT!!!!  I realize I may be the only one who occasionally still veers adolescent n my behavior and reactions but there’s only so much mustn’t I can take.

It is critically important when attempting to improve your eating habits to put more than a little of that mental energy into thinking about what you SHOULD eat rather than what you SHOULDN’T eat.  Focusing on the should and the can and the new and different and the experiments and the flavors is a framework of abundance and permission and excitement.  You are not a child; don’t spend all day scolding yourself.  Spend some time telling yourself what you can or even should do and then play with that suggestion.

So here we are, we’ve talked a lot about what you probably shouldn’t eat, and we’ve made lots of suggestions about what to eat, but I’m going to get real specific and direct just for a few hundred words here, and I’m going to annoy my father, because I’m going to tell you to eat kale.  Why? Continue reading

Veggie Basics: A String, A Green, We’re Full of Beans!

When I was young, my weary mother occasionally prepared green beans.  They were canned green beans and they were cooked in the style of the day, which is to say that they were boiled until limp.  Now, if you are a canned limp green bean fan, please don’t take offense. I cannot make some “truth” claim about what is a good green bean, but I can tell you what green beans are good TO me, and as you may have guessed canned limp green beans are not in this club.  The only other green bean exposure I had with any regularity was at my dear grandmother’s house.  Her addition to the container of limp green beans was a big piece of fatback.  While I understand that might entice some folks, it didn’t create a veggie siren song for me.  All this is to say that I am a late bloomer where the green bean is concerned.

Years later, I was convinced to try green beans with a promise of something truly different from what I’d experienced before, something that tasted like, well, something other than salt water.  Al dente… tender crisp… a vegetable that is still cooked, but that resists the bite, offers a little crunch, demonstrates a need for teeth.  And so began my love affair with green beans.  I’ve since tried all the varieties I can find (I must confess that the yellow ones still don’t work for me), and have prepared them a variety of ways – and that’s they part you’re probably actually interested in. Continue reading

Veggie Basics and Dinner

So I’ve had my ear to the ground, well, and to the laptop as it were, and I’m hearing A LOT of conversations about food – real food, healthier food, making changes, and the thing I’m hearing most is folks saying they need to EAT MORE VEGGIES (cue angel choir singing here).  So many wonderful conversations, and it’s so exciting to see/hear that folks are really trying to find some lasting change.

The rest of that conversation, however, is full of questions and frustration.  What should I cook?  What if they don’t like it?  I can’t seem to find a way to prepare these things that anyone enjoys….  This IS where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it.  All of our good intentions are for naught if the food doesn’t follow.  Today’s post is my attempt to give a little basic training on two of my favorite veggies in an attempt to help you find some ways to enjoy them.  Then I’ll show you how I ate them together in the same bowl…. I know, the suspense is killing you. Continue reading

A Recipe for Warm Weather Munching

As the farmers’ markets open and Spring begins to reveal all the luscious yum that can grow from the ground, my appetites invariably change in search of lighter fare.  Sure, soup is still good (especially if it’s cold), but all those lovely green things that are in season just need to get on my plate and get in mah belly.  I discovered on our recent road trip (much to my delight) that my children continue to prefer raw to cooked vegetables (“you know, Mommy, like we eat them at home, crunchy”) and so this weather-driven shift in the kitchen is a happy time for all of us.  Following this instinct has revealed a certain pattern in my cooking, a sort of formula, that seems to work for the whole family and that is endlessly malleable.  Because the ingredients can change, I’m going to call it…

The Varia-bowl

As is our practice here on the pantry, I’m now going to throw a series of general recommendations at you that when I follow them, result in dinner.  For a nutritious and delicious varia-bowl, prepare a grain or noodle, a marinated or cooked green, and chop several other veggies according to your preference.  I always add nuts for crunch and protein and usually either parsley or cilantro for some yum.  Add seasonings to complement the cooked veggie.  Easy, right?

In the picture you can see last night’s varia-bowl.  After a successful dinner at Big Sis’ house, my son was interested in experimenting more with rice noodles, and so this was the base for dinner.  You can see both the buckwheat and the black rice noodles peeking out from under all the green.  I then added spinach namul, chopped raw peppers, chopped snap peas, chopped cilantro, raw cashews, and soy sauce.  It was fabulous crunchy eating.  And everyone enjoyed it, not because everyone here loves each of those items, but because I served them like this. They call this “deconstructed” in high cuisine circles; I call it sanity when dining with twin 5 year olds.  Keeping all of the elements separate makes it much easier to accomodate the various preferences of my crew.  They know they will still be having plenty of veggies, but they can skip one of the them and the ones that they choose can sit on the plate without touching, as this seems to make them undesirable.

The varia-bowl is a lovely little formula, and with a little experimentation with flavor profiles, you can create an endless array of dishes that are the same only in their basic structure.  I began fooling with improvisational ethnic cooking using a chart in the back of Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  If you have a copy or can pick one up at the library, this is a nice place to start to play with different spice and flavoring combinations.  Cooking Light does a summary that has more ethnic variety, but unlike Katzen’s, this list only focuses on spices, does not include vinegars and other flavorings that can be useful.  The flavor combinations I suggested when describing namuls can easily apply here as well.  Not sure what vegetables to try?  Open that fridge.  Start with what you’ve got and what you like.  Slap it on some quinoa, or some brown rice, some farro, or even some oatmeal (yes, many people eat oatmeal with savory foods).  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s endlessly varia-bowl.  Delish.