Simply Food: Pasta and ‘meat’balls

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Meatless Monday campaign started by Sid Lerner, an advertising executive, and John Hopkins School of Public Health.

Together, they began this campaign to draw attention to the idea that people should focus more on a plant-based diet rather than a meat-centered one. Monday was chosen as a starting point because people are more likely to make changes on a Monday rather than during the middle or the end of a week.

This idea is similar to making a New Year’s resolution. People like a good starting point for change. The idea is to eliminate your intake of meat one day each week. Even this subtle change could impact your health, the welfare of animals, how much you spend on food and some negative effects on the environment.

The Meatless Monday campaign was a global one and it is now in effect in 29 countries. Americans consume almost more meat than any other country in the world. We eat 270 pounds of meat per person per year. I have found that people revolve their dinner ingredients around the meat. I used to do this all of the time. This is how I learned to eat.

First, I would come up with the idea for dinner, which might have been chicken, meatloaf, or a roast. Then, I decided on the sides. Maybe I chose cauliflower or potatoes or both. The plate was then served with meat as the centerpiece and the vegetables as merely accompaniments of this meat. Usually the vegetables were only a small portion compared to the amount of meat on the plate. Surely, this type of eating has lead to the obesity epidemic that plagues the United States today. We need to eat more vegetables and consume foods with higher levels of nutrition and less fat. The answer is vegetables. I think vegetables should be the centerpieces and the meat should be the side dish.

I try to do my part to make plant based foods a centerpiece in most of my meals. Even if I am making a simple pasta dish with a jar of sauce, I like to add in tons of vegetables to make it healthier. I start with sauting onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Then, I add the sauce. Sometimes, I will throw in some greens or fresh basil.

This week, I decided to make a meatless meatball for a pasta dish I was preparing. I just thought this would be a fun idea. I considered making them with mushrooms because a big meaty portabella ground up is always a good meat substitute. Then, I decided I would do it with beans instead. This decision formed in my head once I realized that I was out of mushrooms and I didn’t feel like running to the store.

So, I went with a beans and roasted red peppers idea. I blended these up and added herbs and breadcrumbs. Then, I thought I should put in some steak sauce to give them more of a meaty flavor. I used A-1 but you could use Worchestershire Sauce or any steak sauce for that matter. Once I had the “meat”balls cooked and ready to serve with my pasta and sauce, I added a little shaved Parmesan cheese. Daphne and I loved them. Claud wasn’t too impressed. I don’t think they had a meaty enough flavor for him. However, they were really flavorful and gave a regular pasta dish a little pizzazz.

I made quite a few, so the next morning I had leftovers. They sort of reminded me of falafels. This gave me the great idea of making a little tahini sauce and I heated up the “meat”balls for breakfast. I mixed together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to make a delicious sauce. Then, I just dipped my leftover “meat”balls right in. They were delicious this way too. These would be great in pita bread with the tahini sauce, tomatoes and lettuce. I would also make them as appetizers for a dinner party. You could use any type of dip you like. I think they would taste great in ranch dip. But, what doesn’t taste great in ranch?

It’s fun to come up with different meat substitutes using beans or vegetables. Although I really liked these, I am going to keep coming up with ways to make them until Claud enjoys them. He is the big meat lover in the family. So, I will know when it passes his standards, it is really good.

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