Retro 1970’s Vegetarian Potluck and Adobo Meatballs Recipe

January 30, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Snacks/Appetizers

The disco music was in full effect at our Vegetarian Cooking Club with the our 1970’s cuisine theme. We all arrived on a cold winter’s night to share our recipes and to ponder, “Seriously, why was food so ugly and unappetizing in the 1970’s?” Perhaps it was the odd yellow tinge that photographs from that time had or perhaps because there was something in the water that made taste buds go numb.

To illustrate this point, I’m going to start with desert because it was truly brilliant. A member of our pot-luck crew discovered a recipe for “Watergate Salad”.  Jell-O pistachio pudding, and this recipe, was introduced to the market in 1970’s and came into popularity around the same time the Watergate scandal was going on. The ingredients? Well, let’s just say it’s a mouth-watering combination of whipped topping, pistachio pudding, crushed pineapple, nuts and marshmallows. (A note if you want to keep this veggie, then use vegan marshmallows without gelatin.) Best of all – it’s a nice florescent greenish color. Mmmm-mmm.

Now, working backwards through our meal – for the main event we had fondue. A 1970’s-themed dinner is not complete unless you’ve got hunks of food on a stick dipped into cheesy goodness. Our dinner host did not disappoint with several fondues including a horseradish dip, sharp cheddar and a mushroom sauce. It’s an interesting dinner idea and you get to observe how truly klutzy your friends are. Be prepared to dig random bits of practically dissolved bread out of the cheese that fall off the forks and to clean cheese off of your table, walls and your clothes.

We also had a green bean casserole that was thickened with a home-made cream of mushroom and fresh beans (rather than using canned soup and canned beans). I forgot to take a picture of it because it was so good. Although, the maker of this dish did note that after chopping up all the million of mushrooms and prepping the beans that she wished she had opted to grab the can opener…

And, finally, to open up our festivities I whipped up a ‘Lil Smoky Cheese Ball with Ritz Crackers and Vegetarian Adobo Meatballs with dipping sauce (recipe below).

I lightened both recipes by substituting low fat cream cheese and no fat sour cream. I’m sure these lighter options, including “egg substitute” were non-existent in the 70’s but I decided to throw authenticity out the window for non-clogged arteries.

Although we never solved the mystery of the weird foods of the 70’s, we walked away with very full stomachs impressed that we were able to successfully throw down this fascinating time capsule of food.

Adobo Vegetarian Meatballs
by Megabeth

2 14-oz packages vegetarian ground beef product (Don’t use the frozen soy crumbles. I used the kind that comes in a “tube” –  Gimme Lean Beef by Lightlife.)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup egg substitute (or two eggs)
1 to 1 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from chipotle pepper can)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic power
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion power
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
olive oil

Adobo dipping sauce
1/2 cup low/no fat sour cream
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons vinegar
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients, except the olive oil, in a bowl. (A tip: Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and then squish the mixture with your fingers.)

Adjust seasonings if you want the meatballs to be spicier, etc.

Roll into approximately 40-45 meatballs depending on size.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and add meatballs in pan over medium heat. Brown on all sides. You’ll probably need to do this step in a couple of batches.

Place browned meatballs into baking dish and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until heated through. Don’t overcook or they’ll dry out a bit. While you’ve got the oven going, mix ingredients for dipping sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve (with frilly toothpicks of course!)

Put on your Saturday Night Fever record and your best bell-bottoms and enjoy.

Vegetarian Giro d’Italia: Pasta alla Carbonara

May 16, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes, Vegetarian Giro d'Italia

The Giro brings us into the Lazio region, which is dominated by Roman influence. Roman cooking features cheap, simply prepared, no frills food as, historically, eating was out of necessity.  The cuisine features influences from various cultures, customs and traditions brought together through Rome’s history. But, one thing is for sure,  this region loves its pasta…from fresh egg pasta to hard pastas from the south.

One famous dish, pasta alla carbonara, has its roots in the Lazio region. The development of this recipe is a bit murky and has been linked to charcoal miners (i.e., “coal worker style”), the black pepper that is used in the dish, a restaurant in Rome named “Carbonara” and even the the rumor that black squid ink was a common ingredient. Another theory is that the dish was invented during World War II during ingredient shortages. The American GIs stationed there took the recipe home with them. Quite possibly, it was the Roman version of creating a classic American breakfast for the soldiers, bacon and eggs with pasta, of course!

Regardless of its origins, this recipe has taken on a life of its own and the ingredients vary by region and by country. However,  the basic step remains – adding the egg at the end and letting the hot pasta cook it.

This is my vegetarian version of pasta alla carbonara which uses the classic recipe as a guide. (Obviously, the original recipe did not involve using a toaster oven to cook fake bacon.) I like making this when I’m looking for a quick and hearty meal. Saute onions if you so desire as it adds a little more depth to the dish, but I usually don’t miss the taste and the effort required to chop onions and clean a saute pan.

Megabeth’s Pasta alla Carbonara

– 1 box (8 oz) of whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)
– 5 – 6 strips of vegetarian bacon
– two eggs (egg substitute equivalent to two eggs)
– two tablespoons capers
– grated parmesean cheese

Prepare pasta per package instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, pre-heat toaster oven (or oven) to 450 degrees. (Note: you can also use a saute pan to cook the bacon until crisp, if preferred.) Spray toaster tray or cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Then spray lightly the top of the “bacon”. Cook each side for about 3 minutes until desired crispiness is achieved. When cooked, cut “bacon” into small bite size pieces.

Crack two eggs in small bowl. Then whisk or beat with fork until blended.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and put in large bowl. Add beaten eggs to bowl and distribute through pasta. Add bacon pieces and capers. (Make sure pasta is still hot when adding the eggs. This is key to ensure the eggs are cooked thoroughly.) Sprinkle parmesean cheese into the pasta until it is coated with it.

Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and enjoy.

Fake Meats…Delicious or Disgusting?

January 10, 2010 By: Megabeth Category: Article

Fake meats. Are they delicious or disgusting? I’ve been inspired by a recent photo poll on Huffington Post to explore this very question. And, as you suspected, for most folks the answer is “disgusting” for me the answer is “it depends”.

Sure, us vegetarians have all heard it, “Why are you a vegetarian if you still eat things that taste like meat?” That’s not the point, at least as far as I’m concerned. We’ve all received the memo that meat substitutes don’t taste like meat. So, if the marketing team decides to call it fake chicken or fake beef, that’s up to them. I’m not looking for something to replicate meat. I’m looking for things that taste good and for ingredients that convey a flavor that I’m looking for in a particular dish.

What’s key to remember when working with fake meats or meat substitutes is that if you are expecting them to taste exactly like the meat they are supposed to be mimicking, they never will. I learned that early with bacon and pepperoni substitutes. You will never be able to recreate that taste. Many people have asked me if I miss bacon. Honestly, I don’t.  So, if I’m eating a bacon substitute I’m not expecting it to taste like bacon.  The spices in the product make fake bacon a good addition to a modified BLT sandwich.

Moving on to veggie burgers. I’ll admit, I usually have a box of Gardenburgers or Boca Burgers in the freezer so I don’t thumb my nose at them. Over the past few years there has been an explosion of flavors in what you can find in the store’s freezer. Some are a lot better than others, so you really have to experiment with what you like. In the refrigerated section you can also find portabella burgers and some grocery stores, like Whole Foods, have hand crafted patties. I prefer these much more than the frozen versions. Meanwhile, I do have a book of recipes of exclusively veggie burger recipes and have tried out a lentil goat cheese burger recipe that came out really good. But,  I hope to work on more of these recipes this summer when I can fire up the grill.

Ordering veggie burgers in restaurants gets tricky. Here’s my sage advice: When ordering a veggie burger from someplace new, don’t try to imagine what kind of burger they will bring out. Your mouth could be watering for a chunky, juicy, handmade patty and then be presented with a thin hockey puck. (This disappointment is otherwise known as, “Oh geez! We have a vegetarian at table #12! Run to the store and pick up a frozen box of Gardenburgers!” ) However, because I don’t set any expectations I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I am handed a gourmet and succulent veggie burger. Most notably, in Pittsboro, North Carolina and Katoomba, Australia. Also, you can’t go wrong with a veggie burger at Ted’s Montana Grill. They are also quite tasty.

As for fake hot dogs, that’s a whole other story. I’ve never met any veggie hot dog that I really like. Sure, I’ve been known to eat them at a baseball stadium or other random location, but that’s only out of desperation. And, I most certainly don’t even bother keeping them in my house. They are usually rubbery, chewy and tasteless. But never fear, vegetarians don’t have to feel left out at BBQ’s. Head towards the vegetarian sausages that come in a spectacular array of flavors. A while back, I introduced everyone to Vegetarian Sausagepalooza – a review of two brands of veggie sausages. You’ll find that the flavors you get out of these products depend on how you cook them. Stick them in a microwave, and you’re missing out. Fry them or grill them and you get more smoky flavors.

Then, there are the litany of other kinds of “fake meats” made out of seitan, TVP, tofu, and tempeh. They come in all types of shapes and forms from frozen cutlets to refrigerated stir-fry strips. I’ve made several recipes using these fillers and they all play different roles in different recipes. In vegetarian goulash, the seitan serves as a chewy stew like accompaniment the joins the rest of the ingredients.

But, if made as crispy fried bites, the seitan is the feature of the recipe.

If you’re not up to cooking from scratch, manufacturers have made it much easier to enjoy these creations through products that go beyond “chicken-like” and “beef-like” but also versions with sauces and marinades so all you have to do is heat and serve.

So, fake meats, delicious or disgusting? It’s not as simple as that. Because there is such a wide variety of flavors and forms, it’s best to not assume that you’re not going to like all fake meats. You have to experiment with all the different kinds of products rather than run and cower from them. If you’re looking for a vegetarian version of meat to taste exactly like the meat it’s substituting, stop searching because you’re never going to find it.

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