Vegetarian Meatballs, aka “Energon Spheres”

Haha, “strange man- children”. This girl cracks me up.

I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with a little elfin son whose curiosity, passion, and zest for life is purely inspirational.  Every new discovery, for him, is amazing, and he just can’t seem to get enough of whatever random idea has most recently captured his imagination.

Lately, it’s been all about Transformers.  His every waking moment is spent playing with his Transformers toys, watching Transformers cartoons, trolling online for more Transformers to collect, and watching youtube videos where strange man-children educate viewers on the intricacies of the world of Transformers.

My delight in his discovery is matched only by my frustration in his refusal to eat his vegetables…

I recently read in a parenting magazine that kids are much more likely to try new foods if they are named in an interesting way!  I’m willing to try anything at this point, so I’ve nicknamed this recipe “Energon spheres,” in honor of our family’s current fixation on all things Cybertron.  (For all those out there who are not in the know, the Transformers are alien beings hailing from the planet Cybertron, and their goal in visiting our planet is to obtain Energon cubes.  Please don’t ask me for any further explanation on this matter, as that is the full extent of my brain’s capacity to absorb information on alien robot-vehicles.)

This recipe is inspired by one created by the guys from The Meatball Shop in Brooklyn, which is creating a huge sensation in the food world.  I saw them working their magic on my favorite, The Nate Berkus Show, and I just had to give this idea a try.  I’ve tweaked their formula, in hopes of speeding up the prep and making it more kid-friendly, but hopefully I’ve done them proud.  If you like the sounds of it, there’s a printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Energon Spheres

2 stalks celery
1/2 large, sweet onion
3 carrots, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 sprig rosemary
8 ounces mushrooms
1 15 ounce can of lentils
3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

I started by chucking the celery, onion, and carrots (known as mire poix by us food nerds) into the food processor.

Pulse until finely chopped, but still kinda chunky.

I probably could have put the mushrooms in there too, but I wanted them to be in bigger chunks, so I tortured myself by hand chopping them.

If you are not a sadist, like myself, you should absolutely take the shortcut and process everything together.

On the stove, medium-high flame, in some nice, hot, olive oil…

…I wanted to give them a head start on the mushrooms to soften the crunch out of them.  Meanwhile, rinse the lentils.

Now add the mushrooms and the rosemary to the mire poix and give it a little salt and pepper.  Also, grate in the garlic.

Once everything’s nice and soft and sweet and all the flavors have melded, take out the rosemary and put the rest in a big bowl with all the other ingredients.

Combine everything and then scoop the balls onto a baking sheet.

I baked them for 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

On the Nate Show, the Meatball guys served them with a drizzle of pesto, which sounds out of this world, but knowing my kids’ phobia of anything green, I knew that would not fly in our house.  So I just gave them a little drizzle of good quality extra-virgin olive oil and a flurry of parm.  They would also be great under a blanket of my simple tomato sauce

Can I just say, with utmost respect, and no offense intended towards “those kind” of families, but we are not one of “those kinds” of family, that goes out of their way to eat vegetarian.  I enjoy vegetarian food, and I like tofu, in restaurants, but I have never made anything like this before.  I am perfectly ok with just eating meatballs, if it’s meatballs I want.  However, these were surprisingly, extremely, delicious.  I loved them.  I would definitely make them again.  They are just as good as meatballs, if not better.

Now, I’m sure you are wondering, did the Energon Spheres succeed in getting veg into my toddler boys?  Sadly, the answer is no.  The Transformers fiend politely took a “no thank you” bite, and the little one refused to even look at them.  But I’ve also read, in parenting magazines, that you have to keep trying and eventually they’ll open their minds, so I’m not giving up.  But even if they never break, I’m still really happy with this recipe and I’d make it again for myself and my Mr.  They are high in fiber, high in protein, and super low in fat, not to mention comforting and delish.

Click here for the printable 4×6 recipe card:  Vegetarian Meatballs Recipe Card
…and click here for a quick and easy sauce accompaniment:  Basic Tomato Sauce

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