I just recently began eating meat again after about 2 1/2 years of being a vegetarian. I mainly went on this diet to set some personal limits on myself in my day-to-day life to see if I could do it. I lasted a lot longer than I thought, I really enjoyed the foods I ate and I didn’t really find myself craving meat or missing it in any way. Now that I am in culinary school it is important for me to be able to try and experiment with all foods, so being a vegetarian or vegan would limit that.
A plant based diet is not just a diet; it is a lifestyle. Those who live by a plant-based diet usually follow these principles in their day-to-day lives. The idea of a plant based diet is to consume as little processed foods as possible, eat whole vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains, seeds…etc. and excluding all animal products. There are a few variations of the “plant-based” diet.
- Vegan: no animal products at all including honey and eggs.
- Ovo-Vegetarians: includes eggs but avoids all other animal products
- Lacto-Vegetarians: includes dairy but excludes all other animal products
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians: eat dairy and eggs but no other animal products.
Some other variations include pescetarians, who eat fish and/or shellfish and semi-vegetarians who occasionally eat meat or poultry.
Vegan BBQ Meatballs
This week, I set out to make a vegan dish- I decided instead of just making a salad or roasted vegetables or something basic, I would make a dish that is traditionally made with meat, and provide an alternative to those who adapt a plant-based lifestyle. I made Vegan BBQ Meatballs!
Along with being delicious, vegan/plant-based food provides a lot of health benefits!
It prevents high blood pressure.
There was a case study done in 2010 by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee measuring the blood pressure of adults who ate a plant based versus and animal based diet. The Plant based diets were associated with a lower systolic blood pressure and lower diastolic blood pressure than those on the animal based diet.
It helps keep our skin looking youthful and glowing.
Not eating animal’s products and meat also means you are not consuming the saturated fats associated with these foods. Saturated fats clog the pores in our skin, which results in pimples and blemishes on our faces. This, along with the fact that many fruits and vegetables contain many of the vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals that contribute to healthy skin. For example, Mangoes, papayas and apricots are packed full of a pigment calls carotenoid which improves the colour of our skin. Carotenoids are stored directly below the skin’s surface, so this gives our skin a healthy glow.
It increases our fibre intake.
Following a plant based diet means that you will be consuming lots of fruits and veggies which are packed with fibre. Fibre helps with out digestive health, helps with weight control, and prevention of many diseases.
Enviornmental Impacts of Adapting a Plant-Based Diet
It can reduce our carbon footprint.
The Worldwatch Institue have estimated that livestock production is responsible for 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions! This alone, not including the transportation and the fuel used to grow feed this contributes to a very large carbon footprint!
It can help reduce our water consumption.
According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce only 1 gallon of milk! That statistic alone makes you think twice about purchasing animal products.
In the direction that the culinary industry is going, being able to adapt to specific diets, intolerance’s and allergies will be a key to success. There are so many different diets, whether it be for religion, weight loss, ethical reasons, or even just to try it out and see if you can do it- people make these decisions and as a service industry, we need to be able to be flexible to make it work. On my previous travel experiences with my family, some of the best restaurants we went to were vegetarian restaurants. I think this is because the chefs must be able to utilize spices, the natural sugars and pure, natural flavours of the vegetables and grains to make a fully rounded dish. Being able to cook vegetables well shows the ability of the chef, and also caters to all audiences.
I chose to make these meatballs because I already had all the ingredients in my pantry! I have low iron, so I try to incorporate beans and grains into my diet as much as I can to compensate. I would say most households would have a can of black beans and oats in their pantry, and everything else can be substituted for or you can make your own flavour profile! I added paprika, cumin and parsley to my (meat)balls but you can add what ever spices and herbs you want! As for the sauce, if you wanted to add these to a tomato sauce that would work brilliantly as well, or even to a vegan stroganoff with cashew cheese and mushroom sauce! The only trouble I had was when you are making a vegan dish, you must avoid animal products all together. When I make meat balls with ground meat, I use an egg as a binding agent and I find that is very effective. I found this dough to be quite dry, and it could have used an egg. That being said, I would absolutely make these again! They were relatively easy to make, and they involved very little clean up!
Vegan BBQ Meatballs
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 15-ounce can black beans (rinsed, drained, dried)
- 2 Tbsp water (or sub olive or avocado oil)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 cup diced shallot
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- 2 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flake (reduce for less heat)
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- Your Favourite BBQ Sauce (Vegan, if you like)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add rinsed, dried black beans to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until beans appear cracked and feel dry to the touch (see beans in food processor photo). Remove beans from the oven and then increase oven heat to 375 degrees F (190C).
Heat a large (oven-safe) skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add water (or oil), garlic, and shallot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly softened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat (and reserve pan for later use).
Add black beans to a food processor along with garlic, shallot, sea salt, parsley, red pepper flake, and cumin and pulse into a loose meal (DON’T overmix). Then add oats, tomato paste, fresh parsley. Pulse to combine until a textured dough forms (you’re not looking for a purée, but it should be semi-tacky).
Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt for saltiness/depth of flavor, red pepper flake for heat, herbs for earthiness, or Worcestershire (optional) for more depth of flavor.
Scoop out heaping 1 1/2 Tbsp amounts and gently form into small balls using your hands. Add to a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Heat an oven-safe metal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the meatballs and sauté for a few minutes, gently turning the meatballs to get a slight crust on either side. Then transfer to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and slightly dry to the touch.
These meatballs are delicious as is, but I went one step further and added some of my favourite bbq sauce to the pan and heated the meatballs in the sauce on high for about 5 minutes.
Kubala, J. (2018) Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide for Healthline. Access at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/plant-based-diet-guide
Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente journal, 17(2), 61-6. Access at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/www.dietitians.ca/mentalhealth
Ventrice, M (2015). 5 Ways Eating More Plant-Based Foods Benefits the Environment [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan