G-Ma's Chilli Meatballs Re-Invented


From a young age (7 or so) I was a black sheep in my family and I stopped wanting to eat meat. To my parents I was a challenging child, head strong and a picky eater. On my 11th birthday, my mom sat me down and gave me a book on vegetarian nutrition and told me if I could stick to the principles in that book, I would not have to eat meat anymore. Well, when I found out I'd have to eat beans... I turned my nose up and said no! (I have since changed my tune on that one.)  We struck a compromise however, and I no longer had to eat red meat or pork. 

At the same time my grandparents were very involved in our lives and I was particularly close to my paternal grandmother (whom I affectionately called G-Ma). She was an amazing cook, and the only way she could convince me to eat beef was in her legendary CHILI MEATBALLS. She would make the meatballs from scratch, and slow simmer them in a simple sauce made from tomato soup and some spices. Then she would serve them with rice or mashed potatoes and my favourite, steamed broccoli. (Told you a was strange kid!) 

Today I have crafted a whole food, vegan, gluten free chili meatball recipe reminiscent of her delightfully tasty classic. Protein packed and high in fibre, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Folate. I'm sure she would approve if she were around today. This one is for you G-Ma, I know you are smiling wherever you are! 

Just look at these tasty little guys... no one can resist their magnetic pull...   Photo courtesy of Miaou Photography

Just look at these tasty little guys... no one can resist their magnetic pull... 

Photo courtesy of Miaou Photography

G-Ma's Chili Meatballs

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes 
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt or more to taste
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)

Meatball Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked black beans or one can
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbls Taco seasoning mix (You can use store bought or make your own. I use the taco seasoning recipe from "Yum Universe" By: Heather Crosby- page 202)
  • 1 tbls Tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 Tbls fresh chopped parsley or Cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 Flax egg (1 Tbls ground flax seeds + 3 tbls warm water)
  • 1-2 tbls olive oil

For the sauce

  1. I recommend making the sauce first, while it simmers, through the meatballs together. 
  2. Crank the oven up to 400 and line a cookie sheet with parchment. Cut the peppers in half and place cut side down along with the peeled Garlic cloves, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt ans pepper.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove Peppers from oven and allow to cool. once cooled. peel all the loose skin off the pepper. 
  5. Transfer peppers and garlic to a food processor or a Vitamix. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. 
  6. Transfer the mixture to a small sauce pan, add remaining seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat ans simmer for at least 20 minutes. 

*This sauce freezes well, make in advance and warm when needed. 

For the Meatballs

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Drain and rinse black beans, and place in a large mixing bowl. Smash the beans with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. 
  3. Add all other ingredients and mix well.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment or reusable non-stick silicone pad. 
  5. With damp hands, for the mixture into 1-1 1/2 inch balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. 
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping gently partway through. 

*Serve with quinoa, mashed potatoes, salad, coleslaw or your favorite steamed veggies. 

*Meatballs store well in the Freezer #mealprep