I’ve come to the conclusion that all kids are picky eaters in some way. Little Pea may go to town on momos at the Tibetan restaurant and devour the candlenut curry we share from the Indonesian food truck, but put a potato in front of her? She won’t touch it. Pasta with tomato sauce. Acceptable! Pasta with pesto? Nope, nope, nope.
So, as parents, we do what we can. But as parents of a vegetarian child, it’s hard not to worry sometimes. Little Pea gets a lot of protein, but of particular concern to me lately is iron: Pea’s distaste for all things green means she’s missing out on one of the best sources of plant-based iron. (And no, she won’t do green smoothies. If it’s green, it’s not happening, no matter what it tastes like.)
One source of iron that’s always a winner for us? Beans and lentils. So I’ve been trying to up Little Pea’s intake of all things legume. Because straight up beans for every meal would get a bit boring, I started keeping these lentil meatballs on hand in the freezer for adding to pasta dinners or even just popping in Pea’s bento box lunches.
I’ve been making these Lentil Oat Meatballs for years, but when Little Pea started eating them, I tweaked the recipe slightly by omitting the wine I used to use to deglaze the sauté pan. In full disclosure, I like the wine version better; it adds a certain je ne sais quoi. That’s not to say this version isn’t good–it is! The flavor is just slightly less complex.
Since the last time I updated here, we launched a new sister site for Hello Glow called Hello Veggie. It’s all about simple, real food vegetarian cooking. So if you’re following me here, go follow me over on Hello Veggie too! It’s my recipes but with actual professional photography!
- 1/2 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine the lentils, bay leaf, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. (The lentils won't be tender at this point, but that's okay--if they're fully cooked, the meatballs will be mushy.) Drain the lentils, discarding the bay leaf, and cool slightly.
- Add lentils and mushrooms to a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Stir in the lentil mixture and cook for about 4 minutes or until browned, stirring often.
- Stir in the broth, tamari, oats, and Italian seasoning. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid has been absorbed, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray.
- Once it's cool enough to work with, form the lentil mixture into 12 balls, squeezing them a little to make sure they hold their shape, and place each one in a cup in the muffin tin.
- Bake the meatballs for about 40 minutes, or until they're browned on the outside. Remove the tin from oven and cool for 5 minutes; to remove the meatballs, run a butter knife along the edges of each muffin cup to loosen before gently popping them out.