Vegetable-Tomato-‘Meat’ Stew/Sauce

Part One: Tomato Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 of a small-to-medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 small zucchini, grated (~6 oz)
  • 1 carrot, grated (~ 3 oz)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced (~ 6 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes

Part One: Tomato Sauce Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for 1 minute.
  • Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes (stirring every 30-60 seconds).
  • Add the zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, thyme, and oregano, and cook for 10 minutes (stirring every 1-2 minutes).
  • Add the tomatoes, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes (stirring every 5 minutes).

Part Two: ‘Meat’ Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz package soy protein crumbles
  • 1/4 of a small-to-medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 ounce goat cheese (chevre), crumbled (~1/8 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 pinches dried basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons water

Part Two: ‘Meat’ Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
  • Spray a medium baking sheet with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • Add all of the ‘meat’ ingredients to a large bowl. Mix with your hands until all of the ingredients are well-combined.
  • Put the ‘meat’ mix on the greased baking sheet, and spread out in a thin layer.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, then stir.
  • Bake another 5-10 minutes (until the the top of the soy crumbles are browned). Once browned, promptly remove the crumbles from the baking sheet.

To eat:
Put a scant cup of tomato-veggie sauce and 1/3 cup of ‘meat’ mixture into the same bowl. Stir. You can eat the sauce as-is, or you can add noodles, top with grated Parmesan cheese, etc.

Makes 8 servings tomato sauce, and 4 servings meat mixture.
1 serving tomato sauce = ~1 cup (8 oz)
1 serving meat mixture = ~1/3 cup (3 oz)

Nutritional information per serving of tomato sauce (approximates): 103 calories, 1 g fat, 23.5 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fiber, 8.5 g sugar, 3.5 g protein.

Nutritional information per serving of meat mixture (approximates): 127 calories, 1.5 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 17.5 g protein.

Tomato sauce mise en place.

Cooked tomato sauce.

The 'meat' ingredients, pre-mixing.

The 'meat' ingredients, mixed but not yet baked.

The 'meat' ingredients, post baking.

The first serving.

The ratings:
Mental Cost (ingredient availability): Low.
Financial Cost (ingredient cost): Pretty low.
Emotional Cost (cooking skill level): Mostly low.
Time Cost (recipe preparation): Low, hinting at medium.  (But mostly low.)
Life Cost (clean up time/effort): Medium.
Worth It? (rate from 1-5): 1.99 – with maybe some potential for improvement.
(More about this in the commentary below.)

The Bottom Line: Will I make this recipe again?

When I saw the recipe from which I drew my inspiration for this meal, I was intrigued.  Sweet potatoes in a tomato sauce?  And zucchini?  Hmm, interesting…  I was definitely enamored with the idea of extra veggies in a sauce.

The original recipe called for forming the meat mixture into actual meatballs; but as soon as I started mixing the crumbles with the other ingredients, I knew they would never stick together, much less hold a solid form.  Alas, such is one of the issues in using soy products sometimes – a person never quite knows how the soy products are *actually* going to behave until the person tries to use them.  But no problem; I can improvise.  I’ll just make the meat component a loose assembly instead of a tight one; no biggie.  (I’m more about taste than I am about presentation; so I don’t care if the ‘meat’ comes in ball form or not.)  I figured the more important part of the ‘meat’ element was getting all of the ingredients to bake together, so their flavors could combine, integrate, meld… so that’s what I did.

And what I ended up with was a pretty mild (read: bland) ‘meat’ component, and a VERY tomato-y sauce component.  The tomato element was so powerful that I almost couldn’t eat an entire serving of the dish; it was just too much tomato.  So, I consider this meal a ‘failure’ as it stands – but, I see lots of opportunities for improvement.  When I try this dish again, I will replace the two 28-oz cans(!) of crushed tomatoes with 1 14-oz can of crushed tomatoes, and 1 14- or 28-oz can of petite diced tomatoes.  I think that will help balance out the tomato flavor, and let the other veggies shine through a bit more.  I will probably also double the amount of onion used in the ‘meat’ mixture, and add half a tablespoon of dried basil, too.

So, more kitchen lessons learned.  And that’s part of what this year of cooking experimentation is all about.  Heck, one might assert that is part of what life is about.  (And I might be one of those people…)  So even though this dish wasn’t so hot, “it” is still all good.  :)


P.S. Because I really dislike wasting food, here is one new, more edible application of the tomato/meat sauce I improvised: half-a-serving of the tomato sauce (so, 1/2 c) + 1 serving of the meat mixture (1/3 c) + 1/2 c cooked broccoli (I used frozen – it’s easy) + 1/4 c corn (again, I went with frozen).  This combo was a lot tastier than the straight-up tomato/’meat’ meal; the broccoli and corn helped ‘break up’ the intense tomato.

Other tweaks I’m planning for the week include adding black, red, or chili beans (in place of the corn), frozen cooked spinach or kale (in place of or in addition to the broccoli), and topping with a variety of seasonings or cheeses (cumin & paprika for a Mexican feel, cheddar cheese and sour cream for a chili vibe, grated Parmesan and/or Romano for an Italian flair…) I’m only limited by my imagination, and my current pantry offerings.  :)

About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in "hamburger", carrots, cheese, chevre, italian, picture step-by-step, postaweek2011, soy crumbles, stew, sweet potato, tomatoes, vegetables, vegetarian, zucchini and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Vegetable-Tomato-‘Meat’ Stew/Sauce

  1. carlaat says:

    Pasta? Any kind of pasta? Gluten free? Or rice? I think it might be good over something like that . . . Do you eat pasta, Stef? Looks yummy to me – I’m a big tomato fan. I like your idea of adding beans as well. Or kale.


    • Stef says:

      I’m not a big pasta fan. I prefer other carbs (like beans, corn, potatoes) to pasta. I’m also not a very big bread-eater. For whatever reason, those types of carbs just make me feel really bloated. (But I’m not gluten-sensitive or anything like that.) Popcorn is the same way.

      My husband had the dish tonight with pasta, chickpeas, and grated Parmesan cheese – and he liked it like that. :)


  2. Pingback: Italian Egg Sandwich | Savory Sundays

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