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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Turkey Balls



Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is an amazing food source high in soy protein, but devoid of fat, sodium, and cholesterol.

Although it was developed by Archer Daniels Midland more than a half century ago, TVP did not gain traction in the marketplace until the early 1970s when it was approved as a protein extender to be used in school lunches.

Although talk of “extenders” makes us have post-traumatic stress over the pink slime AKA Soilent Pink debacle, TVP is not pink slime.

TVP has many healthful applications that allow a person to increase protein, without increasing fat, sodium, or cholesterol, all while being thrifty at the checkout counter.

Vegans love TVP, but adopting a hair-shirt lifestyle, worshipping at the church of Whole Foods, driving a car that turns into a paper weight, and living devoid of joy is not necessary to enjoy TVP.

I was first introduced to TVP at a 72-hour bag party hosted by my favorite Mormon couple on the planet.

Approximately a dozen of us were there to demonstrate how we met the challenge of assembling a 72-hour emergency preparedness bag. The party was a potluck and each of us had to bring something based on an item that one might find in our 72-hour bags.

There were several amazing TVP creations; among them was a marinara/meat sauce where the meat was TVP. The possibilities are limitless.

To TVP purists there is a go-to brand (Bob’s Red Mill TVP), but I went to WinCo Foods and bought myself about a two pound of it.

Two pounds of TVP will last a long time in my world.

Most recently, my mother was visiting and I made turkey meatballs.

I mixed Jennie-O 99% fat-free ground turkey, with minced fresh garlic, chopped green onions, salt-free Italian herbs, egg whites, and two cups of expanded (i.e. fully rehydrated) TVP. I formed them into baseball-sized portions.

At the bottom of a disposable aluminum baking pan, I drizzled in some EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and tossed in fresh, sliced mushrooms. I placed the turkey meatballs on top of the mushrooms and poured a quart of my own, homemade marinara sauce over the top. I covered the pan with aluminum foil and baked my concoction in the oven at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.

The result was beyond delicious, but more importantly, it was low in sodium, cholesterol, and fat. It also had a super-high protein count per serving.

Reconstituting TVP is easy.

For my recipe above, I reconstituted a dry cup of TVP with about ¾ cup of boiling water. I added the water. Stirred the mixture. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and then added it to my very wet meatball mixture.

TVP is pretty flavorless, so when it is cooked with other foods, it absorbs the juices that would be lost normally. Thus, in my recipe, it took in the flavors of the turkey, the onion, and the garlic.


When cut open, the cooked turkey meatballs look like they were prepared bread stuffing that we all know from Thanksgiving. The meatball itself was very dense and heavy, but the sensation was that it was meaty and not a mouthful of soggy bread crumbs.

The serving on the plate consisted of a meatball, the sauteed mushrooms over the top, and a crisp romaine salad with my mother’s secret-formula dressing.

Her secret formula dressing has mayonnaise and some dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix in it, among other spices, so we were not 100% healthy, but a light drizzle of sin makes the virtue more palatable.

Besides, I’m Catholic, in my tribe all one has to do is feel guilty, light a candle, burn some incense, and throw water at people and all is good.

Sarcasm duly noted.

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