My friend and I planned a Saturday morning cooking event to make vegetarian lasagna roll-ups and bean balls (aka vegan meatballs). The idea of this get together was to have an awesome Saturday morning hanging out with friends, munching on delicious banana bread, and sipping fruity Italian sodas, and more importantly to learn how to make a delicious meal that is easily freezable. We made these meals so that we can each have meals in our freezer to give away to a family who needs it. People go through hard times in this life, and sometimes a home-cooked meal can really go a long way when these difficult times come.
Along with a frozen home-cooked meal, we wanted to come up with some ways to make that meal-delivery extra special. So we came up with the idea of a Love Box. This box would not only contain a home-cooked meal, but we would also include a card or encouraging note, an easy breakfast for the following morning, and/or a bouquet of flowers.
So we started our cooking by getting our hands dirty with the Bean Balls. These vegan style meatballs are fantastic and filling, and are meat-free. Their base consists of mashed kidney beans and breadcrumbs, and then some olive oil and spices. They freeze and reheat well, and taste amazing with marinara sauce poured on top. The Bean Ball recipe is posted at the bottom of this page and is based off of the Bean Ball recipe in the cookbook, Thug Kitchen.
Next, we made the Vegetarian Lasagna Roll-Ups. These are perfect for making in bulk because you can make as many roll-ups as you’d like and separate them into as many dishes as you’d like. If you have an entire family to feed then use a large baking tin and add 10 or more lasagna roll-ups. If you are just feeding one or two people then use a small baking tin and add 3 or 4 lasagna roll-ups. For this event, we each made 12 roll-ups and separated them into two dishes. This made two descent size meals that were then ready to freeze.
The Vegetarian Lasagna Roll-Ups recipe is so simple. We cooked the noodles, spread a mixture of ricotta and herbs on each noodle, added some sauteed spinach and mushrooms, and rolled it up!
We placed them in a baking tin, poured marinara sauce over the top and put a handful of mozzarella cheese on the entire dish. I have posted this recipe at the bottom of this page and it is my variation of Lee Drummond’s Lasagna Roll-Up recipe.
If you’re interested in dropping off a meal to someone or in preparing a Love Box, I have made a list of some meal drop-off etiquette tips, as well as some ways to make the meal special. Many of these suggestions below are from Mealtrain.com, which is a great platform for organizing meal deliveries.
Meal Drop-Off Etiquette
- It is best to expect that the recipient is not yet ready to entertain. Unless suggested by the organizer or recipient, plan to stay no more than 10-15 minutes when dropping off a meal.
- Don’t forget the extras like drinks, condiments, and salad dressing.
- If you are having something delivered (e.g. pizza), make sure to pay and tip in advance.
- Be sure to label any items that you would like returned. Include a large paper bag with your name on it that the recipient can use to store your items until you can coordinate a pick-up date.
- If possible, deliver your meal in a recyclable or reusable container.
- Include clear preparation instructions, i.e. “Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.”
- If possible, text the recipient that you are on your way. A little heads up can go a long way.
Meal Drop-Off Additions
- Everyone loves flowers. Feel free to bring some with your meal.
- It is always nice to make enough for leftovers. Freezable meals are very convenient.
- Consider writing your recipe on a note card so they know exactly what is in the meal and/or so they can save the recipe and make it themselves on a later date.
- As a nice added bonus, bring breakfast food for the following morning, such as muffins, bagels, and/or fruit salad.
- Hand-write a card or note for them to encourage them and tell them you care.
- Add some style to your Love Box with a printable dinner label. You can find them at Mealtrain.com or on Pinterest.
- NOTE: These are all just fun ideas and do not necessarily need to be added. If you are in a hurry and making a quick meal in a Ziploc bag is what you have time for, then that is OK! The recipient will still appreciate a warm meal!
And that was our morning of preparing Love Boxes! We had a lot of fun. Enjoy the recipes below and I hope you are able to bring a special homemade meal to someone who needs it.
Vegetarian Lasagna Roll-Ups
These delicious lasagna roll-ups are stuffed with ricotta cheese, herbs, spinach and mushrooms, and are covered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. They are great to freeze and reheat.
- 20 whole Lasagna Noodles
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 whole Medium Onion , Diced
- 3 cloves Garlic , Minced
- 28 ounces Canned Diced Tomatoes
- 8 ounces Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 3 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley
- 3 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Basil
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 pound Spinach , Sauteed
- 1 pound White Mushrooms , Sliced
- 30 ounces Ricotta Cheese
- 2 whole Eggs
- 3/4 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Parsley , Minced
- 1 Tablespoon Basil , Minced
- 1 pound Mozzarella , Grated
Boil lasagna noodles until al dente. Drain and lay flat on a sheet of foil.
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
In a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add spinach. Saute about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Make the filling by combining ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil. Stir to combine.
To assemble, spoon a little sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan OR smaller disposable foil loaf pans. Spread 2-3 tablespoons ricotta filling on each noodle. Add 1 tablespoon of the spinach and mushroom mixture, then roll them up. Lay them in the pans (4 will fit in the loaf pans, or you can fill a 9 x 13 inch pan with the roll-ups). Top with remaining sauce, plenty of grated mozzarella, and grated Parmesan.
If baking immediately, bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
If baking from a frozen state, bake, covered in foil, at 350 for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes, or until lasagna is done.
Bean Balls with Pasta
These bean balls are meatless and vegan AND super yummy, especially topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese! Use them in a "meatball" sub, spaghetti, or on their own.
- Cooking spray
- 3 cups cooked kidney beans (or two 15 oz cans)
- ¼ cup chopped medium onion
- ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast or flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 2 teaspoons no-salt all-purpose seasoning blend
- 1 teaspoon each dried thyme, basil, and oregano
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 large onion , diced
- 2 carrots , diced
- 5 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 cans (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
- 1 pound of cooked pasta
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Mash up the beans in a large bowl until they form a paste. Some whole bean bits are fine. Stir in the rest of the ingredients for the balls and mix it all up so that everything gets distributed. You might need to use your hands to really get in there. If it feels a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball and put them on the greased baking sheet. You should get 20 to 25 depending on your rolling skills. Spray them lightly with cooking spray and bake for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway, until both sides are golden brown.
While the balls are cooking, get your sauce ready. Chop the onion. Dice the carrot into pieces about the size of a pea. Mince the garlic.
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté it until it begins to look golden in some places, 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes.
Open the cans of tomatoes, grab some of the whole tomatoes, and smash them in your fists. Squeeze them into a bunch of pieces and stir them into the pot as you go. Keep doing this until all the tomatoes are smashed up, then add 1 ½ cups of the juice from the cans to the pot along with a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer this uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until all of the tomatoes are broken down. Taste and add more garlic, thyme, or salt. If you like a smoother sauce, put it all in a blender or use an immersion blender to get rid of some of the chunks.
Now toss the cooked pasta with whatever mix-in you'd like and top with an appropriate amount of pasta sauce. This recipe should make more than enough sauce so feel free to be generous. Fold in some bean balls with each serving and enjoy!
If you make either of these recipes or deliver a Love Box, make a comment and let me know how it went!