Plus, a personal message to Tumbleweird readers

A little over three years ago, I had a brilliant idea. I was going to start a blog. I had just resigned from my job as a scientist at PNNL and was about to begin my journey toward becoming a health coach. Where that was going to take me at the time, I had no idea. What I did know is I wanted to share all my experiences with the world around me. As you may have guessed, that blog never really took off.

While I was also learning that one of the biggest lifestyle challenges for people is figuring out how to become comfortable in the kitchen, I was struggling with what to do with this knowledge. I had met the amazing Tumbleweird team through events like Tri-Conf — and I was already an avid reader — so when I saw they were looking for somebody to write about vegan or vegetarian recipes, I seized the opportunity to share my passion for playing around in the kitchen. Since then, I have tried to focus on simple but delicious recipes and provide plant-based alternatives as often as possible.

For the past three years, I have had a blast sharing some of my favorite tips and tricks in the kitchen. I’ve shared the history of some recipes from enchiladas to borscht, and had fun trying new things, such as learning to naturally dye easter eggs. I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot when it comes to how I approach my meals because of the recipes I have shared with each of you. My hope is that you learned from these, as well.

Like all things in life, we have to grow and adapt to change. My life has evolved a lot as I’ve fully embraced my career as a health coach, and I could not be more thankful for all the experiences that have helped me to get to where I am, including writing for Tumbleweird. Unfortunately, my time sharing recipes with you will be coming to an end with this issue.

This final recipe is one I’ve been saving for a while now. It brings together past recipes and combines them in a way that is beyond delicious. The cranberry sauce recipe is from the December 2021 issue, and you can find the BBQ sauce recipe in the July 2021 issue. This latter one is probably my favorite recipe ever, and I have shared it with so many people, I can’t even remember them all. The combination of these two together is inspired by this Two Sleevers recipe: and turned out even better than I expected. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 40 minutes


Italian Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground meat or meat alternative (your choice)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp water) or 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Cranberry Meatballs

  • 18 Italian meatballs
  • 1/2 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 fresh cut or dried cilantro or parsley


Italian Meatballs

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. ​​Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands (wear gloves if you desire), mix all the ingredients together well. Form into 16 meatballs.
  3. Place evenly onto a cooking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Cranberry Meatballs

  1. Add the cranberry sauce, BBQ sauce, and water into the inner pot of your Instant Pot (IP). Mix well.
  2. Add the meatballs into the sauce (see notes) and be sure to evenly coat each before sealing the IP lid.
  3. Cook with high pressure for 5 minutes and allow at least a 10-minute natural release. This is a great time to roast some vegetables if you want to.
  4. Serve over your favorite rice, top with the cilantro or parsley, and pair with a salad or roasted vegetables. Alternatively, keep warm in the IP (or transfer to a slow cooker) as a great appetizer for your next social gathering.


  • I find that this recipe works well with most ground meats. My favorite is probably lamb, but you can use beef, bison, turkey, or most plant-based ground meat alternatives. To save time, you can buy pre-formed Italian meatballs.
  • Pre-cooking the meatballs before putting into the IP will give them a crisper texture on the outside that I find more preferable. You can add the uncooked meatballs directly into the IP if you are in a time crunch; just be sure they are cooked all the way through when done (160° F internal temperature). If using preformed, frozen meatballs, I recommend adding them directly to the IP and cooking them as directed above.
  • If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can cook on the stovetop by simmering the sauce on medium-low heat for 10–15 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, coat each meatball well, and simmer an additional 5–10 minutes before serving.

Thank you all for the opportunity to share my hobby with you and for giving me a chance to grow, both as a person and in the kitchen, the past three years.

—Erika Zink