Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

I've mentioned before that while my mother was no Julia Child in the kitchen, there were a few things that she made really well. One, as I've told you, was mashed potatoes, and another was meatloaf. Put these things together and it was a pretty darn good comfort food meal. I also used to look forward to making meatloaf and mustard sandwiches with the leftovers the next day. (Other people do this, right? This isn't some weird thing I did that I just admitted to on the internet?) So, when I took up being a vegetarian, meatloaf was one of the things I really did miss. I've tried a few different meatless loafs over the years, and there are many different ways to approach it. I think I like the lentil, brown rice base the best, but I'd need to experiment some more before I could say that for sure. (And yes, I have tried to make sandwiches from the leftovers. It's not quite the same.)
On Sunday night I was thinking of making a vegloaf, but it got too late and I really didn't have all the ingredients I needed. So I decided to take this task on last night. It really isn't a weeknight endeavor - especially since I worked late, had to go to the grocery store on the way home and needed to get on my bike for at least an hour as well. But, my grand plan was to get the pan in the oven and hop on my trainer, since it needed to cook for an hour anyway. I did follow through on this plan, but once again, we were eating dinner at 10:30. There are versions that use crumbled up veggie burgers, which would be far less time consuming.
I took a recipe and messed around with the ingredients, since there are many variations on a theme when it comes to the vegloaf. Feel free to mess around with this one yourself. The important thing is to have something that binds it together so you don't end up with a pile of mush. This one uses eggs, but for a vegan version, I noticed a lot of recipes used quick cooking oats. I may try that next time.

Lentil Loaf
1 1/4 cups lentils (brown or green)
1 small to medium chopped onion
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup cooked brown rice (I used a little more)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 small eggs
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional - this was a last minute addition. I thought the mixture looked a little soupy and thought some cheese might help.)
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 tblspn olive oil
1 tspn dried thyme
1 tblspn mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste

1. Measure the lentils into a saucepan and fill with enough water to cover them by at least an inch. Make sure you use a big enough pan because they will get bigger. Bring to a boil , and then simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.
2. Cook the rice at the same time the lentils are cooking.
3. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease an 8x4 loaf pan.
4. In a mixing bowl combine the onion, carrot, bell pepper and wheat germ. In another bowl mash up the cooked lentils, then add to the veggies, and mix in the rice, bread crumbs, walnuts, eggs, cheese, 1/2 the can of tomato sauce, olive oil and spices.
5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf pan and cover with remaining tomato sauce. (You may not need to use all the remaining sauce.)
6. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until cooked through and brown on top. (I cooked for 50 minutes, turned the oven off and let it sit in the oven for at least another 20 minutes. )Cool slightly before slicing and servings

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Potato Leek Soup

I'm guessing that most people don't get super excited at the prospect of eating Potato Leek Soup. It probably doesn't sound that appetizing. Maybe it's the word "leek". Something about it just doesn't say "yummy". A lot of folks don't even know what a leek is, in my experience. It's in the onion family, yet milder than a yellow onion, and looks like a giant scallion. If you were to eat Potato Leek Soup cold, it's actually a French dish called "Vissychoise". That sounds a little more elegant than "leek".
This soup is tasty, comforting, and nutritious. Leeks are a good source of iron, vitamin C, and folic acid. It really only calls for about 4-5 ingredients in it's most basic form. Most traditional recipes call for cream, but I rarely put any dairy in it. It's creamy enough without it. I've tried several different recipes, but here's the one I used tonight:

Potato Leek Soup
1 tblsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into 1/4 inch rings, and washed
1 medium to large yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
4 cups of veggie broth (I like to use the No-chicken broth for this, since it is not tomato based)
a couple of pinches of dried rosemary or 2-3 tspns fresh
salt and pepper

1. Heat 4 qt saucepan and add oil
2. Sautee leeks, onions and 1/2 tspn salt in oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat
3. Add garlic. Sautee another minute.
4. Add broth, potatoes and rosemary if using dried
5. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or so, until potatoes are tender.
6. Put the soup into a blender, or use an immersion blender and puree. If you're using fresh rosemary, you would add it here. If you were using cream, you'd put the soup back in the pot and mix it in now. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cranberry Pepper Jelly Snacks

I've often admired the little jars of interesting jellies in Whole Foods and in country stores, but shy away from them because I'm afraid to spend $9 only to have jar of apricot blueberry jelly go to waste in my fridge when I have no idea what to do with it. But a couple weeks ago, feeling a little frivilous as the autumn air was going to my head, I decided to splurge on a jar of cranberry pepper jelly. And, believe it or not, I've already used up the whole thing! I got into a routine of making little cheese and cracker snacks that are quite tasty. My favorite combo is whole grain crackers, with a smear of the jelly and a piece of cheddar cheese on top. But, it works quite well with goat cheese too. I got so excited by this that I also bought a jar of apple pepper jelly, but we haven't enjoyed that quite as much, and I'm not sure of it's fate. I will probably use some more of it, but not with the same fervor as the cranberry.

I also took to using it as a condiment on my Tofurky sandwich wraps and it was a nice addition. I'm thinking that it could be incorporated into a cheese and cracker appetizer at a party by taking a log of soft cheese and pouring some of the jelly over it, so guests could spread it onto crackers. It reminded me that several years ago, I used to do something similar, but made my own jelly concoction by mixing marmalade with pepper relish. Anyway, if you like cheese and crackers, you should definitely try it!