Hit any bookstore's cookbook section these days, and you'll discover shelves and shelves of vegetarian and vegan recipe collections available for purchase. This wasn't always the case, however, as I recall during my first serious venture into the plant-based diet world in the late 90s.
Back then, I was living in a small town, but at that point going all-veg was also still considered a pretty severe and radical way to live (especially for a teen). Fast forward a decade later, and I am back on the meat-free (and dairy and egg free) train, and life is a whole lot simpler.
Nowadays, it is easy to find an abundance of recipe options that work for me, and I love that when I plan a dinner date, there is a whole new slew of restaurants out there offering menus that cater to folks like me. The benefits of including a vast variety of colourful vegetables in the diet are widely known, and it is great to see how many people have begun to embrace the idea of consuming less meat in favour of more greens and earth's vegetative bounty.
I have chosen to join the green-food revolution, and through my culinary training am trying to help spread the word that vegetarian food can be chic, easy, tasty, and comforting. I have spent many hours rocking out in my kitchen developing my very own food creations to comfort the soul.
One recipe that I remember often eating while growing up is meatloaf. Such a cozy meal when paired with mashed potatoes and gravy! Here, I have re-vamped the loaf concept, and created a savoury main dish that I have fed to even the most meat-loving men I know with great success.
I admit it is a bit labour-intensive, but it is well worth it in the end, especially when paired with a side of yummy sweet potato smash or cauliflower puree!
Very Vegan Lentil-Walnut Loaf
*Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free option, high protein, freezer-friendly
• 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or half pine nuts/half walnuts), roughly chopped
• 4 Tbsp ground flax seed, plus 1 Tbsp ground flax seed separated
• 1/2 cup warm water
• 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
• 3/4 cup onion, diced
• 1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
• 1 medium zucchini, grated, squeezed of excess water*
• 1 medium carrot, grated
• 1/3 of an apple, grated (makes 1/3 cup grated apple)
• 1/4 cup chopped dates or raisins
• 2 1/2 cups cooked green lentils (if using canned, be sure to rinse & drain well)
• 1 tsp salt
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 ½ Tbsp herbs de provence
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 Tbsp fresh organic lemon zest(about 1 medium lemon's worth)
• 1/2 cup oat bran (gluten free option)
• 3/4 cup breadcrumbs (gluten free option)
*You can grate using a box grater, or save time by using a food processor with the grate plate attachment
*Optional add-ins: ¼ Cup chopped sundried tomato, ¼ sunflower seeds
Meg's Sweet Glaze -- this is a flexible recipe; use what you have on hand!
• 1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce or Red Pepper jelly
• 1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
• 1 Tbsp molasses
• 1/2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a loaf pan with parchment so that parchment paper hangs over the edges by 2 inches. Set aside.
2. On a baking sheet, toast 3/4 cup of walnuts at 350F for about 6 minutes, keeping an eye to ensure they do not burn. Set aside to cool.
3. In a small bowl, mix ground flax with 1/2 cup warm water and stir well. Set aside for at least 5-10 minutes so it can gel up. This is your binding agent. Add remaining 1 Tbsp flax to large mixing bowl for later.
4. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion and minced garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring often until translucent. If veggies stick add 1 Tbsp of water at a time and scrape up bits form pan. Add mushrooms, carrot and zucchini and cooking for 5 minutes more. Stir in grated apple, raisins, and chopped and cover pan and let heat through for another 5-6 minutes.
Add herbs, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste (stir in any optional add-ins now). Remove from heat and set aside.
7. In food processor, process about 3/4 of the lentils until smooth. Add to bowl and mix in remaining whole lentils. The two textures make for a nice meaty mouth-feel in the loaf.
7. To the bowl, add the breadcrumbs, flax egg, cooked veggie mixture and oat bran. Stir well! Dump the mixture into your loaf pan and spread out with a spoon. Now take your hands and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.
Glaze & Bake! In small bowl combine all glaze ingredients. Spread evenly over loaf and bake, uncovered 45 minutes at 350F.
Cool for about 10-15 minutes, slice into 8 slices and serve.
**This recipe freezes very well -- you can freeze individual portions and then re-heat the slices in the oven. Just wrap the piece in foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 mins.
***Make a couple of loaves at a time to save extra work!