Over the years I have come across meat-less ‘meatloaf’ recipes and passed over them with admitted skepticism. How I thought, could you take the meat out of meatloaf and be left with anything that remotely resembles the comfort food my mother raised me on. Her original version has changed with the times, as chopped sirloin has been replaced with leaner ground turkey. And while she knows I’m more plant-centered these days, she lovingly asks if I would like to take one home from her freezer when I visit.
While making my way in and out of a meat-free board on Pinterest, I came across an inviting picture which strongly resembled my mother’s meat loaf. Above the tasteful image it read, Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf. “Apples?” I wondered, double-clicking onto the image. I was taken to a popular vegan website www.OhSheGlows.com where blogger Angela Liden had given in to an urge to re-invent the meat-free vegetable-based loaf she had admired some years back after author Terry Walters presented her version of this legume, nut and fruit-inspired dish.
I took stock of Angela’s meat-free meatloaf makeover and scanned my cupboard. I had most of the ingredients her recipe called for with the exception of oat flour, flax seeds and bread crumbs so I subbed quinoa flour for oat flour and replaced traditional flax with my favorite Decadent Blend of Ground Chia and Flax Seed with Coconut and Cocoa from Spectrum Essentials®. I believe the cocoa was a key to my recipe’s success. The other was the Graham Cracker crumbs I used instead of bread crumbs. Earth Balance Roasted Garlic and Herb organic culinary spread was a last minute addition to this recipe revisited.
Here’s my adaptation of the Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaves that came before me:
Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf, the Return
Yields: 4 moist mini-loaves.
1 cup of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (pressed lightly with a fork to slightly mash)
1 cup of walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
3T Ground Chia & Flax Seed Blend with Coconut & Cocoa Spectrum Essentials® + ½ cup of water (you can use classic ground flax and raw cocoa powder too.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1+ 1/3 cups sweet yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup apple compote*, chopped
1/3 cup raisins
½ cup quinoa flour
¾ Graham Cracker Crumbs (I use Kinnikinnick Foods Graham-Style Crumbs - gluten and dairy-free and not vegan. You can blend up your own crumbs with graham crackers too.)
¾ tsp dried thyme, chopped fine
Salt and pepper, to taste. (I use less than a teaspoon of salt.)
Red Chili Pepper Flakes (a couple shakes of the jar)
2 tsp Earth Balance Roasted Garlic & Herb Organic Culinary Spread (plus extra to grease pan.)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Glaze for Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf:
1/4 cup organic ketchup
1T pure maple syrup
2T unsweetened apple sauce
2T balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350 and toast walnut for 5 minutes. Cool.
- To prepare apple compote*, peel, core and thinly slice 2 medium apples (Honeycrisps are ideal)and simmer in 1/8 cup of water with a handful of naturally sweet yellow raisins – I use organic Raw Hunza raisins. Cook for 7 minutes and cool.
- Whisk flax/chia blend with water. Cover and set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium flame. Sauté onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 tsp Earth Balance Roasted Garlic and Herb Organic Culinary Spread and sauté another couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
- In a large mixing bowl place all loaf ingredients.
- Grease loaf pans and line with parchment paper for easy lifting once loaves are baked.
- Whisk the ingredients in the glaze (or prepare the night before and chill.) Brush the glaze over the loaves. Leftover glaze is perfect for garnishing or dipping the loaves once cooked.
- Spoon loaf mixture into pans. Press down lightly.
- Bake mini-loaves for 30 minutes and check on them. If they don’t spring back when you poke them or seem too soft, cook another 5-8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them
- If you make one large loaf pan, bake for approx. 45 minutes.
- Cool loaves for 10 minutes before lifting them (with parchment intact) onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
My finished loaves looked and smelled so delicious I had to try them in the cooling stage. The taste was incredibly hearty, sweet yet savory and dare I say ‘meaty’ in the most delightful vegan way. The texture was spot on.
This was served with sautéed bok choy and winter vegetable soup. I happened to have made extra apple compote (a great way to repurpose fall apples sitting in your crisper) which was batch-cooked into an Apple Oatmeal to eat all week. A warming scoop of this morning grain replaced classic mashed potatoes. The contrast of textures and complimentary flavors was inviting.
Recreating a meat-free ‘meatloaf’ taught me some important lessons: 1) If you have not walked in someone else’s vegan shoes, you have no idea what you’ve been missing. 2) Non-meat-eaters are hardly restricted by their eating choices, especially these days. In fact, getting creative in a plant-centered kitchen can open up a vast culinary world.
Wherever you are on the dietary spectrum, eating more plants is widely known to be an effective way to boost performance, increase energy and stamina and reach a healthy weight. Beyond the side salad and broccoli there lies a land of plant-inspired main dishes which are worth leaning into at any meal, on any day. So fill your life with more plants (whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds), get energized and jazzed about eating cleaner. It’s a cause we can all get behind. For me, eating plant-strong and eating deliciously all the time is an embarrassment of riches. It propels me to share the wealth.
I brought a Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf over to my mother’s house for her freezer. She relished it and rather than freezing it, has decided to serve it for dinner tonight. Bet dad won’t believe it’s not meatloaf.
Peace and plants.