I think a popular assumption is that vegetarian = healthy. I’ve been vegetarian for nearly 20 years now, and as I mentioned in the first post in the Live Well series, I haven’t always been so healthy or health conscious. My vegetarianism has definitely gone through several evolutions over the years, both in reasoning and in execution.
There were many (many many) years where I practically lived on fake meat products, blindly assuming them to be healthy. Have you read the labels on that stuff? Most of it is highly processed, often made with GMO soy, and full of crazy additives, preservatives, and colouring agents. Yuck! I have almost totally expunged that junk from my diet, with one exception: vegetarian pizza pepperoni. I don’t eat it very often, in fact, I can’t even remember the last time I did. But I figure that if I was a meat eater eating a pepperoni pizza it would likely be just as bad. That’s my logic and I’m sticking to it.
I’m super excited about this lentil loaf. It’s all kinds of delicious, and it’s made entirely of nutritious, real food. There is a good dose of veggies packed in, some crunchy nuts and seeds full of healthy fats, and punches of sweetness from grated apple and raisins. It’s also vegan, and with a couple of easy modifications (use gluten free oats and bread crumbs) it can be made gluten free.
The loaf is tasty, but it’s the glaze that really makes it. I ate a nice big slice pretty much straight out of the oven, and then the leftovers, once cool, I sliced up, brushed with some extra glaze, and baked again. I highly recommend going that route if you have time for it, then each slice will have a tangy, crusty glaze all around it. So good.
I’ve been eating slices smashed between two slices of whole grain bread, crumbled up over a salad, or straight up, from my hand, right out of the fridge. I’ve stashed leftover slices in the freezer, separated with little bits of parchment paper, and stored in a freezer bag.
Two years ago: How to Process a Pumpkin
Lentil Loaf Recipe:
This recipe is a bit of work, but you could do many of the steps, like cooking the lentils or grating up your veg, in advance.
Generously serves six. Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows.
1 cup uncooked green lentils
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
3 tbsp flax seeds
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup grated carrot
1/3 cup grated apple
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
salt & pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
For the glaze:
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 325 F / 170 C. Spread the sunflower seeds and chopped walnuts out on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until they’re just starting to smell toasty. Keep a careful eye on them, nuts and seeds can burn really quickly! Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool slightly. Increase the heat to 350 F / 180 C.
Pick over your lentils and give them a good rinse. Combine them in a medium pot with the 3 cups of water or veggie broth (I used broth). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid ajar for 30 – 40 minutes. The goal is to slightly overcook the lentils so they become a bit mushy – the loaf will hold together better this way.
Combine flax seeds and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl and set aside to soak for at least 20 – 30 minutes.
In a large frying pan heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, until they are soft and becoming translucent. Add the garlic, celery, shredded carrot, apple, and raisins. Sauté for about 5 minutes more, then remove from heat.
In a large bowl combine all remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, and firmly press the mixture firmly into the pan.
Whisk the tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup together to make the glaze. Brush about half of it over the top of the loaf. You can reserve the other half to brush loaf slices with, or use as a dipping sauce. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 40 – 50 minutes. The top should be browned and crispy.
The loaf will slice more gracefully when it has cooled most of the way.
Oats are rich in indigestible carbohydrates called beta-glutens which help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats are also host to a number of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties, are helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, and are a good source of dietary fiber and protein.
Sunflower seeds are rich in linoleic acid, vitamin E, B vitamins, and are a source of dietary fiber. They’re fatty though, people, so remember to moderate.
Walnuts are a rice source of monounsaturated fats (good for your heart) and a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts also have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties which are protective against cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. Remember that like all nuts, walnuts are calorie dense, so we’re consuming them in moderation.
Do ahead: This loaf will last in the fridge for up to 5 days wrapped tightly, or stored in an airtight container. I’ve been freezing slices separated by parchment paper and then throwing them into my lunch box still frozen. They’re thawed by lunch and make a great cold sandwich filling or salad topping.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012