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Monday, January 17, 2011

New recipes - Lentil Loaf

I remember the very first meal I made. I was in 9th grade and cooked spaghetti and meatballs for my family. I think it was for a Home Ec grade. I thought I was so cool. What a great feeling it was to prepare something, serve it and see the smiles and satisfaction my efforts brought. That was 1969 and I've been cooking ever since. I can't say that I am one of these people that absolutely LOVES to cook (pass me the apron and move over, June---gotta get dinner on the table before Ward gets home--definitely NOT me), but I have always realized the very utilitarian function of being able to prepare one's own food. And, let's face it; how many things in life do you get such a relatively short turn-around time from effort expended to reward attained.

40+ years is a long time to be cooking a certain way and then have to relearn the basics. But, I decided learning to cook plant-based meals can be just a new challenge for me and it's been fun to learn about the different food that exists in the world that I had never heard of. Spelt? Kamut? And isn't kale something you plant for fall ornamentation?

So, like everything else I do, I jumped in full-force and ordered an impossible number of vegan cookbooks from the library, printed off an ink-cartridge worth of recipes from the internet, hit Half-Price Books and cleared them of their vegan cookbooks, joined a dozen or more recipe groups, blogs and you-tube how-to's to get re-educated. After two weeks of this, I had only tried about one new recipe....despite a myriad of recipes printed and pages bookmarked, I wasn't able to figure out what to cook! I had done it again: made the simple complex.

So, back to my watch word for the year: simplicity. One doesn't need to do EVERYthing all at the same time! I decided, make TWO new recipes a week. Just pick two and FOCUS (there is THAT word again) on those. That way, for sure I will get some new ones done and not drown in an ever rising sea of choices.

This week I chose pizza for Friday night, mostly as a 'reward' to my non-vegan (post-heart attack) husband who has bravely been trying to eat my food for several weeks now. I am so proud of him, and it does my heart good (and hopefully his heart too!) to see him putting forth the effort. Pizza is a BIG thing for him, and I wasn't at all sure how this would go.

I made my regular bread recipe (warm water, yeast, touch of salt, whole-wheat flour, gluten) and added just a touch of raw, fair-trade sugar. For the sauce, I pureed a can of chopped tomatoes with chilis with a small can of tomato paste and added oregano on top of that. Toppings for my pizza were TONS of yellow and red bell peppers and vidalia onion and for his, lots of mushrooms and onion. Baked at 425 degrees for about 25 mins then I sprinkled on some ground raw cashews and returned to the oven for about 10 mins. Mine tasted so good I could not believe it. I don't know if it is because it has been so long since I've had anything like that or if it is a result of my taste buds changing, but it was delicious. My husband was a bit under-whelmed at his, calling it 'bland', but he likes things spicier than me and gave me some ideas to improve it, i.e. add black olives and banana peppers. But he DID eat it! Will do for next Friday.

For dinner last night, I made Lentil Loaf from Caldwell Esselstyn's "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease". I had leftover lentils and brown rice to use up in the fridge and changed up the seasonings a little bit. I was very skeptical on how this was going to turn out, but it was really good. Even my son's girlfriend (non-vegan) ate it and said she liked it. Next time I make it I'd like to add maybe some sweet baby peas and corn. I made mashed potatoes to go with, using a combination of half white potatoes and half sweet potatoes. I boiled them with some celery and a couple of shallots and then blended all together with some almond milk. Oh boy were they ever good. Never would you need any butter or anything at all to go with them.

It feels good to be building up a set of 'go-to' recipes and especially to see that my family can still enjoy my cooking, even if it is so different. Funny, those smiles and the satisfied faces are even sweeter rewards to me now knowing I am cooking with health firmly in mind.


I had my son take a picture of me this morning, so I could get something on here to represent where I am now. For some reason, I feel like I am half-way although every time I do the math, I calculate that I really am more than half-way to my goal. Anyway, here I am, 37 pounds lighter than when I started a year ago in November, and 23 pounds lighter than my picture taken at the Canyon last June.

I'm getting least I know who I am now when I see a picture of myself!

Sue - losing it in Ohio

Recipe for Lentil Loaf (adapted from Caldwell Esselstyn's in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease)

1 1/2 C lentils, cooked

1 large vidalia onion, chopped

6 mushrooms (I used baby bella)

veg. broth or water

2 C fresh spinach, chopped

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I think this would be good with the variety with chilis as well)

2C brown rice (I used short grain)

1t garlic powder

1/2t sage

1/2t marjoram

additional seasonings to suit taste (I used red pepper flakes, parsley and thyme)

1/4 - 1/2 C ketchup or BBQ sauce

Oven 350 degrees. Stir fry onions and mushrooms in water or broth til tender. Add spinach and cook covered til spinach wilts. Combine all ingredients except ketchup and add to lentils. Press into a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Spread ketchup on top. Bake for 45 - 60 mins.

Mine was a bit crumbly and I was expecting it to be able to be sliced like a loaf, so I may increase the liquid next time. I think it would also be excellent with the addition of sweet peas or corn.

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