Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shhh.... Meatless Meatloaf

This year, my resolution is to live more intentionally.  I do some cool things - at any rate I think they're cool things - but they are wasted for posterity because I don't record them.  For example, I don't write about the amazing things that sometimes happen in my classrooms that  my students are doing.  And closer to home, I often make delicious, healthy foods that will never be made again because I don't bother hanging onto the recipe.  Or if I created the dish, I don't bother writing it down.

Now, on the one hand, no biggy because I can create a new dish every single day if I want to.  On the other hand, what a shame, right?  Because if it's really good, why not allow myself the pleasure of enjoying it again?

One of the things I wrestle with - I've wrestled with this for years - is our reliance on meat.  Part of my new commitment to intentionality is to be more intentional about meat eating.  The ramifications of eating meat bothers me on multiple levels - the cruel way most of our agricultural industry treats the animals that become our food, and the amount of land we use to feed animals that could otherwise be used to reduce human hunger.  Unfortunately, there's a bigger profit in beef than in beans, but that's a topic for another day.

I am also aware that our health is better when we include more non-meat fiber, protein and vegetables in our diet.   I'm not planning to become vegetarian, but when I cook for others, I too often find myself falling back on the dinner plate formula I learned growing up in Kansas - meat, potato, vegetable, dessert.  Oh, and a hunk of garlic bread if we were lucky. Well, there are very few white potatoes in my life anymore - although  I consider truffled garlic fries a birthday cake substitute.  And I eat bread only "out" and then only those loaves I consider irresistible. At home, my dinner plate often excludes what used to be called "a starch," the role on the plate represented by the potato or pasta - "bad' carbs.  But it doesn't often enough include the healthy replacement, "a fiber."  Fiber, good for us in so many ways, often contains enough protein to let us leave meat off the plate.  A reduction in meat is good for me and good for society in several ways:

Reducing meat purchases reduces food costs, leaving me with extra money to pay the higher cost of buying meat from compassionate farmers when I do buy meat.  I can't even write about what happens to many of the animals abused by industrial food production facilities without my stomach turning, but the Grace Communications Foundation website covers it thoroughly enough, and everyone ought to take the time to read about it at least once.1  Unfortunately, meat raised in kinder (and more sustainable) ways costs quite a bit more than facility-raised critters, but if you reduce your meat costs by eating less of it, you can shift those savings to paying the up-charge. Sources for compassionately raised meat can be found at and

If you happen to keep kosher, like I do, it's going to be more difficult.  I've found three companies, Wise Organic Pastures, Kol Foods, and Grow and Behold.  Unfortunately, they're all on the east coast, making shipping prohibitive if you live anywhere west of the Mississippi, although Kol Foods and Grow and Behold have buying clubs in some cities.  Two other Colorado based companies and a Texas company stopped offering kosher grass fed meats within a few years of their launch dates.  Costco and Trader Joe's carry free range organic kosher chicken from Empire.  Trader Joe's carries kosher meats, but as far as I can tell, besides the Empire offerings, none of it comes from compassionate producers.  Otherwise, I suggest Googling "free range kosher meat" and see what's available.

If everyone would reduce meat consumption even by a little, some of the land used to raise feed could be converted to raise crops for humanity, and more people would get fed.  According to a Stanford study, over two-thirds of the world's agricultural land is given over to raising crops to feed livestock, compared to only about eight percent used to feed humans directly.  I find that unbelievable.  And as the economies grow in third world countries, these numbers are only expected to get more extreme.  The industry is taking over forests and grasslands, changing ecosystems forever and using our already insufficient supplies of fresh water.2  Why, in 2012, a Business Insider article reported that within the last decade, over 495 million acres were sold or leased to foreign governments for the purpose of accessing land for agricultural, forestry and natural resource extraction purposes.3

And of course, we are healthier when our ratio of vegetables, legumes and fruits is higher than our meat consumption.  I say "of course," but maybe that's not so obvious.  I have no intention of getting into it with the Paleo crowd and say, "God bless them," but we are not the same creatures we were in caveman times.  The level and type of activity we needed to eat to support, and the length of our lives were different then, and medical science still insists that too much meat leads to heart problems.  Conversely, adding vegetables, especially those cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and the like, have the opposite effect.4

Ok, the "why" discussion can give way to the recipe.  What, you may ask, prompted me to go all "eat less meat" on you?  Well, today's recipe is a meatless substitute for one of America's favorite meat dishes, meatloaf.  Just try it.  I predict you'll like it.

Shhh.....Meatless Meatloaf

As often happens, my inspiration for this meatloaf came from a lot of online sources.  I saw some amazing versions that include walnuts, but I got in the habit of eliminating all nuts but almonds from my cooking about 30 years ago, because my oldest daughter turned up allergic.  So many kids have nut allergies.  I noted what I liked, but moved on to lentil loaves.  I liked the idea of a hearty lentil meat replacement, but most of the lentil loaves mixed lentils with rice.  I've more or less given up on rice, because its glycemic index number is higher than I prefer, even though it's not a simple carb.  So, in the end I decided to mix chana dahl - looks and tastes like a lentil but is actually from the chick pea family and has more protein than lentils, and mix them with quinoa.  As an Indian food staple, it's readily available at your local Indian market or online.  I worked to get the same meaty, tomato-y taste we're all used to from a good, old-fashioned meatloaf, and I think I succeeded - but would love to hear about your modifications.


1.5 c quinoa
2    c chana dahl
7    c vegetable broth - I used "No Beef" bullion
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sage
1    tbsp worcestershire sauce (vegetarian or not)
1    tsp soy sauce
1    tbsp olive or other oil
1    yellow onion diced
1/2 c shredded carrots
3    cloves garlic, minced (I was out so I used garlic flakes, which I didn't bother to measure)
Salt & Pepper to taste

1 small can of organic tomato paste
1    tbsp worcestershire sauce (vegetarian or not)
2    tbsp coconut palm sugar.
1/2 tsp mustard (I used dijon because it was handy but I think anything will do)
1/4 tsp hot sauce of choice, amount adjusted to personal taste
1 tbsp roughly of water, to get the whole thing to the right consistency to spread on top of the loaf

Soak the quinoa and chana dahl briefly to dislodge any particles of dirt or tiny stones, and, using a strainer, pour off the rinse water - I used it to water plants - and put the quinoa and dahl into a pot.  Add the broth and spices and bring to a low boil.  As the proteins in the dahl break down, a white foam will well up in your pot, similar to simmering meat for broth.  Skim it.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for approximately an hour minutes, stirring occasionally until the water has been absorbed, the dahl mixture is creamy but not wet, and there is no broth left in the pot when you stir it.  If you feel the dahl is drying out before it reaches this stage, feel free to add up to more broth or some water.  When finished, taste it to see if it needs salt and pepper.  This will depend in large part on the bullion or broth you used.

While you wait, saute the onions and carrots until the onions are translucent.  About now, it's probably time to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the glaze, mix all the ingredients but the water together in a 3 or 4 cup measuring cup, or a wide mouth bowl.  Then slowly add a bit of water, stir until well mixed, and continue to add more until you get a consistency that would be easy to spread but unlikely to drip.  That's your glaze.

When the dahl and quinoa are ready, mix them into the onions and carrots, add the worcestershire and soy sauces and stir until everything is well mixed.  Use a bit of oil to lightly grease the surface of a loaf pan, and turn the mixture into the pan.  As you can see, I chose to use an 8 x 8 pan instead of a loaf pan, but you can do it either way.  At this point, assess your dahl mixture.  It should be dry enough to support the glaze on top, but if it's not, you can glaze the loaf midway through baking.

Bake for 1 hour, or until it just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to cool sufficiently to cut before serving.  Serves 6.

The first time I made this, I took the advice of those who said that if you cook dahl without a pressure cooker, add more water.  So I added an extra cup, and then it took about 2 hours to evaporate all the water out of the dahl.  The second time, I used a cup less liquid and found that the mixture stuck to the bottom of the pan and I needed to add more water.  In neither case did it impact the flavor, but too-wet dahl mixture did not bake up as firmly as I would have liked it to.  Just be aware.

American vs. Asian loaf:  I have to say that using these particular spices with dahl felt awkward, as I usually think of dahl as carrying asian flavors, but if you want it to taste like meat loaf, go with my combo.  If you want something more exotic, feel free play around with cumin, dried chili pepper, masala and other spices.  If you do, you probably ought to use a half teaspoon of finely grated ginger and something slightly fruity - jam or chutney - in place of the worcestershire and mustard in the glaze.  If you use ginger, remember that fresh ginger has a pretty strong bite, and reduce the hot sauce accordingly.

Sweetener:  Coconut palm sugar is slightly less sweet than table sugar, lower glycemic and lower calorie, and has a natural vanilla taste.  You might prefer maple syrup, brown or plain cane sugar, or a zero calorie sugar alternative.  If you substitute, start with a tablespoon (or an equivalent for the zero calorie substitutes), and adjust upward till you get a sweetness you like.

Hot Sauce: I used Nando's Peri Peri Sauce, medium, courtesy of my friend Kate, who brought it back from South Africa.  I put my pinky in the jar and tasted it first.  Whoa. Hot. Not Medium.  I don't even know if you can get this in the states.  Chipotle would be good, or Sriracha sauce.  Or anything, really.  Adjust to personal strength.

Lemon Juice:  If you don't have any, sub in balsamic or another vinegar.


2. Brooks, C. (2011?). Consequences of increased global meat consumption on the global environment -- trade in virtual water, energy & nutrients. In W. I. f. t. Environment (Ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University.

3. Khetani, S. (2012). These 14 Countries Are Buying Incredible Amounts Of Foreign Land In Deals You Never Hear About. Business Insider.

4.  Pan, A., PhD, Sun, Q., Md, ScD, Bernstein, A. M., . . . et al. (2012). Red meat consumption and mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(7), 555-563. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287.

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