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October 13, 2013

Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf with Tomato-Balsamic Glaze

The part of transitioning to a healthier diet that is most difficult for me is celebrating my holiday traditions.  Well, that and having to eat vegetables.  I became vegetarian as a child in the early eighties, long before "fake meats" and meat substitutes.  I taught myself to detest the odor of meat, let alone flavor.  So when told something has "real meat flavor" I am automatically put off.  Therefore, my holiday entrees generally center around pasta, such as a lasagne.  

In my quest to learn how to cook and to eat more vegetables, I have been experimenting with a few veggie loaf recipes.  But I don't generally like the texture of beans either.  This recipe for a lentil-pumpkin loaf satisfies all my concerns:  the pumpkin masks the taste of the beans, and the mushrooms add an extra meaty texture.  The walnuts add a "holiday" flavor and crunch.  The sweetness of the tomato-based glaze makes it palatable to even my sweet tooth. 

This is actually the first time I've ever cooked beans myself (though of course I ate them as a kid).  It helped to do most of the prep the night before I wanted to make this dish.  I also added a few new-to-me ingredients to my pantry:  nutritional yeast and liquid smoke.  The nutritional yeast adds a nutty, cheesy taste to a vegan dish, while the liquid smoke, though used in small amounts, adds that meaty Umami flavor.   

The Food Bloggers' Los Angeles monthly meeting gave me the excuse to try this recipe before the holiday season.  We've had a pumpkin-themed potluck before, so it was fun to do something innovative and new for this meeting.  It was also fun to do a savory main dish rather than a sweet dessert.   The meals at our FBLA meetings are often my only home-cooked meals prepared by another now that my family lives states away, so I really look forward to our group both for the company and the food.  We had about ten members show up at this meeting, actually a small group for most of our get-togethers.  The synchronicity that comes into play with no planning involved is astounding:  though our group may be as large as thirty people, there is never any duplication of dishes. 


Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf

1 cup uncooked Lentils
1-15 oz. can plain Pumpkin
2 1/2 cup Vegetable Stock, divided
1 cup chopped Walnuts
1-4 oz. can Mushroom Pieces, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. fresh Thyme
2 tsp. fresh Rosemary
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 cup Oats
1/2 cup Whole Wheat or GF Flour

2 Tbsp. Balsamic
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt

Sort and rinse lentils.  Bring 2 cups low-sodium veggie stock to a boil, then add the lentils and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Keep partially covered and cook until very soft, about 20-45 minutes.  Add a little more liquid if needed.  Allow to cool completely.  [This step can be done in advance.  I like to do it the night before.  Also, I crush the walnuts by putting them into a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to break them up.]

In a large bowl, mash the cooked lentils and pumpkin together.  Add walnuts, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and all other ingredients except oats and flour, mixing thoroughly.  Add the oats, then the flour, until you have a consistency close to cookie dough.

Press into a greased 8x8 dish.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together glaze and spread evenly on top of the loaf.  Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is cracked and glaze is dark.  If cooking in a small oven, cover with foil for the first half of the baking time.  Allow to set for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

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