Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Truly Good Vegetarian Meatloaf Recipe

For a while now, we've been playing around with meat-free dinners in hopes of cutting down our meat consumption. Since we started buying grass-fed beef and free-range chickens our meat budget has been harder to meet. Haha, pun intended. But it has been worth the change (even my husband thinks so). It is amazing how the meat that we buy now actually tastes like... well, meat. Beef tastes like beef; chicken tastes like chicken... ect. We used to buy our ground beef at Walmart until one horrible eye-opening night when my thoughts on meat changed forever...
I had already watched Food Inc. so I was aware of the dangers of the meat industry. And I was going to start making changes to our meat purchases. I really was... really. But one night I opened up a package of ground beef from Walmart. It smelled fine but it looked strange, sort of an off color. I went ahead and cooked it anyway and didn't think twice about it. I noticed as I cooked it that it was very crumbly. So I tasted it. And had my husband taste it. It did NOT taste like hamburger. At all.
So I threw it out.
To this day, I have no idea what was in that package of meat.
Immediately, we stopped buying meat from unknown sources and started visiting our local meat market. We were shocked at the difference in taste quality. If you normally purchase meat from a grocer that sells pre-packaged "fresh" meat, you probably don't even realize what you are missing out on as far as taste goes. We didn't.
Better meat is more costly, however. Since we decided it was worth the extra money to have better quality meat (and that it is safer), we decided to cut costs in other ways. Like eating less meat products.

Bringing it back around...
I found a mock meatloaf recipe and tweaked it a little. It turned out GREAT!!! The whole family loved it. Here's my recipe:

Vegetarian Meatloaf

2 eggs
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/2 med red onion, shredded
4-5 cloves of garlic, shredded (I use a small hand-held grater)
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), diced
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup cooked oatmeal (save some from breakfast in the morning, or you could use quick cooking oats)
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I cooked mine with beef broth. You could also use mushroom broth.)
1/4 cup asiago or Parmesan
2 oz. feta, crumbled
4 oz. falafel mix (I used a third of a 12 oz. package)
3 Tbs. whole wheat flour
2 Tbs. ketchup
2 Tbs. barbecue sauce

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, water, tomato paste, grated onion and garlic. Stir in the next eight ingredients and mix. Add just enough flour to make the mixture hold together.

Form into a loaf and place in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 150*. For the last five minutes of cooking, spread the ketchup and barbecue sauce over the top and return to oven. Allow to cool 5 minutes before slicing.

*Tip- I used a butter knife to butter the loaf pan, just like you would a piece of bread.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Tiniest Plane...

She was born at 8:50pm...
And she wasn't breathing...

My niece, Delylah, was immediately life-flighted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa while we waited, hoping, praying that she was okay. I remember watching as they wheeled her tiny, listless, body down the hallway in an incubator. Tubes were stuck down her throat. Machines were beeping. Nurses were talking. But she was silent.
We watched as she was loaded onto the waiting helicopter, watched as it lifted off the ground carrying precious cargo.
The next day we were told she was born without her right lung, her heart was severely deformed, her esophagus didn't connect to her stomach as it should, and she had spinal deformities. They diagnosed her with VATERL syndrome. It is a very rare collection of abnormalities that a child is born with. Tulsa had never seen a case of it and were not prepared to offer her care. So they immediately sent for transport to Texas Children's Hospital.
As we visited with Delylah and waited for the plane to arrive, we took time to get to know the little bundle of joy. I remember my sister pointing out that Delylah had my fingers; the way the pinky curves inward toward the other fingers. I snapped a picture of it.
When the nurses from Houston arrived to take her, we were told that her mom couldn't ride along because she'd had a c-section. Sis was horrified at the thought off Baby D going alone. So I did what any aunt would do...
I volunteered to fly with her to Houston.
Oh, but I didn't realize what a teeny tiny plane we would be flying in. Nor did I realize that it would take us almost two hours to get to Texas Children's Hospital.
The ambulance ride was daunting. But I was okay until we pulled up to the tarmac and I got a look at the little tinker-toy with a kangaroo painted on the side of it. Then I swallowed back bile. I didn't mind flying-- not at all-- but I am severely clausterphobic. In a major way.
But I smiled and crawled into my seat-- I had to haunch over in a 90 degreed angle just to get to it (and I'm only 5'3'').
All the way there I kept remembering how my dad had told me I should never ride in a small plane... because Pasty Cline and Buddy Holly had died on small planes...
Through major breathing exercises, plastering my face to the window, and sheer luck... I made it there without hyperventillating and Delylah was placed in the capable hands of the NICU.
I learned a lot of things that day... some of which I can't put into words. But most of all, I learned that a parent's (or aunt's or uncle's or granparent's) love can overcome the greatest of obstacles.