No loafing matter

Being a foodie and a blogger, I’m always on the look-out for an opportunity to cook up something new and exciting. So when an old friend and I recently reconnected after 10 years on Facebook, I immediately extended an invitation for dinner. She graciously accepted. Then she dropped a bomb on me. It winds up she is vegan and gluten-free.

Now I consider myself a pretty good cook. And lately I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diet. So I saw this as a welcome challenge. What I discovered is that gluten-free and vegan basically equates to eating fresh vegetables and things like quinoa for proteins.

It didn’t take me but a few Google searches to net this recipe for Vegetarian Garden Loaf with Maple Apricot Glaze. I’m typically not a fan of any food with the word “loaf” in its description, but this recipe changed my opinion on many levels. Even the heartiest meat eater can enjoy this heart-friendly and delicious dish. Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off. It is actually not hard to make, but you will need a food processor.

For the loaf you will need:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red or sweet onion chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped Baby Bella or Cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 5 cups of loosely packed baby spinach leaves
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa (I used Wegmans red quinoa and just followed the instructions on the box)
  • 1 cup of toasted gluten-free bread or waffle crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons of molasses
  • 1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb mix
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh minced rosemary
  • 3-4 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 baked sweet potato, peeled and diced

For the glaze you will need:

  • ¼ cup no-sugar apricot fruit spread
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon and cumin
  • Hot red chili flakes, to taste

You’ll want to bake your sweet potato before you start this recipe. The potato should be cooked but not too soft. I wrapped the potato in foil and baked it on 400 degrees for about an hour. When it’s done, tear the skin off the potato, being careful not to burn yourself, and then set it aside. Turn your oven down to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, add olive oil and the diced onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Stir until softened. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir. Add the spinach and season with sea salt and ground pepper. Cook down the mixture for about seven minutes until it is soft.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into a food processor, draining out as much of the juices as you can. Process the mixture into a grainy mixture, but don’t over process it. You want some texture.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, gluten-free bread crumbs, ketchup, molasses and olive oil and stir to combine. Add the dried herbs, rosemary, scallions and mix. You’ll want a mixture that sticks together. Lastly, add the diced sweet potato and fold in gently.

Spoon the loaf mixture into an oiled loaf pan and press it tight into the pan. Spoon the glaze on the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the loaf is heated through and the edges of the glaze are bubbling. Allow the loaf to set for ten minutes to make it easier to slice.

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