Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Recipe Makeover #1 The Meatloaf Impersonator

          I was not born in the South yet it is a place that has stolen my heart. Having moved here five years ago, I never would have imagined how easily I adjusted and immersed myself into the southern way of life. It really isn't that much different from where I grew up (if we don't compare crime rates, lack of employment and violence -_- ). What I mean by that though, is that here in Alabama, time seems to  go slower than in other parts of the U.S at least from my experience in Califonia and Chicago.  The best part of the south is people's friendliness and of course southern cooking! Oh boy did the south and me fit right in. Biscuits, gravy, dumplings, meatloaf, sausage balls, collard greens,cheese balls, grits....I love it all. 
          Southern culture, like Hispanic culture, revolves around our love of good food. Any special occasion is an excuse to cook something up and cook plenty of it! It is all great,except those rich yummy foods can do quite a number on your body and the scale. Now don't get me wrong, not all people in the south are overweight, but sadly a whole lot of us are, making it more "socially acceptable" than in other places. I am all for inclusion and the whole live and let live way of thinking. In my case though, I think that the fact that as heavy as I am I never felt that "self conscious" because I didn't stand out that bad, didn't help me realize any quicker that I needed to dosomething serious   about my weight any earlier.
           One of the things that bring me great pleasure is cooking. I am not sure where this came from since my mother doesn't cook and never did growing up. In my home country, having help in the house is not a privilege saved the mega wealthy, so my mom was able to not cook all my life. I did get to watch the lady who worked for us cook delicious meals. I was the annoying kid all up in her business wanting to help. Most humored me and though I was not able to get far with the helping part, at least I got to observe and absorb. I picked up plenty and think I am not half bad. Now that I am trying to be more conscious of what and how much I eat, cooking my favorite recipes isn't always possible. I try to think of my calories as my budget so I try to spend them wisely.
         I LOVE MEATLOAF.  It is such a simple dish that has nothing fancy about it but yet is so comforting and delicious. I even love it cold. I cook for two but always cooked twice as much as I should have and therefore we both overate. Most of the time when I made meatloaf ( enough for 4 at least), we would have some leftovers and what is better than a slice of cold meatloaf in between two slices of bread with a ton of Heinz ketchup??? Nothing! It is one of our faves. Can we take a guess on those calories? Close to 12344556334224 right? Right! ;). The one thing I know is that it is not super healthy and we ate too much of it because it was just so darn good. 
         While browsing Pinterest I came across many lentil loaf recipes and thought it sounded "interesting". The problem is , with most of these vegan/vegetarian/gf recipes that they have all these ingredients that I am not familiar or ever cooked with (flaxseed, chia seeds, falafel mix to name a few). They are probably great for you but not something that I know enough about at this point. 
         I have mentioned the calorie budget before, I will now mention the money budget ha! I don't know about you, but money isn't overflowing in our house and I can't just bring myself to buy all these ingredients that I don't know about and risk hating them and throwing the money out the trash. Does that make cheap? Maybe. Am I willing to change my cheap ways? Not quite yet.
 I decided to do lentil loaf my way, with what I have at home. My goal is to Cut fat and calories while hopefully making it tasty enough to make the makeover not only a healthier version but one that I can rotate on our menu. So without further ado, let's get to it!
Start off my gathering your ingredients. Remember that lentils are pretty flexible and your can give your loaf any flair you'd like (Mexican,Asian, Indian) but this time we will go the simple are my ingredients:
   For 4 servings: 
   1-cup of dry lentils
   2- extra large egg
   1- cup chopped onion 
   1- cup chopped bell pepper (I mixed red and green)
   1 serving- baby carrots finely minced or grated
   1/2 cup of dry oats (not pictured)
    1/4 cup tomato sauce ( after you measure it, take 2-3 teaspoons out and save separately)
    Your choice seasonings to taste. I chose sea salt, oregano, thyme and black pepper.

Start off by placing the lentils in a pan with 3 -4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes. Let them sit and cool off. Once cool drain.Do not worry if they get mushy, it will only add to the "meaty" look.

While your lentils are cooking, go ahead and get the veggies chopped and prepped. I also measured out the tomato sauce and got my seasonings together. Dump everything into a bowl and mix together,
   This is a good time to turn on your oven and preheat at 350.
    Once everything is mixed well you can pick what kind of baking dish you want to use. You could use a pie pan and cut slices, a regular loaf pan or mini loaf pans like I did. A full recipe should be divided into 4 mini pans. I am cooking half the recipe tonight so here are my two.

    This is how they look before I used the reserved tomato sauce. Spread a teaspoon or so over the top before covering with foil and placing in oven. Cook covered at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook an extra 5-7 minutes. Watch closely as oven temperatures may vary. Once it is done serve with your choice of sides and enjoy!  
    I wanted to show you the difference between my regular meatloaf recipe and this meatloaf impersonator. Thanks to my fitness pal recipe calculator for being such a handy tool. I used to eyeball my meatloaf ingredients so actual calories may be a little higher, yikes!

My meatloaf before :

My "meatloaf" makeover:

I am not a nutrition specialist. I am sure that there are still many more tweaks this recipe could have to make it even better for you. But for me, seeing the difference in calories and fat is amazing and good enough for now. As I learn and research more I am sure it can only get better. 
So for the final verdict: It was delicious and filling. It is obviously not meatloaf but a very good alternative. Will have to try to make it into veggie burgers or "meatballs".spinach may be a good addition for extra moisture. 
 Hope you enjoyed, until next time!

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