Lentil, Brown Rice and Veggie Loaf with Checca Sauce

by | May 26, 2014

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Vegetable meatloaf. Credit: Kim Ragosta

By Kim Ragosta

As I sit at my kitchen table while my youngest naps and my two other children look at books, I myself am looking at books.  Not a children’s storybook…but a cookbook.  In fact…cookbooks have always been my favorite books to read…especially now that I have a family of my own to cook for.  I delight in meal planning for the week and always try to make the five people in my house happy when they sit down to dinner every night.  This is not an easy task at all as I have a husband who loves meat (which we don’t eat too often), two boys who really do not like vegetables and can be slightly picky, and a toddler girl who is like her mommy and will eat almost anything.  Dinner for our family is a time to come together and talk about our day (even though this is quite difficult with a 5, 3 and 2 year old as everyone wants to talk at the same time!). I always feel happiest when I have successfully cooked a meal that everyone enjoys in my home!

I have many cookbooks and prefer to use these as opposed to searching online for recipes.  I feel most comfortable touching the book, writing changes that I make to the recipe in the book and even getting it a little messy during my cooking.  ‘Giada  De Laurentiis’ has always been my favorite for healthy and easy recipes that please a family. I started buying her cookbooks when I was first married in 2007 and have bought every book that she has come out with since then because I enjoy her recipes so much. Her most recent book, ‘Giada’s Feel Good Food’, has recipes that really help a family to eat healthy while tasting good at the same time!  I most recently made her ‘Vegetable Meatloaf with Checca Sauce’.  As I mentioned above, my boys are really not into vegetables and it really is a struggle to make sure they eat enough veggies…so whenever I can I sneak them into meatballs, pasta dishes, and even meatloafs I do!

This meatloaf however is different.  In fact it is not even a meatloaf at all!  It is a vegetable and grain loaf.  It is extremely fast and easy to make if you buy precooked lentils and precooked brown rice (thank you Trader Joe’s).  When my family sat down to this meal hot out of the oven I was a little nervous that my carnivorous husband and non vegetable eating boys would not be enjoying their dinner as much as I would like them too.  As I watched everyone take their first bite I was happy to hear my 5 year old son Jack say, “Mommy…it’s really good!”, followed by my husband’s comment, “Wow, I really like this!”.  PHEW!  It was a success.  I give this recipe a 10 out of 10.  It has great flavor and you can really taste the freshness of the vegetables in the ‘checca sauce’.  It is also very filing.  We got 2 nights out of it…which is 10 meals in our house!  Nothing makes me happier than pouring love into a meal that my family enjoys! I hope you can do the same for your family with this simple and healthy recipe!

Checca Sauce

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

3 scallions, white and pale green parts only, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

8 fresh basil leaves

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Lentil Loaf

Cooking spray

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

1 small white onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, shredded with hand shredder

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

10 oz fresh baby spinach

1 (17.6) box cooked lentils (Trader Joe’s in refrigerated section)

2 cups cooked brown rice (Trader Joe’s in rice section)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Handful of grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Directions

For the Checca Sauce

In a food processor combine 1 pint grape tomatoes, scallions, garlic, basil, oil, salt and pepper.  Pulse tomatoes until they are chopped but not pureed.  Transfer to bowl.

For the Lentil Loaf

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 10 x 4.5 in. loaf pan with cooking spray.  Meanwhile heat large skillet over medium.  Add 1 TBS olive oil, onion, carrot and celery and cook 5 min. until tender. Transfer to large bowl and cool a little bit.

In same skillet cook spinach over medium about 3 min. or until it wilts.  Drain and let cool slightly.  Squeeze excess liquid from spinach (I use dry paper towel and press on spinach). Transfer to a cutting board and chop spinach.  Add spinach to onion mixture.

Add lentils, brown rice, ¾ cup mozzarella, corn, basil, eggs, egg whites, salt, pepper and ¾ cup checca sauce to cooled onion mixture.  Spoon mixture into pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and decorate with halved grape tomatoes.  Drive with remaining 1 TBS olive oil.

Bake loaf for 30 minutes or until loaf is heated through and cheese is bubbling.  Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.  Cut into 1 inch slices and top with checca sauce!  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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