Sometimes cooking without meat means being extra creative with flavors and textures–especially when you’re cooking a vegetarian recipe for kids. This is certainly true for this inventive recipe for Lentil Loaf, a meatless meatloaf. The ground nuts in this gluten-free meatloaf are a great way to replicate the texture of meat and just one of many healthy ingredients. The kiddos will love this lentil loaf and we think you’ll have fun cooking outside of the box.

This dish needs enough time for lentils and rice to cook or, if you’re a master dinner scheduler, you can use leftovers that are waiting in your fridge. The barley/rice and lentils should cook while you chop and cook the veggies. Once you have the rhythm down, it’s smooth sailing to this meatless meatloaf!

Ingredients

1/2 c barley or short grain brown rice (or a combo of both)
1 c brown lentils
Salt
Olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
Herbs de Provence
Pepper
1 Tbl tomato paste
1/2 c walnuts
1/4 c wheat germ
1 c oats
1/2 c ketchup + 2 Tbl for the top
2 Tbl brown mustard
1 Tbl soy sauce
1/4 c Milk or water
1 egg, beaten

Method

1. Cook rice or barley: bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice/barley and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring back to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes. Check after 30 minutes; you may need to add more water.

2. Cook lentils: add 1 cup of rinsed lentils to 3 cups of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook about 25-30 minutes, covered. Leave cover off toward the end if there is still a lot of water.

3. Cook veggies: Heat oil in pan. Add carrots, onions and then celery with seasonings until golden brown. Add 1/2-1 cup water and allow to evaporate. This will help soften the veggies and get all of the flavor from the pan. Add tomato paste and salt to taste.

4. Toast walnuts in a non-stick skillet until golden, adding wheat germ toward the end to lightly toast. Cool. Add this with the oats in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or chop on a cutting board).

5. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray or coat with oil.

6. Once lentils, rice, and veggies have cooled, mix in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT egg. Season with salt and pepper. Taste the mixture and make sure it has enough flavor. Once you are happy, add the egg and mix well. Make sure the mixture is somewhat “wet” or else it will be crumbly instead of moist. You can add more milk or water if necessary.

7. Place in loaf pan and top with ketchup. Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees F.

8. If desired, serve with a mushroom marsala sauce.

This is a recipe from our friend, blogger Amy Fothergill. You can find her fabulous gluten-free, kid friendly recipes in her column for www.examiner.com as well as on her blog, The Family Chef.