When I was growing up, my sister and I always sat down in September and set our new school year resolutions. It just seemed like the right time to initiate new habits as we entered new grades and classrooms. Of course, these lists featured childhood basics like “Be nicer to my sister” and “Remember to help Mom clean the cat box.” Nothing earth-shattering, but it was the principle of it that mattered.
To this day, fall has always felt like the more appropriate time for fresh starts to me than January. However, in my current life as a freelance writer, I need all the structure and discipline I can get. So I’m taking advantage of this new year to institute change.
Chief among my resolutions this year is to eat better (I can’t imagine I’m alone in naming this as a goal). One recipe that I’ve bookmarked for regular rotation in this new regime is this Veggie Meatloaf With Checca Sauce from Giada. It’s built on a base of brown rice and red lentils and features carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes and spinach (talk about packing in the good stuff!). It includes egg and cheese for flavor and binding and is topped with a tasty blender sauce that is good on just about anything (if you have any left over, heap it on scrambled eggs). It is a many-stepped recipe, which means you’ll want to cook it on a chilly Sunday afternoon and then eat the leftover for lunch on Monday. Just the thing for The Weekender.
Before you start chopping, here are a few things you should know:
- Make the Checca sauce as the rice does its initial cook. It’s the perfect amount of time and a good way to fold the prep work together.
- The recipe instructs you to let the lentil, rice and veggie mixture cook on low for 30 minutes. Make sure to check it at 15 and 20 minutes, to ensure that it hasn’t run out of liquid. Add a splash more water, if necessary.
- As you stir the mixture together, taste it for seasoning just before you combine the beaten eggs. Unless you explicitly trust your eggs, it’s best not to eat them raw.
- If your loaf pans run small, divide the mixture between two or shape it into a loaf in a larger baking dish. Make sure to place your baking vessel on a rimmed cookie sheet, so that the bubbling juices don’t make a mess of your oven.
- Finally, do let the loaf have plenty of time to cook before you start cutting. If you dig in too soon, it won’t be able to hold its shape.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.