Mystery Loaf

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: Recipe

Living in New York City sort of hampered my ability to meal plan or keep a well-stocked kitchen. For one, our fridge was really, really tiny---a step up from a dorm "beer cooler" at best. Our pantry was also small--- a skinny bookcase to be exact. 

Plus, it wasn't realistic to do big shopping trips anyway because no one wants to lug bags and bags of groceries up and down subway stairs and then several blocks to your apartment.

So, like most New Yorkers, I went to the store rather frequently--daily even. I was lucky to have three supermarkets within a 5-block radius, plus a fruit stand, a miniature health foods store and a produce market. Even if it meant visiting 5 different stores, I could, more or less, get everything I needed just steps from my apartment. 

Typically, I would run out in the afternoon to get whatever I needed to make dinner that night, or I'd text Scott asking him to grab a few things on his way home...

However, here on the island, it's different. The grocery store is a good 20 if not 30-minute drive away, and we can't really afford to make the trip more than once a week. This means that I have to be more proactive with my shopping--making sure I buy enough food (and with sufficient variety) to last a week. But it also means that come Tuesday night (the night we go grocery shopping) my fridge is BARE and I'm literally running out of foods to cook with.

Last night was no exception. I had some cooked pumpkin, leftover rice from lunch, flimsy celery, wilting scallions, a few dried out baby carrots, thyme and about 6 ounces of brown mushrooms. I was at a total loss for how I'd make this work---and then a craving hit. I was suddenly dying for meatloaf, so I decided "to hell with it" and threw every last thing I had into a bread pan and baked it. I figured if it was absolutely disgusting I'd just smother the hell out of it with HH's brown gravy (you could make anything palatable with that gravy!)

& just to prove that I literally did clean out my fridge making this loaf:

See? I wasn't kidding! All I had left was fruit and condiments!

I chopped (well, more like minced) the mushrooms, celery, scallions, garlic and carrots and mixed it up with the fresh thyme plus dried oregano, dried sage, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, browning sauce and nutritional yeast... while stirring I got the wild idea to add chili powder. Who knows what suddenly made me want to do that (perhaps everything just tastes better with chili powder?) but I really think that addition made all the difference.

Not having bread crumbs, I sent two slices of kamut bread through my blender, added that to the mix along with the oats and brown rice. The mixture felt "good" and firm, but still worried it might not hold together, I busted out my vital wheat gluten. A little stirring, a lot of black pepper, and I was done. 

I baked this sucker at 375F for about 45 minutes, though I think an hour would have been better. You want it to be nice brown on the top and firm to the touch. I also let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes before serving (so it could firm, but also so I could make the emergency stand-by gravy).

I was really quite impressed with how this loaf came out. It was tasty enough that we didn't need the gravy, but naturally the gravy made a nice compliment....and since there were so many veggies in the loaf, I didn't feel bad serving it for dinner with no vegetable side dish (or any side dish, really). 

Anyway, I think the spicing here could really work with any combination of filler ingredients. I don't see why you couldn't use beans or lentils or cooked potato in place of the mushrooms. I'm sure you could also leave off the carrots or celery, or add something else. I really do think this could be the perfect template for making a loaf out of whatever you have on hand---which is why I'm sharing it! Go clean out that fridge and make a mystery loaf!

I used: 2 bread slices (turned into bread crumbs), 6 ounces mushrooms, 3 celery stalks, 7 baby carrots, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bunch scallions, 5 twigs thyme (1-2 tsp dried should do), 1 tbsp yellow mustard, 2 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce, 2 tsp brown miso, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp rubbed sage (not powdered), 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten, 1/2 cup cooked, leftover rice, 1/2 tsp browning sauce (optional) and about 1/4 cup water.

By the way, I'm really looking forward to having the leftover loaf slices on toast today for lunch--- I suspect it will be delicious! 

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