Friday, June 29, 2007

Leftover Legume Loaf

I love the title of this recipe. It sounds so disgusting, but I needed to get rid of my split peas and lentil cubes. Yes, cubes. I puree and freeze food for my son. I do it a lot less now because he can eat food that I eat, but I am still at it for somethings.

The expiration date on my split pea and lentil cubes has come and gone.I marked an expiration date on the zip lock bag that holds my legume cubes. The date is two months out from when I made them. I thought of making split pea soup but the thought of spoon feeding soup to a baby just sounded like unnecessary pain. And I have no idea how to make pureed lentils taste good. And so, while thumbing through my trusty Super Baby Food book, written by Ruth Yaron, I found the leftover legume loaf recipe on page 311.

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix thoroughly:
1 cup legumes
1 cup wheat germ, ground nuts, or whole grain bread crumbs, or a combination
1 cup liquid (milk, soy milk, or tomato juice)
parsley, powdered or minced garlic, onions
Place mixture into loaf pan and bake about 30 minutes until firm

I have been making this recipe once or twice a week lately. I'll probably move on to something else as soon as I clear out those frozen cubes but for now it's a stable. My baby loves it and it's so fast and easy. He eats half a loaf a day. It's easy for the nanny to feed him and, most importantly, I am working my way through those legumes that I made months ago.

When he goes down for his nap, I throw the oven on 350 degrees, pull out a mixing bowl, and put three cubes into the microwave. Right now, it's just lentils. I use to mix my split pea cubes with my lentil cubes until the split peas got freezer burn and I had to throw them out. You could also use any legume.

What is a legume any way? From Answers.com, "A pod, such as that of a pea or bean, that splits into two halves with the seeds attached to one edge of the valves." Ruth Yaron describes as legumes as dried peas, beans, and lentils. I have always just called them beans but I guess it's a real food group that is properly called legumes. In French, I think it means vegetable, and so that's kind of confusing. Once I am done with the legume cubes in my freezer, I am going to have to figure out how to include beans in my adult cooking since they are so good for us.

So the oven is on, the legumes are in the microwave, the bowl is out... Now comes the bread. If you have bread around the house, this works the best. If I am not using my food processor for something else while I am cooking this loaf, I'll just chop up the bread with a knife. I like the fine bread crumbs that the food processor makes, but it isn't worth getting it dirty for just the bread crumbs. If I am short on bread crumbs or just want to add in something a little different and healthy, I'll add some wheat germ. I haven't done the nuts yet because I feel my baby isn't ready for nuts yet. I alway add more than a cup of bread crumbs because they're chopped up and not fine little bits. Really what you want is to enough bread and liquid so that you have a really soggy bread but not bread soup.

Then one cup of liquid. I always use whole milk. I always have some in the house and the other options sound a little strange: soy milk and tomato juice. Soy milk seems like it might taste weird but Ruth probably means regular soy not the sweet vanilla flavored kind that I always have in the refrigerator. And tomato juice sounds strange as well. I don't like tomato juice and neither does my baby. Although I love Ruth's book, I also go by my tastes. As I cook more and more of her recipes and change my diet little by little, I am trying more and more of her unusual suggestions.

Now comes the seasoning. I always cook up half an onion and 1 garlic clove. These really make the loaf taste good. I always cook the onion because I personally don't like raw onion. If you run out of garlic, I have used garlic powder and it turned out to be a good substitute. I think that I might have made this once without the onion and my baby still ate it. Remember that you are cooking for a baby and so you want everything finely chopped. I normally chop until I run out of patience. My baby's nanny calls this dish the onion dish and so you can tell that I run out of patience quickly. The onions are chopped not minced. I would love to mince but what mom has time!

The other seasoning that I defrost from an ice cube tray is the parsley. Freezing cubes of parsley is so cool. I finally have a solution to all those expensive herbs that I buy, use two twigs, and then watch them die in a glass of dirty water. Now I puree them with a little water and then freeze them. One ice cube is about one tablespoon of parsley. Whenever I need parsley, there's almost always some in the freezer. Also, Ruth writes about how good parsley is for us. It's not just a green garnish, we should be eating it. And so, I throw a cube of parsley in the microwave and add it to the legume loaf.

Mix everything together, make sure it's not too soupy: more bread, less liquid is better. Butter a loaf pan. I didn't have a loaf pan until recently, but it's a must have. I am always using it. If you don't have one, you can use anything that's not too big. You want your loaf to be an inch and a half thick. It doesn't rise. The 30 minutes in the oven is just to stick everything together.

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