Menu of the Week: What We Served for Valentine’s Day


Our Bulgar and Quinoa "Neat Loaf," leaning against a pile of mashed potatoes, with a creamy mushroom gravy. Also on the plate: marinated, roasted beets and carrots, and a green salad (recipes after the jump). Click on this photo to enlarge it.


This year, Valentine’s day fell on a Monday, so I wanted to create a special menu of cool weather comfort food for all who come to our weekly vegetarian dinners in Palo Alto. And what is more iconic of comfort food than meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy? Needless too say, our “neat loaf” is a little bit different from the meaty version, but if you try it, I think you’ll find it pretty tasty. Roasted beets, and radicchio in the salad add a note of seasonal red, to carry forward our Valentine’s theme. We began the meal with Split Pea Soup (I’ll try to post a recipe soon), and ended with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brown Rice Crispy Treats. Recipes for the rest of the menu are after the jump…



Yield: One loaf, 8-10 servings. Preheat oven to 350º F

3 cups water

1  cup bulgar

1/2 cup quinoa, washed

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, trimmed and grated

1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup dark barley miso ( or to taste)

1/4 cup natural catsup (optional)

1 tablespoon dried French herb mixture

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

1 1/4 cups roasted sunflower seeds, ground to a meal in a food processor

1/2 cup gluten flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, mixed together

canola or olive oil

salt, pepper, soy sauce, umeboshi vinegar to taste

1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy sauce pan.  Add the bulgar and quinoa and a pinch of salt, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the grain is soft and sticky, but not watery.

2. Sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and parsley in the oil until softened and beginning to be tender. Sprinkle in a little soy sauce and umeboshi vinegar. Add the miso, herb mixture, catsup and nutritional yeast and stir well.

3. Mix the two flours together in a large bowl, add the sunflower seeds, bulgar-quinoa mixture and vegetables. Stir well to thoroughly combine. Taste and check seasoning, adding salt, pepper and/or soy sauce to taste.

4. Press the mixture into an oiled one-quart loaf pan (or for easier removal, line the pan with parchment paper). Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until light golden brown on the top and around the edges. When done, let the loaf cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing.   Cool an additional 15-20 minutes before attempting to slice.  Serve with a hearty gravy or sauce.



5-6 servings

2 1/2 pounds potatoes of choice (I like to use Yukon Gold or similar potatoes because of their lovely color and because they don’t need to be peeled), washed and cut in half if large

1-2 tablespoons Earth Balance, to taste

1-2 tablespoons olive oil, to taste

1/2 unsweetened soy or rice milk

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley or chives or herb of choice (optional)

1. Place potatoes in a large pot, add water to cover, and a little pinch of salt, bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat 20-25 minutes or until they test done (a knife inserted, easily slips through).

2. Drain the potatoes into a colander (save the water if you like for soup stock, etc.)

3. Put the potatoes back into the cooking pot along with the remaining ingredients and mash to whatever degree of smoothness you prefer.  Add a little more milk or cooking liquid if they seem dry.  Taste and add salt and pepper or more Earth Balance or olive oil as needed.

For Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Add a few large cloves of peeled garlic to the potatoes while they are cooking. Later, mash them together with the potatoes.



You can use wheat flour to thicken this gravy if you like–I use rice flour so that folks who have gluten intolerance are able to eat it.

Yield: 3 cups

1/2  pound mushrooms, sliced

1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound soft tofu, pureed in a blender

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup white miso

2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar, or to taste

2 teaspoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or to taste

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)

2 tablespoons rice flour dissolved in 1 cup water

1. Rinse and slice the mushrooms, then sauté in the olive oil adding the onion, garlic, and a little pinch of salt and pepper.  Continue to sauté until the mushrooms begin to release water,  turn down the heat and simmer until the mushrooms are very tender, another 10-15 minutes, add the nutritional yeast.

2. Meanwhile, puree the tofu with the miso and umeboshi vinegar and add to the mushrooms when they are tender, stir  to combine.

3. Increase the heat until this mixture just begins to boil, whisk in the flour and water mixture and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

4. Stir in the parsley, check seasoning, adding umeboshi vinegar, Liquid Aminos, salt and pepper as needed.  Serve with pasta or grain dishes.



Preheat oven to 425º F

Serves 4

3 large carrots, trimmed and cut into one-inch chunks

2 large beets, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks

1 cup pomegranate juice (not pure pomegranate juice, which is too tart–choose one mixed with grape, apple and other juices)

1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste

1. Steam the carrots and beets 10-12 minutes or until al dente (the beets may take longer).

2. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, cook the pomegranate juice down until you have 1/2 cup.

3. Add one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the reduced pomegranate juice, along with a squeeze of lemon and a little salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

4. Place carrots and beets in a small roasting pan, toss with the dressing and roast 20-30 minutes in the oven, shaking or stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are tender and nicely glazed.



Wash and dry the salad greens, tear or chop as needed. Toss with your dressing of choice.  Our Valentine’s Day dressing was made by James Holloway, and recipes for 8 of his wonderful dressings are here.


Recipes © 2011 by Gary Alinder

6 responses

  1. Hello,
    In the Gravy recipe section the following entry is shown “1 pound soft soft, pureed in a blender”.
    What is ‘soft soft’? Maybe tofu? Error or am I missing something?

    • Doug, Sorry that’s just a typo. Thanks for catching it! (Guess I’m sleepy sometimes when I proofread these posts!) Use soft or silken tofu which is available most everywhere tofu is sold. Thanks, Gary

  2. Hi, This was my first time attending your Monday Dinner’s or eaten an Macrobiotic Meal.

    I enjoyed every bite. I brought the half of the Neatloaf home and used it to top my Taco Salad instead of the usual Boca Burger Crumbles. I did add some Latin seasonings though. I really liked the texture of the Neatloaf.

    Thank you for a wonderful meal…look forward to others…Liz.

    • Liz, Glad you enjoyed the neatloaf and hope to see you again. Yes, the blog is already linked to Facebook to the extent that all posts automatically go to my face book account, and thus to everyone who has friended me. What did you have in mind? Naturally, I’m always looking for ways to find more readers, and if you or other readers have suggestions, that would be great! Best, Gary

      • Hi Gary…my face book site is about a/my fitness lifestyle. I wanted to share your neatloaf menu and my new experience. My site name is Gorda No More. Feel free to ask to be friends…thanks,Liz.

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