Sunday, April 08, 2012

Almost Special-K Loaf

I was talking to someone the other day about how to make this dish vegan, and I realized I make it all the time, but mostly from memory. I don't think I've ever posted a recipe for it, (and several people have asked) so here you go...

I grew up with "Special-K Loaf" taking the place of meatloaf at many family dinners. This magical combination of eggs, dry cereal, onions, cheese, seasonings, nuts, cottage cheese (because as vegetarians in the 1960's we needed as many protein sources as possible to avoid falling over of malnutrition!) may sound strange, but it baked into a firm terrine-casserole-like loaf - and trust me, it was DELICIOUS! Especially with brown gravy and a side of my Mom's mashed potatoes.
It's one of those comfort foods I crave on a semi-regular basis. Googling will result in several different versions if you're curious, the non-vegan ones loaded with enough eggs and cheese to supply a small village.

This is my recipe, made the way my family prefers -  you may find yourself adjusting certain ingredients to your taste (my Mom used walnuts but I'm now allergic to those, so I use pecans), but fortunately it's also a very forgiving recipe.
If you'd prefer to stray completely away from the recipe, you should try some of the variations available here at Jennifer McCann's "Magical Loaf Studio" where you can design your own combinations!

Now, before the Vegan Police become hysterical here and righteously inform me that "Special-K" brand cereal is NOT vegan; Well, I already know that.
Yes. Special-K, for whatever reason, contains whey. Not vegan.
This is why my recipe is called "ALMOST Special-K Loaf" and if you read my recipe you'll ALSO see I've substituted other, vegan cereal. There are plenty that will work. It's OK. It's vegan now. Calm down.

"ALMOST Special-K Loaf"

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic minced or pressed
Oil for sauteing
1 1/4 cup very finely chopped pecans or pecan meal
2 - 12.3 oz packages of Morni-Nu extra-firm tofu (The shelf-stable aseptic-boxed type)
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 cup soy milk
4 little packets "George Washington Seasoning"
-- OR 2 teaspoons dry vegetable or vegetarian-chicken-flavor broth or bullion powder
-- OR a 1-oz package dry onion soup packet (read the label, some aren't vegan)

1 teaspoon powdered/rubbed sage
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce or to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (OPTIONAL, you can leave these out but I think they add to the flavor)
4 Tbsp. melted margarine
6 - 7 cups unsweetened flake-type cereal (corn flakes, Total, generic store-brand "Special-K-LIKE" cereals and/or some dry bread crumbs work well here)

Saute onion in oil until clear, add garlic and cook a moment longer.
In a large bowl, mash tofu well with potato masher. Add onion mixture.
In a food processor/blender, blend flax seeds and 1/2 cup of the soy milk until flax seeds are blended and start to thicken the mixture.

Add flax seed mixture, the rest of the soy milk and everything except dry cereal to bowl.
Mix well and then add dry cereal.
Let sit for 15 minutes to absorb liquids and stir again. It should be "wet" but not liquidy-soupy.
Adjust amounts of soymilk or dry cereal if needed.

Taste and add more salt/pepper/onion/sage/soy sauce or whatever, if needed.
(It needs to be fairly well seasoned, the tofu tends to absorb a lot of flavor and the finished product can be a little bland if not well seasoned).

Grease a 9 X 12 casserole dish with shortening or margarine.
This stuff STICKS to the pan! (I use a casserole dish rather than a "loaf" pan, so the mixture isn't too thick).
Pour mixture into dish and bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes. Top should be brown and edges slightly crispy. It will set a bit as it cools. Cut into squares and serve hot with gravy (some people like to top their loaf with ketchup or BBQ sauce but my kids don't like it that way - do what you want).
This is WONDERFUL sliced like cold meatloaf, on a sandwich, the next day!


JL Goes Vegan said...

That looks AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a new recipe Tofu Mom ! I love loaf recipes.
I think this sounds wonderful. Thank you for the heads up on Special K - I thought it was vegan.
Happy Easter from Nova Scotia.

Kale Crusaders said...

So true. The vegetarian cookbooks from the 60's & 70's that I've seen include recipes with insane amounts of dairy and eggs. Some managed to be somewhat ahead of their time with various Indian lentil recipes.

Carolyn said...

The first vegetarian meatball recipe I ever tried was similar to this, and I think it did have eggs, which of course can be replaced with the tofu. I remember walnuts, bread crumbs, and seasonings as the bulk of the recipe (no cottage cheese though), and I made it many times. I'm thinkin' meatball subs here, Tofu Mom- did you ever try this recipe as meatballs?

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I think this mixture, as written, would be too mushy to make meatballs, but it would work nicely if you added something to help it stick together better - gluten flour, bread crumbs, etc?
Let me know how it works, if you try it...