A Simple Meatloaf

My husband and I have decidedly different eating preferences.  I eat just about anything (bananas are a notable exception) and he’s a meat-and-potatoes sort of dude.  I usually have an iron stomach and he does not.  Trying to make a meatloaf that both of us can, and want to, eat is challenging to say the least.  If I were ever to get supremely mad at him, all I would have to do is add onions, garlic, bell peppers, or anything really spicy, to keep him feeling awful for a few days.  I’ve never had such a desire (I’d say at that point I’d probably need a divorce lawyer instead of an onion).  Unfortunately I did learn this from trying different recipes; my poor husband!  This week, however, we reached a turning point in our meatloaf experimentation.  This is a simple recipe that stands on its own and will take to doctoring as well (some ideas are listed at the end of the recipe).  Once you read it you’ll probably wonder why I use ketchup as well as tomato paste, sugar, and vinegar in the sauce; tomato paste, sugar, vinegar are the basics for ketchup.  Would you like me to give you some lofty reason about the use of cider vinegar making all the difference, or the truth that I was playing around and this is the result?  Accept whichever answer you prefer.


Remember that  meat-and-potatoes comment before?  I’m including a fast potato recipe, too.  Read on, my friends…

Meatloaf Ingredients
1 pound Ground beef (I use 85%/15%)
3/16 cup Seasoned bread crumbs (use a 1/4 c. measure and fill it around 3/4; about 25 g)
28 g Grated carrot
2 Tablespoons Tomato paste mixed into 1 1/4 ounces water
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tablespoon Ketchup (I like Heinz)
1 Large egg
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Ketchup
1 Teaspoon Tomato Paste
1/4 cup Cider vinegar
1/2 ounce Water
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Oil or spray to coat the pan

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl mix the meat, breadcrumbs, carrots, salt, and pepper.IMG_0987
Add Worcestershire, egg, 2 Tablespoons of the tomato paste mixture, and 1 Tablespoon Ketchup mixing thoroughly.

Evenly combine the ingredients but don’t pack the meat tightly in the process.

IMG_0988
Combine the remaining tomato paste mixture, cider vinegar, water, 1 tablespoon Ketchup, 1 teaspoon tomato paste, and sugar in a pot and stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar.  Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
Prepare the pan for the meatloaf.  I
use an old jelly roll pan covered in foil.  The key is the sides to prevent a mess in the oven.  Coat the cooking surface with the oil.
Shape the meat mixture into a loaf, centering it on the pan.IMG_0996
Next pour the sauce over the loaf making sure it is entirely covered.
Bake it for 75 minutes.
Let it rest for five minutes before serving.

 

 

Options
Here are a number of items you can add to give it a bit more kick:
Mix into the meat :
2 Tablespoons diced onion
1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Tabasco or other hot sauce
Vegetables like squash – remember to take the water content into consideration
Mushrooms
Replace the breadcrumbs with crushed crackers (Think Ritz, Townhouse, etc.)
*be careful to add a bit more bread or crackers if significantly increasing the moisture

Stuffings and toppings:
Cheese hidden in the center – don’t ask how much – there’s no such thing as too much cheese in my world!
Top the loaf with breadcrumbs covered by strips of cheese – cheddar works very well for this application.

Quick Potatoes
This is how I make a fast side dish and get to use up those potatoes that seem to multiply in my kitchen.  While not the most inspired dish, it is fast, versatile and uses minimal amount of fats.

Fresh potato, scrubbed, with skin left on;  Golden potatoes are preferred but any roasting potato will work
Butter or oil of choice – just enough to coat the pan
Salt and Pepper
Other dry seasonings – use those used in the entrée
Lemon

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First, pierce the potato thoroughly.  I use a cake tester.
Next, loosely wrap the potato in wax paper and microwave until cooked throughout.  I use the “potato” button and it takes about 5-6 minutes for medium-large spud.
Unwrap the cooked potato being very careful not to get burned by the steam, and slice it cross-wise.
Heat a frying pan and coat with butter, oil, or both.  Now place the potato slices in the pan in a single layer.  Turn them once they are a deep golden brown and cook on the other side.  Serve immediately.
When I made these with the meatloaf I used butter, salt and pepper (I wasn’t having any).  If I make them for me, I use a smidge of olive oil instead of butter, hold the salt,  but include greek oregano, and then squeeze lemon on them as soon as they’re plated.  Yummy!

Perfection as the enemy of the good

Aside

It’s over a month since my last post and I have several posts sitting in “draft” status.  Yes, I am guilty of pursuing the illusion of perfection at the expense of good.  I’m addicted to the “Save Draft” button.  I can’t help myself; it’s a congenital affliction that has kept me from finishing more than one project over the years.  The sad truth in the case of my blogging is that my posts are mediocre at best; pursuing better-than-just-okay is probably a better way to spend my time.  So I promise to get back on the “click Publish button” wagon today…well, before I go to bed…uh, we better just say “this week” and leave it at that.

A Perfect Summer Sunday in New Jersey

Summer is a great time in New Jersey and one of the things I look forward to is Sunday brunch with friends.  Life and the weather have gotten in the way this year.  The weather this weekend, however, was perfect – not too much humidity, brilliant blue sky, a cool breeze to balance the blazing sun.   So, yesterday was the first time I was able to have Jackie (friend) and Mia (golden retriever) over for brunch.  So much fun!

We cooked, relaxed on the deck, ate and laughed while making sure Mia didn’t jump in the pool.  I decided to make eggs baked in crepe cups and a pot of green tea.  Jackie surprised me with a wonderful cinnamon Amish loaf (yummy!) from What’s For Dessert? in Wall, NJ, and fresh pineapple (also yummy!).  Everyone needs a friend like Jackie – kind, happy, encouraging, and willing try my kitchen experiments!

The crepes were made, and the ingredients for the eggs prepped, before they arrived.  Munchkin (my shih tzu) was close at hand to quickly “clean” the floor of anything that might fall while I was cooking (she was sorely disappointed).  Next I lined six large silicone muffin forms with one crepe each, not sure if the eggs would fit in four or six cups; four was all I needed. ( The eggs are a post in and of themselves so I’ll write about those tomorrow.)  Jackie looked wistfully at the two empty crepe cups, sighing “how sad, they’re empty”.  I looked up, saw the pineapple and we tried something new – pineapple cups.  Everything was delicious although the pineapple cups need some tweaking – I’ll write about those in detail, good or bad, with my second attempt.  Today’s topic, however, is crepes.

Crepes

I’ve loved crepes as long as I can remember; plain or stuffed, sweet or savory (savory is my favorite).  I can’t remember whether the love affair started at a french restaurant in NYC when I was kid or if it started one summer on a Greek Island a lifetime ago (crepes are very popular in Greece).  It ends up my husband also loves crepes, or what he used to call “my grandmother’s french pancakes”.  I had no idea what he was talking about until one day I made crepes and he exclaimed, “Nana’s french pancakes!”.  I had one of those “duh!” moments; why hadn’t I made the connection earlier?  Regardless, I would tweak the recipe, try different pans, until I came up with something he liked.  Hubby’s preference?  Large thickish crepes, rolled and sprinkled with granulated sugar.  My preference?  Small, thin, stuffed with blue cheese (or any cheese for that matter).  After years of using a frying pan I finally gave in and bought a large, cast iron crepe pan.  It’s actually also great for frying an egg or making a grilled cheese sandwich.  My only complaints about the pan are that it isn’t the size crepe I prefer and it’s too heavy to flip the crepes.  Last year I gave in and bought myself a smaller, classic, steel crepe pan.  Now I’m trying to make super thin, gossamer like crepes – no repeatable success yet but I’m having fun trying.  The first time I used the steel pan I discovered the flash point of butter – yup, spontaneous flames on my crepe pan.  Now I keep the heat much lower.  By the way, I wanted to repeat the flames for a picture to post but my husband refused to be my photographer.  He didn’t like the idea of intentionally causing a fire on the stove; go figure!

Crepes are easy to make, freeze quite well, and are versatile.  I can make them on the weekend then pull out some out in the middle of the week, heat them in the oven (wrapped in foil), whip up a filling for me, pull out the sugar for him, and voila’ we have dinner!  I prefer weighing the flour instead of going by volume; it give me more consistent results.  Still, I did include the volume measurement for, well, good measure.

Ingredients

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (216 g)
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 c milk
1/4 c water
2 Tb butter (1 oz; 28.35 g) melted
Additional butter for coating the pan
Yield:  approximately 20 6-inch crepes

Ingredients

Bring the ingredients to room temperature. Combine the flour and salt in a medium-large bowl, making a well in the center. Add the eggs to the well.  Whisk the eggs gradually incorporating the flour.

flour well with eggsAdd half the milk and continue whisking until all the flour is combined.

Mix in the melted butter.  Add the remaining milk and the water.  Make sure the milk and water aren’t cold otherwise the butter will solidify, which is what happened and you can see in the picture below.

butter solidified

Continue whisking the batter until it’s smooth.  Cover and let rest at least 30 minutes.  At this point you can refrigerate the batter overnight.

Warm the crepe pan over a low to medium low heat and coat with butter.  Ladle a small amount of batter on the pan and immediately swirl the pan to coat the bottom.  I use a 1/2 ounce size ladle and no more than two scoops for one crepe.  I usually need 1 1/2 scoops but was able to make one crepe with one scoop.crepe batter in pan  My pan makes 6 inch crepes.  Cook the crepe until the steam stops, then flip to cook the underside, again waiting for the steam to stop.  Move the crepe to a warm plate and repeat the process, using all the batter.  You can wrap them in foil and freeze them for future use.  To warm the crepes  pre-heat your oven to 350 F.  Loosely wrap the crepe stack in foil sealing the ends well.  This will allow the crepes to steam and not dry out.

stack of finished crepes