Just about every family has their version of how to make meatloaf. I think meatloaf may have been with us since the dawn of time. And although my vegetarian friends may cringe at the thought, I still enjoy eating meat every now and then but now I try to balance my diet so that I am not solely relying on red meat as my main protein. But every once in a while I need some good old comfort food and I turn to things like roast chicken, pot roast or some good old meatloaf.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a meat and potatoes household. So today’s blog takes me back to my childhood where meals like these were often the family faire for dinner. And if you’re not a beef fan, you can skip this recipe as my goal is to try a wide variety of recipes and I’m sure at some point I will post something that will pique your interest.
This is one of my husband’s favorite meals from when he was a child – meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas. Meatloaf was something his mother didn’t totally annihilate in the oven and the art of scooping up a bunch of peas with a wad of mashed potatoes is a skill he has well honed over the years. As a matter of fact, no other vegetable will do for him in this meal – it has to be peas and of course there must also be mashed potatoes. My husband is one of those that does not like to combine his food and eats one thing on his plate till he’s finished with it and then moves on to something else. But for this meal the combination of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas compels him to break his habit and mix them all together. We all have our little idiosyncrasies don’t we?
This recipe comes from a book my husband got back in the 1970’s called The Complete Family Cook Book. It was a cook book that was offered by a chain grocery store to its customers. On your first visit to the store you got the recipe book binder and chapter 1. Every week after that, if you spent “x” amount of dollars you received an additional chapter. That continued every week until the book was complete. You could also purchase a chapter if your grocery bill was not large enough to warrant a free chapter. The book is so old now that the back of the binder is held together with duct tape, but it is an amazing book with so many recipes that we’ve used many times over the years. This one has to be our all time favorite from that book. I’ll share my rating and lessons learned over many, many years of making this recipe.
RATING: A+ what can I say, we’ve made this recipe for years and it continues to be our favorite. It’s simple, straightforward and very satisfying. You’ve simply got to try this one. And being it’s only recently that I’ve improved my cooking skills, I guarantee you this recipe can be made by even the worst cook and still turn out great. I can also tell you that from many years of experience!
LESSON LEARNED 1: MAKING MEATLOAF FOR TWO – The recipe as I will share it makes a very big meatloaf that serves 6. Since it is only me and my husband I wanted to figure out a way to eliminate as much waste as possible and still enjoy this meatloaf recipe. A local grocery store used to sell meatloafs in mini loaf pans (3.25 W x 2″D x 5.75L). I got the idea of trying to see how this recipe might translate into filling mini loaf pans. Well, it worked beautifully – this recipe will make 3 complete mini meatloafs. So when I want meatloaf for dinner I make the recipe, fill the mini pans, freeze two of them for a later date and cook one of them that evening. There you have it – meatloaf for today and two others for future dinners. The mini pan gives you 3 good sized slices so you can each have one slice for dinner and if you don’t take seconds have a slice leftover to make a meatloaf sandwich the next day (remember those?).
LESSON LEARNED 2: FREEZING THE LOAFS – If you plan on having your loafs “live” in the freezer for a while I recommend first wrapping the loaf pan in plastic wrap and then wrapping them with aluminum foil. That tends to hold off freezer burn for quite some time. The mini loaf will thaw in a couple of hours so you can take it out of the freezer and put it in your refrigerator in the morning, take it out when you come home from work and just pop it in the oven. Take off the aluminum foil when you place it in the refrigerator from the freezer – the foil tends help maintain the cold and you want the loaf to thaw. I also recommend minimally letting the loaf stand on the counter at least while you preheat the oven. Any chill you can reduce will assist with the cooking time.
LESSON LEARND 3: MILK OR CANNED TOMATOES – The recipe says you can use 3/4 cup milk or 3/4 cup canned tomatoes. I’ve tried this recipe both ways and prefer making it with milk versus canned tomatoes. I think the flavor is richer and more full bodied with milk. I think the tomatoes tend to take over as the dominant flavor and I prefer the dominant flavor to be the meat itself.
LESSON LEARNED 4: PREPARING THE MEATLOAF – the recipe in itself is pretty self explanatory. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is to resist the urge to over mix. Mix all the ingredients until just combined and then STOP! Mixing a meatloaf is like mixing cake batter – the more you do it the tougher the end product. Be careful not to over mix.
LESSON LEARNED 5: BREAD CRUMBS – although the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of bread crumbs, I only add 1/2 cup to begin with and then add more if I think it’s needed. It just seems sometimes the mixture is drier than others and I would rather err on the side of caution and not add all the bread crumbs at the beginning to ensure getting a moister mixture than just dumping it in all at once and being stuck with what I’ve got. This was something learned over many years of practice.
LESSON LEARNED 6: DRAIN THE GREASE – Once you take the meatloaf out of the oven make sure you drain the grease before slicing and serving. I tend to use the leanest ground beef I can find and I still have grease in the pan. There’s nothing worse than serving a greasy slice of meatloaf.
LESSON LEARNED 7: MAKE IT IN YOUR TOASTER OVEN – With a mini loaf you don’t have to use your oven. Cook this in your toaster oven at 350 for 1 hour and voila, you’ll have meatloaf! And you can have meatloaf any time of year, including the summer, without heating up your house.
This is definitely not a difficult recipe to master. Give it a try and tell me what you think. This has been our go-to meatloaf recipe for a long time and I hope you will enjoy it. If you’ve got a family favorite meatloaf recipe – please share it. Would love to try it and compare the two. Enjoy this one!
Meatloaf For Two…
(This recipe, with it’s noted adjustments can be made to serve two or serve 6)
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3 Tbs. celery (two small stalks)
3 Tbs. italian parsley (or you can chop the leaves from the celery stalk)
1-2 cloves minced garlic (personal preference)
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup milk or canned tomatoes
1 beaten egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
Mix all ingredients together until fully blended. If making one loaf, shape in a 9×5 inch loaf pan and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. If making mini loafs, divide mixture into 3 mini loaf pans. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Take out of the oven and remove the grease from the pan. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes and peas.