Post #606 “Aw, Mom! Meatloaf Again?”

October 28, 2018 at 2:02 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My mom made meatloaf a lot when we were young.  Now, I know why, but back then whenever I saw meatloaf being prepped, it just meant we were going to have hamburger stuff that tasted only of onion, mashed potatoes with butter, and some canned veggie, probably corn.

Now let me explain why this was a problem.  First, although I loved hamburgers, at that time in my life I loathed onions.  Cooked or uncooked, the flavor of onions was terrible to me and I would pick them out or eat around them.  Except in meatloaf where mom put in so many onions it was impossible to extricate them.  So I was forced to eat that terrible nasty tasting stuff.  Second, potatoes were abhorrent to me except in two forms: potato chips, and french fries.  For some reason, though, mashed potatoes were particularly terrible to me.  I think it was because there was just nothing to chew.  I’d put them in my mouth and immediately want to hurl.  But in my mom’s cooking, meatloaf always came with mashed potatoes.  Third, the potatoes I hated were always topped with butter.  And I didn’t like butter.  Pure and simple.  Finicky eater as a kid, not so much as an adult.  But butter was not something I wanted to eat ever.  Finally, a can of veggies of some kind.  Usually corn.  Many times, creamed corn.  Vegetables I loved.  When they were fresh.  Or frozen.  From a can, not so much.  I tolerated them because I understood their potential.

So, I was usually looking at a plate filled with ingredients that I didn’t like.  So I would end up choking them down, or going hungry.  It was an even bet as to which way it was going to go.  Then I grew up and my palate changed and suddenly those things that used to be terrible weren’t so terrible anymore.

I made meatloaf a couple of nights ago.  With mashed potatoes.  And fresh veggies on the side.  And I chuckled when I thought about how much I’d hated this stuff before.  However, this was not my mom’s meatloaf.  And it hadn’t been for decades.

I supposed there are as many meatloaf recipes as there are people making meatloaf.  It’s absolutely one of those dishes that are “made to taste.”  Jennifer Paterson, one of The Two Fat Ladies those inimitable British chefs I love so much, once said, “Salt and pepper to your own taste.  No one knows what your taste is but you, so don’t be shy about it.”  Meatloaf is like that.

So I had a big bunch of hamburger that I needed to use and originally thought about spaghetti.  It’s easy and filling and makes enough to freeze for leftovers.  It’s a budget stretcher type of meal.  But I was a little bored with it.  We have it every couple of weeks.  Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the heck out of it.  But I decided I wanted something different.  Besides, Partner/Spouse was fighting a cold and his stomach was a little delicate and the acid from the tomato sauce likely wouldn’t be good for him.

Wouldn’t you know it?  I had all the ingredients for meatloaf!  That’s usually a surprise to me.  Not so much that I have the ingredients, but usually I plan for meatloaf to make sure the ingredients are all there.  But, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain since it has been a while since I made it.  So I looked on the box of onion soup mix.  Not there.

So I went online.  After searching through a couple thousand pages (okay not really, just had to go to the second page) of results, I found what I was looking for.  But it took me a half hour because I was reading so many other recipes.  Like I said, everyone has a different way of doing it.

The basic recipe is a pound of hamburger mixed with a cup of filler of some kind, an egg, a half cup of water, and some seasonings.  It’s shaped into a loaf, either free form or in a pan, and baked at 350 until it’s done.  It’s sliced and served with the standard veggie and starch to make a well balanced meal.

Back in the 50s 60s time frame, someone added dry onion soup mix to give it zest.

At some point, someone else put a layer of ketchup on top to form a glaze.  I’ve topped that glaze with sesame seeds for an added nutty flavor.

The filler became stuffing mix of any kind.

The topping transmogrified into mashed potatoes to give it a Shepherd’s Pie twist.

In college, I substituted the bread filling for cooked rice.  I love rice, so this was a no brainer and it was so good.

Then I changed it up and added shredded potato, or shredded carrot, then both.  At one time there was more shredded veggies than hamburger and it became a vegetable loaf.  But it was good.  A couple of times I’ve added a can of chopped tomatoes and turned it into a wonderful juicy loaf that tasted great.

But it always followed that same basic formula.  Then my mom shared something she’d read about putting a layer of meatloaf, then a layer of cooked potato, than a layer of meatloaf.  I tried that and it was good, but don’t use mashed potatoes unless they’re very stiff and not creamy.

Once, I put a thick layer of Tater Tots in the center.  The neat about that was they sopped up a bunch of the meatloaf grease with all the flavors and though they got a little mushy, they tasted wonderful.

Through watching food shows on television, I learned the technique of mixing the types of ground meats to get more flavor.  Seasoned pork, turkey, chicken, beef, veal, rabbit, I’ve seen them all used.  I’ve only ever mixed ground pork and beef, but the flavor was good.  You just have to be aware that the different meats will have different fat content so you may end up with more grease than you’re used to.

So, the other night, I had about two and a half pounds of hamburger.  I put in two eggs, one packet of dried onion soup mix, a tablespoon of onion powder, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a half cup of water, and for the filler, I put in half a pan of leftover cornbread.  After I mixed it all together, I decided there was enough filler and added some crushed Ritz crackers.  I had too much for a standard loaf pan so I put it in an 8x8x2 inch glass baking dish.  I cooked it at 350 for about an hour and twenty minutes to make sure it was cooked through.  When I pulled it out, I drained the fats and greases from the pan and set it aside while I made the potatoes and veggies.

It was good.  The cornbread gave it a hit of sweetness I’d never had before.  The Ritz crackers also added a buttery flavor.  All of it was good.  But I should have added salt and pepper.  It needed that extra hit but I was hesitant since there was a ton of salt in the soup mix.  Next time I’ll know.

We both ate a good chunk, and Partner/Spouse took some for lunch, but I ended up freezing a little over half of it.  In retrospect, I should have divided the mixture into two loaf pans, cooked them both, then frozen one and kept the other for sandwiches, etc.

So what ways do you mess with meat loaf to make it more palatable for your family?  I’ve heard of barbecue sauce, dill pickle juice, and jalapeno peppers being used.  Tell us your favorite meatloaf dish.

And as always,

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