In the Spirit of TV Dinners

Today is National TV Dinner Day, not to be confused with National Frozen Food Day. While Frozen Food Day celebrates the convenience of all foods frozen and has been observed on March 6th since then President Ronald Regan signed a proclamation in 1984, today is strictly all about the notion of TV Dinners.

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Spirit of 45 and the Greatest Generation

Today, the second Sunday of August, is National Spirit of 45 Day. We could get into a whole political debate about the Greatest Generation and what made them so great. One thing is certain, there is much to admire in those who are the Greatest Generation – the G.I. Generation. Just as my generation, the Baby Boomers, are those born between 1946 and 1964, the Greatest Generation are defined at those born between 1901 and 1927.

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One Blue Plate Diner Special Coming Up

Being Home-Bound is what you make it. We can all talk about doom and gloom, fondly remembering the old days when we ignored one another as we went about our day, or we can make the best of things. I’ve had my bouts with the gloomy side of things, and frankly I don’t like it much.

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What is an Italian Meatloaf?

When you get right down to it, what is any Meatloaf but a giant meatball shaped like a loaf of bread. So when you think about it, an Italian Meatloaf is nothing new. While Americans slather their meatloaf (and just about anything else) with Ketchup, this Italian rendition uses a Marinara Sauce for that same look.

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Stuffing-Stuffed Meatloaf

Happy Turkey Day everyone! Is it too soon to talk about left-overs? We all know there’s going to be a boat-load of left-overs, even after all the guests leave with doggie-bags.

Every year, I make a big, huge batch of my stuffing (once upon a time, it REALLY was stuffing, as in stuffed into the bird, but now a days, that’s a big no-no, so technically I’m making dressing). There’s always stuffing left over. Most of the time, the stuffing ends up warmed in the microwave, along with some left over sliced turkey and whatever else – Thanksgiving Supper, round 2. Sometimes the turkey is turned into a wonderful soup or baked into a yummy casserole that might call for chicken. Inevitably, there’s some stuffing left all on its own, just sitting there in a Tupperware container, slowly pushed toward the back of the fridge. So sad, so forgotten.

A few years back, I had what I consider to be a brilliant idea – stuff the stuffing inside a meatloaf. Ever since, I look forward to this once-a-year supper. And it’s really so simple to make. Just be sure to have enough “stuffing” left over after your awesome Thanksgiving Feast. That’s easy enough to do, just set some aside in an airtight container, tucked away in the back of the fridge and hope those seeking a midnight snack don’t find it. (I suppose this recipe could be made using a boxed stuffing such as Stove Top, although I’ve never tried that).

The meatloaf recipe is my standard, go-to recipe for a basic meatloaf, with one small change – omitting the bread. The “stuffing” replaces the bread to help bind the loaf together. The gravy is made using pan drippings and chicken broth. Why chicken broth and not beef broth for a beef-based recipe? The chicken broth produces a lighter, less robust gravy that doesn’t compete with the flavor of the meat. More importantly, it doesn’t drown out the wonderful, savory “stuffing”. This gravy has flavor in its own right, with a hint of beefy goodness without overpowering everything else that is going on.

One final tip before cooking – line your baking pan with foil. It will make cleanup a snap, and you can lift up the foil to add the meat drippings to the gravy.

Stuffing-Stuffed Meatloaf with Gravy
Ingredients – Meatloaf
1 Envelope Dried Onion Soup Mix
1 Lb Ground Beef
1 Lb Ground Pork Sausage – Breakfast style such as Jimmy Dean
¾ cup Water
1/3 Cup Ketchup
2 Eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Left Over Thanksgiving Stuffing

Preheat oven to 350-Degrees.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.

Divide meat loaf mixture in half. On a rimmed baking sheet, form half of the meat mixture into a large loaf, about 1/2 inch thick. Spoon stuffing on top of loaf, leaving about 1/4 inch-edge around loaf.

Top stuffing with remaining meat loaf mixture. Smooth outer edge to seal.

Place in a loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until done.

Remove from oven, tent to keep warm while making Roux-Based Gravy. Slice meat loaf, drizzle slices with gravy and serve.

Ingredients – Roux Based Gravy
4 Tablespoons Butter, divided
2 Tablespoons Flour
Meat Loaf Drippings
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1 Package Beef Flavor Booster
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a skillet, place 2 tablespoons of butter with flour. Stir to mix as butter melts to create a nice paste. Add meat loaf drippings, stir to combine. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring constantly.

Off heat, add flavor booster. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Slice meatloaf, serve gravy on the side. This goes well with buttery corn or green beans for a basic, gimme comfort supper that the whole family will be sure to enjoy.

Gather up all your ingredients and place together in a work area large enough for the big bowl and foil-lined baking pan.

lace the ground beef into the bowl, add the soup mix, eggs, water and ketchup.

Top with sausage. This will make mixing easier, as the ingredients to mix in are in the center of the meat rather than on top.

Roll up your sleeves and start “mushing” everything together until well combined. This is what I like to call getting a real feel for your food.

Top meatloaf with stuffing. Use a lot – use a little, that’s entirely up to you. Just remember to keep the edge clear for “sealing”.

Top with remaining half of meatloaf mixture. Spread out to edge to cover completely and smooth out to seal.

Once the Stuffing-Stuffed Meatloaf is done, make your roux-based gravy.

The finished meatloaf is large, heavy and oh so filling – two pounds of meat, about a pound or so stuffing – enough to feed a crowd.

This Stuffing-Stuffed Meatloaf is great with buttery mashed potatoes smothered in gravy and sweet corn. Definitely a home-spun comfort supper.

Happy Turkey-Day Leftovers everyone!


Meatloaf Muffins

For the record, I’m not a fan of meatloaf. That said, I do like the cute little meatloaf muffins. Maybe it’s because they are so small and . . . well . . . cute that gets to me. Maybe because they are easy to make and cook up much faster than a traditional meatloaf, making them a good choice for a weeknight meal. Hubby likes his with creamy Au Gratin potatoes, and those take time, which defeats the “quick” weeknight meat thing, unless you use a boxed potato and cook them on the stove top rather than baked in the oven.

I will confess, I’ve used the boxed Au Gratin potatoes. With the right amount of tweaking, they aren’t bad. Add sautéed onions and grated cheddar cheese to the box mix and top with breadcrumbs for a nice finish to the top – not quite “homemade” but not half-bad for a quick side dish.

Using lean meat is very important, otherwise the muffin tins fill up with meat drippings and the meatloaf inside won’t brown well. If you happen to have an old muffin tin, you could punch a hole in the center of each tin, then elevate it on cooking racks over a shallow baking pan to allow the excess fat to drain away. Or you could use good quality meat. Personally, I vote for lean meat.

Meatloaf Muffins
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Onion, finely chopped
½ Cup Carrots, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon dried Oregano
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Cup Ketchup, divided
1 ½ Lbs Ground Beef (or ¾ lbs ground beef, ¾ lbs bulk sausage)
1 Cup Saltine Crackers, finely crushed
2 Tablespoons Mustard
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ Teaspoon Pepper
2 Large Eggs
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Peel and chop onions. Set aside. Peel and chop carrots. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, oregano and garlic.

Sauté for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine ½ cup ketchup, ground beef, crackers, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, eggs and onion mixture. Mix well.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Divide meat mixture evenly between tins. Top each meat loaf muffin with 2 teaspoons of ketchup.

Bake meat loaf muffins in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until meat registers 160-degrees.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Here’s to simple meals and family dinners!

Shepherd’s Pie Style Meatloaf Muffins

Hubby is a big fan of Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie since these are made from Beef and not Lamb. I think that might be a combination of his love for meat and potatoes with his love for foods cooked in a gravy. While the muffin style meatloaf lacks the traditional gravy-like moisture of a traditional Shepherd’s Pie, they do contain carrots and both are topped with a beautiful Mashed Potato “crust”.

Kiddo likes green beans just fine, just not necessarily cooked in with his meat, which might explain why he isn’t a fan of Shepherd’s Pie. By serving the green bean on the side, both my fellows are happy. As for me, I like the look of the muffin and the flavor of the baked mashed potato topping. If you happen to have some leftover mashed potatoes or want to take the time to whip up your favorite mashed potato recipe, by all means please do. If you are looking for an easy short cut, use instant mashed potatoes. My favorite for this recipe is Betty Crocker Butter & Herb.

These Meatloaf Muffins are also great for kids – serving supper that looks like a cupcake can be fun!

Shepherd’s Pie Style Meatloaf Muffins
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Ground Sausage (breakfast sausage)
1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Carrots
3 Slices Bread, torn into small pieces
1 envelope Dry Onion Soup Mix (Lipton)
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/2 Cup Water
1 Egg
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Cups Mashed Potatoes (Boxed, instant or the real-deal)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. LIGHTLY spray 12 muffin cups with non-stick spray.

Using a food chopper or small food processor, finely chop carrots to the point of minced. The carrots will add flavor to the loaf while retaining that smooth finish to the muffin.

In a large bowl, mix together everything EXCEPT mashed potatoes.

Divide meat mixture among 12 muffin cups. Push down the center of each “muffin” to create a well (this will help the meat cook through). Smooth tops with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Make mashed potatoes according to directions. Place mashed potatoes on top of each meatloaf muffin, filling the well and rounding out the top (about 2 tablespoons per muffin).

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and let rest muffin tins for 5 minutes. Run a knife around edge of each muffin to loosen. Transfer muffins directly to individual plates and serve with desired vegetable on the side.

My family likes their muffins with a side of green beans or buttery corn.


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