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Friday, January 8, 2016

Meatloaf - Perfected!

I've been making meatloaf for years. Decades, really. It's gone through a number of iterations as the years dragged on, some better than others. I posted about my bacon wrapped meatloaves early on in the life of this blog. They are good, but the whole bacon thing fell by the wayside as I came to realize that the true glory of meatloaf is how easy it is to make at the last minute. The bacon wrapping puts a kink in that "easy." So, I stopped wrapping, but I still wasn't quite satisfied. Then, one night, I was really in a hurry to get the meatloaf made and decided to not even bother with dicing an onion; I'd use dried minced onion instead. What a revelation! I'm not entirely sure why it makes such a difference, but it does. To be honest, my meatloaf often gave me heartburn when I made it with fresh onion and garlic. Now, it never does. I absolutely adore my new recipe. It is so simple, so easy to make, and so delicious. It's tender, moist, and meaty.

Now, before I give you the recipe, let's talk just a moment about the top of a meatloaf. The classic is ketchup, but I've never been a big fan. It's not thick enough and it's too sweet. I really like using just plain tomato paste, but my husband has kind of given me the turned up nose at it. I recently decided to try mixing tomato paste and ketchup 50-50 and have decided it is the clear winner. You can go with whichever of those three sounds best to you, but my vote now goes solidly in the 50-50 camp.

Meatloaf - Perfected!
Yield: serves 4

1 lb lean ground beef (~93% lean)
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 TBS dried, minced onions
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup ketchup

1/3 cup tomato paste or ketchup, or a 50-50 mix of the two

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil. In a large bowl mix all ingredients thoroughly. Dump onto the sheet pan and form into a flat, rounded loaf. Shoot for a loaf thinner than two inches, or it will take a really long time to bake. The recipe as written will make a loaf about 5"x10"x2". Recipe can be doubled easily, simply increase the cooking time to roughly one hour. If you want to make more than a double recipe, make more than one loaf to keep the cooking time reasonable. Spread the topping over the entire surface of the loaf. Sprinkle with a little oregano or parsley, if desired. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Let cool slightly before serving so that it does not fall apart when sliced.

NOTE: If you eat a lot of processed foods or tend to eat a lot of foods high in sodium, you will probably not be satisfied with the seasoning level as written. Increase the amount of salt you add, but don't go too crazy because there is a lot of sodium hiding in both the bread crumbs and the ketchup. Try 1/2 to 3/4 of a tsp the first time you make it and adjust from there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It Does Matter

I tend to think of myself as a pretty practical gal. When it comes to generic brands, for instance, all other things being equal, I find no reason to pay a premium price for an ingredient. Occasionally, I find there are exceptions where all things are not, in fact, equal. For example, take domestic pre-grated Parmesan cheese; the stuff in the green can is always better than the store brand version.

Recently, since I started doing a lot of baking for hire, I've been going through tubs of cocoa powder. It seems like such a basic ingredient I thought, surely it's all the same, right? Wrong!!! I made the mistake once. I will not make it again. I made my classic chocolate cake and all I changed was using store brand cocoa powder instead of Hershey's classic cocoa. The cake was horrible! The lack of chocolaty flavor was so obvious and overwhelming, I could hardly believe it.

But upon close inspection of the powders, it became obvious. The store brand powder's aroma was so weak in comparison and so was it's color! Take a close look a the picture above. Which is which? Depending on the type of screen you are using, you might have to move your head around to get a good look at the difference, but it is clearly there. Look how much richer the color of the powder on the left is (Hershey's). Lesson learned... some things are worth the premium price. Now, what do I do with the rest of that container of store brand cocoa? It feels wrong throwing it away, but I sure don't want to use it!
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