Thursday, December 01, 2011

Ugly Meatloaf

The name of my blog (Paradise) might lead you to believe that everything around/in/on/under/through my life is perfectly beautiful all the time.

This photo was staged for a photo scavenger hunt and took an hour to set up and Photoshop to make my dress look like it zipped. Paradise?

In actuality, paradise is an attitude. To choose joy, gratefulness, and to be present in life... that is paradise. 

Even when my kitchen looks like this and the natives are screaming for food and have scavenged anything pre-packaged and ultra fast:

One of my favorite, delicious, filling, crowd-pleasing, and fast recipes is meatloaf.

"Fast" you say? 

My America's Test Kitchen cookbook recipe says 1 hour 50 minutes. I always decide meatloaf would taste delicious, I must have it, and then begin making it about 30 minutes before my family needs to eat.

My version of this scrumptious classic is done in under 30 minutes, 20 if I'm really cookin with gas. And it tastes just as good. The ATK testers make some darn good eats, but they don't have little children under foot. Maybe they have 2 hours to make meatloaf, but I don't.

The speediness comes at a price and that's why I'm here on the Ugly Homemaker. Keep going, the end result won't be pretty, but it will be delicious.

So, here is the recipe with a few alterations to make things speedier:

Add to 2 pounds super lean, all-natural beef
1 onion chopped fine (or dried onion or omit all together)
2 garlic cloves, minced (or garlic powder or Johnny's Garlic Bread Spread, Mmmmm)
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or use fresh and feel really green.)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (water, almond milk, or rice milk also works for you crazies who can't have dairy like me)
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp salt (I also throw in some seasoning salt)
1/2 tsp pepper
2/3 cups crushed saltines, 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, or 2/3 cups quick oats

For sauce:
1/2 cup catchup
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar

Garnish with parsley

The cast of characters is above. I love it when Foodies take pictures of their ingredients.

My attempt has a dried-out giant zucchini, a hair clip, pen, red paper clip, canning ring, and orphaned leftover lid in the picture as well. 

But my minced onion sure is fantastic looking. I did that just for you. 

The awesome thing about this recipe is you can omit or add things to your liking. It's versatile and delicious. I think I already said "delicious" a bit much, but really. It. Is. Delicious.

I've made this exact concoction for years and for the first 100 preparations, I just made my family wait until it was almost time for bed to eat. Starting dinner late is a bad habit. I snuck peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to them and said "Dinner isn't quite ready yet, go gnaw on the couch cushions." 

Then I got smart. I tossed pretty, perfect meatloaf to the wind and fried that puppy up.

When there are 4 of these little people doing this, dinner needs to get on the table quicker.

Tommy is just mad because he can't eat beef yet. "Give me the boob!" He says.

Let's get back to cooking, my baby is feeling neglected. Get out a nice big skillet or dutch oven or cast-iron pot. I use a cast-iron pot because I love how it browns meat. So caramelized and crunchy yummy.

You should never, ever, ever soak your cast-iron. Like, ever. 

Don't be like me, you'll wreck your hard-earned seasoning and have Taylor Swift going through your head all day.

"We are never ever ever getting back together
We are never ever ever getting back together
You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me
But we are never ever ever ever getting back together 

 Like, ever..."

I usually take much better care of my pot. To clean it, it works best to put the dirty pot back on the stove, get it screeching hot and then pour water in it. This "de-glazes" the pan without "de-seasoning" and all the stuck on stuff comes right off. Then I toss the dirty water, dry the pot, and lightly coat it with oil so it is ready for next time.

It is really liberating being here on Ugly. The picture on the left is the "real" ugly truth of what my counters look like a lot of the time -- the cellulite of the kitchen you might say. I was embarrassed by the image and quickly cleaned so that it would look like the norm. Ashley, do you offer counseling? I'm in need.

Enough staged perfection, let's brown some beef.

Dump the beef mixture in your hot pan. I used a little oil because my beef is very lean. I have a feeling your beef won't need any extra grease if you are using store-bought ground beef.

The key here is to let the meat get a bit of a crust. Walk away, forget about it, tell the kids to stop gnawing on the couch cushions because dinner is really almost ready, peel some potatoes or something. 

Once the meat is browned, flip it kinda like you are turning burgers. Don't mash away at it, you want chunks. You want ugly.

*If your meat is looking really greasy, you should drain it at this step. I never need to, but I don't want you saying your meal was extra ugly and extra greasy. If there is grease, get rid of it and continue on.

Make your sauce. If you want a lot of sauce, double it. I often serve this deliciousness over noodles, so I make it extra saucy.

Pour the sauce over the meat when it is pretty much cooked through. Oh, the smell is heavenly!

Turn the burner off, throw a lid on the pot and finish the rest of the meal's fixins.

I turn the burner back on if I take the lid off and my ugly meatloaf is looking a little watery. 

The extra heat makes the ketchup/sugar/acv sauce really crusty and delicious.

If you are appalled at how ugly it is, put some parsley on top before you serve. Then sneak a bite before the kids get wind of this tasty goodness. You'll forget all about appearances and rejoice that dinner is on the table, your husband will pound his chest in caveman delight, and hungry children will smile and/or arise and call you blessed.



Leftovers work well in sandwiches, served over noodles or potatoes or eaten cold for breakfast. Enjoy!

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