The Perfect Meatloaf

The Perfect Meatloaf

The Perfect Meatloaf!

My dad is an awesome cook. He’s not what I would consider the “typical” man: he cooks, cleans, and gardens better than some women I know (don’t I sound like such a daddy’s girl!). I always remember being amazed at the simple yet utterly scrumptious foods he made. The perfect home fries, super crunchy chicken wings, the creamiest shrimp pasta, and my absolute favorite: the perfect meatloaf.

I always got excited whenever he decided to make it. He didn’t make it often but when he did, it was magical. It was super moist and packed with flavor. His is usually made with beef (which makes it absolutely to die for!) but I had tons of turkey meat in my freezer and a very intense desire for meatloaf. It took me months to wrangle the recipe out of him but I got it… and here it is:

The Meatloaf before baking for an hour

The Meatloaf Mold

Meatloaf – 12-16 servings

2 lbs of meat (beef, turkey or chicken*)
1 pouch of onion soup mix
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of water
2/3 cup of ketchup
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. I added a few more spices like rosemary, thyme, etc. to taste so feel free to do the same according to your tastes and preferences.

2. Spray non-stick spray in a glass baking dish and mold the meat mixture in as you’d like.

3. Place mixture in pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally. The meat should be done but if you really want to be sure, you can slice the meat down the center to make sure it is fully cooked.

The Meatloaf Mix

The Meatloaf Mix- before I got my hands all messy!

I know what you’re thinking… onion soup mix?? Trust me- give it a try and you will not be disappointed. *Also, as a side note, I once accidentally made chicken meatloaf and it was not a winner (I’m so sorry Liz!!! This is one of the reasons my family thinks I can’t cook… I made them eat the most horrible chicken meatloaf ONCE!!! And they still won’t let me live it down!!!) So I would be extremely careful using chicken in this recipe.

This recipe produces 12-16 healthy servings of meatloaf- so I halved the recipe and had about 6-8 VERY healthy serving of meatloaf. I love leftovers so I was looking forward to thinking of fun ways to use the rest of the meatloaf (nothing goes to waste in my house!)… so for lunch the next day I made Meatloaf Subs!

A Slice of Meatloaf

Look at that perfect slice of Meatloaf... doesn't it look so soft and yummy!

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs!

Turkey Meatballs! Yum!

Turkey Meatballs are the reason I always keep ground turkey in the house. They’re a go-to. When plans changed this summer and my mom came over with my cousins for dinner, I needed my fool-proof back up plan: my turkey meatballs. Just looking at that picture makes my mouth water- they are that good. Need proof? My little cousin, Jeremy, who loves to make fun of me endlessly (as all little cousins do), had a bite and said “wow… this is good!… I didn’t know Chris could cook!”

There isn’t any one way to make them- I change the recipe all the time- but one thing that I’ve found that is a necessary in this meal is the use of 99% fat free ground turkey. I recently made them with 93% fat-free ground turkey because it was on sale, and while they tasted good (a little richer than normal) they fell apart easily and didn’t have the flavor and consistency I was used to. Besides that, make them in a chicken broth with rice, in a tomato sauce with pasta, or sauté them with lots of different vegetables- they are beyond versatile. My favorite way is in a chicken broth sauce with grape tomatoes and brown rice. They’re heavenly!! My second favorite? Saving 3-5 of the meatballs (which is almost impossible) and having them the next day in a portabella cap. Divine!!

Turkey Meatballs – serves 4

1 cup rice
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp whole milk
1 tbsp ketchup
1 and 3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
3/4 tspn salt
3/4 tspn fresh ground black pepper
1 pd ground turkey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1. In a medium bowl stir together breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, salt and pepper.  Add turkey and combine.  Scoop turkey into balls. I like to make them small because they cook quicker but still retain their flavor.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Put in the first batch of meatballs in one layer and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Turn meatballs and brown tops, about another 2 minutes.  Remove and add the second batch. Do this until all are browned. Add all of them back to the hot pan and add chicken broth. Bring to a boil and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan.

3. At this point, you can add grape tomato’s that have been sliced in half, or sliced mushrooms, or sliced zucchini or any of your other favorite vegetables. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

4. Serve over rice and top with freshly grated Romano.  Spoon any left over juices in the pan over the meatballs and rice.

I know I say this a lot but I always mean it: it was quick and easy to make and the results are spectacular. Give them a try and I promise they will become a part of your go-to dinners as well.

Orecchiette Alla Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

Orecciette all Vodka

I’ve had many cooking failures in my life. There was the time I tried to make stir-fry. I ran out and bought tons of stir-fry materials including a wok and a “how-to wok” book, got a perfect recipe and went for it. It was a disaster- to say the least. Then there was the time I tried to make filet mignon and puff pastry alla Mickey and Mooch (one of my fav Charlotte-area restaurants). That too was a disaster. The steak was overdone and the pastry was underdone. Quite simply- a failure! Then there was that time I tried to make Giada’s Limoncello recipe. At first it seemed ok but after sitting in my fridge for a week or two, my mom had a sip and it almost made her throw up! (Sorry Mom!!! I really can cook… I swear!!)

However, I moved forward and didn’t give up on cooking- especially when trying to recreate some of my favorite dishes. One of those was Penne alla Vodka. The first time I tried to make it I wasn’t satisfied with the results. The flavors were there, for the most part, but something was off- the consistency and color wasn’t right. I gave up on it for a while but revisited it recently. This time it was a success.

Orecchiette Alla Vodka – serves 6

1 35-ounce can (Italian) whole tomatoes
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
Crushed red pepper flakes; Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1  tablespoon- chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus 1-2 tablespoons to top

1. Add the can of whole tomatoes and pulse in a mini food processor with quick pulses until it is chunky. Transfer this to a bowl. In the same food processor, chop 8 cloves of garlic until minced. 8 cloves may seem like a bit much but I’m a garlic extremist.

2. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic begins to brown slightly- about 2 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a boil. Season with salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and pepper to taste- I like my pasta sauces a little on the spicy side. Once they start to boil, add the Vodka and bring to a simmer.

3. Start boiling well salted water for the pasta. I chose to use orecchiette because it’s a really great pasta for saucy dishes and it happened to be the only pasta, besides elbow macaroni, that I had in the apartment. Once the water is boiling add the pasta until it is almost al dente.

4. Once the pasta is almost done, add the cream to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta directly into the pan and toss well. Top with the Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley. Toss to coat evenly. Serve and top with remaining parmesan.

After all was said and done, it turned out really well. Creamy and decadent and oh-so comforting. AND I was shocked at how quick the whole process was. I was sitting down to eat about 20 minutes after I started cooking- that’s shorter than my Sunday tomato sauce recipe (which is amazing and will be up here soon)! I still don’t know what went wrong that night I tried to make it for the first time.  Probably some fluke accident. Either way, I’m really happy I gave it a second chance. Maybe it’s time to revisit that stir-fry…….

Baked Chicken Fingers with Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce

Oven Baked Chicken... Crispy!

Oven Baked Chicken... Crispy!

I’ve really enjoyed blogging over the past month or so and even more than writing them, I’ve enjoyed reading them. It’s such an exciting feeling to find a recipe and be inspired to cook something completely new. Delicious has certainly become my best friend in keeping track of all of my “must-makes”.

On my list were “Oven Baked Chicken Fingers”. They definitely didn’t break the mold, but they were fun to make and were surprisingly delicious (and, thankfully, healthy). Amazingly enough, the homemade honey mustard sauce really turned out to be the star of the day. It was like the first time I made tartar sauce- I wondered why everyone wasn’t making this at home. Now if only I could muster up the courage to try my hand at homemade barbeque sauce…

Oven Baked Chicken Fingers – serves 2

3 thin sliced chicken cutlets, sliced into strips
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tspn pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp course mustard
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl or plate, scramble an egg and put it to the side. Mix the panko with the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder in a plate for dredging. Lightly season the chicken strips with a pinch of salt and pepper.

2. Dip the chicken strips in the bowl with egg and allow the excess egg to drip off. Then dip the chicken strip into the panko bowl and coat evenly. Do this with all the chicken.

3. Place chicken strips on a wire oven rack and place the rack on a baking sheet. Bake the chicken fingers for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

4. While the chicken is baking, in a bowl whisk the mayonnaise, mustards, and honey. Serve with the Chicken Fingers.

Honey Mustard Sauce... Oh My God!

Honey Mustard Sauce... Oh My God!

Not My Mom’s Cornbread

Cornbread Close-up

Cornbread Close-up

My mom’s been hearing this for years so, at this point, it won’t hurt (too much) to say it again. My mom did not cook when I was growing up. I had a running joke where my mom’s co-workers would ask: “What’s the best thing your mom makes” and I would say “Makes? She doesn’t cook! She has the Italian and Chinese places on speed dial. She orders shrimp parm better than anyone I know…” That was a long time ago.

Today my mom still doesn’t cook, but at least she’s come to terms with it…for the most part. The once a year sausage and peppers are no more. The bi-yearly baked flounder, potato, and tomato casserole (that was soooo good!) has long gone. The last time I had her 10 clove salmon was back in high school and the last time I can honestly say I even had a mouthful of her cooking was for my college graduation barbeque… more than 2 years ago! And I know what you’re thinking: “It sounds like your mom can cook!” Well, I never said she couldn’t cook… I said she didn’t.

So when I was craving cornbread recently I was brought back to that one time my mom made cornbread. It was sweet but not overly so, and it was moist without being too crumbly. I remember thinking “I didn’t know my mom could make cornbread” but she had, and now, about 10 years later, I tried my own hand at it. This isn’t her recipe, but the end result is pretty close.

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Not My Mom’s Cornbread: 9 Servings

1/4 pd butter
1/2 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 c buttermilk
1/2 tspn baking soda
1 c cornmeal
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tspn salt

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1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add eggs and beat until well blended.

3. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and baking soda and add to the pan with the butter, sugar, and eggs. To this pan, add cornmeal, flour, and salt. Mix well until little to no lumps remain. Pour into the casserole dish.

4. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until completely cooked in the center.

The Cornbread Mix Before Baking

The Cornbread Mix Before Baking

I rarely like to bake (I believe people are either very good at baking or very good at cooking… but very rarely are people good at both), but this came out incredibly moist, packed with flavor, and was perfect with dinner that night, for breakfast the next morning, and as a snack a few days later. It was super versatile! I initially wanted to make this so I could make cornbread croutons (my new obsession) but I went through the cornbread too quickly… I think it’s time for another batch!

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