All-American Meal

meatloaf

During the entire Election 2016, this admitted Political Junkie made every night of both conventions and each of the 3 debates, plus a few other random “big political news” nights, events for a special meal to eat in front of the television.

So, when my husband asked me what gourmet meal I’d be preparing I was surprised to find myself unprepared with a ready-to-answer menu.  Uh Oh!  He suggested meatloaf which I immediately shook off as not fancy enough for a night I anticipated would involve a lot of anticipatory butterflies for the historic, ultimate glass ceiling shattering moment in history I hoped would be happening for women while we’d be eating our dinner on the west coast.

As the day wore on I started to change my mind about the simple, unassuming meatloaf.

meatmashpeasWhat screams Americana more than the steady weeknight fare of everyone’s youth more than meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas?  Nothing I could come up with.  Throw in an apple pie and the perfect Tuesday Election Night 2016 meal vote was cast! 😉

Simple Weeknight Meatloaf

  • 2 1/2 – 3 Pounds 85% Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Sleeve Saltine Crackers Crushed
  • 1 Can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Ketchup or Jarred Spaghetti/Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In bowl of stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if combining ingredients by hand) put (in this order) crackers, eggs, can of tomatoes (undrained), meat, and ketchup.
  2. Using bread hook attachment, turn stand mixer to lowest setting and mix until ingredients start to combine and form a loaf shape.
  3. Remove hook and using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, finish combining until no dry crackers show through the meat.
  4. Mound into a loaf pan but don’t pack too firmly.
  5. Put loaf pan into preheated oven and set timer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  At about 30 minutes use a turkey baster and suction off any fat that has begun to accumulate along the edges of the loaf pan.  Also, use your ketchup or spaghetti/marinara sauce to top the meatloaf.
  6. At 60 minutes again suction the fat from the edges of the pan with a turkey baster.  I do this to avoid spillage into my oven and also to avoid having my meatloaf sit in fat during the entire baking time.
  7. At an hour and a twenty minutes, slide your meatloaf out of the oven and insert a meat thermometer into the middle, making sure not to let the tip of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan.  Your meatloaf should read 160°F for medium in the center.
  8. If you want your center to be more medium well, put your meatloaf back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so and check the temperature again.  For medium-well it should read 165°F and the rest of your meatloaf will be more well done at or above 170°F.

If you want mashed potatoes to be ready when your meatloaf comes out you can throw some small red potatoes (skin on or off) into a pot of boiling water and cook them for 15 minutes.  Turn them off, drain the water and throw them into the bowl of your stand mixer with some milk, salt & pepper and butter.  Using the paddle attachment mix until well combined but don’t over mix.  Throw some foil over the top of the bowl and they’ll stay hot until you’re ready to eat.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Just Like My Mom Used to Make

macaroniandcheesI’ve been feeling very under the weather for nearly a week and haven’t felt much like eating, let alone cooking.

As we all can probably agree, aside from ice cream, hot tea, and warm chocolate chip cookies (made by someone else of course – I’m sick!), nothing makes a person feel better faster than comfort food like Mom used to make.  Now if my Mom were only here to make it for me…

Some of my favorite comfort foods are:

  • Macaroni and Cheese – My Mom wasn’t particularly talented in the kitchen, but she could make a mean box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Once they came out with the “Kraft Deluxe” with the (then) tiny cans of premade cheese sauce in them, she didn’t even have to add the milk and butter.  Her idea of perfection!  I shared her love of the Kraft Deluxe until about 5 years ago when the sauce (now in a foil pouch) got a little thinner and tasted less “cheesy.”  When I don’t take the time to make my own homemade macaroni and cheese from scratch, I have gone back to stocking the cupboard with the old school, original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box with the powdered cheese.
  • Tuna Sandwich on White Bread – My Grandpa Bob set the standard for tuna preparation in our family.  He would buy tuna in oil (likely a lot of the reason he had quadruple bypass surgery in his 50’s), drain it and mix it together with meticulously chopped onions, a ton of mayonnaise (which has never been my favorite, in fact I rarely use it), and he’d pile it on plain white bread (something most people, myself included, rarely eat anymore), slice it in half, and make as many as would fit in his tan and red plaid “picnic” bag with a plastic sandwich box and thermos of “adult” refreshments.  If he was making sandwiches for us kids to eat on the beach at Lake Gregory in Crestline he would leave the onions out and there would be a thermos of lemonade for us to drink.
  • Grilled Cheese on Sourdough and Tomato Soup:  Down and dirty made with 2 pieces of heavily buttered (none of that icky margarine spread for this girl!) thick cut sourdough bread and at least 3 pieces of Kraft Singles American Cheese (no other brand makes it into my shopping cart).  Fried until brown and crispy and served along side a bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup made with milk (never water) and with a pat of butter floating on top.  Add a bowl of buttered popcorn to this and I’m pretty darn good.
  • Mashed Potatoes – Reminder, my Mom didn’t cook much from scratch, so it should be no big surprise that I grew up on Hungry Jack potatoes from the box if we were eating mashed potatoes at home.  My grandma, however, made the creamy, buttery mashed russet potatoes I dream about when I am too sick to keep much down and just want to feel better.  Nothing beats a few peeled, boiled potatoes mashed (with chunks – I love the chunks)  with a ton of butter and milk.  I prefer to make them like my Grandma Skip did, but I use half & half or even whipping cream if I have it on hand.

While these are my quick-fix, “Go-To” comfort foods, if my Mom was still here she’d tell me to make some of my favorite of all: Her, “Guaranteed to make me feel better, tuna noodle casserole.”

When I mention how much I love tuna noodle casserole to most people, their faces screw up and usually I get a negative reaction. Their Moms’ versions of tuna noodle casserole must have had some icky ingredients like cornflakes, ritz crackers, bread crumbs and even peas.  They may think it’s gross, but my Mom’s stripped down, no-frills version is the best I’ve ever eaten.

tunanoodlecasseroleMy Mom’s, Guaranteed to Make Me Feel Better, Tuna Noodle Casserole

Boil, noodles according to package instructions, and drain in a colander.  I prefer American Beauty noodles because they seem to stand up to the sauce without going limp if any remains to re-heat the next day.  Also, because their tuna is guaranteed Dolphin safe, wild caught, gluten free and readily available, I prefer Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna.

Open and drain the tuna in a colander.  Empty the Cream of Celery soup into a large saucepan.  Fill the empty soup can first with milk then with mayonnaise, adding both to the pan with the soup.  Add the drained tuna, salt and pepper to taste, and stir over low heat until hot but not boiling.

Empty the noodles into a large mixing bowl or the same pan you cooked them in and pour the hot sauce over the noodles, making sure to use a rubber spatula to get all of the sauce out of the pan.  Use the same spatula to combine the noodles and sauce until well mixed.  You can serve it immediately, but I find that if you let it cool slightly the sauce thickens up.

My husband thinks I am gross, but, if there is any casserole left in the refrigerator the next day, I have been known to eat it cold.  It’s like a tuna sandwich on noodles if you think about it, which qualifies twice on my list of comfort foods. 🙂

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood