Meat Loaf – A Must Have

I am a Southern girl.  I come from a long line of true Southern women who know how to cook, pray, love, and gossip with the best of them.  One thing I have learned from my momma, and all those before her, is every woman needs to have a good meat loaf recipe under her belt.  Yes, take a trip with me back to the days of June Cleaver and Laura Petrie; the days when the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.  Ok, so maybe some things never change.  My point is, there is a goodness, a heartiness in this All-American classic that brings the family together.  Not only that but it is a simple entrée to make, and yet the family still appreciates that someone took the time to bake for them.  Let’s bring goodness back to the family dinner table.  Let’s bring back meat loaf!

Meat Loaf  from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350°F

2 beaten eggs

3/4 cup milk

2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or 2 cups soft bread crumbs (I like the soft – great way to use those leftover heels!)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 tbsp snipped fresh parsley

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried sage, basil, or oregano, crushed (I like to use sage)

1 1/2 lbs ground beef, lamb, or pork

1/4 cup catsup

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp dry mustard

1. In a bowl combine eggs and milk; stir in bread crumbs, onions, parsley, salt, sage, and 1/8 tsp black pepper. Add meat; mix well. Lightly pat mixture into an 8 x 4 x 2-in loaf pan.

2. Bake in a 350° oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until internal temperature registers 160°F. Spoon off fat. In a bowl, combine catsup, sugar, and mustard; spread over meat. Bake for 10 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This is a super simple recipe that is easy to whip together and gives you plenty of time to make your side dishes while it is baking.  I like to have mashed potatoes with meat loaf.  A fresh tossed salad or green beans also go well with this dish.

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Symphony in My Mouth

Pan Seared Chicken With White Wine Tomato Sauce

For those of you who like precise measurements and control over what every little ingredient is doing, this one is probably going to drive you a little crazy.  For those of you who love to go by “feel” and watch everything tie in together beautifully like a great story,  give this recipe a try.  No matter the personality type (whether you have to struggle through or it comes easily to you), you will not be disappointed.  Believe me.  I made this for dinner tonight; we have no chicken left, but I am figuring out what to have for lunch tomorrow, so I can enjoy that sauce all over again.

Stage 1:  Heat some olive oil over medium in a large skillet (choose a skillet with a lid).  Add raw chicken pieces to hot oil (I used 5 good-sized, bone-in thighs).  Let the chicken brown a bit, cooking about 20 min.  Add a bit of soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, white wine (about half a cup, whatever you have will work – I actually used some white zinfandel tonight), and spices.* Cover with the lid. Cook about another 15 minutes.  Be sure you are turning your chicken every 10-15 min or so throughout the entire process.

* My spices: Season All Seasoned Salt, Garlic Salt, Garlic Pepper, Lemon Pepper, and Sage (be liberal with the seasoning)

Stage 2:  Add fresh minced garlic and finely chopped onion (about a third of a cup).  I also added a dash of salt and black pepper at this point.   Cover with the lid and cook for another 20 – 25 min.  (You do not want to add this too early or it will burn in your olive oil and wine sauce.)  Be sure to use your lid most of the cooking time to keep that lovely moisture in your chicken.

Stage 3:  Add chopped tomatoes (I used 3 romas, and left them in rather large slices), chopped fresh parsley, and about half a cup to a cup of chopped fresh spinach.  Just distribute evenly over the top of your chicken and sauce, and cover with the lid again.  These need to be added around the last 10 minutes of cook time to keep them from burning up or withering to nothing as well.  Don’t forget to turn that chicken!

Cooking chicken can be tricky.  If you are a pro at it, then you will understand the importance of my 3-part stages.  If not, do not be ashamed to cut into your chicken periodically to check on it.  Better to have some chicken that has been hacked at a little than to put out raw food or burn everything else because it took longer to cook the meat than you originally thought.  Plus, this sauce is so wonderful that you will want to spoon some over your chicken when plating, and no one will be able to tell the difference.

The Healing Power of Food

I am usually a skeptic when it comes to eating regimens and diets.  The very idea of someone else telling me how I should eat, while they look down their noses at my greasy bacon cheeseburger, makes me balk.  This presentation, however, caught my attention.  After listening to this speaker, I have changed my whole way of thinking in regards to food.  One thing she said in particular struck home with me.  You see, I have a dear little grandma with Alzheimer’s disease.  This speaker was diagnosed with MS (Muscular Dystrophy).  Both of these diseases have something in common, and that is they both destroy the brain.  She went in search of a diet that would help heal her brain, thus healing her body.  This speech is amazing, and I encourage you to take the time to listen to it; it is somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes and worth every second of it, believe me.  I had my notepad and pen out in no time!

http://wimp.com/mindingmitochondria/

Special thanks to my friend Rita for sharing this with me!

Your Turn to Talk: Snacks on the Go

Hi Everyone!  Today I want to talk about great ideas for snacks on the go, but I want to hear your ideas.  My friend and co-worker approached me the other day wanting some ideas for healthy, satisfying, and easy snacks for her kids for those occasions when they have to grab a bite and run.  We have all been there!  So let’s hear what works for your family.  Here is Sarah’s idea:

Easy Breakfast Burrito

I make scrambled eggs with salt, pepper, garlic powder or salt, season all, and whatever else I’m in the mood for: creole, chili powder, etc. Keep in mind that you want them a little overseasoned because they are going inside this somewhat bland wrap. Then I take one of those spinach flavored tortilla shells and put a thick strip of cream cheese down the middle and the eggs on top. That’s it, very easy and fast. It’s pretty healthy and quick for mom’s on the go or whoever. Now, you can change this by using a different flavored tortilla shell (jalapeno cheese, sun-dried tomato, garlic herb, etc.) and also adding or swapping ingredients (bacon, sausage, veggies, etc.)

Reusing Leftovers: Chicken Pot Pie

Does your family eat leftovers very well?  Mine does not.  Most of the time if I do not reinvent a dish out of last night’s dinner, it will not get eaten; and I do not know about you, but I am not crazy about throwing money away like that.  You may not care.  I do.  Remember that Garlic Roasted Chicken we had a few nights ago?  Believe it or not, we had a couple of pieces left over.  This is what I made using that leftover chicken.  This recipe I am about to share with you is great for so many reasons: 1) it is hearty and sticks to their ribs, 2) it is a great way to reuse whatever leftovers you have in the fridge, 3) it is a great way to include veggies for those picky ones – this seems to be one of those flavor profiles that I can pass off easily with my finicky eaters, and 4) it tastes delicious!

Chicken Pot Pie

2 tbsp Butter or margarine

Chopped onion, celery, red/yellow/orange sweet pepper, mushrooms (fresh or canned)

1/4 cup flour

1 cup Chicken stock or 1 Chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water

1/2 cream or milk

Frozen peas and carrots mixed, 1 boiled or baked potato (cubed)

1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Salt & Pepper

Refrigerated Pie Crust (1 or both)

1 Beaten egg and 1/4 cup water

Before I explain how to prepare all of this, I just want to insert that you can put all kinds of veggies in here.  If they are raw, start them with the onions and celery at the beginning.  If they are pre-cooked, add them after your sauce is added.  I have made many variations of this – I do not stress if I do or don’t have certain veggies, this one’s flexible.  I often leave out the potato because of the starchy crust.  Whatever you like and have to get rid of is fine.  I also like to add fresh herbs right before I put the filling in the crust; I have even put a bit of dill and a dab of Dijon mustard in the sauce for a different twist (which is very yummy too).

Pre-heat oven to 425°. Spray pie dish/casserole dish/baking square with cooking spray.  I like to line the bottom with 1 of the pie crusts, but you do not have to do this – you can simply cover your filling if you only have 1 pie crust dough.  Set aside.

Saute raw veggies in butter until tender (in this case it was onion, celery, red pepper, mushrooms).  Sprinkle flour over all and stir around for about half a minute.  Add chicken stock and cream or milk, stirring well.  You are basically making a gravy.  Add chopped chicken, frozen veggies, and any other pre-cooked veggies now.  Mix everything together and cook on Low to Medium heat for another 2 minutes or so.  Add any fresh herbs and potato now. Salt and pepper to taste, and stir together.

Spoon filling into baking dish and cover with pie crust.  Add the 1/4 cup water to the beaten egg and whisk together.  Brush the top of the pie crust with the egg mixture.  Bake in the oven for about 20 – 25 min or until crust is golden.

Garlic Roasted Chicken with Mushroom Soup

Garlic Roasted Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Soup

There is something so satisfying and comforting about simple, rustic food.  This weekend I made Garlic Roasted Chicken with steamed broccoli,  cheesy au gratin potatoes, and creamy mushroom soup.  Chicken is one of those ingredients that absolutely has to be cooked through but can dry out on you if you are not careful.  Here is an easy way to prepare roasted chicken without any worries.  I have also included my Creamy Mushroom Soup, which compliments the flavor of the chicken quite nicely.

Garlic Roasted Chicken

4 to 6 Chicken Pieces (I like to use whole leg quarters or thighs, but anything will do)

4 Cloves of garlic

1/4 cup Chopped Onion

1 tbsp Chicken and Herb bouillon

1 cup boiling water

3 tbsp Butter

Pampered Chef Greek rub

Dried parsley

Lemon pepper

Salt

Black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.  Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry; sprinkle with greek rub, parsley, Lemon pepper, salt, and pepper to taste.  Place in baking dish.  Dissolve Chicken and Herb bouillon in boiling water, add to baking dish.  Distribute butter here and there throughout the dish.  Add finely chopped onion and the whole garlic cloves (peeled) in with the chicken.  Bake uncovered for about 1 hr, until chicken looks golden and juices run clear.  Turn the chicken every 15 to 20 minutes to prevent it from drying out.  Chicken will be luscious and will practically fall off the bone.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

5 or 6 Large fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup Chopped Onion

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tbsp Olive oil

1/2 tsp Fennel seeds

1 tsp Parsley

1 tsp Thyme

1/2 tsp Lemon pepper

2 tbsp Chicken and Herb bouillon

4 cups water

1 pint cream

Salt & Pepper to taste

Start off by sauteing mushrooms, onions, and garlic in olive oil in the bottom of your soup pan.  You want your mushrooms to be nice and brown and your onions to be carmelized.  Drain off excess oil.  Dissolve the same Chicken and Hern bouillon you used in the roasted chicken in hot water for the mushroom soup and add to pan.  Add all other ingredients and simmer on low to medium heat while chicken is cooking, stirring now and then.

This soup was a good side to the chicken; however, if you are like my husband and are not much of a soup lover, it works great as sort of a sauce to pour over your chicken as well.  I added some nice steamed broccoli and au gratin potatoes to the side; they were simple but completed the dish well.