“Son Approved” Meatloaf

meatloaf in cast iron pan

Piping Hot Meatloaf Right Out Of The Oven

As some of my acquaintances know, I often don’t use a recipe. And even when I do use a recipe, to me it’s a “guideline” most of the time. For example, a recipe that calls for one clove of garlic, well… I’m more likely going with two or three! Some recipes that don’t have garlic on the ingredient list – when I’m cooking, garlic just might be added anyhow!

Meatloaf is not much different – never really followed an exact recipe, but tonight my son David thought meatloaf for dinner sounded good after several days in a row of turkey. So, I decided I would sort of keep track of what and how much of the ingredients I put into it.  Interestingly, my son thought it was one of the best meatloaf dinners that he’s ever had. His plate was pretty full as it was to start with, but he had seconds of the meatloaf. Thankfully, there’s enough left over that we can have it for lunch tomorrow as well.

Just like the banana bread, I like to bake meatloaf in my Lodge cast iron loaf pan. It’s big enough for the two of us, and with leftovers for the next day. But if I was cooking this for a larger group, I’d likely to have purchase more of the Lodge cast iron pans or resort to the larger size standard sandwich bread loaf pan.

Of course, you can do all sorts of things with meatloaf and I’m sure what I do is pretty standard, but for those that want to know pretty close to what I do, here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. approximately unfrozen ground beef (sometimes referred to as mince or mince meat)
  • 1 Medium sized onion, finely chopped (by the way, if you want to learn the best way to dice onions using a Chef knife, check out this free Complete Knife Skills Course with Brendan McDermott. (Yes, it’s FREE!).
  • A single stalk of celery (sometimes called rib as opposed to the whole “head” of celery) – finely sliced.
  • One full “bunch” of Green Onions, finely sliced.
  • 4 Garlic Cloves – minced.
  • 2 Teaspoons Himalayan Salt (Why Himalayan? Well… why not? It’s good!)
  • 1 Teaspoon ground Cardamom (This is enough to give a “hint” of cardamom to the finished meat loaf. You could use more).
  • 1 Teaspoon or so of ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Lea & Perrin’s Sauce (Worcestershire Sauce)
  • 1/3 Cup of Ketchup (but also more for later on, as a “glaze” over the meatloaf before you put it in the oven. See method.)
  • 2 Eggs – Beaten
  • 1 Cup approximately Bread Crumbs.
  • Butter (How much? I dunno… you’re going to do some sauteing so read the method and add what you need! 🙂 ).

Method:

Grease loaf pan, put it in the oven to heat while the oven is pre-heating to 350F.

Prepare the onion, celery, garlic and green onions. Heat up a skillet and melt butter so it covers the surface of the skillet. Saute the onion, celery, garlic and green onions for several minutes.  If you need more butter, add more butter. Start with a tablespoon. I am sure I use more than that, however.

Add Ketchup, salt, pepper and cardamom to the vegetables.  Stir well, cook a few minutes longer and then remove from the burner and allow to cool.

In a bowl, add the ground beef and eggs. Then using a spatula, add the vegetable mixture to the bowl. Mix these ingredients well then slowly mix in the bread crumbs. Depending on how moist the mixture is, you may want to use a bit more – or less – of the breadcrumbs. I found a cup was perfect, this evening.

You want a fairly stiff mixture that you are going to scrape out of the bowl, using a spatula, into the loaf pan.  Press the mixture into the pan, and form a smooth top with the spatula.

Add more ketchup – enough to cover the ground beef mixture entirely – over the meatloaf. You just want a fairly thin coating of ketchup covering it all.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 hour.

meatloaf slice

Moist and tasty meatloaf slice…

When you remove the meatloaf, set aside the pan on a surface where you can allow the meatloaf to sit for a good ten minutes. Although it will be smelling oh so very good, and you’ll be tempted to try to remove it from the pan and eat it right away, don’t. It needs ten minutes of cooling to set. So take those ten minutes to mash your potatoes and steam your broccoli and spinach (which is what we had, as well as carrots), or go set the table.

If you follow the above ingredients and method fairly close, you will have a very tasty and moist meatloaf that will be “kid approved!” And adults will enjoy it as well.

Additional Comments:

1. Meatloaf is one of those things that you can have lots of fun with and play around with spices, herbs, and many ingredients. However, if you have children, you have to bear their tastes in mind, and what they are expecting. I have all kinds of ideas that I want to try in a meatloaf, but I’m not going to do it when my son is hungry and he is looking forward to something he is familiar with.. although I do love to introduce him to new tastes and experiences in food – but in those cases, I am always prepared to fall back on something in case his first taste is so not what he was expecting, that he may “think” he does not like it.

I say “think” because often, tastes are judged on what we expect, especially when we’re younger. If you are expecting something to taste a certain way, but it does not, there could be the element of disappointment which comes across as “not liking it,” when in fact, the next time you taste, you discover you quite enjoy it. Taste then is often very much psychological as much as it is about our palette.

2. I can’t say enough about the FREE Complete Knife Skills Course with Brendan McDermott. I would say his lesson on cutting onions was time so very well spent! If you cut onions and find yourself “tearing up” up in the eyes, then you need to sign up for Brendan’s course. I thought I was pretty good with a Chef Knife.. getting tips along the way from others, but Brendan has shown me I had a lot to learn, and boy did I learn!  Did you know you can reduce the eye  tearing simply by using a specific method to cut up onions? Take the course! And learn more as well.

3. Don’t buy a complete knife set in the big box stores. They might seem like a “good deal,” but in reality, you should be investing in THREE high quality knife styles, and you may find different manufacturers suit you better for the particular style of knife you are using. For example, I have  used a variety of Chef Knives over the years, including supposed “high quality” Japanese, German and American.  About a year ago, I discovered the Wusthof Classic Ikon Chef’s Knife.  It’s a beauty, and far better quality than anything you will get in any of the big box stores’ “specials” – even on common “good reputation” brand name knives.

Having said that, I’m leaning toward a Messermeister serrated bread knife – not just for bread, but also for large waxy skinned vegetables and other  harder to handle cuts. I like the model that has a slight curve in the blade, so it will cut efficiently through things other than just artisan crusty bread. Can you think of pineapple and butternut squash?

4. Sometimes, I like diced garlic, and sometimes I like minced (or some call it “shredded”). Most people might use a garlic press. I discovered something much better, called the Garlic Twist.  I love this thing!

Let me know if you enjoyed this meatloaf recipe, and what you would do differently! I’m always interested in new ideas and trying new things!

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Honey Banana Bread

baked banana loafI sometimes buy too many bananas. Well, more correctly, I don’t eat the bananas I often buy, like I had planned on doing, when I was at the grocery store. Usually, this isn’t a big problem as my son loves bananas at just about any stage of ripeness, but I’m a bit more finicky and once any brown spot develops on the skin, I don’t like to eat them. I prefer them when just as they are starting to ripen up.

My son hasn’t been around for the weekend, so he wasn’t here to eat up the bananas I purchased last week, and that were starting to over ripen for my tastes. But he will be here later this afternoon, and the first thing he does when he arrives is ask for a cup of tea, then wonders aloud if there is any good food for a snack that he can have. So, the kettle is on, while I await his arrival and a loaf of banana bread is cooling on the rack. I didn’t know anything too fancy like add chocolate this time, but I do substitute honey for some of the sugar. And I bake it in a cast iron loaf pan (which I also do meatloaf in – that’s planned for dinner and recipe will follow).

The cast iron gives the loaf a perfect crust, but you should note that I put the loaf pan into the oven while it is pre-heating.  It is greased first, and then allowed to heat up as the oven heats while I am mixing the ingredients.  I think doing it this way (rather than pouring the bread dough into a cold pan and then putting into the oven) goes a long way to a perfect crust as well as reducing the cooking time about five or ten minutes. Most banana loaf bread recipes that I’ve seen call for baking for 60 to 70 minutes, while this is ready in 55 minutes. Your results may vary as not all ovens are the same.

Total preparation time is about ten minutes. You will also want to allow some time for the loaf to cool after you remove it from the oven.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Very Ripe Bananas

    ripe bananas

    When they get too ripe, make them into bread!

  • 1/3 Cup Melted Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Liquid Honey
  • 1 Egg, Beaten
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • Pinch of Salt if using Unsalted Butter. If using Salted Butter, you don’t need this.
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Unbleached White Flour

Method:

Grease loaf pan and place in oven. Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Mash up two peeled bananas in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter, and then the egg. Add sugar, honey and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add salt (if using), and then the baking soda. Stir well before finally mixing in the flour.

You should end up with a thick batter like dough.

With oven mitts, remove the loaf pan from the oven and pour in the dough, smoothing it out with a spatula.  Return the loaf pan to the oven and bake for about 55 minutes. The loaf should have a golden brown crust and you should be able to stick a toothpick into the loaf and pull it out without any dough sticking to the toothpick when fully baked.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy! Even though the dough already has butter, I enjoy spreading more onto a slice before eating.

Here’s what the banana bread looks like right out of the oven and still in the loaf pan:

banana loaf in pan

 

Learn Artisan Bread Making

loaves of bread and irish soda farls

David & I Were Busy Today – No Knead Bread, a Pain de Campagne loaf, and Irish Soda Farls

Many years ago, I would admire the wonderful looking loaves of bread that I would come across in bakeries. They had both a visual appeal and that wonderful fresh baked scent, and I’d dream that maybe someday, I’d have the equipment and skills needed to bake such good bread! I had the erroneous belief that baking artisan and bakery quality bread was difficult, if not impossible, in a home kitchen. I thought you’d need special bake ovens, unique and expensive equipment, and thought it would be a lot of work.

While some artisan breads are a lot of work, you can make high quality loaves with basic equipment you have in your home, as well as that regular home kitchen oven.  I’ve been baking a variety of breads for decades, including sandwich loaves, Irish Soda Farls and Wheaten bread, but was afraid of attempting much more than that.

My first venture into trying artisan breads was about ten years ago, with the publication of the “No Knead” bread recipe in a major New York newspaper. Requiring little effort but lots of time, and only a dutch oven to bake it in, the no knead loaf was an immediate hit with guests and friends, and my son and I even baked about 12 loaves in one day for my mom’s wedding!

In the subsequent years, I’ve picked up a couple of amazing books by Peter Reinhart:

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread &

Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers

Both are wonderful books with lots of information and teaching and my copies are well used! In fact, I may need to replace them as they are always in my kitchen, have been spilled on, and the pages show much use including wear and tear. But even with these books, sometimes it would be nice to see how things are done, either watching Peter work in person, or perhaps in video.

Well, I discovered some time ago that Peter Reinhart teamed up with a crafts site that provides a variety of courses, and one of those courses is Peter teaching how to bake artisan bread with the use of video. I quickly signed up and have been learning ever since!  The course is wonderful as it provides a medium for being able to visualize what Peter is doing when he bakes his breads, and he is a wonderful teacher as well. The course starts out with an introduction to artisan baking along with important information to understand the entire making, baking, and eating of good quality bread. Peter refers to a 12 step process (yes, the last step is eating the bread!) that makes it easier to know what is going on and what makes a good bread, good.

In addition, the course then covers the following:

  • Country Bread Variation & Shaping Options
  • Rustic Breads including Pain a L’ancienne, Classic Ciabatta, Focaccia, and Mini Baguettes.
  • Enriched Bread including dinner rolls
  • Marble Rye (with a lesson on braiding)
  • Making Babka
  • And Much More!

I tried making the Chocolate Babka for a family Christmas event, and while it did not turn out quite as impressive looking, visually, as Peter’s did, I was quite pleased with the many comments about how good it tasted! It was my first time attempting at such a rich bread with chocolate (although Peter uses semi-sweet dark chocolate chips but all I had on hand were milk chocolate chips).

If you are interested in learning techniques for artisan bread baking (or improving on your present skills), I highly recommend this course:

Artisan Bread Making

I know you’ll love the course! Peter is a wonderful instructor, and the course also comes with downloadable resources in PDF format that you can print, including recipes and instructions.

Related:

 Improved Northern Irish Soda Farl

The Trouble With Wheat

Currant Soda Farls

French Pain de Campagne

 

 

 

French Pain de Campagne

pain de campagne bread loaf“David, would you like to do some baking today?”

“Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”

Even though he is now 12, he still responds the same way as he did when he was 4 years old and excited about doing something. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” is an indication that he’s going to be totally interested and will be expecting that his help will be needed, or at least desired. Yesterday and today were no different. It actually started Friday night, when I came across a video of Canadian Dale Calder preparing and baking his style of a French Pain de Campagne loaf. Mr. Calder however, used a multi-grain flour, which I did not have on hand, and the traditional loaf would have used a white flour anyhow.

But nevertheless, it looked interesting and after watching the video with me, David decided it was something he definitely wanted to try.  I should point out that it was quite the busy day for us, as he and I also baked a “no knead loaf” that we also started Friday night, and while David pigged out on my fermented garlic (he eats it like it’s candy to him), we made labneh coated with oregano and basil, and covered with  olive oil. Yes, we make our own yogurt as well…

But getting back to the Pain de Campagne loaf, we started out pretty much following Dale Calder’s recipe and method, at least for the poolish, but when it was time to mix water and flour with the poolish, we had to diverge a bit, in the amount of flour we used. We had to increase the flour quite a bit, and perhaps this is because we were using white bread flour, while he was using multi-grain. But following his directions, we ended with a very very wet and sticky dough that was just crying out for more flour.

If you’re going to try this bread, be prepared – you need to start it the night or afternoon before you bake it, and it is a bit more work than the “no knead” bread. However, like the “no knead” bread, Dale Calder shows how to do this loaf in a Dutch Oven, which is what I bake my no knead (and some other) loaves of bread in.

So here are the steps:

Poolish (Prepared Night Before You Bake):

  • 1 1/2 cups white bread flour (for this, we used Robin Hood brand of bread flour – I’m sure King Arthur all purpose unbleached will work fine).
  • 1 cup luke warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant rise yeast.

I like to mix the yeast into the water and let it dehydrate for a few minutes first. I know many bakers simply add all the dry ingredients together, but when it comes to salt and yeast, I prefer to add them to the water that will be poured into the dough.

Anyhow, whatever you choose, mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm place – an ideal temperature is 75F or above – but not too hot. Mr. Calder puts his in the oven with the oven light on. I wouldn’t do that as when I leave my oven light on, the oven will reach a temperature of 110F or a bit higher – perfect for making yogurt, but a bit too warm for bread making in my opinion.

Leave for a minimum of 16 hours to allow the fermentation to take place – time is a wonderful element that brings out flavours in bread, wine, and many things!

By the way, a poolish is a “sponge” that is used in French bread making, and is usually around equal amounts of water to flour.  Italian style baking will often call for a sponge that is referred to as a “biga,” but is not as wet as a poolish. Why is it called a “poolish?” Well, although it is often associated with French style bread making, it was actually originally a Polish method that was introduced to France – hence the name “poolish.”

Bread Dough (The Next Day):

I’ll list Mr. Calder’s ingredients and then comment where we changed a couple of things…

  • 1 cup of poolish (after stirring the poolish and getting air out)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of Himalayan salt (Mr. Calder uses one level teaspoon – but with Himalayan, because it’s not pure salt but also contains additional minerals, I’ll add a bit extra).
  • 1/4 teaspoon of instant rise yeast
  • 1 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour (we found that this was not nearly enough however).
  • A tablespoon or so of olive oil (or other oil – you don’t need to use olive oil if you don’t have it).
loaves of bread and irish soda farls

David & I Were Busy Today – No Knead Bread, a Pain de Campagne loaf, and Irish Soda Farls

Transfer 1 cup of poolish to another clean bowl. Add salt and yeast to water, and stir well, so the salt is dissolved. Add water to the 1 cup of poolish, and stir well, breaking up the poolish as best you can. This could take several minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of flour into the poolish and water mixture. In Mr. Calder’s method, he reserved 1/2 a cup for flouring his wooden board that he kneaded the bread on. We found that we needed to add the full 1 1/2 cups of flour to the poolish and water mixture, and then needed even more flour to dust the board as well as to knead into the bread dough. Probably a good 1/2 cup more, but we did not measure it.

Basically, we kneaded flour into the dough until it was slightly tacky, and then kneaded another 15 minutes.  And this is where David shone! “Is it my turn to knead it now, Dad? My turn!” 🙂

At first, because the dough is wet and sticky, Mr. Calder uses a “baker’s knife” to assist with scraping the dough from the surface. I have a nice sized cleaver that does the job equally as well 🙂

After kneading for 15 or so minutes, put a small amount of oil into the bottom of another clean bowl (large enough to allow for the dough to double in size).

Form the dough into a ball shape and coat it with the oil in the bottom of the bowl, and then coat the sides of the bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours and allow the dough to rise.

After two hours, punch out the air out of the dough, remove it from the bowl and put it on a floured surface and knead for about five minutes, before forming it back into a ball shape.   After the dough has been worked back into a ball shape, place it on a large size piece of parchment paper – large enough that you will use the parchment paper to pick the dough up, and then put it all.. parchment paper and dough, into the Dutch oven.

Cover dough with a damp tea towel and allow dough to rest for 30 minutes, and it will also rise during this time.

After 30 minutes, press out the air, and knead another few minutes before shaping the dough into a ball, and once again, place back on the parchment paper and cover with a damp tea towel. I let the dough rise another 90 minutes.

After one hour, preheat oven to 500F and put Dutch oven into the oven to heat up as well. After another 30 minutes, remove the damp tea towel from the dough, and cut into the dough with a sharp knife – make two cuts along the sides and then two more crossing the two you made, across the top and bottom.

Remove the Dutch oven (be careful, it’s very hot – best to put it on top of your stove), and then grasp the corners of the parchment paper, and lower it and the dough into the Dutch Oven.

Now, to get the effect of steam while the bread is cooking, get about a 1/4 cup of VERY hot water. If you are using cast iron, do NOT use cold water!  Cold water and hot cast iron do not go well together – if you’re water is cold, you could cause the cast iron Dutch oven to break. So get as hot as water as you can, close to boiling, and gently pull on the parchment paper so that you can pour the 1/4 cup of water directly into the Dutch oven. NOT on the bread.

Put a lid on the Dutch oven, return it to the oven and cover with a lid.

Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch oven and bake another five minutes.

This seems like a lot of work, but it’s not. In fact, the most time you will need to be doing any work is during the phase when you mix the poolish with the other ingredients and knead for about 15 minutes. All of the other steps only take a few minutes, while you let time do most of the work for you.

I highly recommend you watch Mr. Calder’s video to understand the process, and bear in mind the differences noted above as my son and I used white bread flour, while Mr. Calder was using a multi-grain flour.

If you decide to try this yourself, please let David and I know your results! And anything you might have done differently, as well!

GJ’s Piri Piri Style Chicken Liver

piri-piri-chicken-liverA few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a friend whom many refer to as “GJ,” about my intolerance for fried liver. I had told her that while I love pate, stomaching the traditional “liver and onions” was something that I could not do. I can remember even as a child, being served up fried liver and nearly puking as I tried to eat it.

Oddly though, I adore liver pate! I even make my own “rough cut” pate from chicken livers based on this recipe from gas-tron-o-my.  I don’t have a food processor (Hint, hint, Santa Clause!), but making pate in this manner, they way it’s done at Pizzeria Mozza, is no problem with no food processor on hand. Anyhow, GJ mentioned to me that she sometimes makes up a “Piri Piri” style of fried chicken livers and suggested I try it out.

Piri Piri dishes are South African, and make good use of the Piri Piri, or African bird’s eye, chili pepper. There are a variety of spice blends or sauces that are referred to as “piri piri,” and the blends themselves can vary, but paprika is apparently also an important part of piri piri dishes. GJ told me to look for something called “Portuguese Chicken Spice,” and after much searching I was finally able to source some here in Ontario, Canada at The South African Store located in Toronto. Thankfully, their website provides for online ordering (with a minimum $50.00 order, so along with the Portuguese chicken spice, I ordered some other things to try, including “Flings,” fig jam, and some dried beef snacks prepared in a South African way).

GJ is kind of like me in that she doesn’t use recipes when she’s cooking, but rather just cooks up meals using amounts of whatever she has on hand at the time, and sometimes varying the ingredients. However, I was able to discover that her Piri Piri style chicken liver dish contains some basics with some optional ingredients. I added my own twist on this by adding a cup of shredded spinach (for the magnesium content as well as the additional green colour). What I ended up with was a dish that I thoroughly enjoyed even though it contained liver! I’ll definitely be doing this again.

So while this is probably not entirely the way GJ cooks her chicken livers, I’m attributing the recipe to her and naming it such:

GJ’s Piri Piri Chicken Liverportuguese chicken spice

Ingredients (The Way I Did It):

  • 4 to 5 Chicken Livers
  • 1 Large Diced Onion
  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Large Diced Tomato
  • Heaped 1/2 Teaspoon Himalayan Salt
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Portuguese Chicken Spice
  • 1/4 cup of heavy cream (I used 35% whipping cream)
  • Large handful of chopped spinach

Method

Heat up enough olive oil to cover bottom of skillet, then saute the onion and garlic.

Add the diced tomato and cook at medium low for several minutes. When the diced tomato begins releasing it’s juice, add in the chicken livers and stir well. Sprinkle in the Himalayan salt.

Add the Portuguese chicken spice, stirring well. Simmer for several minutes.

Stir in the cream, turn heat down to simmer and then add spinach leaves. Simmer for several more minutes.

I really enjoyed this – and can think of a number of other ingredients to try as well. For her part, GJ sometimes will add sweet green, red and yellow peppers, additional cayenne powder, or a tin of tomato and onion mix.  If you are one of those that can’t stand the taste of the regular old “fried onion and livers,” give this a try! There is still the hint of the liver texture that some find objectionable, but the overall taste is really good!

Liver and other organ meats have high nutritional value and it’s quite likely that most of us do not get enough of it. According to Chris Kesser, liver is “nature’s most potent superfood” and “…that in some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed. ” It’s very high in a form of Vitamin A that our bodies can use and absorb. Some people even claim that after eating liver, their energy and stamina levels increase substantially!

I don’t know much about any of that, but I’m sure glad GJ told me about her method of cooking it. For me, it was delicious! Thank you, GJ! 

Update

Mmmm! I had some of this left in my cast iron frying pan and got busy doing some things before I could go back for seconds.  When I remembered I had left the heat on (on low), I thought maybe the small amount that was left might have been ruined. While it was dried out some, it had not burned – and so I had the idea to make it into a spread… over a slice of homemade bread I baked today.

It was sooo good on that “No Knead Bread!