Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mini Meat Loaves (AND Meal Planning)

A friend of mine recently asked me about meal planning and I sent her a long email with a plan.  After sending it, I realized that the grocery bill was probably high  (especially since she lives in NYC) and maybe too much trouble for the results.  It really got me thinking about my own planning and why I get burnt out on cooking every night.  The kiddos being so demanding right before dinner is a huge part of it but it's easy to get in a cooking slump anytime, with or without kids.  I'm rethinking my strategy and have been on a mission to find recipes and meals that work for me and my family.

I am looking for recipes that have most or all of these qualities-
1. use few ingredients, keeping cost in mind
2. few dishes are needed to prepare = less dishes to wash
3. contain Protein, Produce, and Grain (Dairy is a bonus; Healthy is great too!)
4. can easily be made ahead and/or frozen (I seriously want no more than 15 minutes of hands on time when the kids are hungry)

I've tried a few recipes this past week and the favorite by far was the mini meat loaves. It is all over the internet as the 'lil cheddar meatloaves' so I don't know who to give credit to.  I doubled the recipe without having to get out a humungous bowl and I made it earlier in the day and popped it in the oven at dinner time.  The small meatloaves cooked quickly in the oven which was very nice.  I made Lauren's Green Beans (I use frozen beans) which were perfect, as always. To try and cut time more, I used boxed mashed potatoes.  I have memories of this being good but they were not at all good and not worth the savings- time or money.  I need to find an alternative quick potato . . . Suggestions?? 
Click 'READ MORE' below for the Meat Loaf recipe!!
Mini Meat Loaves
¾ cup Milk (whole or 2% is best)
1 Egg
1 cup Shredded Cheddar cheese
½ cup Quick-cooking Oatmeal (I had some old-fashioned that I had ground up for KC)
1 Tbsp Steak seasoning (like McCormick or other seasoned herb & salt)
1 lb lean Ground Beef
2/3 cup Ketchup
2 Tbsp Sugar
2 tsp Mustard

Grease a 9x13 dish and set aside. Mix the egg in a large bowl.  Add the milk and combine.  Stir in the cheese, onion, oatmeal, and steak seasoning.  
Mix in the beef with your hands till there are no large clumps of meat. Pat down the mixture and use your hand to mark into quarters.  Shape each quarter into two mini loaves.
Mix the topping and taste.  I like to add A1 or similar to give it a little more kick.  Spoon and spread on the top of the loaves. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads between 160-170. 
This can be made ahead of time and can be frozen raw or cooked. Easily doubled.

- Mix meats (pork or turkey with beef), especially when doubling
- Change the cheeses
- Add pureed veggies- carrots, spinach, squash

Mexican Meatloaves
Double the recipe, substituting pepper jack cheese for cheddar.  Substitute one package of taco seasoning for the steak seasoning and add 1/3 cup chopped cilantro to the meat mixture.  Spoon chili sauce (Heinz) or salsa over the top and cook.

Italian Meatloaves
Substitute the 1 Tbsp of Italian seasoning for the steak seasoning and add 1/3 cup Italian (flat-leaf) parsley. Use whatever cheese but an Italian blend or shredded mozzarella would be good.  Spoon your favorite marinara over the top and cook. 

Definitely add this one to your meal planning folder/binder.  What? You don't have one?  I just started one separate from my old binder to help me get my act together.  Please join in and share your go to meals. We can build a better recipe binder together:) Kim

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