It’s no secret that I love to eat. Good food is a lot of fun, and we’ve made it a feature of many posts on Easin’ Along. On our retirement road trips we’ve found some wonderful restaurants and taken great delight in sharing the experiences with Easin’ Along readers.
Cooking is one activity that gives me a lot of pleasure. I love to go through magazines like Southern Living and pick out recipes to try on family and friends. Helen (adorable wife) says I’m the best at scanning a recipe and, after looking at the ingredients, deciding whether or not it would be worthy of a try. As a result, I have a loose leaf notebook filled with favorites like Southern Seafood Gumbo, Spicy Chicken Stew, Hoppin’ John, and even Crackle-Top Molasses Cookies. I have to confess however, my love for food got a bit out of hand this past year, and I have decided that 2017 is the year to crank it back some…but more about that later.
I also cook a mean meat loaf. The recipe I use is one that I found over twenty years ago in an obscure magazine. From the minute I saw it, I knew I had to try it out, and voila, we had a new favorite dish within minutes of it coming out of the oven. After several years of a few minor tweaks to the recipe, I decided it was time for our neighborhood friends to render judgment, and thus the annual meat loaf dinner became a tradition. I posted an article about this tradition last year and have linked to it here. This gathering is always a highlight of the season for Helen and me so I hope you’ll take the time to check out that post. This year, because I won’t be eating my beloved dish for a while, I thought I would spend a few paragraphs on the featured guest at our dinner…the meat loaf itself.
I usually prepare this dish over two days. The ingredients contain a large number of vegetables (onions, peppers, carrots, and celery) which have to be chopped then cooked in a large skillet in butter until all of the moisture has evaporated. For our dinner of twelve guests I double the recipe, so chopping and cooking the vegetables takes almost an hour. The vegetable mixture then has to be cooled. Therefore I find that the easiest thing for me to do is to complete this phase of the cooking process and let the vegetable cool in the refrigerator overnight.
Another trick I have found to simplify this process is to chop the vegetables with the Vidalia Onion Chop Wizard that can be purchased online from Amazon (link here). This simple device takes a lot of work out of vegetable chopping and has a measuring cup built into it. I use the smaller dicing blade rather than the chopping blade, but that is just a matter of personal preference.
About three hours before serving time I mix the ingredients for the meat loaf. I don’t mess around with the meat I use. Nothing but Prime Angus Ground Chuck is good enough and it is combined with a mixture of spices, eggs, and half and half cream. I find that a stick blender is the best appliance to use for blending the cream and eggs. Included in this mixture is a package of mild ground sausage which gives the meat loaf an added zesty punch. The chilled vegetables are worked in at this point as well.
Everything is placed into an oversized mixing bowl and is hand kneaded until thoroughly mixed and until the sausage is evenly distributed. Your hands will get cold, but there is just no other way to do a large meat loaf except by hand. After about five minutes of kneading, I form the mixture into a loaf and place it on a large cooking sheet covered with aluminum foil. I insert a meat thermometer into the center of the loaf and place it into an oven that has been pre-heated to 350°. It takes approximately an hour and twenty minutes for a meat loaf of this size to reach the desired temperature of 160°. I’m always watching while it cooks because I like to make sure that the sides get slightly crispy in a few places before I remove it from the oven. I always let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. After that, bring out the side dishes and bow gracefully as the guests ooh and ahh. My choice is always mashed potatoes, sweet green peas, and mushroom gravy. I have placed a picture of a freshly sliced meat loaf here.
Our dinner party was as great as always and I have a picture gallery from the evening on the home page and also a link placed here. Please check it out. Also, I would love to share the meat loaf recipe with anyone who would like to receive it. Let me know by way of the comment section below so I will have your email address and will send it out right away. Enjoy!
Finally, beginning next week, Easin’ Along will have the first of four articles related to our approach to good health going into the New Year. I know, articles like this are everywhere at this at this time of the year, but we are not going to be handing out advice. Instead, our focus will be on four areas that we consider important if we are to participate in the active retirement lifestyle we hope to continue. We’re going to look at diet, exercise, sleep, and essentials of overall good health like doctor visits, medications, vitamins and supplements. This is an area that we hope to have a lot of participation from Easin’ Along readers, because we’re by no means experts. Nevertheless, we are certain that a lot of you have the same concerns and thoughts on these subjects and we would like to share them here. I look forward to the discussion.
That’s it for now…it’s time to grab a meat loaf sandwich for lunch so, I’ll be Easin’ Along. Let me know if you want the recipe.
Wishing everyone a happy and blessed 2017.