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Monday, May 12, 2014

Meatloaf heaven and spring planting update

I'm finally coming to the end of my spring planting. The garden season starts early for me, in February, when I start my first seedlings indoors. This season I'm planting two gardens - my own and my son and daughter-in-laws. Their garden is 99% planted after today. I just have to wait till I can get some okra and melon starts at the nursery. There are a few bush beans to transplant, since some hungry birds have cut/eaten the tops off quite a few of them.

I'm doing the square foot gardening in my two bed and the 6 and at our sons place. My two 4X8' beds are fully planted other than one square which I'm saving for okra. I also planted two earth boxes this year, since the one I planted last year worked so well. One is planted with 6 bell and frying peppers and the other with two tomatoes. My other 8 tomatoes are in one of the raised beds.  I also have two artichokes growing in two larger tubs and some extra lettuce and snow peas in a few larger window boxes on a ledge in the back yard. I'm also experimenting with planting potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket.

This year I took the risk and planted potatoes very early since I knew I had enough heavy duty remay to protect them from a hard freeze. They're now about 18" tall, so I will be getting some early potatoes this year. I had good luck planting them in my raised bed last year. I missed harvesting a couple and have had to dig out the volunteers and replant them.

The other thing taking up my time and energy the past couple of months has been cooking.  Yesterday I took a break from my current love affair with anything Italian, and made meatloaf, a recipe I put together from a few I saw on line and remembering some of the things my mother used in her recipe. It was delicious - no fancy ingredients, just a good, tasty, light, moist, recipe:

JUNE'S MEAT LOAF Serves: 4-5

1 1/2 lbs ground beef (chuck is most flavorful. Or use half ground beef and half ground pork for even more flavor).
2 slices of white or light whole wheat bread crust removed. Run bread under water to wet thoroughly. Squeeze well to remove the excess water and break into tiny bits and add to the meat mixture.
1/8 C. plain, dry bread crumbs.
1 egg beaten
2 cloves garlic put through a press or very finely chopped.
1 medium onion finely diced.
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 T finely minced flat leaf parsley
1/4 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed.
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 C  milk 
***NOTE: This will be a pretty moist mixture, but will still hold it's shape when cooked, rested and served.
Sauce to brush on top of meat loaf for baking: (or, you can skip the sauce and just lay some pieces of bacon over the top to keep it moist. Cut the bacon pieces in half horizontally and space evenly over the top of the smoothed meat loaf mixture. Just use enough to lightly coat the loaf, using a brush particularly if you want to roast potatoes in the same pan.

1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed firm, or more or less to taste.
1/2 cup ketchup
pinch of salt 
pinch of chili powder

NOTE: You can double this sauce and some a glaze when roasting the meatloaf and pass the rest around when serving the meat loaf.
 Saute onions in a bit of butter or olive oil over medium heat, till transparent (about 5-7 minutes). Add the minced garlic and stir and cook till the garlic is fragrant (about 10 seconds or so).. Combine the onion and garlic mixture with the rest of the meat loaf ingredients. Make sure you mix all the ingredients lightly for a light, tender, meatloaf. Place in lightly oiled roasting pan and gently form into a loaf, or place into a roasting pan . I prefer to  make a free form loaf and put it in a larger rectangular baking pan and place peeled, halved or quartered depending on size, red potatoes, that have been lightly oiled, and salted around the loaf . Then sprinkle 2 peeled and sliced, large cloves of garlic among the potatoes. If you like you can add a bit of chopped fresh rosemary leaves for extra flavor, as well as a very light sprinkling of cayenne, which is what I do. The potatoes will take on more flavor from the little bit of juices released from the meat load.

If using a tomato sauce topping: Combine sauce ingredients and brush on top and sides of  the meatloaf, or you can lay some strips of uncooked bacon over the top instead, or use nothing at all.

Bake at 350°F about 1 hour or till meat thermometer reads 155F (or 165F if using part pork). Remove from oven when temperature is reached, and place on a warmed serving platter; and tent loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Wait 10 minutes before slicing. Meantime,  keep the potatoes warm in the oven . Remove them from the pan they were cooked in and put into another smaller pan and use the pan dripping and some beef broth and some vegetable cooking water if you have, to make a pan gravy.  Or, you can just serve the meatloaf with the extra tomato glazing sauce or ketchup or barbecue sauce of your choice.