Please don't tell Martha about this post because she may come here and try to hurt me, maybe by bending all my fingers back until I promise to never try to improve on her mother's meatloaf recipe again. Because that's where I got the original recipe for this meatloaf, from Martha Kostyra. Well, not exactly from Mrs. Kostyra, who passed away in November 2007 -- +God rest her soul+ --but from Martha's website, which is close to being the same thing, if by "close" you understand that I mean "as close as Indiana is to New Jersey."
We all love meatloaf in this house. Meatloaf is one of the first things I ever cooked for my husband after we were married nearly eighteen years ago. I proudly placed a plate with my meatloaf, some mashed potatoes and corn and a biscuit (which might explain why people in Indiana are so fat, and more to the point, why I grew to the body mass index I currently mourn over) on the table in front of him and what did her say?
"This isn't how my mom makes it."
Ah, gentle readers, what a sweet memory that is! It marked the day that my husband learned to Never Compare My Cooking with His Mother's, ever again. We laugh about it now and my husband no longer wears ear plugs to dinner.
The good thing about meatloaf is that it can make enough to serve at two meals with leftovers coming from that for lunch and it is relatively inexpensive to make. In her book Anybody Can Do Anything, author and humorist Betty MacDonald writes side-splittingly about her mother making meatloaf in the Depression for something like two hundred suppers in a row. Meatloaf is your friend in lean times. It will accept anything you throw at it -- two tablespoons of leftover peas some smart-aleck kid left on a plate in the fridge, the stale bread heels no one will eat, the leafy part of the celery -- and simply expand to make more. Meatloaf has heart. Meatloaf has soul. It is a great comfort food, makes fantastic sandwiches, and is the #1 way of mothers everywhere to hide veggies in the food. Mine is made of ground beef and pork sausage, but you can make it out of any ground meat you choose.
Anyway, here's my recipe, which I developed over the years and which benefited from a few ideas stolen from Big Martha, may she rest in peace.
1# lean ground beef or turkey, whichever you prefer
1# bulk pork sausage, either spicy or sage
6 slices whole wheat bread, torn into pieces or whirred in the food processor
2 large eggs
2 celery sticks
1 large onion
1 cup spinach leaves, pressed down
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons salad mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 375o
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat with a fork; add the meat.
Get out your food processor (thank you again, Katie, from the bottom of my heart) and whirr the bread into fine crumbs, if you don't feel like tearing into pieces. Empty the bread crumbs into the mixing bowl. Next, assemble all the vegetables; wash and peel what needs to be washed and peeled. Cut the large veggies into chunks and whiz them in the food processor until well-chopped. Drop the spinach leaves down the chute and process them as well. When all vegetables have been processed, empty them into the mixing bowl.
Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder and ketchup into the bowl. "Stir" by reaching into the bowl with clean hands and squeeze and mush the ingredients together until well-combined. If you're a big sissy, use a large rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. As you mix the meatloaf, thinking loving thoughts of your family and how nice it is to be able to make a comfort-food dinner that is so cheap, hides vegetables so well, and tastes so good. Protein! Vitamins! Low GI carbs! Fiber! Mix it, pretty mama!
When mixed, you can transfer the meatloaf to a large bread pan for baking, but I've had so many run-overs into the oven when the fat from the meat boils up that I prefer to use my 9x13 Pampered Chef stoneware baker. I use my hands to form the meat mixture into a "loaf" shape.
Place the meatloaf in the oven and set the a timer for forty minutes. While you're waiting for the timer, get a small microwave-safe mixing bowl out and mix the ketchup, mustard and brown sugar for the sauce. Zap the sauce in the microwave for about one minute and thirty seconds. The idea is not only to make sure the brown sugar is well melted, but also to take the refrigerator chill off the ketchup and mustard before you pour the sauce on your hot meatloaf.
When the timer goes off, set a heatproof cup (such as a Pyrex measuring cup in the two-cup size) in your sink. Lift the meatloaf out of the oven and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y pour the hot fat out of the baking pan into the heatproof cup. When you have accomplished this, top the meatloaf with the sauce and return the pan to the oven for an additional twenty minutes.
Let the meatloaf stand for about ten minutes before cutting or it will not slice well.
This recipe makes about ten good-sized servings. Refrigerate leftovers and enjoy for another meal or in lunch sandwiches, sliced thin and warmed up on the griddle and topped with a piece of cheese. (If you're throwing all caution to the winds, warm up the meatloaf and top with cheese and then grill the meatloaf between two slices of bread. To assuage your conscience, use olive oil for grilling instead of butter. Mmmm....)
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