Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Marvelous Meatloaf

I have to admit, I make a kick-ass meatloaf.  I took a little bit of different family members' meatloaf recipes and incorporated them all into my own recipe.  What makes it extra special is the strips of bacon lovingly layered on top.  After all, what is a good meal without bacon?! 

Bacon Meatloaf with Piquant Glaze

1 lb. ground beef (I use 80/20 so it's not too dry)
1 lb. ground pork
2-3 slices of bread (I use the "white" wheat bread from the grocery store), shredded into small pieces
1-2 eggs

1 onion, small dice
2 carrots, scraped, small dice
2 stalks of celery, small dice
5-6 shiitake mushrooms, diced into small pieces
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (I like garlic so I use two, some people, not so much)

a small palmful of "garlic/herb" spices--I get a jar of it from Wegmans, but if you don't have Wegmans, use a palmful of Italian seasoning mixed with a little salt and pepper, or Mrs. Dash Italian Herb mix, also adding a little salt and pepper.

1/2 C. ketchup
1 T. dijon or brown mustard
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

4-5 slices of center cut or thick cut bacon

I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to mix up the ingredients, but you can always use your hands to mix it up.

Prepare all the vegetables and saute them in a large heated saute pan with a few teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt to bring out the liquids in them.  Saute vegetables until they are nice and tender, set aside.  Then, add both meats to the bowl of the stand mixer and mix together on a very low speed until they are combined.  Then, continuing on low speed, add in the bread.  Once the bread has been incorporated, add one egg at a time, until you see the meat has reached a "moldable" consistency--you may not need to use both eggs, depending on how moist your meat is.  Keep the mixer on low, and add in spice mix, then slowly add in vegetables.  Continue mixing until all vegetables are incorporated.  If mixture still seems dry, add in another egg or a little water. 

Remove meat mixture to a baking sheet.  Using your hands (yes, your hands!) mold meat into a loaf shape onto the baking sheet.  Brush with the piquant glaze with a pastry brush and top with bacon slices, lengthwise down the top of the loaf.

Piquant glaze:  whisk together ketchup, mustard, and nutmeg.  If mixture seems too thick to spread, add in a little vinegar or water to thin it out.  Brush on top of loaf.

Your loaf should be about 4" wide and about 8-10" long so when you stretch the bacon out over the top of the loaf, you should be able to fit 4-5 strips of bacon lengthwise.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or internal temp reads 155 degrees. 

Remove from oven and let loaf rest for about 10 minutes so it can "set up."  Carefully slice into 1-2" slices, trying to keep bacon on the slices (I usually secure the ends with toothpicks so I can be sure to cut the bacon evenly). 

If I have time, I'll whip up a brown gravy to go with the mashed potatoes, but if you take a bite of meatloaf with a bite of mashed potatoes, you get the same effect!


I discovered this trick by accident--we're trying to use up all of our leftovers ASAP because we're getting ready to go away for a few days for the holidays. 

I had about a half a loaf left of the meatloaf.  I decided to use them in a pasta dish last night.  I cut each slice of leftover meatloaf into 1" squares to use as "meatballs."  I sauteed a diced onion and some garlic in a braising pot, then I added the "meatballs" to brown them a little bit.  When the veggies and meat were nice and browned, I added in a jar of marinara sauce, a can of diced tomatoes (with juice), a palmful of Italian seasoning, a couple of teaspoons of sugar, and two teaspoons of basil pesto from a jar.  I served it over bow-tie pasta, which is what I happened to have on hand.  Good choice though, as all the nooks and crannies really held up to the sauce.

Long story short, it came out really good.  The boy kept commenting on how tasty the meatballs were, even though he had turned his nose up at having meatloaf the night before.  Ha!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Culinary School Fun

The past month has been crazy/busy, between school and some personal problems, along with my contracting pneumonia, a sinus infection, and an ear infection--the triple threat.  I'm just now feeling back to normal, thanks to a new antibiotic and a rearranging of my priorities.  I saw something on FB today that sums up the month I've had.  It was a quote that said, "I may be strong, but every now and then I need somebody to hold my hand and tell me everything's going to be all right."  I am lucky to have my husband and son to support me over the past several difficult years.

Now, enough with the soapbox, on to the recipes!

I really enjoyed my Introduction to Kitchen Techniques class.  Basically, the Chef had us read the recipes the night before class, write out recipe cards for the next day, and then just start cooking the next day.  Each day had a theme, such as salads, sandwiches, entrees, veggies, etc.  Makes me look forward to my new class Soups, Stocks, and Sauces that I'll be taking after my mini break, starting in January.

Now, a disclaimer up front.  I don't have pictures of every single recipe this time because my phone kept acting wonky from time to time, so I wasn't always able to get a photo.  But, the recipes were all pretty straightforward and you shouldn't have a hard time replicating them.

First up, homemade mayonnaise.  It can be complicated but if you take your time or use a food processor or blender, you will really be pleased that you tried it.  For our practical exam, we had to do the recipe by hand, with a whisk.  It took about 15 minutes to do it and I had a terrible cramp in my arm by the time I was done, but I was successful in getting my mayo set up.  Secretly, I was pleased to see that the students who are the "teacher's pets" in the back of the classroom all had their mayo curdle because they rushed adding the oil to the emulsion.

All of them had to do it again, one even had to do it a third time.  For once, they didn't finish their other recipes before the rest of us and my partner and I were actually done plating way before they were.  Normally, I don't rejoice in the misfortunes of others, but these three guys drove us crazy.  They would rush through their work to finish plating, (they all work in restaurants already) and then leave the rest of us to clean the kitchen and do the dishes. 


1 egg yolk (I found that by setting my egg out so it could get to room temperature, it made the mixing a lot easier)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dry mustard (we used Colman's, an English yellow mustard powder)
2.25 T. red wine vinegar
7 oz. vegetable oil (I had to use a mix of olive/vegetable oil because the teacher's pets got to the regular oil before I could)
lemon juice and white pepper to taste

1. place egg yolk in mixing bowl and whip until frothy.
2. Add the salt, mustard, and the vinegar, whisk to combine well.
3. Begin to add the oil, literally a drop at a time, until mixture begins to thicken and emulsion begins to form.  (This is the step that my fellow students messed up on; they got too eager and added way too much oil at this step).
4. Add remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, thinning mayo if need be with the lemon juice.
5. Continue mixing until all oil has been incorporated into the mix.  Add white pepper to taste and refrigerate.

Dijon Vinaigrette

8 fl. oz. wine vinegar
2 tsp. salt
black pepper, to taste
24 fl. oz. salad or vegetable oil
4 oz. Dijon mustard

Note:  this is a restaurant-sized recipe.  You can either make the whole recipe and keep it for a couple of weeks in the fridge, or you can size down the recipe.

Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard and whisk together well.  Whisk in the oil gradually.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  You can also do like I do:  mix the wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and mustard in a canning jar or other tight-fitted lidded jar, add the oil and then shake the jar well until dressing emulsifies.

Maple Glazed Carrots

2 lbs. baby carrots
2 oz. butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz. maple syrup
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped.

Wash and trim baby carrots if needed.  Parboil the carrots in salt water and refresh in ice water (carrots should be very firm, but bright orange in color).  Saute the carrots in the butter until nearly tender.  Season with salt and pepper and syrup.  Cook briefly, toss carrots to coat with syrup.  Garnish with parsley.

Next up was two days of Salad Prep.  We got to make several different salads from different backgrounds/ethnicities.  A couple of the recipes had shrimp, which I don't eat, but it looked like the salads could do without the shrimp if need be.

Thai Salad with Shrimp, Beef, and Rice Noodles

2 Thai peppers, seeded/minced (wear gloves!)
1/4 C. fish sauce
1/4 C. soy sauce
1 T. molasses
1/4 C. lime juice
1/4 C. rice wine vinegar
1/4 C. sugar
1 T. red chili paste

These first 8 ingredients make up the sauce base.  Once mixed, you will need to measure out 1/2 C. of the sauce base and set it aside, reserving rest of sauce for later in the recipe.

4 T. vegetable oil
1 C. shallots sliced on the diagonal
1/4 C. garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 C. lemon grass, minced
1/4 C. ginger root, minced

Heat the vegetable oil in a hot pan, add the shallots, garlic, lemon grass, and ginger root; saute until tender.  Then add:

4 oz. beef, finely chopped and mixed with 1/2 of an egg white
4 oz. shrimp, finely chopped and mixed with the other 1/2 of an egg white.

Saute until meat is cooked through, breaking up lumps with a spoon.  Add the 1/2 C. of the sauce base and stir to incorporate.  Taste for seasoning and remove from heat.

Prepare the following veggies and herbs in a large bowl:

2 C. Napa cabbage, shredded
1 C. carrots, grated
3 more scallions, julienned
1 T. mint, roughly chopped
1 T. basil, roughly chopped
1 T. cilantro, roughly chopped
1 T. lime zest, finely grated

Toss the beef/shrimp/sauce mixture lightly with the above vegetables in the large bowl, adding additional spoonfuls of sauce base if needed.  Toss to mix thoroughly and quickly.

Throw a handful of rice noodles into a deep fat fryer or a pan filled with hot oil at 375 degrees, until noodle are brown and crispy.  Toss onto salad and mix.

Creamy Coleslaw

This is pretty much how I make coleslaw at home, but I use cracked black pepper instead of the white pepper, and I add a good amount of celery seed.

8 fl. oz. mayonnaise (I used the mayo we made in class)
4 oz. sour cream/creme fraiche
1 oz. granulated sugar
1 fl. oz. cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. shredded green cabbage
8 oz. shredded red cabbage
4 oz. shredded carrot
salt and white pepper to taste

1. combine the mayo, sour cream, sugar, vinegar, and garlic in a bowl; whisk together
2. Add the shredded cabbages and carrots to the dressing and mix well.  Season to taste with the salt, pepper, and celery seed if desired.

I served the salad on two cabbage leaves and two Napa cabbage leaves for color.

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad

Now, I didn't think I'd like this one as I usually don't "do the spicy," but to my surprise, it was really good.  You can add more hot sauce if you like it really spicy.

1/2 lb. boneless chicken, diced into 1" cubes
3 oz. buttermilk
3 oz. hot sauce (we use Frank's Red Hot here at the house)
2 T. brown sugar
7 oz. lemon juice.

Marinate the above ingredients in the refrigerator for about an hour or overnight.  Remove chicken from marinade and drain well.

Mix 1 C. cornstarch, 1 T. salt, 1 T. white pepper, and 1 tsp. cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned cornstarch mixture and fry it in a deep fat fryer or pan full of hot oil at 350 degrees until golden brown.  Drain chicken on towels and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan to the boil and boil 1.5 C. bowtie pasta until al dente.  (We had to use macaroni instead because once again, the goodie two-shoe students bagged the bow-tie pasta).

Drain, cool in cold water and put in a large bowl.  Add 3 oz. hot sauce, 3 oz. mayonnaise, and 3 oz. crumbled blue cheese, mixing well.  Add in chicken, then the following vegetables and herbs:

1/2 C. julienned red onion
1 stalk celery, finely julienned
1 T. parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper and additional hot sauce (if you like) to taste.

This would be a big hit at football/Superbowl parties, I loved it!

Taco Salad

1 flour tortilla
6 oz. ground beef
1 tsp. taco mix (I use Penzey's--the best in my opinion www.penzeys.com )
1 plum tomato, seeded and cut into wedges
1 C. lettuce, shredded

Garnishes:  shredded cheddar cheese, diced red onion, sliced avocado, black olives.  Additionally, for a dressing for the salad, I mixed equal amounts of sour cream and salsa together and added a pinch of cumin.

1. Deep fry the tortilla with basket mold (I want one!!  But, you can use a round fryer spoon to gently hold the tortilla down in the oil) until crisp (at about 350-375 degrees); remove from fat and drain on absorbent toweling, set aside.  You can also bake the tortilla in the oven by spraying it with cooking spray and pressing it on the back of a muffin tin in a 350 degree oven until browned.  Set aside to let cool.

2. Brown ground beef in saute pan over medium heat and drain off excess fat.  Season with the taco mix and mix well.

3. Assemble salad; place shell on plate, add lettuce and top with beef, garnishes, and dressing.

4. Serve immediately.

  Cobb Salad

8 oz. romaine lettuce
4 oz. green leaf lettuce
4 oz. watercress (or micro-greens)
4 hard-cooked eggs, diced up
4 avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced into wedges
16 bacon slices
1 lb. Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
1 lb. turkey breast, roasted and julienned
1 lb. plum tomatoes, diced

Use the basic Dijon vinaigrette listed above for the salad.

1. Tear, wash, and dry the lettuces. Pick over and wash the watercress.
2. Hard cook the eggs, then peel and chop/dice them.
3. Pit and peel the avocados and chop into wedges.
4. Dice the bacon up into 1" pieces and saute in a pan until crisp.  Remove and drain well.
5. Todd the salad greens together, and arrange the eggs, avocados, bacon, cheese, turkey and tomatoes on top of the salad in an artistic fashion.  Serve the Dijon Vinaigrette on the side.

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

3 C. fresh spinach, picked and rinsed
2 eggs, hard cooked, and chopped
6 red onion rings
6 oz. hot bacon dressing
8 plum tomato wedges

1. Clean spinach and take off all stems.
2. Arrange salad with eggs and red onion rings.
3. Top with hot bacon dressing, just before serving.

Hot Bacon Dressing:

6 slices of bacon
3 T. sherry vinegar
1/4 C. onion, diced
3 oz. water
5 tsp. brown sugar

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon and rest on paper towels, reserve bacon drippings.  
2. Carmelize onions in bacon fat; drain off the fat.  Crumble the bacon and set aside.
3. Add vinegar, water, and sugar to onion and drippings in the skillet and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.
4. Pour hot bacon dressing over salad and garnish with the bacon.

Rice Salad with Shrimp

1.5 T. salad or vegetable oil
3 T. onion, diced
2/3 C. long grain rice
1 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste
1 1/3 C. chicken stock (omit salt if making stock from a chicken base or bouillon)
1 bay leaf
black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. Old Bay
5-6 large, peeled and deveined shrimp
Water to cover shrimp

3 1/3 T. balsamic vinegar
1/3 C. vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix above ingredients, whisking to combine--this is the vinaigrette

3 T. raisins
3 T. shredded carrots
3 T. scallion, green part only

1. heat oil in a sauce pot; sweat onions in the pot, until transparent.  Add the uncooked rice, turmeric and salt.  Stir until mixture begins to turn yellow and rice becomes shiny.
2. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover for approximately 30 minutes or until done.  Cool, then refrigerate.
3. Make the vinaigrette dressing while rice is cooking.
4. Also while rice is cooking, combine bay leaf, pepper, cloves, coriander, salt and Old Bay with enough water to cover the shrimp.  Bring mixture to the boil 5 minutes and add shrimp, cooking for 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are cooked.
5. Drain shrimp, then cool them, and add to vinaigrette.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.
6. Just before serving, combine the rice, shrimp, dressing, carrots, raisins, and scallions.  Serve on a platter on a bed of lettuce leaves (I used endive).

New Potato Salad with Mustard and Dill

Note: I make a really good loaded potato salad that has bacon, eggs, and chives in it.  You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150265049860067&set=a.10150244104900067.362915.627760066&type=3&theater

4 lbs. new potatoes
4 fl. oz. mayonnaise
4 oz. sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 T. fresh dill, chopped
2 T. dijon mustard
1 green pepper julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
6 oz. red onion, julienned
4 oz. celery, julienned

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until done but still firm.  Chill well and cut into quarters.  Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, salt, pepper, dill, and mustard; mix well, mashing potatoes slightly.  Fold in peppers, onions, and celery, season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

I don't have a photo of this one, but you can imagine, it was really pretty with the red and green of the peppers in it.  I don't normally like peppers in my potato salad, but this wasn't too bad.

Watermelon and Cherry Salad with Fresh Mint Syrup

Fresh mint, 1 bunch
8 fl. oz. water
3 oz. granulated sugar
3 lb. watermelon, scooped out with melon baller or cut into 1" wedges
2 lb. fresh cherries, pitted
Additional fresh mint sprigs as a garnish

1. Pick the mint leaves off the stem and wash them.
2. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Blanch mint leaves in water for 20 seconds.  Remove the leaves and refresh them in ice water and set aside to dry on paper towels.  Reserve blanching water.
3. Add the sugar to the blanching water, bring to a boil and cook for two minutes.
4. Finely chop the mint leaves and the chopped mint to the sugar syrup.  Refrigerate syrup until cold.
5. Mix the melon balls, cherries, and mint syrup in a mixing bowl.  Transfer to a platter, then garnish with the mint springs.

I don't have a picture of this one either, but it was really pretty, and the sugar syrup made the watermelon taste like a fresh melon eaten right at the peak of summer.

That's going to have to be it for tonight.  My next blog post will be on sandwiches, then the one after that will be on pasta, then shish kebabs, green beans, and a few other yummy goodies.  Enjoy!