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New spin on favorite meatloaf

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I’m still adjusting to cooking meals for our empty-nest lifestyle.

There’s a fine line between having just the right amount of leftovers and having so many leftovers that you feel guilty when you can’t eat it all.

Reggie and I enjoy leftovers, which is a plus. But still, who wants to eat chicken casserole three days in a row?

Meatloaf is another good example. Reggie and I love meatloaf, but I’m used to making it for three to four people with plenty of leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches. With that much ground round, as much as 3 pounds sometimes, it’s also a meal that takes a long time to cook.

Several months ago, I started experimenting with my recipe. I used the same basic recipe I’ve made for years, but I substituted ground turkey for the ground round, and instead of making a “loaf” in a large casserole dish, I made miniature loaves. I cooked the little loaves on a baking sheet. Using ground turkey instead of ground round meant my meatloaves weren’t swimming in thick fat by the end of cooking time.

Last week, I was craving meatloaf again and decided to make my little loaves in a muffin tin this time. Over the years, I’ve seen many recipes for miniature meatloaves cooked in muffin tins and have always wanted to give it a try.

Again, I used ground turkey instead of ground round to avoid the fat issue and used the same basic recipe I first shared in my food column in 2004. (It’s one of my two most requested recipes throughout the years; the other was a chocolate chip cookie pie.)

I filled the muffin pan with cupcake liners and used a muffin scoop to fill the muffin cups. I ended up with 16 little meatloaves.

After the meatloaf “muffins” cooked for 30 minutes, I removed the pans from the oven and added two spoonfuls of the delicious, but very basic, sauce made of ketchup and brown sugar. I didn’t have enough sauce with the first recipe, so I stirred up a little more. Next time, I will be more careful to make it last for all of the muffins or make a little more from the start. The pans went back in the oven for 10 minutes for the sauce to thicken and cook, making all kinds of tasty, almost caramelized, magic.

I let the miniature meatloaves cool a bit before removing from the muffin pans. I used a spoon to scoop each one out of the muffin tins. Then I removed the paper liners before placing them on our dinner plates.

We had our two traditional side dishes: mashed potatoes and local field peas.

There was very little chatter at our dinner table Saturday night. Reggie and I were too busy eating this delicious meal. There is almost no difference in taste between our traditional recipe made with ground round and this version made with turkey. And it was nice to cut the cooking time with this version.

After dinner, we realized we had more than half of the meatloaves left. We considered refrigerating them, then wrapping them up and putting them in the freezer. In my experience, meatloaf freezes well. But in the end, we decided to keep them in the fridge and have an easy repeat meal two days later.

Again on Monday night, there was little chatter at our dinner table.

THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS RECIPE

• It’s fine to change up your favorite recipes. My meatloaf recipe is a favorite meal at my house, but my husband and I loved this version as well.

• I used cupcake liners in my muffin pan to make it easier to remove the little meatloaves. I used a spoon to scoop the meatloaves out of the muffin pan. Be careful; they like to flip over. I do advise waiting for the meatloaves to cool a few minutes before trying to remove the cupcake papers.

• When I make meatloaf, I usually take out several slices of bread early in the morning so it will be a little stale when I get ready to grate it to make bread crumbs. I didn’t do that on Saturday, so it wasn’t as easy to make pretty crumbs. I used a mixture of whole wheat sandwich bread and whole wheat hamburger buns to make 1 cup of crumbs, using a hand cheese grater.

• I didn’t follow my own instructions to finely chop the onions. The onions were too big in this recipe for my taste. Lesson learned.

Lisa Boykin Batts has been writing a weekly food column since 2001. Her column includes recipes she and her family enjoy.

Lisa’s Favorite Meat Loaf Modified

1.3 pounds ground turkey (That’s the standard size that I buy at Harris-Teeter)

2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup milk

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with 15-16 cupcake liners.

Combine ground turkey, onion, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix together with ketchup, milk and bread crumbs. (I make bread crumbs with stale bread shredded on a hand-held cheese grater.)

Using a muffin scoop, place meatloaf mixture into muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

While meatloaves cook, mix ketchup and brown sugar.

Remove muffin tins from oven after 30 minutes and add sauce on top of each meatloaf; I used a soup spoon and added around 2 spoonfuls. Bake 10 more minutes until ketchup mixture is hot and has thickened.

Cool several minutes before removing cupcake liners.

Makes 15-16 little meatloaf muffins. Yield will vary based on size of muffin cups.

Lisa Boykin Batts

*Note: If you’d like to make the original recipe, I use 1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground round (I’ve also used 93% lean ground beef). Make sure the mixture is plenty moist. If it’s not, add a little more milk or ketchup. Form into a loose, long loaf that almost fills a 9X11-inch dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and drain fat with a spoon. Spread mixture of ketchup and brown sugar and bake 10 more minutes until ketchup mixture is bubbly. I usually make a double recipe of the sauce when I make the loaf. This recipe is very easy to double; just use a bigger baking dish. Leftovers also freeze well.

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