Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cool Cooking

Cool Cooking:  Our Meat Loaf Dinner - Nothing Fancy Just Delicious:
Last weekend, we prepared a fantastic meat loaf dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. Luckily, my hubby had gone grocery shopping the day before, so we had an abundance of fresh veggies and meats waiting to be dressed, cooked or frozen. Dinner turned out so well, I have to share my cooking methods with my family and friends. Although, the meat loaf was not as good as my husband's BBQ ribs, however, it was a real homemade treat for us. The preparations were going quicker than usual, so we decided to make a salad and soup, as well. We were on a roll ! Just like the chefs we watched on chopped delving into their mystery baskets. Of course, we didn't have a time limit like they do. Even though the pictures do not do the plate justice, I'm definitely not a good taker of pictures on my mini cam, the taste was outstanding.  In addition, hubby and I enjoyed cooking together in our air conditioned kitchen, while outside was a hot ninety degrees.
Normally, during the week, our dinner is something quick and easy to fix. My husband is a steak and potato man. I usually like a lighter fare i.e., soup and salad. I could eat that every day and be quite satisfied. Usually, breakfast is our big meal of the day and it goes down hill from there. No set menu throughout the week for us. Meals depend on what we have recently eaten and whatever our palates are craving at the time. If we could have a buffet readily available, where we could pick and choose every meal, we would love it. Unfortunately, our taste buds crave seafood and Mickey D’s way too often for our budget. Golden Corral would serve the purpose of a quick pick for dinner at times. However, it is at least twenty-five miles away and not always worth the drive. The little greasy spoon restaurant close by us, has changed owners again; and the food is not always satisfying to say the least. We try to avoid eating there except for the occasional sub, pizza or chicken wings that our grandchildren enjoy when they visit.
We made the meat loaf with a combination of fresh ground turkey, pork and beef with lots of seasonings and other ingredients incorporated. We used plenty of herbs, eggs, bread, a touch of ketchup and a squirt of A1 seasoning along with a bit of dry beef broth for flavor. Last, we added sautéed bell pepper, onion and celery mixing them all together in with the meat. I tried to pretend that I was preparing food, while remembering the way one of our favorite food network chef did on TV. We finally mounded it in a roaster and cooked it at 350 degrees with the lid on for about an hour and forty-five minutes. We planned on saving half the meat loaf  in individual containers to freeze and eat later.

Next, the peeled potatoes boiling on the stove were ready for mashing. We had quite a bit of potato water left over, so we decided to use it in preparing a tomato-based soup. Next, we started adding random veggies to the potato water, along with pinches of herbs and seasonings. Stone soup ! What else would you call a combination of mixed veggies thrown into a pot of left over potato water. Anyone remember reading about the tramp, who had everyone bring some kind of vegetable to add to his boiling water? Read it when I was very young, but the story left a lasting impression on me. Maybe the story might have jump started my want-to-be a cook idea that never transpired.   Any how, after the soup was started, we got really ambitious and began making a salad.

Oh ! How wonderful fresh garden veggies taste during the summer. A far superior taste than from the anemic varieties we get during the winter. Fresh cucumber, tomato, celery and onion were sliced and diced. Then we seasoned them with herbs and spices and feta cheese. I love basil, dill, parsley, celery, olives, and feta cheese in my salads. I go a little wild sometimes sprinkling on these ingredients hoping to make the salad look like those in magazines which they never do; or better yet even look a little like those on pinterest or top chef - again to no avail.
I added a few squirts of malt vinegar. The mild flavor of the malt vinegar gave the soup a little savory kick to it. It’s more subtle than red wine vinegar and doesn't discolor the salad. Malt vinegar is superb on crab meat and seafood. Finally, we added some chopped iceberg lettuce and tossed it. The salad tasted delicious, as well as, smelled so fresh.

In conclusion, it was a lot of work and clean up, but the end result was well worth the special effort.