Meatloaf Love

Although I’ve lived in Arizona longer than any other state at this point- the life of an army kid, I still feel like I am “from” Indiana. See Midwest. See cheese and ketchup. I still gravitate towards traditional Midwestern meals and comforts. Being me, I am constantly looking for ways to refresh recipes with MY twists and ideas. And so I introduce my uber tasty Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf. For people with gluten restrictions this is the perfect recipe. The quinoa replaces the breadcrumbs traditionally used to bind the meatloaf. Also, because it is insanely healthful, you can enjoy this comfortable food without feeling guilty or justifying it with the cold weather. We had one day of chilly weather here and it left me all nostalgic for Oregon weather in April. Le sigh. Perfect meatloaf weather.

Cooking is about all 5 senses; I know I have said it before.

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If my house smelled of onions slowly sauteing in butter, I would almost never leave. I certainly would never use a candle or an air freshener ever again. I adore the smell. Obviously.

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Ground turkey is the way I enjoy meals typically made with red meat. It is just as tasty, sometimes cheaper, less diseased cow risks and your heart will beat a little happier for it. Turkey gets a bad rep for being “dry” and flavorless. In my opinion, the same could be said for just about anything that isn’t made well. Don’t blame the ingredient; blame the person cooking it. Give turkey a chance!!

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Tomato paste lends a tangy flavor, playing off of the natural nuttiness of quinoa. A delicious friendship.

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Season every step of the way. Season the meat. Season the onions. Season the water the quinoa cooks in, by using a veggie stock. This also sneaks in even MORE nutrients (Moms, that one is for you) without making your dish too obviously bulked up by vegetables. Realize that seasoning every step of the way is a wonderful way to understand the flavors you are combining. It also saves you from the mad dash-of-everything-at-the-end marathon. Properly seasoning in every step will a confident meal make.

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I would think that it would be obvious, but just in case (we do live in the McD’s warning label days, after all), let the onions and quinoa cool completely before adding them to the egg and turkey combo. You dont want scrambled eggs or grey turkey loaf. Big no-no.

The cavewoman in me likes to mix by hand. Not only is there something sick and pleasing at the same time about mixing something in by hand, but its the best way to determine consistency in a mixture.

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MINI PANS ARE CUTE!!

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One for T and one for the family. I opted out of the “slather in ketchup” approach; I decided to play it up a bit, make it fancy. Enter brown sugar, Worcestershire and a dash of dark yellow mustard. Let the loaf get to almost done, and lovingly shmear this concoction all over the top.

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Let them finish up, getting to an internal temp of 165, and allow them to rest about 5-9 minutes.

There you have it!! A red-meat-less meatloaf that has gained flavor, gained protein and not lost any moisture. Enjoy!

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Turkey meatballs and the miracle of mirepoix.

I love the color red.

I love its many shades and levels of brilliance.

I love the emotions it evokes and suppresses.

I love how when you mention “red” in any historical context, there is an automatic association somewhere in your brain.

I love what red means in food language.

And lets not even talk wine.

No.

Lets don’t.

Okay?

Sigh. Thanks.

How many colors can you say ALL of those things about? Sure they get the shades or the food language (greens!!), but all of those? I dont think so. Red is pretty stand alone there.

That being said, I rarely eat red meat. It is not because I dislike it. I LOVE RED MEAT!! I love it rare-medium rare. I love the way it smells being cooked to perfection. I am infatuated with the perrrffeeecct bite of steak. Its nearly lusty. damn…

I want a steak.

But it wont happen. I limit my red meat intake to a zilth of a degree. It is barely there, and if it is, I am typically eating somewhere other than home. Its just worked its way out of my diet. I love how it tastes, but hate how I feel, physically, afterwards. So nope. Just avoids.

There are sooo many meals that seem to revolve around red meat; meals that we feel like we would lose if red meat were to disappear from our fridges and tables. Not so, my reader, not so. Juicy, flavorful meals are to be had with the absence of red meat! Its that dinner party that you invited your vivacious friend to (but they bailed, cuz duuh, they’re your fun friend and triple booked themselves) but had to go solo last minute with no regrets, because you charmed everyone’s pants off. Yep. Pants charming meatballs.

Charming pants meatballs?

… some things should just stay in the natural sentence order. But that was fun.

The key to the juicy awesomeness? Mirepoix. Mere-eh-pwaw. Perfect! High five! Look at us, all fancy French speaking status. I’m so proud. Mirepoix is, very simply, the DNA of cooking. It is everything. At its most basic form is celery, carrots and onions with a 1:1:2 ratio. There are alllll kinds of mirepoix which I am sure I will touch on at some point in this blog. So chop your veggies super small. I like to use handy dandy tools like a food processor for things such as this. Makes it easy and fast, WIN! So the veggies are small, the turkey is seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a few shakes of Worcestershire, one egg and about 1/4C of bread crumbs. Depending on how fresh the turkey is, you may need more. I literally had the amazing people at Sprouts freshly grind the turkey, so it was ultra moist (yummm, drool). Mix, but do not mutilate. Once its all mixed, roll them into whatever size balls you like. Mine were moderately large, but I am kind of dramatic and I like my food to make a point. LOOK AT ME!!!

The next step was purely experimental: Fry or Bake? BOTH!! I did one batch fried by first dredging them in flour, smacking off the excess and into a large sauce pan with 1/2″ of oil-butter combo. Cook each side until nice and crispy brown. There really isnt anything better than a good crunch before the moist center. This is true of so many foods, why should meatballs be different? They arent. Simple. Drain the oil by putting done balls onto a papertowel. Then straight into the sauce to finish cooking. Internal temp 165.

Baking was another story. I light sprayed some nonstick spray on a sheet pan and arranged the meatballs about 2″ apart. 375 until internal temp of 165. I rotated mine to get the “baking crunch” on top and bottom. Again, these will go straight into the sauce until you’re ready to serve.

Conclusion: Frying was better for texture. Baking really broke down the veggie flavors. I pick frying!! But thats me and my love for crunch.

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Conclusion: Frying was better for texture. Baking really broke down the veggie flavors. I pick frying!! But thats me and my love for crunch.