Cheese and French Onion Meatloaf

I’ve never really considered myself a meatloaf fan (pause to wait for my father in law to make a joke about how he really enjoyed Bat out of Hell…), and can count on two hands the number of times I’ve cooked one, with fingers to spare. Apart from my turkey and apple meatloaf (which I really should include here, as it’s pretty divine), I generally find meatloaves stodgy and a whole lot of effort for not a whole lot of reward. Nobody’s ever complained about the lack of meatloaf in our lives, so I’ve never really thought about it.

However, the other night, the hubby and I were curled up watching something or other, and the characters were eating meatloaf. After 10 years of marriage, I didn’t even need to glance over to know that he was giving me “the look”. No, not that one. The “why are they eating something delicious, and I’m not?” look.

So, I went hunting for a meatloaf recipe. I’m a good wife like that. But not just any old loaf. It had to be Something Different. Not just a big dry meatball with some barbecue sauce concoction glazed over it. Something I would be excited to make, and, knowing that meatloaf is generally a more calorically dense kind of meal, something that would be what I considered worth it. 2 slices of this bad boy is 390 calories, but the slices are generous, and there’s absolutely no reason (except for how good it tastes) that you couldn’t have 1 slice and fill up on veggies. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. Bonus to this – more leftovers! Like most of its ilk, this is possibly even  better the next day.

It didn’t take too long. I had to sift through a gazillion recipes, because everybody has their own spin on this classic, but once I saw this on Taste (yes, again! I have so many wonderful cookbooks, but I do love this website for midweek meals!), I knew this was The One. Promises of sweet, jammy onions, a cheesy crust, and mustardy meat suckered me right in. I adore the sum of its parts, and the whole is even better. It just… works. And, the house smells amazing while it’s cooking away. For such a easily cooked meal, the results are spectacular!

Serves 6, generously

Ingredients

3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

2tbs milk                                                                                                                                                                                              4 brown onions                                                                                                                                                                                          1kg beef mince (resist the urge to go lean for this, it just falls apart!)

35g sachet salt-reduced French onion soup mix

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tsp olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
50g gruyere cheese, grated
Gravy, to serve (optional)
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line base and sides of a large loaf tin with baking paper, allowing for some overhang.
  2. Grate one of the onions (or stick it in the food processor). Combine it with mince, breadcrumbs, milk, soup mix, garlic, mustard, egg and parsley in a large bowl. Season with pepper (you really don’t need more salt). Mix well to combine.
  3. Press mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula to make sure it is compact and level. Bake for 1 hour, until meatloaf is firm and juices run clear.
  4. When the meatloaf has been in the oven for 40 minutes, thinly slice remaining onions. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion is caramelised.
  5. Remove meatloaf from oven. Carefully drain excess pan juices, and lift the meatloaf out of the tin using the baking paper, transferring onto a baking tray. Trim paper so it doesn’t stick up – you want the edges to brown a little more in the last cooking. If the baking paper won’t support the weight of this step,  just carefully turn meatloaf, top-side up, onto a baking paper-lined baking tray.
  6. Top meatloaf with cheese and caramelised onion. Bake for a further 15 minutes or until cheese has melted. Stand for 5 minutes. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy, mashed potato and vegetables.
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Bulgogi Beef Bowl

Okay, kids, confession time. There is very little about this dish that is authentic. Well, it does have beef, so I guess that’s a start…

But you know what? It might take 15 minutes to cook, call microwavable rice, and be as far from authentic Korean as humanly possible, but nobody complained tonight about that. In fact, things almost came to blows when it came to calling dibs on leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

It’s stupidly simple, but more importantly, it’s just really, really tasty. The meat is sweet and warming, the veggies are crunchy and delicious, the rice offers a carby hug that reaches your soul, and the chilli gives everything a nice kick. Of course, the chilli is entirely optional, but it gives a balance that I personally wouldn’t want to mess with. At less than 400 calories a serve, it’s a great comfort meal without going nuts. It’s full of veggies and good stuff, and you absolutely can omit the brown rice if you so desire (although, happiness for me is knowing that I don’t have to anymore!) without sacrificing the flavour.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 tbs olive oil

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

200g mushrooms, sliced

2tsp minced ginger

1tsp minced garlic

500g lean beef mince

2tbs honey

3tbs soy sauce

2tbs rice wine vinegar

1/4 green cabbage, shredded

1/4 red cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, grated

150g snow peas, thinly sliced

250g microwave brown rice (or 250g cooked brown rice, of course. But the instant rice  is just too convenient for me to ignore for a recipe as quick and easy as this!)

1 small, thinly sliced chilli, to serve

1 spring onion (shallot), thinly sliced, to serve.

Method

  1. Heat oil in a frypan over low-medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened.
  2. Add garlic, ginger and mince to pan and brown for 5 minutes, stirring often to break up meat and cook evenly.
  3. Stir in honey, soy and vinegar. Reduce heat to low, and cover.
  4. In a clean frypan, sauté cabbage, carrots and snow peas for 2 minutes, until starting to wilt but not completely soft.
  5. Meanwhile, cook rice according to packet directions (begin cooking raw rice at the very start of this recipe if not using microwave rice).
  6. Divide rice into bowls. Top with meat and vegetables, and garnish with chilli and spring onions.

 

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Miso Barley Soup

I’m sure I’ve waxed lyrical plenty of times about how much I love soup, but oh my God, I LOVE soup. Scrap that – I love hearty, warming, sticks-to-your-ribs soup. You’re extremely unlikely to catch me with a thin, watery cup of powdered soup anywhere near my lips, but if I could swim in a thick homemade soup, I would happily dive in.

I also have this weird obsession with pearl barley. Is it weird to have a favourite grain? It’s chewy, tasty, filling, low calorie, healthy and lends a sense of nostalgia that makes absolutely no sense, seeing as though I don’t remember ever eating it as a child. I guess it’s just comforting.

This miso barley soup combines three of my very favourite foods. And while it takes a while to cook, the most labour intensive part of it is chopping the vegetables. It’s a forgiving, undemanding recipe that’s perfect for those cold winter nights where you have plenty of time, but don’t want to spend it slaving over the stove.

I was a little shy about this recipe, although I have no idea why. So, I made chicken to go with it. I’m usually of the opinion that soup is a meal unto itself, but there was something holding me back. Perhaps concern that my family would find it unfilling, or bland? Neither was the case, however, a couple of honey soy roasted chicken drumsticks absolutely lifted this soup to a whole new level. Eaten separately, or thrown into the soup – either ways works a complete treat. Sans chicken, the soup is a diet-friendly 246 calories, and assuming that you’re using regular chicken legs and those of not some mutant giant bird, you can allow for about 103 calories per drumstick.

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

3 celery sticks, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 brown onion, diced

3tsp minced garlic

1tbs minced ginger

1/2 cup pearl barley

5 cups water

2tbs white miso paste

400g edamame beans, podded

2tsp soy sauce

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy based saucepan (a cast iron pot is perfect!) over low heat. Add diced vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened and onions are sweating.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, and stir for 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Mix in barley. Add water and miso paste, and stir well to combine paste.
  4. Increase heat to high  to bring to the boil. Reduce to medium low, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent grains from sticking to the bottom.
  5. Add edamame and soy sauce, cover, and cook for a further 8 minutes.

 

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Chicken and Vegetable Pesto Pasta

I’m sure we all have that weeknight that we dread because we’re expected to be in 4 places at once, and behave like fully functional adults in the process. For me, that’s Thursdays (I never could get the hang of Thursdays…). It’s my afternoon meeting day at work, from which I rush to get Miss 7 to her sport training, from which I rush to get the kids to any one of three relatives’ homes (yep, I’m blessed) and then rush myself to roller derby training. I leave work at 4 and get home just after 9.

This recipe is made for days like these. Not only is it super quick if you can squeeze dinner into your afternoon, it is also amazing if you make it the day before, stick it in some Tupperware and offer it as a bribe for those kind enough to watch your offspring while you repeatedly push into people and fall to the ground (sometimes on purpose!) while wearing roller skates.

Now, neither carby spaghetti nor oily pesto are the poster children for weightloss and healthy eating, but there is no overemphasising how little that has stopped me from cooking this dish. I’ve eaten this at least once a month for the past 10 months, and lost the equivalent of both my children. For me (and I speak for me alone, your experiences are totally valid, too!), I refuse to cut out any one particular food group, or deprive myself, because that’s when I start to feel I’m losing control and missing out, so I concentrate on portion control and balancing it out with the rest of the day’s food choices. A serve will set you back 447 calories (with parmesan cheese, because cheese is life), but it will keep you going through a hectic training session and into the next morning. Besides, during Winter, it’s like a warm hug. Total comfort food, but very nutritious, too. Win win!

Serves 4

Ingredients

250 gram spaghetti (wholemeal works fantastically here)

2-3 second spray olive oil

500g chicken thigh fillet, cubed

2tsp minced garlic

200g mushrooms, sliced

190g pesto (store bought, definitely! This is a time-saving recipe!)

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium zucchini, diced

Parmesan cheese, to serve

Pepper, to serve

 

Method

  1. Cook spaghetti in boiling water to packet instructions, until al dente. Drain pasta.   
  2. Meanwhile, spray large fry pan with oil. Heat pan over medium heat, and add garlic, mushrooms and chicken. Stir, increase heat and cook for 4-5 minutes until mushrooms are golden and chicken has browned all over.
  3. Add pesto, cover pan and adjust heat to low. Swirl a tablespoon of water in the jar to loosen any pesto, and add to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until chicken is mostly cooked through.
  4. Add tomatoes and zucchini pan, cover again, and cook for 3 minutes or until vegetables have softened.
  5. Add spaghetti and toss gently to combine. Serve into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and pepper.
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Brussels Sprout Salad

Miss 7 is a strange child, in that she – who is the least adventurous eater in our family – has a weird obsession with Brussels sprouts. Hubby and I are more than happy to cook and eat them (as long as they’re sauteed not boiled, because boiled sprouts are sad and awful), but poor Master 10 is a lot less enthusiastic about them.

As such I went on a quest to find fun ways to serve this poor, misunderstood vegetable, and as always, Taste.com.au came to the rescue – this time, with this awesome salad.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t love when salads (or anything, really) are drowning with oil. I appreciate the health benefits of a good quality virgin olive oil, but I still don’t love the taste or texture of super oily food. And the husband doesn’t like couscous, so as always, I’ve changed things to meet my family’s needs and preferences, and urge you to do the same (so, add the extra oil if you desire). Recipes should be guidelines, not gospel. Unless we’re baking. Then, I’m too scared to stray too far!

As the recipe on this blog stands, you end up with a very generous side dish for 72 calories. I like to serve it with a dice barbecued or grilled meat (such as the pictured honey mustard lamb) and some steamed potatoes for a simple dinner, but a serve of the salad mixed with a tin of tuna makes for an incredibly healthy and yummy lunch on a busy work day, too. It should keep in an air tight container until at least the next day – I’ve never had any left over past that!

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

1/2 cup boiling water

1tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup fresh mint, chopped

200g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 Lebanese cucumber, finely diced

2tbs lemon juice

Method

  1. Place wheat in a heatproof bowl. Add boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes. Liquid will have been completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork to separate grains and allow to cool completely.
  2. Combine wheat, herbs, Brussels sprouts, tomato and cucumber in a large bowl.
  3. Combine lemon juice and oil and evenly pour over salad. Mix well and serve.
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Mustardy Chicken with Roast Vegetable Salad

I love salad. Perhaps even more than soup. Maybe. Perhaps it’s equal. Either way, it’s a lot.

Salads generally gets me through the hot, disgusting Sydney summers, and then when it turns bitterly cold, I invariably feel a sense of loss. And then I realised the glory that is a warm salad!

Like most of it’s ilk, this recipe is extremely versatile and forgiving – it’s really just roasted veggies and some chicken. But tossed together with the right dressing, it is so much more. It’s complex, and warming, and filling, and makes you feel a little smug because look how healthy it is!

It’s barely adapted from Taste, but the addition of cauliflower was due to having less broccoli than I thought, and was a more than welcome addition to the mix. I also use a lot less oil than the original, because I don’t enjoy the taste of food that is drowning in oil – even the healthy, high quality oils.

Ingredients

500g chicken tenderloin, breast or thigh (I used a bit of breast and thigh)

2tbsp olive oil

1tsp mince garlic

1tsp dried basil

500g sweet potato, cubed

200g  broccoli, cut into large florets

200g califlower, cut into large florets

200g mushrooms, sliced

1 quarter red cabbage

1tbs red wine vinegar

1tsp brown sugar

1tbs wholegrain mustard

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Slice chicken into tenderloin-sized strips, if using breast or thigh. Combine 1/2tbs oil, garlic and basil and rub over chicken. Cover and set for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine broccoli, caulifower and sweet potato with 1tbs oil. Arrange on a baking tray in a single layer, and roast for 25 minutes on the bottom level of oven.
  4. Heat frypan over medium high heat, and cook chicken for 10 minutes, turning every few minutes. Remove from pan and cover with aluminium foil to rest.
  5. In the same pan, add cabbage and mushrooms. Combine well and cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, until mushrooms have softened.
  6. In a small jug, combine remaining oil, vinegar, sugar and mustard.
  7. Combine chicken and vegetables in a salad bowl. Pour over dressing and toss to combine.

 

 

 

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Risoni Meatball Soup

So, I mentioned in the last post that there are some days where I just can’t be bothered. Well, I’m having a week of it. Everything seems a chore, and I’m just exhausted. More mentally than physically, but it definitely has an impact on how much I want to do when I get home from work.

In the olden days – when I was 46 kilos heavier and infinitely more depressed – it’d mean a week of takeout and excuses. I’m not above the odd takeout these days, but I’m certainly more judicious about it, in terms of both quality and frequency, so having an arsenal of Can’t Be eFfed meals is important.

Which is where this rockstar of a soup shines. It’s so easy, so quick, so tasty, and so filling. At 381 calories (for a smaller serving, but it’s more than enough), it’s pretty low-cal, too. All boxes for a good dinner ticked! And call me crazy, but there’s something cathartic about rolling meatballs with music blaring the stresses of the day away.

You know what, also? As great as this is at the end of a long, crappy day, it’s also a fantastic way to celebrate a good day or lift a neutral day into good day territory.

Adapted from the Taste website, as so many of my day-to-day recipes are.

 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

500g lean mince

1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1tsp minced garlic

700ml passata

4 cups good quality chicken stock

1/2 cup risoni pasta

1tbs olive oil

1 large zucchini, diced

1tsp parsley

1tsp basil

parmesan cheese, extra, to serve

Method

  1. Combine mince, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and egg. Roll teaspoons of the mixture into tight meatballs, cover and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Bring stock and passata to the boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat slightly. Add herbs and risoni, and stir frequently to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frypan. When hot, add meatballs, turning frequently to cook evenly.
  4. When cooked through, gently add meatballs and zucchini to soup. Cook, still stirring, for two minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with extra parmesan.

 

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