September 03, 2021
Earlier in the week Melissa had asked me to make my meatloaf. After she asked it became so hot outside that she did not want me to heat up the house by turning on the oven for an hour. While it finally cooled down last night, this was our usual date night and Melissa wanted to go out instead. That was when we hit our dilemma, where to go. The covid rates have skyrocketed now that the children have gone back to school (nearly 8,000 cases in the state’s schools, along with closures) and this meant our choice had to be both what we wanted to eat, and in a location where we could safely dine. After struggling for an hour to find a solution that met both criteria we gave up and opted for meatloaf.
Melissa knows I do not use recipes and am willing to try to make nearly anything, so she asked if we could put other things in the loaf, like perhaps corn. I got a funny look on my face as I thought about it and that prompted her to say, “Never mind, I just wanted something different.” Rather than different, what I heard was fancy. I went online to find a fancy way to make meatloaf and hit on an Italian stuffed meatloaf. The recipe centered around combining hamburger and sausage (which I always do) and then stuffing the mixture with vegetables. It also spoke of coating the loaf with flour along with other steps that would transform the dish from the “dry bland traditional serving” to an exquisite meal. While it sounded interesting, if they were making dry meatloaf, they were doing it wrong in the first place.
Rather than follow the recipe, I improvised and made my own stuffed meatloaf (surprised?). I chopped up a priscilla pepper we had been given by our gardener friend and added an orange pepper from my garden. I combined these with chopped carrots and black olives and blanched the mixture for five minutes to soften. I made my usual meatloaf mixture with a pound of hamburger and upped the sausage to a pound. Then I crushed half a sleeve of crackers, two eggs, and chopped half an onion, and mixed them together. I laid out half the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan, then added the vegetables, feta cheese, and Italian spices. The other half of the meat mixture formed the top as I shaped it into a loaf. I popped it into the oven at 375F for 40 minutes, then covered the top with marinara for another five. It was different (Melissa), fancy (me), and really tasted good.
Thoughts: While we usually have baked potatoes and corn with meatloaf, that did not seem right for my stuffed loaf. The loaf already had veggies and baked potatoes did not seem fancy enough. I did have a bag of new potatoes that I had been trying to figure what to do with. I quartered and spread them alongside the loaf, spritzed them with olive oil and dashed on dried parsley. In the end this became a meal that satisfied all the criteria we had set; the loaf was different, fancy, good, and safe. While it is at times hard to meet all the goals we set, it is satisfying when we do. Like my Italian loaf, we need to be willing to adjust and even improvise. That is also true with facing the pandemic. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.