meatloaf variations for the spinster aunt

I’m a spinster aunt, so I do a lot of cooking for one. I’ll make a big dish of something on Sunday afternoons, and bring it for lunch every day for the coming week. It’s convenient, cheap, and generally pretty healthy, but lately I’ve found myself stifled creatively by this arrangement. If I make something with a very distinct flavor, say rosemary, then by Wednesday I never want to eat rosemary again. So I end up using inoffensive, nondescript flavors that I know won’t grate on me in a couple days.

I am in a cooking rut.

There were no pretty pictures of the meatloaf.

So in an effort to avoid a mid-week lunch mutiny (i.e. trip to Subway for a turkey sammich), I decided to make three different varieties of meatloaf this week, and bake them up as adorable meatloaf cupcakes.

The timing is perfect, really. The heat just kicked on in my apartment building this week, which can only mean one thing: it’s gravy season! The heater sounds like it’s trying to reach me via Morse code through the entire night, so I’ve been in a grumpy, sleep-deprived mood for days that only the gravy can soothe.

I would’ve liked to have used a sautéed onion, but I didn’t have any. So I took my original recipe and added onion powder and olive oil.

Day One I ate the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger loaf. It tasted just like a BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, without the bun. It’s moist, gooey, sweet, smoky, and salty.

I ate the Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese loaf on Day Two, and it didn’t fare quite as well as leftovers. The flavors were fantastic, but the texture was not as great as it was the night before. It was drier, and a little crumbly.

On Day Three, I tried the Honey Chipotle loaf. I wanted to avoid the leftover texture issues I experienced the day before, so I cut the microwave reheating time in half. That absolutely solved the problem. While Day Three meatloaf was not quite as succulent as fresh-out-of-the-oven meatloaf, it was far better than the Day Two microwaved-into-submission meatloaf.

The Honey Chipotle meatloaf had other issues, though. I was concerned that it would be too spicy, too smoky, or too sweet, so I only used 1/2 teaspoon each of the honey and chipotle sauce. The chipotle left the tiniest sensation of heat in my mouth, but was otherwise undetectable. There was no sweetness at all. Next time I make this recipe, I will double both the honey and the chipotle. I might also add a tablespoon of chopped cilantro for a little freshness.

Recipe below the fold

Meatloaf Variations
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs (I used wheat bread)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey

(ingredients for stir-ins are listed below)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray

Stir together the bread crumbs, garlic, eggs, milk, onion powder, olive oil, and salt. Divide the mixture into 3 equal parts.

For Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Meatloaf, add the following to 1/3 of the mixture:
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese

For BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf, add the following to 1/3 of the mixture:
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1/3 cup cheddar cheese
3 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces and fried

For Chipotle Meatloaf, add the following to 1/3 of the mixture:
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey

Divide the ground turkey into three equal parts, and add 1 part to each of the three mixtures. Gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat.

Divide each of the three different meat mixtures in half. Carefully pack the meat mixture into six of the prepared muffin pan cups and bake until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

I served the meatloaf with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and made a simple gravy from chicken drippings I had stashed in my freezer.

Linked to: Talking Dollars and Cents
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