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

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prosciutto, pear, and goat cheese pizza with arugula and wild blackberry honey

In the one short month since I began blogging about what I’m cooking, the way I cook and eat has already changed. Rather than cooking my usual fare and then writing about it, I’m thinking about what would make a good blog post, what would make a pretty photograph, and then cooking it.

Last Friday, I had a quiet evening in by myself. I was planning to heat up the last of the pasta e fagioli for dinner (and eat it on the couch directly from the plastic container), when I remembered that leftover pizza dough in the freezer from the fried parmesan croutons.

I went a little wild. I decided to make a nice, pretty pizza with rather extravagant toppings. Just for me. I know!

I had a travel-size bottle of the world’s most delicious wild blackberry honey to drizzle on top. Mom brought it back for me when she was visiting my brother and his family in Seattle last summer, and I’d been saving it in the pantry for something special. I ran to Rainbow and picked up a bosc pear, a few slices of prosciutto (yeah, you can buy prosciutto by the slice at the deli counter–don’t judge), arugula, and goat cheese.

And I made myself a perfectly lovely little pizza, that I ate at the dining room table, using my nice dishes, wearing pants. OK, sweatpants. But still!

It felt a little funny to prepare such a nice little pizza when I had no company to share it with, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Jenni Ferrari-Adler summed it up perfectly in her intro to Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant:

A good meal is like a present, and it can feel goofy, at best, to give yourself a present. On the other hand, there is something life affirming in taking the trouble to feed yourself well, or even decently. Cooking for yourself allows you to be strange or decadent or both. The chances of you liking what you made are high, but if it winds up being disgusting, you can always throw it away and order a pizza; no one will ever know.

Recipe below the fold

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Pasta e Fagioli

Bacon is my favorite color.

pasta e fagioli

If not for the bacon – the heroic bacon – this would be an entirely beige bowl of soup.

Bacon

I made this soup on one of the first cool, crisp days of the fall, and it was just what I needed: a little spicy, comforting, and oh-my-god-is-it-payday-yet cheap. The priciest ingredient used is the bacon, but with only three slices of bacon for 5-6 servings, it’s still a bargain. The bacon (yeah, I’m still talking about bacon) adds a smoky and savory depth to an otherwise plain soup.

Beans

But the hardworking protein source in this hearty soup is the creamy (and cheap!) cannellini beans. I absolutely love cannellini beans. They’re so smooth – they’re like bean-flavored butter.

The ridged macaroni fills out this soup perfectly. I made a big pot of pasta e fagioli on Sunday afternoon for my lunch the following week. I cooked all the pasta right away, but stored it in the fridge tossed with a tiny bit of olive oil separately from the rest of the soup, to keep it firm. Each morning I ladled out some soup into a plastic container and topped it with a handful of pasta. The texture of the soup and the pasta remained perfectly intact.

Recipe below the fold.

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