Meatloaf makes me happy.
It’s comforting and delicious, with no pretention. It’s usually not on the menu at fancy restaurants or dinner parties. Nobody makes a fuss over meatloaf and yet it still stands up confidently and makes no apologies. Ground beef and onions and breadcrumbs and spices mixed together with your hands and covered in ketchup. It’s loved and cherished any way you like it and will be eaten forever and ever, amen.
Oh, and don’t forget the added bonus of cold meatloaf sandwiches the next day.
My mom made an all-beef meatloaf when we were kids and it was always really good. Moist and tasty with chunks of onions in it and covered in ketchup. I have made meatloaf a million different ways. Beef, turkey, 1/2 beef 1/2 turkey, I’ve added bbq sauce, ketchup and hot sauce, canned tomatoes, eggs, onions, peppers, parsley, thyme, garlic. I’ve used canned bread crumbs, fresh bread crumbs, chunks of bread (sometimes soaked in milk, sometimes not).
Most of my meatloaves (is that the correct spelling?) have been pretty good, some have been average and others dry and not very good.
My friend Allyson at work gave me this recipe (actually she recently left our company which makes me sad, but happy for her). It’s Katie Joel’s recipe, as in, Billy’s wife and doesn’t that make it fun in a strange way? Allyson said it was the tastiest meatloaf ever, so of course I had to try it, and she was right! It was absolutely one of the best meatloaves I’ve ever made.
I was about to write the best meatloaf I’ve ever made, but Hadley is reading over my shoulder as I type and asked me to change it to one of the best because she said that she likes mine better. Aw, shucks….but I’m actually wondering which version of mine she means.
I loved it. This meatloaf was so juicy and the flavor was delicious. And it’s all turkey, too! I think Katie Joel’s original recipe calls for beef, so you can swap the turkey for beef if you’d like, but the turkey is really excellent.
My mom always made mashed potatoes and peas with meatloaf. The peas were canned and mixed with sautéed sliced onions.
When we were little, my Dad, my brother and I used to pile our peas up on top of our mashed potatoes and then mix it up into a mashed potato/pea combo. It seems odd, but it’s really good. My mom isn’t a mashed potato or a pea fan so she skipped this, but I am happy to say that my brother and I still do it and have passed this on to our kids. Hadley requests mashed potatoes with peas whenever we make meatloaf and for some reason this makes me really happy. Probably because it makes me think of my Dad.
She just now told me to make sure I give you the recipe for the peas. So here it is friends: slice 1/2 an onion, sauté it in some oil and throw in a can of peas. :)
Here is another thing that has been making me really happy. Our fun new pool!
Hadley and her friends have been swimming, splashing, making waves and whirlpools non-stop. Who knew a Target pool could bring so much happiness to a backyard. And this week we are roasting in Chicago, so it’s been pretty perfect. 100º here today, not even kidding.
I don’t know if it’s all the sun and nice (sorta) weather or what, but everyone just seems to be in a happy place. I love it.
Recently, I was driving past a church and saw an elderly man standing on the side of the road. Maybe he was a preacher, I’m not sure. He was smiling and waving at every car that passed by. My first thought was: crazy person. (More from the peanut gallery reading over my shoulder….”Mom, that is so mean to say you thought he was crazy!”).
Sorry, but that really was my first thought.
Then it was my turn to pass him and he looked me right in the eye and held eye contact, smiling and waving until I passed. Now, I’m going to sound like the crazy person, but I felt like he was really smiling and waving at me, as if he knew me and I mattered. He was offering up a little piece of unconditional love as a gift, and it made me feel really good! I thought about it that whole day and I’m still thinking about it now. A smile and a wave for no reason, and it really affected me in a positive, happy way.
Also recently, my next-door neighbors Bill and Christy were grilling dinner out back and over the backyard fence they asked me to join them. They were grilling shrimp, vegetables and rib eyes. YUM. I declined because I had spent the day at the beach, and my post-beach, sweaty and sand-covered self really could not in good faith crash their beautiful Sunday dinner al fresco, even though the food smelled amazing from my yard.
I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed a bowl of pistachios and was about to call this dinner, when Christy walked over and handed me a plate of food over the fence. How sweet! This little plate of food was delicious and their kindness and thoughtfulness made me really happy.
So I was thinking about this the other day while I was walking my dog. How tiny gestures can really matter. I have a route that takes us exactly one hour to complete if we walk at a fast pace, and I decided I’d try and smile at every person I saw just to see what would happen. I wanted to make someone smile, the way my neighbors and the preacher made me smile.
The first person I saw was a Comcast worker standing at the back of his open van. We made eye contact and I gave him a big smile. It was 6:30pm on a beautiful Sunday and he was still working. He glared back at me, no smile from him.
Oh well, I was going to keep trying.
I headed down my favorite street, a big boulevard with old houses and admired the beautifully landscaped yards while Cody happily went after every bird and rabbit he could find.
Next I made eye contact with a guy in the passenger seat of a car passing by. I smiled and I could tell it took him by surprise. He gave me sort of a 1/2 smile that he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to give. OK, not bad.
Then I came across a 12-13 year old girl who was walking right towards me on the sidewalk with her head down. She was so busy texting that she didn’t even look up at the big smile on my face I had waiting for her.
Then came the elderly woman walking her Dachshund. She was already smiling at me from a mile away so that doesn’t count. I love that about older people. They smile. They get it.
I didn’t smile back.
Hahahaha, kidding! Of course I did and she smiled even bigger in return. (“That was so mean, mom!!!” she says over my shoulder as she cracks up.)
Next there was the 40-something guy sitting out on his lawn fixing something who was super cute and staring at me but for some reason it was really hard for me to smile at a good looking guy. Why is that? I looked down and picked up my pace. Dang, I could have had a date!
Next I saw a teenage boy sitting on the steps of a church looking sad. I thought to myself, is he lonely, frustrated, and looking for someone to love him? I made eye contact and gave him a really big smile. He looked confused at first and then he really really smiled back.
That’s what I was looking for! :)
We kept smiling at each other until I passed him. He was probably just resting on the church steps while training for the track team before he goes home to his big, happy family. But, that one smile at him might have made a difference to him somehow, like the preacher’s did with me. I hope so.
OK, enough with the lovey-dovey-mushy-gushy. But this stuff actually does relate to my meatloaf because that is how it makes me feel. It’s a big happy hug.
So Allyson gave me a little tip before I made this. The recipe makes 2 lbs. of meatloaf, which I know sounds like a lot, but trust me you’ll want the leftovers. When you form the meat into a loaf, you should press it down a bit and make a longer, thinner meatloaf. If it’s a thick high one, it may come out dry. (Sorry about yours, Brad!)
Also, another thing that I think is key to making a good meatloaf is that you sauté the veggies first.
You want that browned flavor. Don’t throw them in raw, it’s just not as good.
I added a bay leaf to the peppers and onions while they cooked, which always adds great flavor to anything, and then took it out before mixing it all up with the meat.
I noticed that the recipe only calls for ¾ cup of breadcrumbs. With 2 pounds of meat, that seemed like not enough to me, fewer breadcrumbs than I’d usually use, but I think it really helped. It was really juicy! Maybe that’s another secret to good meatloaf, not a lot of breadcrumbs. I used fresh breadcrumbs that I ground up from day-old French bread, but I’m sure store-bought would be fine, too.
And you add a little bit of Worcestershire sauce too, which I typically do not use in meatloaf, but it must have added to its tastiness.
This meatloaf was so good that Hadley and I literally ate 1 pound all by ourselves the first night. I froze the other ½ and pulled it out last week when my mom was in town. Just as good! My mom said she really really liked it.
It was everything a meatloaf should be. Juicy, moist and tasty with a zing and a kick and it feels like a great big hug.
You could cut the recipe in 1/2 and make just a pound if you wanted to. But I would follow the 2-pound recipe and freeze the other 1/2 if you don’t eat it. You will love it two weeks later when it tastes just as good and all you have to do is thaw and reheat it. And don’t forget about the cold meatloaf sandwiches!
Thanks for this, Allyson. I’ll think of you every time I make meatloaf and I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about that. :) We miss you.
Tasty Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from Katie Joel’s recipe, via Allyson Kearns
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, diced (about ¾ cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium red pepper, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 pounds ground turkey
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup breadcrumbs, made fresh if you can
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub lightly with olive oil.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and bay leaf until the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until it’s tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and thyme and cook another 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool.
Discard the bay leaf.
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, breadcrumbs, ½ the ketchup, the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and cooled vegetables. Use your hands and mix everything together. Transfer the mixture to the center of the baking sheet and form into a loaf. (Press down and make it long and thin). Coat the meatloaf with the remaining ketchup.
Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours (mine took 1½) until the meatloaf is firm. Let set for about 5 minutes before slicing.
Serve with mashed potatoes and peas if you want to make me really happy.