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Dining in the Dorms: Pizza Meatloaf

Pizza Meatloaf

Every kid when they hear that they are having a dinner of meatloaf instantly starts to stock up the sweets in order to cope with not eating much of their dinner that evening. Of course someone is not going to like meatloaf. I mean when you look at the name alone who is going to eat that? First off it is meat, in the shape of bread, and it is a super mushy blob when it finally gets to the table. But I guess after twenty years of enduring the best (mom’s home cooked meatloaf) and the worst (Marbeck lunch meatloaf) I have finally come up with what has to be my best dish ever. Pizza Meatloaf. What is required for this easy to make and delicious twist on the traditional meatloaf is as follows (and sorry for everything being in grams, I am currently studying in Northern Ireland…):

500g of Mince Meat 1 pound 64 pence ($2.46)
Grated Mozzarella 1 pound 80 pence ($2.70)
Pizza Sauce 1 pound 4 pence ($1.56)
1 small pack of Pepperoni 1 pound 60 pence ($2.40)
200g bread crumbs 69 pence for loaf of bread ($1.03)
1 egg 40 pence ($0.60)
1 pie pan

Ok so now that we have everything we need here comes the best part of making meatloaf. Put all 500 grams of the meat into a mixing bowl along with the 200 grams of bread crumbs, your egg, 100g of nicely chopped pepperoni, about 2 handfuls of grated cheese and 2 spoonfuls of pizza sauce. As you can tell I like to cook very precisely and use the most accurate measurements possible. After piling all this goodness into your mixing bowl mix it together until it started to become one big ball of mess. The best way to mix this is with your hands. It does not feel very good between your fingers but it tastes great later. Form this mash into the pie pan roughly into the shape of what crust on a pie might look like. This does not need to be perfect as depending on what fat content your meat is the whole thing will shrink a bit. Put this into the oven on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the meat is browned. After this you take the pan out and drain any of the fat that has liquidized in the bottom of the pan. Then spread pizza sauce on the top of the meatloaf crust and put toppings and cheese to your liking. Put this back in the oven until the cheese on the top has melted. Cut and enjoy.

I have found that the better quality meat you use makes a huge difference in the overall taste of the pizza meatloaf plus this will cut down on the shrinking of the overall pizza meatloaf. This also will feed about 4 people (or two college males). The nice thing about this is that it is cheap($2.54/person) , easy to make, and only takes about half an hour to do which are all necessary for it to be considered a successful college meal.


Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs

Basil & garlic added to the sauce.

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

It’s more than officially Fall in Bluffton. So much so, in fact, that I’m already getting tired of eating soups. After a couple of weeks of getting roped into staying late at work and then eating nothing but crackers for dinner, I decided it was high time to make some real [non-soup] food.

This summer, we accumulated more spaghetti squash than I have eaten in my entire life (probably because I have never previously eaten spaghetti squash). Around the time that I was scratching my head trying to figure out what to do with it, I came across a recipe for spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs in the October 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living. The recipe was tasty and fairly easy to prep: I cut the squash in half and threw it in the oven for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I made the turkey meatballs (which were uncomplicated) and a sauce which consisted of broth, spinach, and some other tasty nom noms.

Meatballs pre-smooshing

Now, I don’t have anything against that version of spaghetti and meatballs, but I’ve had a hankering for marinara sauce, so I decided to modify the recipe from its original form. Whilst searching for the recipe on the Martha Stewart website, I found this variation from MSL in September 1996. The meatballs (still turkey) weren’t quite as simple as the ones I had done before – I didn’t want to mess around with milk and eggs. However, it gave me a starting point for the sauce. I combined the two recipes and made some modifications:

For the spaghetti squash:
2-4 pounds of spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and with seeds removed
sea salt

For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful of torn basil leaves (+ more if you really like basil)
1 quart jar of tomato puree (or equivalent)
1 can diced tomatoes (I used the kind with basil, oregano, and garlic)
2 bell peppers [See my note below]

For the meatballs:
1.5 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. breadcrumbs (I smashed up crackers instead)
1 onion, diced and cooked 8-10 minutes with some olive oil with garlic)

Start by dealing with the spaghetti squash to get it out of the way while you work on the meatballs and sauce. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the cut squash with some salt and place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes.

First batch of meatballs.

Next, get the sauce going by putting the quart of home-canned tomato puree, store-bought diced tomatoes, and bell peppers in the blender. Pour this blend into a pot and add the basil and minced garlic. Be generous here! Add dried or fresh oregano and/or rosemary as well. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is thickening, smoosh all of the meatball ingredients together to make about 25 1.5 inch meatballs. Cook the meatballs in two batches over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Turn them a lot and cook them for 6-7 minutes.

My squash was done at approximately this point. I had learned from my earlier experience with spaghetti squash that it’s really annoying (and ouchie!) to scrape out the insides while the squash is super-hot. So, I added the meatballs to the tomato sauce while the squash was cooling. Note: the meatballs won’t be thoroughly cooked during the 6-7 minutes, so they need to cook for a minimum of 10 minutes with the sauce.
I let my sauce cook for another 20 minutes or so with the meatballs to thicken.

Meatballs in the sauce

We ate what we wanted, and then froze the rest in individual portions for lunches. Yummy!

Getting the spaghetti out of the squash.

My note about the bell peppers: We also had a TON of bell peppers from our garden this summer. Ray Person (farmer and Bluffton local) gave me this suggestion for preserving the peppers: wash gently and cut into fourths(ish). Remove the stem and the most obtrusive “ribs” from the peppers. Really, handle them as little as possible. Put the peppers into freezer bags.
Side note: if you’ve ever eaten frozen peppers, you know that they are watery and disgusting – hence, I puree them and put them in unsuspecting sauces.

Finished product.

Dinner Chowder

Chopped veggies!

I’m a sucker for cream soups. I know they are not very healthy, but I long for creamy, cheesy goodness, especially in the winter. I don’t know where this recipe for Dinner Chowder came from originally but my mother got it from a friend of hers when I was a child. I love the unique addition of tomato juice or tomatoes to an ordinary cheesy potato soup. I probably would like the canned tomatoes best, but my dear husband won’t touch anything that looks like tomato, so I usually use juice.
This is by far my favorite potato soup recipe.

Dinner Chowder

2 cups raw potatoes, diced
¾ cup chopped onions
½ cup diced celery
2 tsp salt (you can half this, or mostly leave it out if you want. I forgot to add it this time and just sprinkled some salt in halfway through cooking. It didn’t make a huge difference)
2 ½ cups boiling water
4 Tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp pepper
½ Tbsp dry mustard
1 ½ Tbsp ketchup
2 cups milk
1 cup to ½ lbs sharp cheddar or Velveeta
1 cup canned tomatoes or tomato juice
1 Tbsp parsley

Chop up all the veggies. My mother peeled the potatoes, but I don’t because I’m lazy and I think it makes the soup just tiny bit more healthy. Put the veggies and salt, if you want it, in a 3qt sauce pan. Pour the boiling water over them. I don’t know for sure why the water needs to be boiling to start, but I always follow the recipe. Bring to boil and cook the veggies until tender.

Soup's on the stove

Meanwhile, melt the butter in another pan and make a roux with the flour, pepper and dry mustard. When the butter is melted, whisk in the roux and add the ketchup. Then slowly pour in the milk and stir it while it thickens. I let it get pretty thick because you’re going to be adding it to the vegetables and then also added tomato juice to it. And I love really thick cream soups. Anyway, once it’s as thick as you’d like, melt the cheese into it.

When the veggies are cooked add the cheese sauce to the veggies, then stir in the tomatoes or juice and the parsley.

This is a really hearty soup so you don’t need much else with it, except maybe a salad. Enjoy!

A beautiful soup

Roasted Red Pepper and Curried Carrot Soup

Calling all ingredients!

For me, Sundays are a soup-makin’ kind of day. I usually have odds and ends left in cupboard and I want to make something that’s going to leave enough leftovers for a least one lunch the next day (because you know I’m not cooking on Monday). This week I went with Roasted Red Pepper and Curried Carrot Soup. It’s a rich and brightly colored soup with just a touch of sweetness and is packed with vitamin-rich veggies (especially A, C and B6 to boost your immune system) but only takes about 45 minutes from start to spoon. This is my modified version of a red pepper soup published a few years back in Vegetarian Times magazine.

2 red bell peppers
2-3 medium sized carrots
½ medium-sized sweet onion
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sweet curry
pinches of salt and pepper

Is there any sight more lovely than this?

You’ll need:
Cutting board and knife
Medium saucepan

Preheat oven (I use a toaster oven because our gas oven has some leakage issues, but that’s another story) to 375 degrees. Wash peppers whole and lightly brush with olive oil, then roast in oven for 45 minutes or until skin becomes loose and color of peppers darkens.

While the peppers are roasting, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium saucepan and bring to medium heat. Slice onion and begin cooking in oil over medium heat. Mince garlic and add to onion. Add 1-tablespoon (I add a little more, so season to taste!) of sweet curry powder and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Wrapped peppers.

As the onion and garlic cook, peel and chop the carrots then add to saucepan. Add two cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Boil until carrots are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Cover and let stand on very low heat until peppers are done.

Remove peppers from oven and carefully peel off skin (it helps to place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for a few minutes to loosen the skin) and remove stem and seeds. Slice peppers into ¼-inch strips and place in blender. Add onion-carrot-broth mixture to blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
(makes approx. 3 servings, can be easily halved or doubled)

That's one beautiful soup!

Sorry folks!

Sorry for the late posts everyone! I’m 2 weeks away from the end of the term and all those papers (papers that need to be graded AND written) are starting to be due. Abby and I might have to enlist some help keeping this updated on time (cough cough…Rachael). Sorry for this week’s delay. Enjoy this week’s recipes. They’re SO good.

Fake-out Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

Fake-out Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

These are always a hit with the guys, and are a regular on the menu in our house. These are delicious, easy, and most of all, taste JUST LIKE the REAL thing! Are you a vegetarian?!? No problem! Just replace the flat iron steaks with grilled portobello mushrooms and follow the rest of the recipe…. (YUM!).

Cook Time: 20 minutes
Level: Easy
Yield: 4 servings

Lots 'o meat.

4 flat iron steaks, 3 to 6 ounces each (can use Portobello mushrooms instead to make this dish vegetarian)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for coating, plus 1 tablespoon
Grill seasoning (use your favorite)
2 small cubanelle peppers, (sometimes labeled as Italian mild frying peppers) seeded and thinly sliced
1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup hot pepper rings (sometimes labeled banana pepper rings), drained, NOT pepperoncini, OR sliced yellow or red hot peppers in a jar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup grated provolone cheese
1 loaf ciabatta, about 12 inches long
(Ingredient Notes: If your store doesn’t carry flat iron steaks, you can replace it with flank steak, or skirt steak, or even sirloin steaks. If you can’t find Cubanelle peppers, you can pick up one each red and yellow peppers, instead. The hot pepper rings [banana peppers] are in a jar, NOT the produce section. And, finally, if you don’t care for ciabatta bread, some good hoagie rolls will do the job.)

Oh man...

Leave the steaks on the counter, to take chill off, while the grill or grill pan heats up to medium-high. Coat the steaks with extra-virgin olive oil and grill seasoning. (Your steaks will cook MUCH more evenly if they are at room temperature before you start grilling instead of grilling them straight out of the fridge.)
Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubanelle peppers, the garlic and onions and cook until very tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add a splash of hot pepper juice and the hot pepper rings and remove from the heat.
Heat oven to 250 degrees F.
While the peppers cook, put the steaks on the hot grill and cook 10 minutes for rare, 2 minutes longer for each level of desired doneness, turning once about midway during the cook time. (Hint: Don’t overcook the meat! These are inexpensive cuts of steak and the more you cook them, the tougher they get, I recommend 10 minutes total unless you have very large steaks.) Meanwhile heat up a sauce pot over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Thicken the sauce for a couple of minutes, then reduce the heat to low. gets even better!

When the steaks are cooked to desired doneness, remove them to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. (Letting the meat rest is VERY important, it allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, rather than run all over your cutting board! These extra “restful” 5 minutes, will make ALL the difference for your meat!) Thinly slice on an angle against the grain of the meat. (It is important to always slice against the grain of meat, or else you will end up with a very, very tough, chewy steak.) While the meat rests, warm the bread in the oven. Stir the cheese into sauce.
To serve, cut the bread lengthwise and spread the steak slices evenly across the bottoms of the bread. Top the steak with the cheese sauce and the peppers and onions. Cover with the bread tops and cut the ciabatta into 4 equal portions. Enjoy!

Now THAT'S something to impress folks!

Apple Butter

Apple Butter (Canned)

Every fall the apples down the road from our home turn colors from green to red and I find within my soul an uncontrollable desire to fill my house with yummy apple smells! This year I accomplished this by canning some apple butter. My go-to canning book is the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. Note: Ball also has a great website ( on canning that includes recipes and how-to tips on safe canning procedures.

After purchasing several boxes of apples I spent the afternoon with my trusty apple peeler/corer hand crank machine getting the apples pared down. I find that sitting with knife nearby helps get rid of extra pieces of seeds and core pieces the peeler/corer may miss. I add apples to my stockpot as I break them down.

Once my stockpot is filled I add about an inch of water to the pot, bring it to a boil then let it simmer for “a while.” I go back about every 15 minutes and stir the apples waiting until they get soft and mushy. When they are soft I either stop there and enjoy homemade applesauce, or as in this recipe, continue on to apple butter.

With the apples softened I puree some up until I have 2 quarts apple puree. However thin you puree the apples is how small the apple pieces in the butter will be. The trick though is to not liquefy! Once I have 2 quarts apple puree I dump it in my cast iron dutch oven, add my spices and bring it to a slow simmer. I love this recipe because it is so forgiving. I can leave my pulp simmering, take care of the baby, check facebook and eventually remember that I was cooking something- and race back to the stove to find my pulp is still doing great; and still not ready. I cooked one batch in two hours (far left), one in about four and one in about twenty-four (far right). Twenty-four hours cooking was probably a bit much but it still tasted good at the end.

The finished product.

The goal of the puree is to wait for it to be “thick enough to round up on a spoon.” I recommend consulting the wizards of Ball publishing for what “round up on a spoon” really means. In my mind it means that when I use a cold spoon to drop a sample on a cool plate it stays in a plop like baby poop on solids, not baby poop on milk only. More solid, less oozy.

At the point my puree is nearing completion I get all my canning supplies together. I’m teaching myself to can and have learned the most important thing is preparation! By the time my “product” is ready to can I want to have the water in my canner (with clean empty jars inside) already near a boil, lids on the stove simmering and all the tools and utensils laid out on the counter with towels, hot pads and a bit of wax paper laid out to make clean up easy. I then take one empty jar out of my canner and fill it, remove air bubbles, wipe rim dry, put on lid, and place in canner before taking out the next jar. When all the jars are filled and in canner I put the lid on the canner and wait for it to reach a crazy boil before starting to time the 10 minute processing time. Note that a crazy boil does not mean a few bubbles coming up- it’s when there is a little mini-volcano action going on inside.

Utensils laid out.

Once the 10 minutes are up, remove the canner from the heat and remove the lid. Wait a few minutes for steam to clear then move the jars out onto a spot they can rest for 24 hours before checking for proper seal. It is rewarding to hear the popping but make sure to follow guidelines for checking the seal- don’t just depend on the popping only!

Here is the recipe as it reads in the Ball Blue Book:

4 lb apples (about 16 medium)

4 cups sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

To Prepare Pulp: Wash apples. Core, peel and quarter apples. Combine apples and 2 cups water in large saucepot. Simmer until apples are soft. Puree using food processor or food mill, being careful not to liquefy. Measure 2 quarts apple pulp.

To Make Butter: Combine apple pulp, sugar and spices in a large saucepot. Cook slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

All ready to go!

Note: if butter becomes too thick, add water or apple juice for desired consistency.

Yield: about 3 pints

Two final notes- First, follow the recipe exactly! Canning is not the place to be creative unless you understand the science behind it. And have a PH meter. And maybe a science degree? Second, rinse off/out anything the apple butter touches before it dries. It’s very hard to clean it up later!

A Cutie Patootie takes inventory of the new stock!