July 09, 2008

Meatloaf Musings

[By Crabby]

Shall I serve peas with that?
...Nah, screw the peas, I hate peas.

(Photo courtesy of Plan59)

So last night we had meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and salad for dinner. (I do actually cook sometimes, despite all my whining about it).

And I loved every bite! Meatloaf and mashed potatoes: the epitome of comfort foods, right? (That is, if an epitome can be two things--any English majors out there?)

It's just the sort of dinner I would have enjoyed as a kid. Well, except that back then we'd have been rushing through the meal and our usual wholesome family bickering in order to watch the "Room 222" or "the Carol Burnett show." (Whereas now we plop down with tv trays in front of our big-ass tv and spend a leisurely meal watching wholesome family drug-dealing on "Weeds," or wholesome family wife-swapping on "Swingtown." Gosh it's great to be a grown up!)

But even though the pleasure I take in it is the same, the meal itself has gradually transformed since I was in elementary school. I probably would have turned my nose up at it, many decades ago, had nose-upturning been allowed at our dinner table.

Over time, here's how my meatloaf, mashed potatoes and salad have changed:

Last Night's Loaf:
  • The meat was ground turkey, not ground beef;
  • The bread crumbs came from whole wheat bread, not white;
  • There were about twice as much chopped onion and red bell pepper as in the original;
  • The vegetables were sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, not butter;
  • The egg contained Omega-3's (though some say it's not worth bothering with these);
  • There was a fair amount of cayenne and thyme and other good-for-you spices;
  • (But the ketchup on top was pretty much the same. Gotta have ketchup--and the sugar-free kind tastes pretty much like rust as far as I'm concerned.)
Last Night's Spuds:
  • The potatoes came from the produce aisle, and did not come dehydrated in a box;
  • The potato skins were left on;
  • The potatoes would have been blue had we not just run out of that kind. (Let's pretend they were blue, though, because that's what I use when they're around and it's more dramatic that way);
  • Half of the potatoes were not even potatoes! They were cauliflower, 'cause cruciferous veggies are SO good for you;
  • The milk was nonfat;
  • The butter was "light" and had canola oil in it too; and
  • There was no gravy.

Last Night's Salad:
  • The lettuce was romaine, not iceberg.
  • The lettuce was organic;
  • The dressing was not mayonnaise-based or bottled; it was freshly made with extra-virgin olive oil;
  • There were vegetables in there other than tomatoes; and
  • The salad was piled high and covered two thirds of the plate, rather than a couple meager tablespoons.
Now we all have different definitions of "healthy," and some of you make take issue with the specifics of these alterations. But they were made with the idea of making the meal "better" for us. And many of these changes took some getting used to. (Remember your first glass of nonfat milk? Ewwww.)

But now? Yum. To me, it's meatloaf and mashed potatoes again.

I wonder though: as new research comes along, will the meatloaf and mashed potato dinner continue to evolve at the Crab and Lobster household? Will the turkey that used to be beef someday be ostrich? Will the onions be replaced by some new unpronouncable superfood? Will the scientists decide potatoes cause autoimmune disorders and premature hair loss and urge us all to replace them with rutabagas? Who knows?

How about you all--do you try to modify old favorites, or do you just enjoy them less often in their more traditional versions? What kind of dietary changes have you made since you were in third grade? (And does anyone else admit to watching tv during dinner despite all the Experts telling you Not To?)


  1. (Waves hand @ being a nerdy English Lit major)
    We are all about the NOT messing with the original up in herre (if by WE you mean my husband & I love him so that's what I do--------which I do (be do be do be dooo)

    The taters from a box are his fave.

    (I know. They are watery ick to me but no one asked).

    As a result we have em with turkey and BOXED stuffing (his fave again.) twice a year or so.

    When I show him/make him recipes that he could have once a WEEK of the taters/stuffing he gags and says he's rather have less of the 'real deal.'

    I love him so I'm not going to Jessica Seinfeld his arse by sneaking stuff in.....

    Great post.


  2. Ah, yes, the minefield of cooking dinner. The Bag Lady tries to make meals that are on the healthy side. The Cowboy resists SOME changes. He insists on real butter, real potatoes, and real meat. That's pretty much how his grandfather ate, and HE lived to the age of 96.... so who can to argue? Fortunately, the Cowboy will also eat most vegetables, and salad.

    Oh, and after 14 years together, he finally told the Bag Lady that he doesn't like meatloaf..... sigh.

  3. I like how our wholesome family viewing has changed.
    We weren't salad eaters when I was growing up save for the rare attempt with sweet salad cream so that's been a big change for me.
    We weren't big on using many spices either so that's been another huge change.
    So is using fake milk products. I still miss fresh-from-the cow.
    Eating in front of the TV is the best. I have the news on when we eat and that's not always the best choice, but if we ate later we'd eat in the living room while watching.

  4. Different strokes, yes. Growing up with allergies, I'm an old hand at altering things. The meatloaf I grew up with (adapted for both my mother's allergies and mine) consisted of lean ground beef (chuck or round) mixed with tomato sauce and maybe some crushed crackers (no yeast.) With the ketchup on top, yes, without that it's Not Meatloaf. Mashed potatoes without gravy? What FOR?

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  5. Ah yes, the modifications are a bit more challenging when spouses are taken into account!

    Like the cauliflower thing? That's just me. We make two separate bowls of mashed potatoes because the Lobster can smell a cruciferous vegetable a mile away and will have nothing to do with them.

    And Mary Anne--I have to confess I never much liked gravy in the first place so that was real easy to give up.

  6. Yeah, I alter everything, much to my family's annoyance. I made cookies one time and substituted so many things that my husband declared I was no longer allowed to call them cookies;) I think your dinner sounds yummy! And I'm with you about the ketchup.

  7. We are probably breaking all the rules - I eat in front of the TV and Husband eats his meal in front of his computer. We don't even eat in the same room. Not that we don't like to be around each other, he just has a hard time tearing himself away from the computer. Slight addiction there, methinks.

    As to the meatloaf & mashed potatoes, once again I am feeling like a complete oddball. It seems to me when my Mom used to make meatloaf I would eat it and enjoy it (Mom is a good cook), but I have never made meatloaf and I'm really not a fan of mashed potatoes. Poor Husband, he would probably like a meal like that. Then again, he can follow a recipe...Nothing stopping him from making dinner and giving me a night off from KP duty.

    For me, comfort food = spaghetti. Having a bad day? Not feeling so hot? Bring on the pasta! And I have tried to eat the whole wheat pasta "because it is good for me", but it's just not the same.

    There are some things that I don't mind tweaking in order to make them healthier, but there are some things you just don't mess with.

  8. I'm getting better at modifying meals, but I still have a long way to go.

    And as for eating in front of the TV? My kids think the kitchen table is reserved for "special occasion" uses only!

    I'm beginning to think I suck at mom-hood! =(

  9. I consider modifying recipes to be constructive entertainment. I love kitchen experiments!

    My husband and I always eat in front of the TV. Our kitchen table is completely occupied by my orchids and his remote control helicopter reconstruction right now, so it's not even an option.

  10. Well, I don't eat meat (other than fish) now, so that's a pretty bit change from my diet growing up. I would say that 80% of the dishes I eat now, I did not eat as a kid.

    Favorite food now: black beans (Yummmm), which I'd never heard of or had the chance to try until I was about 23. Growing up, the only beans we ate were baked beans, kidney beans in chili, and 3-bean salad.

    I'd like to think that my diet has had a positive influence on my family's diet, although they tend to think I'm a nut.

  11. That's made me hungry. In my family the favorite meal was beef stroganoff and mashed potatoes. Yum.
    J and I try and stick to healthier things. He's been really great with trying everything I put out at least once, and we've found some really great light alternatives to our favorite meals... but we have a house guest at the moment with a demented love of oils, cream sauces and sausage, so it's been a challenge to remain healthy as of late...I'm glad someone else is cooking sometimes, but man.

  12. Fantastic illustration. Reminds me of this one of peas: http://fitbottomedgirls.blogspot.com/2008/06/fitwit-happy-eat-your-vegetables-day.html.

    I usually try to make healthier versions of old standbys, too. For example, tuna noodle casserole is made with wheat "egg" noodles (no yolks), loads of broccoli, and low-fat cans of mushroom soup. No cheese, no peas (but that's only because my hubby doesn't like them. I really don't mind them despite the above link).

  13. Formerly Lethological Reader (aka Leth), now Lethological Gourmet, checking in! I have a new blog, which since it's about food, and I'm all about food, I figure I'll actually write posts more than once a year...Does anyone know how to get the link on my name to go directly to the blog, instead of to my profile page?

    To get back to the subject at hand...

    I had a bad experience at camp one year with meatloaf - I didn't like it and was forced to stay after everyone had gone just to finish it. Scarred for life.

    Ok, maybe not. I'll eat it now, but I definitely much prefer meatloaf that's altered in some cool new way, so it doesn't seem like the same old stuff.

    I watch tv every night as I eat dinner. Then again, I live alone. But again then again, I watched tv with dinner all the time growing up.

  14. Hmmm....I am definitely trying to eat healther, but I just have never developed a taste for ground turkey. So I stick with the good old fashoined ground beef for my meatloaf.
    I do eat in front of the tv now, but growing up family dinners were at the table. Of course we only had three TV channels then or things may have been different...

  15. God I love reading Cranky Fitness comments, where one can be introduced to "remote control helicopter reconstruction" (I've GOT to find out what this means) and hilarious vegetable cartoons (Thanks, Fit Bottom Girls!) in the same post.

    And Leth, that's great about the new blog, will have to check it out!

    To link directly to your blog: Some blogger blogs won't allow you to do this, but on blogs like mine choose the name/url option when you comment. (It will expand). After you've put the name you want to comment under, type in the FULL url of your blog in the url box STARTING WITH the http:// part. If you just start with www it won't work.

    Give it a try and see if it works!

  16. I'm always modifying recipes and my husband absolutely hates it! No matter how good I think I've hidden the "healthier" ingredients, he always notices a difference in the taste. I tell him it's for OUR own good but that doesn't really make him feel any better - or eat his dinner!

  17. Thanks, Crabby! Let's see if this works...

    I grew up eating a lot of ground turkey, because my stepfather can't eat red meat. So I had chili or rice and beans with ground turkey, meatloaf with turkey, turkey burgers, you name it. I'm not averse to it (I found an awesome recipe for spicy turkey lasagna on the web), but I just don't use it often. I did make stuffed grape leaves with turkey once, for my mom and stepdad. They actually came out ok (used turkey and cinammon instead of lamb and mint), but just not as good as the original.

  18. Yay, it worked! Thanks, Crabby!

  19. We used to eat at the table all the time, but then we got different furniture (merged households) and my husband's pedestal table started wobbling because of a loose bolt that we never got around to fixing. So we gravitated to the coffee table and the TV. Tho I sometimes eat at the computer--not too good for the hardware, so I'm trying not to.

    I agree it's not too healthy to watch the news while eating, but usually we have on old reruns of The Rifleman or something innocuous like that.

    Also we got a new dining room set, so maybe we'll try going back to the table. (Trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube?) Except it's covered with stuff now.

    I put grated carrots in the meat loaf. No one has ever complained. But I use tomato sauce over the top instead of ketchup.

    Potatoes mixed with cauliflower sounds great! I need to try that.

  20. I modify pretty much every recipe I use, trying to use healthier ingredients and cooking techniques. I've gotten pretty good at knowing how far I can go without making the dish gross.

    And I know this is bad, but I ALWAYS eat in front of the television (unless I'm at a restaurant). I typically eat alone, so the TV is my way of feeling like I have company. However, I always portion out my food before I start watching so that I can't accidentally overeat. Still not a great habit, but I find that eating without distraction actually makes me eat faster because I'm in a hurry to finish and do something else!

  21. I watch the food channel while eating dinner.

  22. Some recipes just cannot be changed (like Swedish Meatballs). Having said that, I don't cook like mom used to (she gave us a balanced meal) and as I now cook a meal (as opposed to appetizers or ordering in), I guess you could say that I have changed my habits!

    Oh and I seem to be eating at my computer more than the telly these days.

  23. Hurray for the english majoring!

    My parents nearly always cooked homemade meals for us (well, except when my dad went off on his travels. My mum hates cooking so for those days we survived on grilled cheeses, take out and similar:)). But now that I've become more health conscious I have been transforming some of our recipes so that they're still tasty but less fat-filled and the like. I'm all about adapting favorite recipes! But pretty much as long as its real food I'm happy.

  24. 90 percent of the time I cook healthy and modify recipes. If dh doesn't complain about the modification, it stays. Some he has actually raved about, like when I substituted the turkey italian sausage in my famous Sausage Soup. He said, "I don't know what you did, but make it this way all the time." Other times more ranting than raving - like when I tried fat free mozzarella on pizza, one of his very favorite foods. So we save that stuff for the other 10 percent, which is realistic I think. On another note, have you tried the Heinz Organic Ketchup? It's really good and a teensy bit better for you than the stuff with HFCS.

  25. Nonfat milk is pointless in my opinion! So is 2%. I'd rather drink goat's milk, and I have to hold my nose to do that, because it tastes like goats smell.
    I had my neighbor's meatloaf last night, very dense, heavy with ketchup. Okay. BUT my grandmother made a meatloaf with tomato paste instead, and it came out lightly glazed on top and tender and juicy, and I don't have the recipe. We don't eat ground beef anyway because of the potential for salmonella. I just started feeding my dog home cooked food, and he is eating ground turkey and loving it, along with rice and some veggies, and he's doing a lot better with his tummy. I have dipped into his turkey several times, and was thinking of trying a meatloaf.

    We have skins on mashed potatoes with lamb chops, but they have to have butter or sour cream blended in, and I may make lamb gravy for the top too if there are enough pan juices. If it's only going to be once a month or so, why mess with a wonderful thing? Otherwise, we just don't eat a lot of starches, mostly vegetables. We don't need to sneak stuff in, but I do have to whine at my mom to get her to eat her brussels sprouts and broccoli.

  26. Great Post!

    Other than breakfast or lunch on the weekends we were never allowed to eat in front of the TV while I was growing up.

    Now that I live in teensy apartment in New York the only place to eat is at the coffee table, usually with the TV on, and I hate it. Invariably the show is crap and I really think it impacts the overall enjoyment of your meal as well as interactions with whoever you're dining with. Also, recent studies show that people are more like to consume more while eating in front of the TV or not respond to cues from their bodies that they're full.

    I'm pretty lucky in that my boyfriend is always adapting recipes so that they use more veggies/are made from scratch (maybe it's a European thing?). While I'm the one usually craving comfort-type foods, I did adapt biscuits and gravy: ground veggie "sausage"--rinsed & drained, skim milk for the gravy and homemade biscuits (at least they don't have the preservatives).

  27. tk - I just had to comment on your statement about not eating ground beef because of the potential for salmonella. Salmonella is just as likely to be present in ground turkey. E-coli is more common in ground beef.

    BUT if you cook ground meat properly, it will kill either one of those. Use a meat thermometer if you're concerned, and cook to an internal temperature of 160F.

  28. Oops - finger error --- meant to say cook to an internal temp. of 165F.

  29. I find that I'm much more successful at making healthy substitutions when my family doesn't watch me cook. They freak out when they see the ground turkey for the chili, but if they never see it, they love it.

    And I must admit, I love fooling them. It gives me great pleasure to see them eat healthy despite their best attempts.

    My husband SWEARS that mushrooms make him hallucinate, apparently when they're hidden in his lasagna they don't. Evil? Totally.

  30. I wish I had something helpful to say... But I eat almost only raw stuff... I am not even on a macro whatever diet either...

  31. I figured out a way to make Chicken Cordon Blue far healthier and almost every bit as tasty as the original high fat version. If interested, I'll send it to you to post sometime after I'm back home (in a few days).

    My son and I do eat in front of the TV. It's one way to ensure that we share a meal in the same room.

  32. yes, the meatloaf brings back the memories!

    I think it will continue to evolve, although I hope it never gets to be ostrich. (ewwwwww!)

    Someday I might learn/try to cook to test this out--it sounds very tasty!

    and yes, we watched TV during dinner. and I turned out (relatively) normal!

  33. Hi Crabby,

    The difference between now and third grade is that I eat fish once or twice a week, and I don't eat a sweet treat every day--just as many as I think I can get away with.

    As to cooking, I didn't cook much in third grade and I don't cook much now either.


  34. Dude. I could really go for some turkey meatloaf. Although me & mashed potatoes is a big problem. I just can't stop eating them if they're there.

    Perhaps spicy sweet potato fries?

    Yup yup, I think I'm having meatloaf soon!!

  35. Good choices...I have definitely learned something!

  36. I have to think about what I still eat now that I used to eat in childhood. Turned vegetarian about 15 years ago, so meatloaf's out. Would love mashed potatoes if I still ate butter. Um, peas, yeah peas! I'd eat that. I think I've changed practically everything else. Yikes.

  37. Yes, I actually have FUN experimenting with and tweaking recipes, trying to make them healthy AND yummy!

    Your healthier meatloaf, mashies, and salad sound very good, still very much the standard for comfort foods... except maybe ice cream might take first prize... well, at least a 3-way tie. :)

  38. My mom cooked pretty lightly when I was growing up - and by that I don't mean using nonfat milk in a heavy food like meatloaf, but rather that we ate more salads than meatloaf. She did on occasion make a pretty good turkey meatloaf, but it was rare.

    That said. Since I'm used to eating lighter most of the time, when *I* make meatloaf I use all the full-fat, came-from the garden stuff. (I do use whole wheat breadcrumbs, if I use breadcrumbs at all.)

    And the best meatloaf I ever had was a 50/50 mix of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage. And it had BACON on top with the ketchup.

    Dude, I'd rather have that meatloaf once a YEAR than a turkey meatloaf once a WEEK. Nom.

  39. I've been getting creative with the alternatives because of food allergies and yeah wanting to stay away from the artificial processed stuff. Right now, I've been using agave nectar instead of honey or sugar, and I'm lovin' it!

  40. I have one thing to say: Kangaroo.

  41. Love these comments!

    Hilary--that would be awesome!

    And agave nectar sounds intriguing...

    But Kangaroo loaf? Yikes! (But I won't knock it til I've tried it).

  42. Recipes! Please, give us the recipes for this fine repast!!!!!!

  43. Despite dire warnings flung since time immemorial about permament ruination of eyesight and digestion, TV during dinner is a requisite. A requisite, people!

    How else are we supposed to not drown in the information deluge Crabby speaks of in the next post? They don't call it Anderson Cooper 90 or Anderson Cooper 120, do they? No, they do not.

    I have, however, until very recently, eaten the same blueberry yogurt I have enjoyed since third grade. I was horrified to find the dreaded HFCS in almost every brand and so have since subsituted Stonyfield Farm or Fage (exquisite though hella expensive), mixed with sometimes cinnamon, sometimes ginger, sometimes actual fruits.

  44. Oh, and Jill -

    IMHO, hollow "family values"-types bleatings to the contrary, you do NOT "suck at doing momhood."

    You are merely "adapting momhood to 21st century conditions." Just like Crabby's post says to do. So you are in 100% compliance!

    It's all in the way you spin it. :D

  45. I think we have all modified meals at one time or another for either a spouse or the dreaded(mother in law) just kidding.. I love your posts keep up the great work!!


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