I fess up. I used to buy those powdered French onion dip mixes back in the 70s, add a little sour cream, throw some potato chips in a bowl and serve that at parties. Alright, so bruschetta and guacamole have taken center stage these days, but that doesn't mean I don't have a nostalgic yen for those chips and dips of yore. Still, I stay away from processed foods, so those powdered chemical concoctions don't entice me. Except the other day I was in my local health food store, and a table with free samples of chips and dip were just sitting there, begging me to try some. One dip and one chip and before you know it, I was paying for a package of the stuff at the cashier. It was an organic mix, mind you, but still, knowing my addiction to chips, and all those calories from the sour cream I'd need to make the dip, I figured my hips would thank me if I came up with a different plan for that package.
Then another idea from the past came to mind - meat loaf - a hearty meal for these snowy days that never seem to end. I remembered making meat loaf years ago using oatmeal and those packaged soup mixes too, and they added lots of flavor. Now with the organic soup mix, I could do it without adding artificial ingredients.
Bake it in a loaf pan or shape it into individual portions. Halfway through baking, top it off with a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar. I forgot to smear it over the top until about 15 minutes before removing it from the oven. But if you do remember to do it earlier, say a half hour to 45 minutes before the meat loaf is done, you'll get more of a caramelization of the sugar on top that's hard to resist. Line your loaf pan with some aluminum foil to help remove it from the pan when it's done.
And serve up a moist, flavorful meat loaf - good for sandwiches the next day too. For an Italian version of meat loaf, click here for my friend Alessandra's recipe.
Lest you think we Easterners are tired of the snow (well, it has been a lot of shoveling and commuting problems for some), there have been some benefits too, like cozying up by the fire, cooking up a pot of soup, or building a snow lady who's dreaming of warmer climes. Find the positive, people. It's there.
Moist, Easy Meat Loaf
2 lbs. ground meat (I use a combination of veal, beef and pork)
1 package of onion soup mix
3/4 cup oatmeal (I use the quick 1 minute-cooking oats)
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup tomato sauce (or tomato juice)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
Mix all the meat loaf ingredients thoroughly together in a bowl. Press into a loaf pan that's been lined with foil. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours, and halfway through add the topping, by mixing together the ketchup and brown sugar in a bowl, then smearing over the top.
Let the meat loaf rest about 10 minutes after baking, for easier slicing.