Low Fat Meatloaf

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Every year I get a physical and every year my doctor tells me I need more iron.  "Eat more meat," she says.  It is true, I don't eat a lot of meat.  I'm not a vegetarian, I'm just picky.  Growing up, I knew where my meat came from.  We raised our meat.  Today, it's hard to determine the origin of meat and that doesn't settle well with me.  You are what you eat, including all the junk in processed meats like antibiotics and genetically modified grains. 

As a kid, I hated meatloaf.  I thought it was mystery meat.  It now happens to be one of my favorite things to make.  My beef comes from natural grocers or local farmers.  You can ask them to grind it for you.  This insures you don't get any extras.  For full details on what is in ground beef watch this video.  My favorite recipe comes from the 2008 Cook's Country cookbook.  There is apple cider vinegar in the glaze and that's what steals my heart.  Ok, maybe the thyme does as well.  Here is my version.

Low Fat Meatloaf
1   tsp olive oil
1   onion, chopped fine
     salt and pepper
3   garlic cloves, minced
1   tsp minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup tomato juice
1  slice hearty wheat bread torn into pieces or bread crumbs*
1  1/2 lbs. 90 percent lean ground beef
1  large egg
1  Tbs. soy sauce
1  Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 cup ketchup
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs light brown sugar
*I make my own bread.  The slices that don't get eaten are processed into bread crumbs and then frozen.  It keeps them from being thrown away and it's an ingredient that is homemade versus store bought.  Frozen crumbs do not need to be thawed. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take a wire rack that fits inside of a rimmed baking sheet and wrap it with tin foil.  Poke holes in the foil at 1/2'' intervals.  Heat the oil on medium heat and cook the onion with a 1/4 tsp. salt until softened, 8 mins.  Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, 30 secs.  Stir in tomato juice and cook until thickened, 1 min.  Cool the mixture 5 mins and then transfer to a blender or food processor.  Add bread slice or frozen bread crumbs and process until smooth.  Put the beef in a bowl, add mixture from blender and mix together.  In another bowl, whisk egg, soy sauce, mustard, parsley, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper.  Add to beef and mix until evenly combined.  Mold the beef mixture into a loaf on the tin foil rake inside the baking sheet.  Bake until meatloaf registers 160 degrees, about an hour.  Remove from the oven and turn on broiler.

Combine ketchup, vinegar, and brown sugar in a saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat until thick and syrupy, about 5 mins.  Spread the glaze over the meatloaf and broil until glaze begins to bubble, about 3 mins.  Let it rest for 10 minutes and serve.

I shared this recipe with my parents and they loved it.  Like me, they love the vinegar glaze.  My mom came up with the brilliant idea to make individual loaves instead of one.  This guarantees a bite of glaze with every bite of meat.  What can I say, ACV makes everything taste better.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

image by WiGal at food.com
As you can tell there has not been a lot of posting happening over here at Indigo 26.  We are right in the middle of a fixing a water leak, fixing up a new house, selling and moving.  I thought July was going to be busy, but I was wrong.  Mostly becauase I didn't think it would really take two and half months to complete all of this.  We are hoping the official move will be next weekend, but the plans are very dynamic around here.  Thank you for sticking around for the few posts.  I'm hoping to be back regularly soon. 

With that said, I am completely missing the summer vegetable bounty.  The old kitchen is packed, and the new kitchen is not yet finished so our diet has consisted of sandwiches, salads, fruit, oatmeal, or nothing.  I am so ready to be settled and in the kitchen again.  This is a strange statement for me to make considering my family will tell you I'm allergic to cooking.  I do love wholesome food, and I have found that as I gracefully age, I am enjoying being in the kitchen more. 

So since I can't make this summer favorite from my farmers market bounty I thought I would at least share it with all of you.  And if you do decide to make it, send me photos so I can drool.  This is quite possibly the best gratin you will ever taste.  It's worth the extra effort.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

This recipe was originally published in the July 2008 edition of
Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 6-8 as a side

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound summer squash (yellow), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons table salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 large slice white sandwich bread, torn into quarters (I used homemade bread that I had previously frozen and then ran it through the food processer to make crumbs)

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 medium shallots, minced (about 1/4 cup)
optional: 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

Toss zucchini and summer squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and dark golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs). Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Great Aunt Linnie's Chocolate Drop Cookies

My favorite little people came over for a visit on Sunday afternoon.  It was too hot to spend any time outdoors so after our nap we did the next best thing: bake chocolate cookies.  This is a recipe from their great, great aunt Linnie that their Aunt Kiki has perfected.  Someday they'll appreciate the story behind them, but today, just the taste of these morsels is enough. 

Cookie making is a tradition we have started in our home when they come over.  There is something magical to me about traditions. They make me feel rooted in place and somehow make time more meaningful.  Especially when using a recipe so dear to the heart of the family.  It looks a little different each time, but the act of baking is always the same.  As they get older they get a little more independent.

I like these cookies best with peanut butter chips, but the girls prefer them plain, so that is how they were made.  They are utterly delicious on their own and truly don't need anything added.

We've found that if you slightly under cook them and put them in the freezer they are just as good as fresh out of the oven.  A trick I didn't want to discover because this only means making more in order to freeze and that only leads to eating more. 

This is as far as I got with the photos.  Once they came out of the oven they were already in our bellies.  After we were stuffed with chocolate, we moved on to watercolor painting.  These are my favorite Sundays.  

Great Aunt Linnie's Chocolate Drop Cookies

1 cup crisco
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa

Cream the crisco and sugars and then blend in 2 eggs.  Mix in the dry ingredients until blended.  Drop on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 6-9 minutes. 

Optional add ins: peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, toffee chips, butterscotch chips, marshmellows, carmel

Thanks cc for sharing your special recipe

Wear Sunscreen

A friend's beloved Chaco feet
No, despite the title, this post is not about graduating or even speeches for that matter. It's a post about wearing sunscreen. I'm heading to Phoenix this weekend for a girls trip. I've never been to Arizona, but I have a feeling that sunscreen will be the most important product I take since I know we'll be spending a lot of time by the pool.

As much as a I love to layout and soak up the sun, I am not keen on sunburns and my pasty, white skin doesn't just get golden, it fries. I truly wear sunscreen almost every day, and I haven't ever really given it much thought.

Last weekend I realized, after lathering on a whole heap of sunscreen, that I have no idea what is in this stuff. I'm usually so conscious of what chemicals are on my body and try to avoid almost anything harmful. Interesting that I have never considered my sunscreen.

Before I head out this weekend and throw the Coppertone in my bag, I thought I would research a natural recipe for sunscreen. I immediately grabbed The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard on my shelf. To my surprise, it was not promising.

Here is the formula they suggested.

Suntan Lotion
2 ounces salt-free mayonnaise
2 ounces black tea
juice of 1 lemon
5 400-IU vitamin E capsules
Mix the mayonnaise, tea, and lemon juice together in a blender.  Pour this into a storage container, and squeeze the contents of the vitamin E capsules in it.  Keep in the refrigerator for no more than a week. 

It guarantees to give you color without the harmful rays. Now, I love this book and stand by several of the formulas found inside, however, I do not want to be sitting by the pool smelling like rotten mayonnaise.

I researched more recipes and found several that included pure zinc oxide but most came with large warning labels about using caution with gloves and masks. I don't really feel like repeating chemistry class two days before my trip.

I switched gears thinking there must be a natural company already making safer sunscreen. I landed on the
Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website and discovered a 2011 report on sunscreen with a rating system. Many products are listed with a given rating of 0-10. Zero being the best possible choice and 10 being the worst. The one concern I have is the little amount of data that has been collected on each product and their ingredients. For example, a product that has a rating of 0 may have limited to no research findings on the ingredients making it hard to justify, in my mind, a good rating. On the plus side, it listed a slew of products that I had not heard of before giving me a chance to read some labels. Sticking to my rules about label reading, few ingredients, words I can pronounce, and non-processed items, I quickly made a short list of possibilities.

Narrowing the list, the most appealing was an SPF from
Badger. It's lavender scented and according to directions, if rubbed in well, it won't leave a white film on your skin. organic, natural, sunscreen, sun, uv, protection
Wearing sunscreen is vital and I hope I can find a more natural product that doesn't make me dress in long sleeves and large, brimmed hats all summer.

Do you have any suggestions for natural sun protection?  I would love to hear about them in the comments below. 

Backyard Garden: Salad Bowl

This is the third round of leaf lettuce I've harvested from the garden.  I planted a variety: prizeleaf, royal oak leaf, salad bowl, ashley and black seeded simpson.  All from Burpee.  Every type has done very well.  Lettuce is an early crop for us.  It doesn't fair well in the Texas heat, and I'll miss it in the summer months. 

I spaced out the plantings to optimize the harvest.  I planted three squares of lettuce the last weekend in March and planted two more squares a couple of weeks later.  Now that I've gotten all that I can get from the first planting, the second planting is ready to be harvested.  This method ensures that I have lettuce longer. 

In order for your lettuce to grow back when it comes time to harvest, cut all the leaves around the outside of the plant and leave the center stalk.  I use a pair of scissors to do the cutting.  The leaves will grow back 2-4 more times.

While I do eat a lot of salads there are other ways to use these greens. 
  • Make a frittata with greens on top covered in vinaigrette dressing.  Barbara Kingsolver has a great recipe from her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
  • Add it to a pimento cheese sandwich made with homemade bread.  I did this for my mom and she loved it.
  • Add it to omelets like you would spinach.
Of course if you do love a good salad there is nothing like adding homemade dressing to give it a little zest without weighing it down with oily, processed dressings. 

Homemade Vinaigrette
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
It's important to use the best possible, quality ingredients.  Cheap olive oil will not taste good on your home grown lettuce.  Put all the ingredients in a small jelly jar, and shake.


My first planting of carrots will soon be ready to harvest as well. I'm looking forward to that.

What is coming out of your garden?