Mini Meat Loaves
Mini meat loaves were a top selling item at The Virtual Cook, a catering and take/out business that I had on Shelter Island, NY. They are tasty and handy. Though not difficult to make, they do require a little time, but you’ll be glad you did it when you can pull them from the freezer and have a good dinner in a hurry – along with a salad or some roasted vegetables.
Ingredients – Read this as well as the method before shopping and planning your strategy.
- 5-6 pound package of ground beef (preferable lean)
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 1 green and 1 red/yellow or orange pepper
- 2 medium sweet onions
- 3-4 stalks celery
- 2-3 carrots
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 cup half/half
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 5 eggs
- 1-1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
- Cut all the vegetables in a small dice (this will take awhile but it’s worth it). It should be roughly 8 cups total.
- Mince the garlic and set aside separately.
- Heat a saute pan to medium/high heat and saute the vegetables in batches (so you don’t crowd the pan too much and cause the vegetables to steam), seasoning each batch with a little garlic/salt and pepper.
- Let the vegetables cool completely (this can be done a day ahead of time and they can be refrigerated overnight if that best suits your schedule).
- Assemble the remaining ingredients and combine the eggs, ketchup, 1/2&1/2, mustard, and dry ingredients in bowl, mix with whisk.
- Combine meats in a large container. Distribute vegetables, egg mixture and bread crumbs across the top and then mix all to evenly incorporate the ingredients.
- Note: if the mixture seems to wet and loose, add more bread crumbs. If it seems dry, add another egg with some half and half – it’s not an exact science and the ratios can be changed.
- Using a scale, weigh out portions of meat loaf – I generally make a 5ounce loaf, but you can decide what size works for you.
- Evenly shape the loaves – it doesn’t matter how (they can be round, squarish, short and fat or taller and thinner – it just matters that they are all about the same shape so they cook evenly.)
- Place on cookie sheets, leaving space in between.
- Bake in preheated 350degree oven “until done”. (This will depend on the size that you make them, the size of your oven and how well it is calibrated. I cooked my 5 ounce loaves approximately 22 minutes in a fairly large oven, but they should feel firm to the touch and if you really can’t tell if they are done, gently insert a knife in the middle of one and take a peak, it it looks raw, it needs more time.
- When they have cooled completely, wrap separately in foil, then you can package them in freezer bags if you like.
- When you want one, remove from freezer, allow a couple of hours to thaw and then reheat in microwave for a couple of minutes (time depends on your microwave, but they are already cooked so you just need to reheat.
- Eat, enjoy.
Meat Loaf Tips
- Break the preparation into 2 days if you like – shop and prep the veggies on day one, then finish on day two – it’s not a complicated recipe but it does take awhile since you are making a lot.
- You can do different ratios of vegetables if you wish – don’t like carrots, use more celery, etc. But the vegetables do make it tasty and it’s a sneaky way to get at least a little vegetable into picky eaters.
- You can add more/less seasoning as you like.
- Using a kitchen scale will make it easy to portion it out evenly.
- Baking the loaves in pans lined with parchment paper makes cleanup easier.
- Using the individual foil wrappers makes it easy to wrap each one individually.