Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Meatloaf, Pesto, and the Trials and Tribulations of Baking

It's Spring Break and I have definitely not been taking a break from time in the kitchen!  After a busy weekend, I was more than ready to get busy on last night's dinner.  As I've said in the past, there is nothing quite as satisfying as spending the afternoon in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal for your husband....anticipating the look on his face when he gets home and the big smile I know I will see is worth all the time and effort it takes!

Last night I made meatloaf.  Yes...I know that's not anything spectacular, but by golly I would put my meatloaf up against ANYONE's.  And this I guarantee!  I'm sure there are MILLIONS of meatloaf recipes floating around out there and I have tried other meatloaf recipes that were very good, but this one is just the best.  And it shouldn't be surprising that it's the best because it's my great-grandmother's recipe.  And yes...I am sharing it with all of you.  Again...it's probably nothing you haven't seen before, although...again....I think it's better than any meatloaf I've ever tasted!

Here is the recipe:

1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 lb. ground beef (I use 80/20 every time)
1 egg
1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
garlic salt

Combine all above ingredients (that's the WORST part of preparing meatloaf....you can't avoid putting your hands in that nastiness!), shape into a "loaf" and place in a sprayed baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes on 375.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze:

in an 8 oz measuring cup, put 2 TB Worcestershire sauce(by the way, I STILL don't know how to pronounce that word), 2 TB apple cider vinegar, and 1 TB dark brown sugar.  Then fill the measuring cup the rest of the way with ketchup.  Stir.  When the oven goes off, take the meatloaf out and spread glaze on top.  I always pour a little water around the edges to make a gravy.  Then put back in the oven and bake for 1 hour (can be baked a little longer if you want the meat to stick together better).  It is DELICIOUS!  My husband absolutely loves this dish almost better than anything else I make.

For a side dish, I tried out a Pinterest recipe.  Easy Cheesy Zucchini Bake

It was super fast to put together and tasted delicious!  It could actually probably be a meal by itself if you are feeling vegetarian!  

As a third side dish, I relied on trusty Ranch Style Beans.  These are Shane's absolute favorite bean and I was more than happy to simply open the can and pour them in a pot!  They are quite yummy.  

The second part of my blog involves my adventures today in the kitchen.  After spending much time scoping out the beautiful pictures of cookies, cupcakes, and cakes on Pinterest, I stumbled upon a rather simple looking recipe for sugar cookies.  I was first intrigued by the fact that the recipe claimed they would be "soft, pillow-like" cookies that were "heaven on a plate."  They were also four-leaf clover shaped with light green frosting.  I thought, Perfect!  St. Patrick's day is coming and I can impress Shane's co-workers and can bring the cookies to my sister's house this week for Girls' Night!  

It was today that I learned the many reasons I do not bake....regularly.  In fact, I probably bake 1 time for every 10 meals I cook.  It's just too much trouble.  The mixing, the stirring, the egg cracking, the measuring, the pouring, and the stressing out about over-cooking or under-cooking....and not really being able to tell if you've done either one until they are either too done or they fall apart when you try to "test" them with your finger or a toothpick.  It's just nothing but one big headache.  But, nevertheless I tried my hand today at baking the "World's Softest, Most Delicious Sugar Cookies Known to Man".  (that's not what they're actually called, but in my mind that is how they would turn out!)  

So first off, here is the recipe:  Sugar Cookies
As you will see from the website, the cookies are absolutely beautiful.  And I'm quite sure that the woman who has that cooking blog has probably made these cookies more than a dozen times and has practiced and practiced until she got it just right.  I'm also certain she has flour in her hair, ears, and on her clothes 24/7....:::as I brush off a forgotten remnant of flour at this very moment....oh and the dog just licked a piece of cookie dough off my pantleg....lovely!  Thanks Johnny....:::

I would say the absolute worst thing about this recipe is dealing with all the flour.  Ahh flour.....it's the curse of the kitchen.  No matter what you try to do to prevent it....it just gets EVERYWHERE!  You can arm yourself with paper towels, sponges, put the trash can right by you, make slow movements, quick movements....doesn't matter!  It still ends up all...over...the....place!  I WISH I had taken a picture of the aftermath of these cookies because it would be a constant reminder not to make these cookies again any time soon.  

Now, as I sit here and type out all the negative things about the mess the flour made, I will tell you the very BEST thing about this recipe.....the frosting.  O...M...G!  Not only was it super easy (also uses another dreaded ingredient...powdered sugar--which also gets EVERYWHERE!), it is so pretty and smooth and delicious and everything that frosting should be!  The website also has the frosting recipe.  This is something I WILL be making again and I'll make it in batches so I can dye it different colors.  This time, of course, I just dyed it green.  

The most challenging part of this recipe is the rolling out of the dough.  I had never done this before so it was definitely an experiment and a learning experience.  In a few words, I sucked at it.  For once, I actually DIDN'T have enough flour so the dough stuck to the rolling pin while trying to roll  it out.  After a few tries I finally got the dough to cooperate and was able to get it smoothed out--which, by the way, you have to roll it out THICK like the recipe says or it won't work.  Despite my "success" at rolling out the dough, there was quite a bit of wasted dough.  So much of it stuck to the rolling pin and so much of it stuck to my hands, to the kitchen counter, to the stove, and to every other surface of my kitchen....that I ended up losing patience and stopping after a few rounds of rolling.  And cookie cutters.....these are not as friendly as they seem either!  No one told me once you press the cookie cutter down on the dough that it wasn't possible to just tear away the scraps surrounding the cutter...you'd think it would be....but it's not!  The dough just kind of sticks...and then the cookies fall apart when you try to move them from the counter top to the cookie sheet.  So all the pretty little butterflies, tulips, and daisies actually turned out looking like puffed up little cloud cookies or, maybe just deformed plants and butterflies.  

Here is what they looked like right after being taken out of the oven:  

See...you can kind of see the tulip-shapes.....I guess those turned out the best.  

Once the cookies cool, you can frost them.  This was the best and most fun part.  I also ended up making use of the leftover dough that I had lost patience with.  I came up with my own little version of cookie-cutting.  Who says you can't use a shot glass for a cookie cutter??  I just patted out the dough flat, dipped the shot glass upside down in flour, and cut the cookies with the shot glass.  They made perfect cute little round cookies that turned out quite adorable:
These will be going with Shane to work tomorrow.  The frosting hadn't quite dried yet when I took this picture.  I also did a taste test and found that the recipe's claim of "heaven on a plate" is quite accurate.  

The larger cookies...well....let's just say that I can't claim talent in cookie decorating.  Again.....this is why I am not, nor ever will be, a baker!  Needless to say, I have no picture of these... 

Tonight's dinner.....well since I spent 4 hours in the kitchen making these blasted cookies, dinner is waiting a little while, but I am quite excited about it.  It's a Rachel Ray Repeat from a long time ago and I've wanted to make it again for quite awhile.  

I LOVE pesto and sometimes making a pasta dish is a great way to mix things up and divert from having the usual meat with 2 sides.  I'll post about the success of this meal along with results of upcoming dinner this Thursday night:  Drunken Pork Chops with Green Rice.  (a Rachel Ray that I've yet to try!)  

Happy Eating everyone! 

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