I enjoy cooking when I have the energy and time, energy is something I usually have, time is not. So, I try to plan ahead and prepare main courses in large batches that I can freeze for later use. I call it my “Saturday (sometimes Sunday) Cooking Sprees” which is when I will pick one or two main meals/soups that I can make and freeze. One of my favorites and most successful meals to freeze is Meatloaf which keeps VERY well and it is easy to make.
If I really wanted to be easy, I would just go and purchase frozen meatloaves from the market and cook those. The one thing you will learn about me is that I’m very picky about what I eat and the last person I want nourishing my body is big corporate America. Who really knows what they put in the food and where they get it from. In their maddening quest for profit, they put the consumer at risk by polluting every bite with additives, food coloring, preservatives, and tainted meat. They also misuse natural resources, directly or indirectly treat animals in-humanly, and have poor employee relations predominantly hiring immigration workers and then deporting them after they have gotten their use out of them. Purchasing any of their products is like saying, YES I agree with everything you do. I agree with food pollution, animal abuse, and human exploitation; keep doing it! Then there are the more responsible companies that make organic meatloaves using meat that has not been fed antibiotics or other additives. But I have to ask, is their meatloaf really as simple and as healthy as mine? I have to question mile long ingredient lists of unidentifiable substances, items I would have to spend time researching so that I could understand what exactly am I eating. And I have yet to find meatloaves with grass fed beef any any market. Then there is the questions of where did everything come from, the vegetables, the meat, the packaging? Can I purchase this all locally and support my local economy?
My disclosure-I’m not a chef and I don’t pretend to be one. I possess no great talent for cooking, but I can open a cookbook and read the instructions and follow through, although not always successfully. What I am good at is trying to figure out how to eat locally grown/raised, wholefood diets without spending hours on end in the kitchen. I welcome you on this journey with me and hope that I can enable you to eat better and more responsibly in a way that is convenient for you and your family.
One more disclosure–I’m not a fanatic about this. It’s not like everything I use has to come from scratch or within a short mile radius of my home. This is not a black/white situation. Within reason, within the confines of having a family, running several businesses, being on a tight budget, and homeschooling my children, I do the best I can to eat from local sources as I have time. That being said, almost every meal I make has something in it that is not from a local source even if it is the spices I use.
So, lets get started!
But first, there are to must have items if you really want to get into making large batches of things and freezing them.My little 4-cup food processor is the answer to my prayers. This little device makes the chopping job a cinch and if you are chopping for a massive batch of meatloaves, believe me, you will want the chopper.Second, you will want a FoodSaver or something similar. This little device will allow you to package up your food for the freezer. My storing your creations in airtight bags, you can prolong the life of your frozen food and your won’t have that freezer burn taste.You can purchase 11″ inch or smaller rolls. The rolls are a little expensive to compared to storing everything in Ziploc Freezer bags, but the preservation in an air tight environment is well worth it.
Okay, so lets get started. This is enough to make four meatloaves for a family of six to eight or even more smaller meatloaves for smaller families.First, chop up the onions, celery, carrots, and peppers into chunks.Place the veggies in processor but be sure not to fill to the top otherwise it will pulverize the veggies on the bottom and leave the top ones still chunky.Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add all the chopped up veggies. See how beautifully the pieces have become. That would take me SO LONG to do my hand.Saute until just softened. Add salt, pepper, thyme, and crushed chili peppers.Again, with the handy help of the little food processor, prepare whole grain bread crumbs.Add heavy whipping cream to the breadcrumbs, yes I said HEAVY whipping cream, not milk, not half and half, not low fat or nonfat, just the straight fatty, rich and creamy, whipping cream.Get the ma ma of all mixing bowls (every kitchen must have one). Place beef (preferrably grass fed) eggs, veggie mixture, and bread crumbs and cream (not shown) in one bowl-hallaluah get ready to feel it… This is the part where you can grab the kids and either delight them with squishy opportunities or if you have teens, totally gross them out and chalk that up to one more thing that is wrong with you in their eyes!Feel the gush… Really this does turn out fantastic!Cut 4 or more “bags” (depends on how many meatloaves you want to stretch out of this batch) off your 11″ roll and seal. Oh and wash your hands-of course.Lay out some tinfoil and start dividing up the loaves.Start filling up freezer bags with each loaf (one loaf per bag). My cool teen daughter took this picture with the caveat that she didn’t have to touch it.Okay-let’s suck air!A word about Moist verses Dry setting for the vacuum. Meatloaf is moist, but I still use the dry setting because I find that it doesn’t take enough air out on the moist setting. And here we are, packaged and ready to freeze. One of the loaves I set aside for dinner that night!Wait, your not done. Don’t forget to say what it is and the date you created it. I guareentee that if you get into freezing your dinners, you will inevitably forget what you made and when you made it. Heck, I can’t even remember what I had for dinner the night before let alone what I made 9 months ago, even if I’m looking at it the freezer. Once items freeze, they take on this vague nebulous appearance of questionalbe palatable worthiness, especially if you think it is more than a year old.So, like I said, I set one aside for dinner that night. Place in a Pyrex glass dish or something similar, and put catsup or tomato sauce on top. I use straight out of the can tomato sauce to try to avoid the sugar found in katsup. Put about 1/2″ of water in the dish to help keep the meatloaf moist. Place in oven for about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Check it about an hour into baking to make sure all the water has not dried up. If it has, add a bit more. I served this with roasted Parmesan zucchini, baked red potato slices, and a salad. Good comfort food.