Kachemak Cuisine: Make a soul-warming pot of something good

I ran into a friend in the grocery store this weekend who was excited to show me a picture of the beautiful French gray Le Creuset Dutch oven she received for Christmas from her boys. She showed me photos of the dishes she’s prepared in this gorgeous pot since receiving it as well.

I was impressed by what a busy lady she’s been creating delicious things for her family, as it looked like she was on a marathon Dutch oven cook-a-thon. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I drove home thinking of something yummy to make in mine — maybe Boston baked beans simmered in a broth of molasses and onions nestled in with a big, fat smoked ham hock which I picked up at the store while chatting with her.

January is a good time of year to pull out your Dutch oven and make a soul-warming pot of something good. The weather is cold and the skies are gray, and it’s a perfect time to enjoy a bowl of warmth on a frosty evening. It’s time for comfort food: split pea soup made with the broth from the smoked turkey frame and meat, chili, scalloped potatoes with ham, meatloaf. The basic and familiar dishes are the ones I always go back to, don’t need a recipe for and are the favorites in our house.

Last week our visiting son asked for meatloaf. I thought that sounded like a winner on a frigid and dark January night and a wonderful use of the moose burger I had thawed out. I make it like Mom does, with oatmeal as the binder and topped with a mixture of ketchup and a little brown sugar spread over the top that gets sticky and rich tasting while the meatloaf bakes. The best thing about having left-over meatloaf means you can make one of the world’s best sandwiches. You need good white bread, Miracle Whip or mayonnaise and a little more ketchup. Doesn’t get much better than that for lunch time. Maybe a pickle and some plain potato chips to put it over the top. I like to heat the meatloaf up and then put the sandwich together.

Mom’s Meatloaf

Makes 1 meatloaf, serves 4 with left-overs

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef or moose or turkey

3/4 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup catsup

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce

½ teaspoon dry mustard powder

½ Teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

Cooking Instructions

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in large bowl; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape meatloaf mixture into 10×6-inch loaf pan.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until meatloaf is to medium doneness (160°F for beef, 170°F for turkey), until not pink in center and juices show no pink color.

Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

I like to serve meatloaf with mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy and steamed buttered petite green peas. Remember the Swanson meatloaf TV dinner? Just like that. Cover and refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within two days, or wrap airtight and freeze up to three months.

Mushroom Gravy

This is a quick and easy gravy that I mix up from a packet and doctor up while the meatloaf bakes and the potatoes boil.

In a medium sized sauce pan add 1 package mushroom gravy mix and prepare as directed with 1 cup water.

Sauté ½ pound sliced mushrooms in 1 teaspoon butter and little olive oil. Toss in a little parsley if you have it for color. Add to gravy.

Add a splash of red wine if you happen to be enjoying a glass while cooking dinner. Stir and cook another couple minutes.

Mom also shared a beef and vegetable soup with me to pass on to you when I told her I was sharing her meatloaf recipe with my readers. You can see where I get my passion for cooking from.

Slow Cooker Beef and Vegetable Soup

Full of vegetables and low in calories, just what I need this time of the year.

1-pound boneless round steak cut into ½ inch cubes (beef or moose)

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with juices in can

3 cups water

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes about ¾”

2 medium sized onions, diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 celery ribs, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 beef bouillon cubes or 3 teaspoons beef soup base (I use Better than Bouillon roasted beef base)

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1-1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

In a slow cooker, combine the first 13 ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Add mixed vegetables; cover and cook until the meat is tender, possibly another hour or two.

Mom makes chocolatey and moist brownies that are the best. A perfect dessert to follow your meatloaf dinner.

Mom’s Fudge Brownies

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups white sugar

¾ cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped nuts

2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup additional chopped nuts (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients.

In another bowl, combine oil, eggs and vanilla; add to dry ingredients/

Do not overmix.

Spread in a 13-inch by 9-inch by 2-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Enjoy playing with the new toys you received for Christmas. We got an air-fryer that works great. I can’t wait to cook other things in it besides chicken.

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