Traveling the world through cuisine

Like how mom used to make it

Alex and his mother

I’ve mentioned my father many times in this site, but this article is really about giving praise to my mother.  While my father was the restaurateur and creative cook in the family, mom had her moments in the kitchen as well.  My brother and I still think she can make sandwiches better than any deli we’ve ever eaten at.

Now my mother never thought of herself as a great cook, but she still prepared many dinners with love, as well as taught my brother and I to eat right.  I know I can’t sit down to any meal without there being a serving of fruit or vegetables in it.  What I have today to share is an interesting take she did on an American classic – meatloaf.

Meatloaf actually dates back to the 5th century, mentioned in the famous Roman collection of recipes known as Apicius.  Since those times, the dish has undergone many evolutions throughout Central Europe, and eventually made its way to America through variations made by German immigrants.  Today it’s very much accepted as American cuisine and quite easy to make in its basic form.

Now I know meatloaf doesn’t seem to be a very interesting or innovative dish when you look at what is made in today’s standards, but a lot of what this site is about are those dishes you mother, grandmother, father, and other elders made and passed down from generation to generation.  I personally think that modern cuisine has become very creative in fusing ingredients of different cultures together, but this site more celebrates the traditional fare, or variations of it.

I must say my mother’s meatloaf was different than what one traditionally sees in this dish.  She originally took the idea from a magazine clipping back in the 1980s.  Rather than the usual fare of ground beef mixed with oats or breadcrumbs, she added spinach and cheddar cheese.  She laid out the meat as an outer shell and then filled the inside with spinach and a layer of cheddar cheese, then covered the top with more meat, a tomato sauce, and some remaining cheese.

I have to tell you I fell in love with this method since then, and can’t fathom meatloaf any other way.  I think it was two years ago this method came into my head and I turned it into what I felt was a pretty good meatloaf.  Here’s what I did.

Cheddar Spinach Meatloaf

Cheddar Spinach Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 (10 oz) packages of frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tbsp of granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp of Italian seasoning blend
  • 2-3 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp of ground mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp of thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp of salt
  • 1 (8 oz) package of fat-free shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 jar (25 oz) of spaghetti sauce

Instructions

  1. Defrost the spinach and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place the defrosted spinach in a pot and turn on to medium heat. Cook the spinach for a few minutes.
  3. Stir in the granulated garlic and Italian seasoning blend.
  4. Continue cooking spinach until hot, then remove from heat and drain out any liquid.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with onion, oats, egg, minced garlic, mustard, thyme, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Use your hands.
  6. In a loaf pan place the meat mixture in to form a bottom layer and sides.
  7. Place the spinach in the middle to form a nice layer.
  8. Sprinkle a layer of cheddar cheese on top of the spinach.
  9. Use the remainder of the meat mixture on top to seal the cheese and spinach inside.
  10. Add a nice layer of spaghetti sauce and then sprinkle more cheese on top.
  11. Place in the oven and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is done.

Quick Notes

I don’t use minced garlic in the spinach mixture because I wanted all seasonings to more or less dissolve into the spinach and not be noticeable. The seasonings are to keep the spinach from tasting bland.

If you want to use fresh spinach, go ahead. Just make sure it’s chopped well.

Like any meat dish, be sure to let it sit on top of the stove and finish on its own heat when you pull it out of the oven.

Variations

You don’t have to use a jarred spaghetti sauce if you want to be more homemade. I just think it’s a good shortcut. You can even go further and combine spaghetti sauce with ketchup and barbecue sauce for an interesting flavor. Even the variety of sauces on the shelf might give you some good topping ideas. I’d probably stick to garlic and herb sauces over others.

Healthy It Up

If you want to get even more light, then use ground turkey. I would perhaps combine it with some steak sauce or something to give it a beefy flavor. I personally like lean ground beef on this simply because it’s good to get some red meat in your diet.

Tags: American, cheddar, German, Italian, meatloaf, spinach

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