“So, what time’s dinner?” asked the clerk at Petrich’s Market as she tallied up the items in our grocery cart. “Maggie” was boldly stamped on her black plastic name tag, she wore an eager smile. “It looks like you’re having meatloaf for dinner. It’s one of my favorites – what folks nowadays call “comfort food.” Maggie said, as she handed my husband, Ed, his change.
It was early fall in rural Bovey, Minnesota, population 716 (pictured top right). We were visiting Ed’s mother, Ruthie, who was turning 89-years old. During a seasonal downpour we started reminiscing about comfort food and less complicated times when families sat around the dinner table to eat home cooked meals. Before we knew it Ed and I were in the car headed for the local grocery to buy the ingredients for a meatloaf dinner.
Bovey is a small out-of-the-way berg just south of the Canadian border. It’s a cozy place with roads winding past quaint family farms, where fields are dotted with huge rolls of hay and pastures are lush with grass and hardy livestock. It seemed a quirk of fate that we’d meet Maggie who worked in a country store and waxed the sentiment of everyday meatloaf.
Why had we encountered Maggie? Perhaps to reconnect with our pasts, to once again feel the warmth and presence of loved ones. Maybe, in a small way, to count our blessings and to appreciate those who are presently a part of our lives? Or, simply happenstance that doesn’t have a deep-seeded meaning; we just met a lady who shared a common love of comfort foods.
“When I was a kid my mother made meatloaf on rainy days, and she made macaroni and tomatoes whenever she was late getting home from Bridge Club. Meatloaf reminds me of the security of my childhood.” Maggie crossed her arms and leaned thoughtfully against the cash register.
“Oh, yes, a thunder storm always puts me in the mood for a home cooked meal,” I responded. Ed and I smiled at each other enjoying the easy patter with Maggie.
“Enjoy your supper. I hope you get home safely before the next storm.” Maggie’s voice was now soft. As she turned away from us I could see the lines in her face had noticeably softened. Her eyes were as misty as the green pasture that surrounded the rural market.
The sky had cleared, at least for the time being, so we took a different route back home to capture glimpses of the countryside on film. “Snap, whir!” My mind continued to click along with my camera. I wondered, does meatloaf or macaroni and tomatoes really taste so delicious to Maggie, or is it the memories she savors?
“Gosh, do you think we should have purchased another pound of ground round and more potatoes just in case Maggie shows up at Mom’s door at dinnertime?” Ed asked laughing.
“Fortunately meatloaf is the number one stretchable dinner.” I said. “Did your Mom make meatloaf when you were a kid?” I asked.
“You bet she did, my brother and I loved it. I get hungry just thinking about it!” He pulled to a stop and was determining which direction would get us home. “What about your family?” He asked.
“When I was a youngster my mother made what she called Surprise Meatloaf. Mom was always trying to disguise thriftier ground meat dishes because my dad was a steak and potatoes kind of guy.” I mused. “It’s uncanny how Mom was able to juggle meatloaf recipes to continually please my dad and coordinate meatloaf meals with rainy days.” I said longing for the good old days when families shared in the joy of home cooked meals and events of the day.
My mood became wistful as I recalled my mother’s meatloaf wizardry, Maggie’s childhood connection with meatloaf and envisioning Ed drowning his mother’s savory meatloaf in ketchup. I recalled, too, the time my 6-year old grandson told his mom that he wanted to go to Grandma Cindy’s house to eat some “real food” referring to a meatloaf dinner I served when he was spending the night.
At dinner that evening my spirits lifted and everything seemed to come together when Ruthie’s blue eyes sparkled and she said, “Meatloaf with roasted potatoes is what I call real comfort food, exactly like I once made for the boys on rainy days!”
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup soft bread cubes
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup dry onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 heaping teaspoon oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup thick barbecue sauce or ketchup
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients except barbecue sauce; mix lightly. Fold into a greased 5” x 9” x 3” loaf pan. Gently press to remove large bubbles. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove excess grease that might accumulate. Spread with half the barbecue sauce and bake 15 minutes; spread with remaining barbecue sauce, bake another 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese and barbecue sauce or ketchup on the side. Yield: 6 servings
Note: To make individual meatloaves (as pictured), grease a 12-muffin tin. Use the same oven temperature and same assembly process; fold meat mixture into pan. Bake for 30 minutes, add barbecue sauce and bake for another 15 minutes. Yield: 2 individual meatloaves per serving
Roasted Garlic Potatoes
5 medium baking potatoes cut in half-length wise, score on cut surface
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Dash of salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix melted butter, garlic powder, paprika and salt together. Pour into a 13” x 9” x 2” (or larger) baking pan. For uniform crispness coat the entire bottom of the pan with the melted butter. Place potatoes in the pan, scored surface in the butter. Bake, uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until scored side is crispy and brown.
Yield: 6 servings
Viva! Taco Roll-ups are a spicy and satisfying appetizer. Whether you’re hosting at home or tailgating, these tangy roll-ups are fast and easy to prepare, plus they travel well. With a flour tortilla wrapped around creamy yet spicy centers, you’ll have guests coming back for “Oh, just one more.”
Viva! Taco Roll-ups
2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup medium Picante sauce
1 – 4.5 ounce can chopped olives
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tablespoon dry onion soup mix
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/8 to 1/4 cup jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
8-10 small or 6 large flour tortillas OR thinly sliced ham
Combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor. Spread mixture onto tortillas or sliced ham; roll; wrap firmly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Remove plastic wrap from rolls; slice into 1” to 1 1/4” individual servings, discarding ends (Here’s a perfect opportunity to taste test what you’ll be serving!). Place small sprigs of parsley in the center of each roll-up for garnish. Serve with extra picante sauce on the side. Yield: Approximately 35 roll-ups
Chicken Drumettes: Teriyaki Style
3-4 pounds chicken drumettes, rinsed and patted dry
Garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 cup Light Soy Sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar OR 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup Splenda®
1/4 cup water
Toasted sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 250°. Cover a large baking sheet, such as a jelly roll pan, with heavy duty aluminum foil. Arrange chicken drumettes in one layer with skin side up; sprinkle generously with garlic powder; set aside. In a medium size bowl, combine ginger, soy sauce, sugar and water (a bowl with a pouring spout works well); stir until sugar begins to dissolve. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken drumettes trying to coat chicken as much as possible.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, uncovered; turn drumettes and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes. Turn drumettes one more time. The teriyaki sauce will begin to thicken at this point. Continue baking and turning every 5-10 minutes until sauce reaches a molasses-like consistency and is sticking nicely to drumettes. Total baking time should be approximately 2-3 hours.
Remove drumettes and sauce to a crock pot or chafing dish to keep warm (do not cook); garnish with sesame seeds. You can be sure these saucy drumettes will be a big hit at your next gathering. Serve with king-size napkins. Serves 12 with 5 drumettes each.
Note: These drumettes make an excellent entree when served with rice and a green vegetable. Yield: 4-5 servings
The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie