Monday, July 26, 2010

Three Pounds of Ground Beef

Back while I was juggling a day and one or two theatre productions, I decided I was not going to go the fast food route. I needed good food to give me enough energy to work 14-hour days. So I spent my precious few hours cooking large quantities of meat and freezing individual portions. One of my favorite things to do was cook three pounds of ground beef (bought in a log of in the freezer section.) I would turn to my Betty Crocker cookbook (the one my mom insisted was the best cookbook I will ever have) and create two recipes that lay on facing pages: meatballs and meatloaf. Without any pressure to cook enough meals to last me for a few weeks, I decided to cook old school.

The Italian in me loves to eat pasta with meatballs. The oh-dear-god-I-need-real-food-to-eat in me loves how easily they freeze. I literally have two freezer bags stuffed with cooked meat already portioned into smaller individual bags. I would cook pasta at midnight while creating rehearsal reports and would a bag of meat to the refrigerator to defrost for my lunch or dinner. How easy! The recipe is so simple and rather plain. I need to spend some time figuring out how to make a meatball that is truly bursting with flavor. The biggest substitutions to make a meatball gluten and lactose free are the bread crumbs and the milk. Everything else should naturally be "safe." The milk is super easy - I used some more of the rice milk I opened for my not-my-dinner chocolate shake last night. I have had good luck with rice, soy, and traditional milk in these meatballs. For the bread crumbs, I used bread from my first gf bread purchase. The bread had a hard and horrible texture, was so dry, and I could barely eat a slice. Per the instructions, it went into the freezer right away to stay "fresh." I was not going to throw away a five dollar loaf of bread! So I followed the bread's instructions and defrosted some pieces wrapped in tin foil in my oven. Once defrosted and warmed, I broke the bread into pieces and made bread crumbs in my blender! I made over a pound of meatballs. Some are smaller that will one day find a home in soup. Others are your more traditional spaghetti-and-meatball size.

Growing up, I never understood why some kids hated meatloaf. After all, it is simply a hamburger you eat without a bun. In our family, our hamburgers and meatloaf had the same fillers so they always tasted delicious. One of the greatest reasons to cook meatballs and meatloaf at the same time is to minimize on dishes and ingredients! Chop a larger onion, throw another piece of bread in the blender, reuse that teaspoon! Throw it in a bread pan and start doing some dishes! Meatloaf is one of the easiest things to make and everyone seems to have their own twist for the ingredients as well as what sauce (and how much!) goes on top. Mine is still the traditional Betty Crocker version and needs to be spiced up a bit. (P.S. I don't like how my meatloaf matches so well with my counter top!)

Here's what I learned tonight:

I need a new toaster. I am not going to put any gf bread in there. I don't think I can ever get it clean enough to feel comfortable using it. It will be my only true "replacement" purchase.

When cooking meatballs to have a spaghetti dinner, I need to remember to start cooking the gf pasta right away since it takes around 25 minutes to make. Not 5.

I need to create my own meatball recipe.

I need to figure out if I can tolerate oats (the jury is still out on whether oatmeal is gf or not - there seems to be a split right down the middle) so I can use that as a binding agent rather than making breadcrumbs.

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