Ma! The Meatloaf!

Raise your hand if you grew up on meatloaf. 

I think it’s safe to say that just about everyone who lived in a house with a caregiver of any kind, most likely grew up eating this American staple. I recently learned that meatloaf became hugely popular in the United States during the Great Depression. Makes sense. It can be a very dense, filling, and nutritious meal, for very little cost. 

When we first made the switch to real food, there seemed to be so much that we couldn’t eat. This recipe eluded me for so long, because I didn’t yet know how to sub out the bad stuff for the good. Onion Soup Mix, Saltine crackers… Have you ever actually looked at the ingredients in those? Yikes. Buuuut, they are such an important part of the meatloaf. They are meant to give flavor and hold the ingredients together, after all ! 

I had to get creative. I needed to find some sort of healthy binding agent, that wouldn’t altar the flavor or texture of the meatloaf . Many of you are probably thinking to yourself, “what an idiot, the answer is so simple”. And you’d be right. The answer is so simple. But at that time, I hadn’t been doing the “real food” thing for all that long, so I was still somewhat of an amateur when it came to figuring out what and how to substitute in recipes. And honestly…it’s still an every day learning process. I love that I am constantly learning!

Ah ha!

The answer came to me…in the voice of my mother…during a phone conversation we were having about this very thing. She knew that I so badly wanted to stick to our non-processed food lifestyle, but that I also really loved meatloaf. She mentioned old fashioned oats. Eureka! Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of that?! Thank you, mom…you are so wise. 

So that’s exactly what I did. I grabbed a scoop or two of oats, and tossed them into my food processor until they were nice and chopped. They turned out to be an excellent substitute for saltine crackers as a binding agent. They didn’t alter the taste at all, plus they offered some extra nutrients into the mix. Win-win!

Another problem I ran into, was the time factor. 

If you’ve ever made a meatloaf before, then you know the cook time on a full loaf can be quite long. Well, like me, you are most likely a busy person. We all are. Most often than not, I tend to get caught up with writing, or playing with my kiddos, that prepping dinner completely slips my mind. By the time I remember, there’s usually less than an hour until dinner, and then I don’t have time to cook a big, elaborate meal. Enter the Mini Meatloaf. 

It’s pure genius, I know. 

Nah…I actually came up with this idea out of sheer desperation one evening. I had already defrosted my ground beef, and had all the fixin’s for meatloaf, but time got away from me, and I forgot to put the loaf in the oven early enough. Doh! At that time, I didn’t have mini loaf pans, so I grabbed my muffin pan and went to work. Turned out my oldest LOVED them! He thought it was so cool that he had his own “personal” meatloaf (with ketchup smiley, of course). 

Okay, okay, I’ve talked for far too long…let’s get down to the meat of the recipe. (See what I did there?)

First, you’ll want to make sure you have your dried Onion Soup Mix ready to go. Now I know you can simply buy a packet a the store, and many of you may opt for that…but you know me, and I don’t like all the “stuff” in those little packets. So… I used a super easy and affordable option from my ever-trusty source, 100 Days of Real Food cookbook. Y’all…seriously. If you haven’t gotten this book, this needs to be in your perma-stash, like yesterday.

Anywho…this mix is easy to make, can easily be doubled, and stored away for future use. Or you can whip it up to use right away. It’s that simple.