Meatloaf with Quinoa
Well, it isn’t the prettiest meatloaf I’ve ever made – but it just might be the tastiest…
Most people who need to stop eating gluten panic a bit at first about bread, baked goods such as cake and cookies, and prepared foods. In many ways, the process has been much easier for me, since I had already stopped eating cake and cookies, and ate relatively little packaged or otherwise prepared food. (I didn’t eat much bread, either, but that one is a challenge – I’m working on it!)
The bigger issue for me has been all the recipes in which I use flour, or breadcrumbs, or barley, or wheat germ, or oats (oats are the killer for me…) I react so badly to oats that they are the one food actually now banned from my kitchen – that fine powder cross contaminated everything, and zapped me, where Rich has been able to control breadcrumbs and Grapenuts. Now, many people who are gluten free can still eat certified gf oats, and of course, many of you reading this are not avoiding gluten at all (and have no reason to do so.) In that case, you can go right ahead and make the meatloaf (or meatloaf muffins) I have made for years – it is good. Or, you can try this one! I really am pleased with the flavor.
Apparently I’m obsessed with quinoa… I did just use it in salmon patties. Actually, that’s not a coincidence – that was proof of concept. (I wanted to try it out in a smaller recipe, before getting involved with several pounds of meat.) I thought that cooked quinoa would clump together, and still absorb more moisture, and so would replace breadcrumbs or dry oatmeal nicely. And it did work in the patties – and does work, with one note, in the meatloaf. The meatloaf with quinoa ended up being moister and more tender, than I really wanted – and I realized that the meat and vegetables have more liquid than the salmon. I made this with quinoa I’d cooked with the typical 1:2 proportions of grain to water – next time I will try reducing the water. (And then maybe the muffins will brown better, and the loaf will be firmer…)
Now – I want to be clear about something. In most cases, I do my best to perfect a recipe before I write about it. There are a few exceptions, but there are specific reasons for them… Most commonly, it is a short season vegetable or fruit – I have it in the CSA, I don’t know if I’ll get it again this year, but I’ll write about it in case you either have it now or get it next week… Occasionally, though, I want to show the process… so you see how recipes are made or adapted. In this case, I first thought I would hold off (since the meatloaf muffins did not look as appealing as the last ones I wrote about) but then it tasted so good that I thought I should share it for anyone who has been hesitating to make this staple of the kitchen.
When I wrote the previous recipe, I noted that you could add vegetables for both moisture and flavor, but that was actually a pretty plain and stripped down version. I really do like it better with the vegetables – just didn’t think through the fact that they also add moisture… but so much flavor… I always use sauteed onion, and carrot is the best extra. In this case, I cut up a carrot and some cabbage, and whirred it in the food processor the same way I do when I make Mom’s Coleslaw for a very fine chop – about 2 parts carrot to one of cabbage. Then I measure out a cup of vegetables. (Then I chopped more cabbage, added it to the remaining carrot, and went ahead and made coleslaw for lunch… I’m all for double tasking.) You can also just grate a large carrot.
I cooked a cup of quinoa and set it aside to cool, and chopped and sauteed a medium sized onion. Once the onion was soft, I added the chopped vegetables, and stirred it around, but didn’t really cook it. (If I’d used a wetter vegetable, such as bell pepper, I’d have sauteed it, too, to drive off some of the moisture.) Then I added the vegetables to the cooked quinoa. I wanted to add seasoning, so mixed it with the warm quinoa to soften the dried herbs – I chose some savoury and thyme, and red pepper flakes. (We like zesty – I used a tablespoon of pepper. Measure to your own taste…) Mixed all that in very well, right in the pot, and then set that aside to cool.
I had a package of ground beef, and one of ground pork, about a pound and a quarter each. (I always make lots of meatloaf – it will give us multiple meals.) You can, of course, change the proportions, substitute chicken or turkey for one of the other meats, use all one kind of meat, or vary it in any way you wish – meatloaf is forgiving… I used a cooking fork to stir it well, and then added four eggs, and stirred them in.
Once the eggs were well distributed, I stirred the quinoa/vegetable mixture in. Again I used the fork, because it doesn’t pack the meat down. I used it to stir and turn the mixture in from the edges, until the grain mix was completely distributed throughout the meat mixture.
I’d written before about making meatloaf muffins – they are faster, and often easier to use later. I wanted, though, to make sure that this would hold in a loaf, and be firm enough to slice, so I baked half of it as muffins, and half as a loaf. I made a dozen muffins, each cup filled full, and formed a loaf in a baking pan. Then I put them in a 350° oven – the muffins for half an hour, the loaf for an hour.
When I took the muffins out, they seemed a bit (alarmingly) damp. As I let them rest a while, though, they reabsorbed the moisture… and in fact, their texture is fine. That’s the reason they didn’t brown nicely, though… That was less an issue with the loaf, where excess liquid had simply run off. I let it rest a while, too, before slicing. I did find that it was a bit softer and moister than usual, and not as firm as I am used to, so a little harder to slice. (On the other hand… I usually find leftovers a bit dry, and want ketchup or something to moisten them – that was not an issue, here. Cold, this has both moisture and flavor enough to eat plain.)
I may experiment in future with a drier grain, but on the whole I found the problems with the moisture to be purely cosmetic – the flavor, and the texture for eating, is fine (and perhaps even better, for eating later.) So I’m going with it – because it’s really just the best tasting meatloaf I have made to date. Maybe the moisture holds the flavor? Maybe quinoa just tastes better than oatmeal? (And I think either of them taste better than white bread crumbs…) Whatever – no matter what you do or do not eat, try this – it’s good.
Meatloaf with Quinoa
- 1 c quinoa cooked in 2 c water
- 1 c finely grated or chopped vegetables - carrots cabbage, or other firm and flavorful vegetables.
- 1 onion finely chopped
- oil for pan
- 1 t salt
- 1 t thyme
- 1/2 t savoury
- 1-3 t red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 1/4 lb. ground beef
- 1 1/4 lb ground pork
- 4 eggs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Prepare quinoa and vegetables.
- Saute onion in oil until soft, add vegetables. Mix that and the seasonings into the quinoa, set aside to cool.
- Mix the two kinds of meat and the eggs together in a large bowl. Add the quinoa vegetable mixture, and stir until completely combined.
- Either fill muffin tins, make 2 loaves, or or make 1 dozen muffins and one loaf.
- Bake at 350 - 30 minutes for muffins, 1 hour for loaves.
- Let rest 5-10 minutes to reabsorb juices before removing from tin or slicing.