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I feel like meatloaf gets a bad rap.  Back in our elementary school days, we were taught to think of meatloaf as a dense piece of low grade meat, mashed into a log and cooked like a rock.  But I believe in second chances.

The temperature dropped below 80 today, and I immediately went into comfort food mode.  Since I’ve pretty much only eaten carbs for the last 26 years of my life, I decided to stay away from my classic mac and cheese.  Instead, and in an effort to curb the stale reputation of the meatloaf, I give you a new favorite of mine: Spinach and Feta Mini Meatloaves.

The Specs

Meat: Combination of ground beef, pork, and veal
Filling: Whipped Feta with Dill
Topping: Tomato Sauce
Yields Four 1/4 pound Mini Meatloaves
Cook Time: 35 minutes at 350 degrees

The Ingredients

1 lb combination of ground beef, pork, and veal
1 egg
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp minced garlic
4 oz Feta, block or crumbled
3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp fresh dilled, stems removed and roughly chopped
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil (2 for spinach, 2 for feta)
salt, to taste
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
4 oz tomato sauce
1 tsp dried parsley
salt to taste

The Instructions

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Begin by mixing all of the meatloaf ingredients, by hand, in a large bowl.  Place plastic wrap over meat and place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

2.  Place 2 tsp of the olive oil and the minced garlic in a saute pan over medium heat.  Saute until the garlic begins to brown slighly, but be sure not to let it burn, else the garlic will become very bitter.  Add the chopped baby spinach to the saute pan and cook until just wilted, 3-4 minutes.  Add the salt and stir.  Remove from heat.

3.  Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the feta, yogurt, dill, and the remaining 2 tsp of olive oil, until until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.  This can be done by hand with a little elbow grease and patience.  Add salt to taste.  The amount will differ depending on the saltiness of your feta.

4.  Remove the meat from the refrigerator and divide into four equal portions.  Press the portions between two sheets of wax paper to create ovals approximately 3/4 inch thick.

5.  Top the meat with the feta and spinach mixtures, and form the meat around the filling.  You’ll want to be sure to pinch the meat together at the seams, as it will expand in the oven and could potentially open up.  Place the meatloaves on a lightly greased baking sheet.

6.  Add salt and parsley to your tomato sauce to taste.  I buy unsalted tomato sauce and add flavor how I like, but if you have salted tomato sauce, you might not require any additional salt.  If your tomato sauce is too acidic tasting, you can also add sugar in 1/2 tsp increments.  Top the meatloafs with the tomato sauce and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Tips And alterations

Freezing:  If you’re like me and typically only cooking for 1 or 2, you can divide this recipe.  Orrrrrrr you can also freeze the meatloaves after youve cooked them.  Wrap the meatloaves in plastic wrap and then put them in a ziploc bag.  To reheat, put in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Getting Skinny: Try replacing the beef, pork, veal combination in this recipe with ground turkey or chicken.  Turkey and chicken will have less fat than typical meatloaf mix.  To keep the meatloaf from drying out, try adding sauted onions and/or 2 tbsp of tomato paste to the meat mixture to help keep it moist.  You can also use reduced fat feta in place of regular feta.

Being Fancy:  If you’re really looking to impress with this meal, try using a combination of ground lamb and beef instead of pork, veal, and beef.  The dill and feta go great with lamb.  Also try adding a littel bit of cumin, mint, or cinnamon into the meat mixture to make the meatloaf closer in flavor to Greek meatballs.

Happy cooking! 🙂