Rush Hour

Meatloaf is truly the quintessential comfort food. Nothing beats it alongside creamy mashed potatoes when winter's got you down. Unfortunately, it seems to take ages to bake and there's no getting it when the craving first hits you.

Or is there?

This month's column is the first in a series dealing with make-ahead meals. Simply put, you can put it a little time when you've got it and have a fantastic meal ready for you when you don't. Actually, the recipes presented in this series are pretty easy and quick to put together on their own, but what makes them special is that they make large portions and freeze beautifully.

This month's recipe is all about making meatloaf in individual portions and enjoying it whenever the mood strikes you. Including things like sautéed mushrooms in the mix keeps it moist without a lot of fat and a tangy sauce for the top adds flavor and locks in moisture. Baking them in muffin tins allows you to cut the cooking time in less than half and the little portions allow you to freeze enough for single servings whenever you want.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments on the message board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Mini Meatloaf

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 8 oz. finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 c. diced onion
  • 1/2 c. diced red pepper
  • 1 T. good quality chili powder
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 c. fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oz. cubed sharp cheese
  • 1/2 c. BBQ sauce -- choose your favorite variety
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. ketchup

Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion and pepper and cook an additional 1 minute. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.

Allow the mixture to cool. In a large bowl, mix the vegetable mixture, breadcrumbs and ground beef by hand until well combined. Add the egg and cheese and mix until incorporated into the mixture.

Divide the mixture into 12 portions. Using your hands, form each portion into a ball and place into a standard muffin tin cup. Press it slightly to fill the cup. Repeat with all 12 portions.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove the muffin tin and brush with a sauce made by mixing the BBQ sauce, maple syrup and ketchup together. Return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or cool and wrap in aluminum foil and plastic and freeze for up to 3 months.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

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