When it’s Okay to Cheat, Part Two

By now, you are probably familiar with my philosophy on food, which I sum up in three words – “keep it simple”. Stock your pantry with the highest quality “scratch” ingredients available. Scratch ingredients are unprocessed foods; they are real, single ingredient whole foods. I call these Master Ingredients. Stick to recipes that you can make in thirty-minutes or less. These recipes usually require just a few steps and minimal ingredients. Fabulous food does not need a lot of “do” to prepare! I will often make a super-simple concoction and say to myself “This was so easy that it really shouldn’t taste this good”, as if I had broken the law with my love of simplicity.

Recently my friend Jerry dropped by with a pan of surprisingly delicious meatloaf. Of course, I asked Jerry for the recipe. “It’s easy, he said. The recipe is on the back of the Stovetop stuffing mix for chicken”. For decades I have used Julia Child’s meatloaf recipe so I definitely know good meatloaf. Does Julia really have a box of stuffing as competition?

Intrigued, I bought a box of Stovetop and set foot in the kitchen. The recipe on the back of the box calls for two pounds of ground beef but I used one pound mild Italian sausage along with one pound of ground beef. I followed the instructions exactly. The recipe makes a generous quantity so I divided it in half and put it in two loaf pans. I baked one and put the other in the freezer to see if it freezes well. It did! The recipe says to top it with barbeque sauce but I wanted to know if ketchup would work as well. It didn’t – we all agreed the one made with barbeque sauce was better.

Then on the next batch, I acted on a suggestion that my love, Jim, made, and shaped it into hamburger bun size patties and baked them until a meat thermometer reached 160⁰. Then we topped them with all the usual burger condiments including cheddar cheese, dill pickles, and red onions. These definitely were leveled up hamburgers. In all my years with Julia Child, why did it not occur to me to make the meatloaf into hamburgers? Well, maybe because a hamburger is not French! In my opinion, a meatloaf sandwich is the best part of making meatloaf. This is a prime example of simplicity at its very best.

Out of curiosity, I googled Stovetop dressing and meatloaf isn’t the only thing you can make with this boxed convenience food. There are quick recipes galore! I made an exception to my self-imposed guideline of “no processed food in my pantry” and Stovetop dressing is now on my Master Ingredients List. Try it!