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Saturday Night Meatloaf Anyone?

I know families cannot subsist on biscotti alone. Nonetheless, sometimes coming up with dinner options that don’t take too long, aren’t too expensive, and that appeal to multiple people with different tastes isn’t that easy. Over the years, I’ve found that ground beef or turkey are my go-to meats, particularly because both are readily available at most markets and either can be turned into something good relatively quickly. But what to cook that might be a little different from “hamburger helper”? My husband, who is a meatloaf lover, asked that I include this recipe in my cookbook/blog. It’s a very simple, inexpensive meatloaf, but it’s made special with a creamy spinach filling and marsala mushroom sauce. Although the meatloaf recipe requires several steps, they aren’t arduous. The recipe requires no chopping (the dried onions are intentional—they help absorb moisture as well as provide flavor) except for the mushrooms. You can chop the mushrooms in only a few minutes or just opt for a package of pre-chopped mushrooms, which are the same price as the whole mushrooms at my nearby grocery stores. The spinach filling keeps the meatloaf moist as well as adding nutrition and great flavor, and the mushroom sauce is a perfect topping for the meatloaf. My husband also ladles the wine-laced mushroom sauce on top of the potatoes I usually serve alongside the meatloaf. Although the recipe doesn’t call for a fancy cut of meat, go ahead and serve the spinach-stuffed meatloaf it to guests as well as your family. The meatloaf is classy comfort food!

Spinach Stuffed Meatloaf with Mushroom Sauce

Spinach-Stuffed Meatloaf with Mushroom Sauce – Serves 6+

Meatloaf Mixture

1 -1 ¼ pounds of lean ground beef (93 percent)

2-3 slices of stale bread, crumbled (preferably whole grain—about a cup)

¼ teaspoon of pepper

½ teaspoon of salt

2-3 tablespoons of minced dried onions

1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

2 eggs

½ teaspoon of dried thyme

1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of grainy Dijon mustard

In a large bowl, combine all meatloaf ingredients and mix them well. Set the mixture aside while you make the filling.

Spinach Filling

8 ounces of frozen spinach (half a 16 ounce package)

4 ounces of light cream cheese

1 tablespoon of flour

1-2 tablespoons of minced dried onions

1 teaspoon of grainy Dijon mustard

In a microwave-safe bowl, zap the spinach in the microwave until steaming—4-5 minutes. Stir in the light cream cheese until it melts into the spinach. Add the flour, dried onions, and mustard and stir the mixture well.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a large casserole dish (2 quarts or more) with non-stick cooking spray. Lay a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper—18-24 inches long—on the counter. Dump the meatloaf mixture out onto the plastic and spread the meatloaf mixture out into a rectangle—roughly 15 x 10 inches and about ¾ inches thick, but you needn’t be exact here. Just keep in mind that the finished version needs to fit in your prepared dish. Spread the spinach mixture out evenly over the flattened meatloaf mixture, stopping about ½ inch from each edge (otherwise the spinach filling will ooze out too much). Using the plastic or waxed paper to lift the meat mixture, roll the meatloaf up like a jelly roll. Carefully lift the meatloaf into your prepared pan (using the plastic to move the meatloaf helps), keeping the seam on the bottom and poking any filling that oozes out back into the ends of the meatloaf. Shape the loaf a bit with your hands, if necessary, to fit it into your dish and to seal the ends of the loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 50-60 minutes or until browned on top and cooked through. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and, while the meatloaf cools for 10-15 minutes, make the mushroom sauce.

Mushroom Sauce

1-2 teaspoons of canola oil or butter

8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced (preferably baby bellas)

1 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth

½ cup of Marsala wine

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon of salt

½ cup of milk

2 tablespoons of flour

1 tablespoon of dried parsley flakes

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil or butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute them for 5-10 minutes until they’re nicely browned. Add the broth and stir it into the mushrooms to loosen the bits at the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the marsala, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and dried parsley and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced by about a third to one-half. Whisk the flour into the milk until no flour lumps remain. Stir the milk/flour mixture into the mushroom mixture until it thickens, letting the sauce simmer gently for a few minutes. Serve the sauce with the meatloaf.

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