Meatloaf is a standard in my mom's cooking repertoire. When I was a kid she made it often for dinner, using "meatloaf mix," an inexpensive blend of ground beef, pork and veal. Her meatloaf (like all meatloaves) was true comfort food-easy to make, delicious and satisfying.
What's not to love? Well, not much really except that "meatloaf mixes" are usually higher in saturated fat than is healthy. And her meatloaf was bound with white bread-which is a missed opportunity to add healthy whole grains.
These days meatloaf isn't just good home-cooking, it's been popping up on the menus of trendy restaurants across the country. I don't make my mom's "original" meatloaf at home, but I do make healthier versions, like this meatloaf recipe from our new cookbook, Comfort Foods Made Healthy.
This recipe uses one of my all-time favorite makeover ingredients, bulgur. Bulgur is great because you can add it in place of some ground beef in things like burgers, meatloaf, meatballs or casseroles. The bulgur helps maintain a generous serving size, but it doesn't have all the saturated fat of ground beef. This particular meatloaf is also especially tasty because it has dried mushrooms in it.
1 cup dried mushrooms, such as shiitake, porcini or chanterelle
1 cup bulgur (see Ingredient Note)
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup nonfat evaporated milk
1/2 cup ketchup
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 pounds 90%-lean ground beef
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Place mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with warm water; let stand for 30 minutes. Combine bulgur with the boiling water in another small bowl and let soak until the bulgur is tender and the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid; trim stems and coarsely chop caps.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
3. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat and add onion, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add Worcestershire and cook for 3 minutes, scraping the pan well as the mixture becomes sticky. Add tomatoes, evaporated milk and ketchup; stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture is very thick, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
4. Whisk egg and egg whites in a large bowl. Add beef, breadcrumbs, the soaked bulgur, the mushrooms and the tomato mixture. Stir in parsley, thyme and salt. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands.
5. Mound the meatloaf mixture into a free-form loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Makes 10 servings.
Ingredient Note: Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and coarsely grinding or cracking wheat berries. Don't confuse bulgur with cracked wheat, which is simply that-cracked wheat. Since the parboiling step is skipped, cracked wheat must be cooked for up to an hour whereas bulgur simply needs a quick soak in hot water for most uses. Look for it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets, near other grains.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 313 calories; 10 g fat (3 g sat, 4 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrate; 24 g protein; 6 g fiber; 467 mg sodium; 488 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Iron (34% daily value), Zinc (26% dv), Selenium (25% dv).
Here are two of my other favorite healthier meatloaf recipes:
- Blue Ribbon Meatloaf - Former EatingWell Food Editor Jim Romanoff, who loves all things meat, developed this recipe. Since Jim is such a meat fanatic, I know any meatloaf recipe of his is a guaranteed winner. This one uses a blend of lean turkey and lean beef along with whole-wheat breadcrumbs. The real secret of his meatloaf is a large sweet onion, sliced and then cooked with beer, that goes into the meatloaf mix. It adds flavor and moisture that makes it delectable.
- Turkey Mini Meatloaves - The comments about this recipe posted on our website really speak for it better than anything I can say. Here's a sampling: "These were fantastic! Even my meatloaf-hating husband loved them and he is VERY picky. Thank you for a wonderful, healthy, easy meal!" And my personal favorite (since I am all about makeovers): "Very good recipe, wouldn't even know it's low-fat." The secret to this recipe's healthfulness is lean turkey, with shredded zucchini and whole-wheat couscous. But what's really special about these mini loaves is that they're made in muffin tins, so they bake in about half the time of regular meatloaf.
Here are 4 easy ways to give any meatloaf recipe a healthy makeover:
1. Use a leaner blend of meat. But be careful about going too lean with your blend. You don't want to go super-lean because you will end up with dried-out, boring meatloaf. For example, you could use half "meatloaf" mix blended with half lean turkey breast meat. Or you could use 95%-lean beef, blended with a bit of Italian turkey sausage to add flavor and just a bit of fat.
2. Keep it moist. When you reduce the overall amount of fat in the recipe, compensate by adding other ingredients that add flavor and moisture, such as spices, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes or whole grains.
3. Skip the white bread or breadcrumbs. Meatloaf is a great way to get your whole grains. Blend ingredients like bulgur, barley, wild rice, whole-wheat couscous or whole-wheat bread into the meatloaf to bind it and add nutrients.
4. Add vegetables. My mom always put onions and bell peppers in her meatloaf. My makeover suggestion: just add a little more. Shredded zucchini, diced mushrooms or canned diced tomatoes (drained) are other great options to add to meatloaf.
By Jessie Price
EatingWell food editor Jessie Price's professional background in food started when she worked in restaurant kitchens in the summers during college. She started out testing recipes for EatingWell and then joined the staff here full-time in 2004 when she moved to Vermont from San Francisco.
Related Links from EatingWell:
- Also try Black Rice Curried Meatloaf for a slightly exotic twist on meatloaf. We made this meatloaf with black rice (which you can find in large supermarkets), curry and ginger. It also has shredded zucchini in it to help you boost your vegetable servings!
- I love Mini Meatloaves. Traditional meatloaf is made with ground beef, pork and veal; here we replace the veal with ground turkey for a tender, flavorful and leaner version of the classic. Baking individual portions in muffin tins speeds cooking, standardizes serving size and produces a moist, delicious main dish.
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