I have a lot of cookbooks. I love cookbooks. I actually had to refrain from buying cookbooks at one point because I ran out of room on my cookbook bookshelf. Okay, so I slightly refrained. It's hard to resist a good cookbook.
I especially love cookbooks that teach about food and how to cook. One of my favorite and most frequently used cookbooks is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It often lists variations for its recipes, which has helped me learn what can be adjusted in a recipe and how to use my imagination more in my cooking. The following recipe is a great example:
Create-Your-Own Meat Loaf
1 beaten egg
¾ cup soft bread crumbs (1 slice) or ¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
¼ cup milk, beer, apple juice or water
¼ cup finely chopped onion or 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery or green pepper or shredded carrot; or one 2-once can mushrooms, drained and chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons snipped parsley (optional)
½ teaspoon dried sage, thyme, basil, or oregano, crushed; or dried dillweed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground beef, lamb or bison
2 tablespoons bottled barbecue sauce, chili sauce or catsup
In a mixing bowl, combine the first nine ingredients (egg through pepper). Add ground meat and mix well.
In a shallow baking dish pat mixture into a 7x3x2-inch loaf. Or, shape into a circle with a 6-inch diameter. Form a 2-inch-diameter hole in the center of the circle.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes for the loaf (25 to 30 minutes for the ring) or till not pink remains. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon barbecue sauce over meat. Makes 4 servings.
Personal note: I have also made this into 4-5 burger-sized patties or filled regular-sized muffin cups (straight in the baking dish, no paper) for individual servings. They bake in about 20 minutes. When I made this the other night, I needed some extra but didn't want to double the recipe to two pounds of meat. So, I reconstituted about 1/3 cup of TVP (textured vegetable protein) and added that to the mixture before I added the meat. It went over very well.
TVP can be found in the Whole Foods bulk section or possibly at your local food co-op. It's a healthy and very inexpensive way to stretch the ground meat in a recipe or, in some cases, replace. You take one cup of TVP and pour 7/8 cup boiling water over it and let it sit for 10 minutes. You can add taco or other seasonings in the process. It's like a blank canvas, so use your imagination. You can also just add it straight to chili or spaghetti sauce, just keep in mind that it will soak up some of the liquid, so you may have to add more to compensate. TVP is around $1.80/lb here. One cup (about $0.35) is about the equivalent of one pound of ground meat.