Sunday Suppers: Homemade Meatloaf

Okay,  so I have been seriously dropping the ball with this whole KaZoo blogging thing (This is Chris, by the way). So first things first: Sorry about that. When Amy first had the idea that BOTH of us would be contributing to the KaZoo (what I call it in my head), I was really unsure about how I would contribute since the entirety of my sewing knowledge was based on a 5 minute emergency button replacement lesson I received at my first job (I was a “Formalwear Consultant” at a formalwear shop). Even though I’ve only used this skill about 3 times, my wife has graciously relieved me of sewing duties since my method correlates quality with thread amount (AKA good sewing = MOAR Threadz). If you are thinking that you’d like to know how to sew a button, I suggest this link ( http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/06/28/sewing-on-a-button/) from a website I recently found.

I suppose I should get on with the post at hand, now that we have established that, just like talking in real life, Chris blogging equals going down rabbit holes. After consulting blog experts (reading articles on “how to blog” on other blogs) apparently the thing to do is blog about things you like, enjoy, are good at, or want to become good at. So I am thinking I’ll start this out with a thing I like: FOOD!

Growing up, my parents would have definitely classified me as a picky eater, as there were many “rules” I had about food. Like many picky eaters, these rules started out with unreasonable statements like, “EW! I’m not eating that; the food is touching each other!” when I was young and were subsequently justified later on with things like, “That has TOO many flavors.”  Luckily for me (and Amy too), I have been steadily moving away from picky-eater-land since we’ve been married, which brings me to the recipe that I’d like to share: MEATLOAF. Specifically, what I call Amy’s mom’s meatloaf.

My prior beliefs on meatloaf fell under the “too many flavors” (meat, onions, AND sauce – horror of horrors!) rule, and my reaction the first time Amy suggested we have meatloaf for dinner was basically this: (try the commercial for the short version)

As it turns out, I never had meatloaf like Amy’s family recipe, and now it’s become one of the things I actually do well.  I have learned that not all meatloafs (meatloaves?) are created equal.  So without further ado, here is what you need (with what I used in parens):

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh ground beef (we use lean, grass-fed and I prefer to let it get to room temp or close before starting because colder=hand frostbite)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk (we use 2%)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (vidalia or sweet)
  • ~ 1/2 cup quick oatmeal (we use Quaker Oats)

Special sauce:

  • ~1/2 cup brown sugar (I usually get close, but probably a little more than exactly 1/2 a cup)
  • ~1/4 cup ketchup (We use the Simply Heinz kind, and I usually use a little bit more as well)
  • 1 tsp mustard (we use French’s regular yellow mustard)

Directions:

SPOILER ALERT: Making a meatloaf is not pretty.  Taking pictures of said making of meatloaf is not pretty either.  But it’s pretty good eating, which justifies the making.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Since our oven take a few minutes to heat up, I usually start the preheating right after I’ve gotten out all my ingredients, but before I start mixing ingredients. Once that is done, I chop the onion and then combine the milk and egg using our handy dandy hand mixer.


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Making the loaf:

While oven is heating up, beat egg and milk in large bowl.
One Egg in Milk

I use a combination of the 2nd and 3rd (of 5) speeds on the mixer until the mixture starts to get a little bit bubbly. Mixing!Don’t worry:  It’s not an exact thing, and I’ve probably varied in bubbly-ness over time.Bubbles!

Once your preferred bubble level has been established, add the meat, onion and oatmeal to the liquid mixture.  IMG_7269The next step is why I let the meat warm a bit (if I remember). Time to mix the meat, liquid, onion, and oatmeal by HAND until the meat has absorbed all of the liquid and the onion and oatmeal is sufficiently mixed in. Forgetting to let the meat warm a bit results in some eskimo cold hands. Note: I do not recommend warming the meat in a microwave as inevitably it results in partially microwaved beef (also why we prefer fresh meat). Remember to wash hands before this step or use prep gloves.

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Add salt and pepper to taste (Amy typically does this part.)

Transfer mixture to the meatloaf pan and form into a squarish shape. One key thing I’ve learned is to ensure there is gap between the pan wall and the meatloaf.  Also, I make sure there is a slight depression (aka lake) in the center for the special sauce on top of the meatloaf so that it doesn’t run off during the cooking process.

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Important note: Amy’s mom recommends a shallow square pan, which is not the traditional “loaf” pan but allows for faster cooking and more surface area covered in sauce…which is of course, the best thing about meatloaf.  Secretly, I think this is the only way she could get Amy to eat meatloaf when she was a child–if there was more sauce. Lots of sauce.  Speaking of sauce….

Now it’s time to make the sauce that really makes this recipe stand out and is a cinch to make.

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Just stir together your brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard in  a small bowl until you get a consistent mixture. I’m not a huge fan of mustard but don’t even notice it in this sauce.

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Pour over meatloaf, staying within the lake  you’ve made in the center of the loaf.

Hopefully, by now your oven has preheated and is ready to go. Simply place in the center of the middle rack, and bake 30-40 minutes or until done.  Our current (please, please let it soon be former) condo oven usually takes a total of 45-55 min, but prior ovens have  previously been close to the recipe time. While you wait for it to cook, you can prepare yummy sides. IMG_7281

Chris words of wisdom: No matter how much you make fun of an oven for not being hot enough to make recipes come out on time, it is never ok to attempt to lick a meatloaf pan as you remove it to get that bit of sauce that you spilled. Luckily for everyone, my wife always has an eye for when I am about to have an EPIC Fail and a loud voice to yell “STOP!!!”  After all, burnt tongues don’t get to enjoy the yummy meatloaf.

So as you can tell, I am now a convert to the greatness of meatloaf despite the fact it is made up of even more ingredients that I previously thought.  We don’t have meatloaf very often since Amy tries to get me to eat less red meat, but that makes this more of a treat when we actually do. I typically justify requests for meatloaf with statements like, “We can have it with green beans” so that Amy agrees to have it.  Works every time. Except probably not after this post.

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Furniture Fridays: Caster(ed), the Friendly Furniture

Confession: I love furniture with casters.  In fact, sometimes I wonder why all furniture doesn’t come with casters.  So for the first Furniture Friday post, let’s talk casters and why they make furniture friendly!

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Top Ten Reasons All Furniture Should Be on Casters:

  1. Cleaning: I may not be Susie Q. Homemaker, but I am rather OCD, especially when it comes to a clean home.  It is my sworn mission to launch frequent cleaning assaults on dust mites lurking in the carpets and upholstery in particular.  Unfortunately, instead of mass-cleaning in one fell swoop, I find myself turning the vacuum cleaner on and off constantly while I move furniture around to make sure all areas of the carpet and rugs get vacuumed properly. Trust me: There is simple satisfaction in being able to relocate furniture with a nudge while continuing to vacuum, instead of waiting for your spouse to help you move the 92″ sofa where the dust mites are marshaling their troops (or wrenching your back trying to strong-arm it one-handed yourself: See #4). Oh sure, I may not move the furniture every time I clean, but I’d really like to avoid the nightmares about dust bunniculas that haunt me when I don’t move the furniture.
  2. Clutter Magnets (also known as Kids): We don’t have kids yet, but I know a lot of blogger buddies and friends who do.  From what I can tell, the average child leaves a room looking like an F5 tornado swept through recently.   In the FEMA-worthy clean-up that follows, some toys are never found in the wreckage: Presumably they took shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture and are still in the back corner, cowering in fear of being sucked into the tornado by giant, grabbing hands covered in marker and saliva (and who knows what else).  Of course, this leads to the inevitable meltdown when your kids set out to build the perfect Lego masterpiece, only to discover that a few essential pieces are missing.  Utter frustration.  Flash forward a few years when you move into a larger home to accommodate your growing family and discover those missing pieces under the bedroom dresser.  Someone in the family shouts, “My Legoooooooooos!” and then, because the Legos have already been packed, those stray pieces get thrown in a random box, never to be seen again…at least until the next move when you are empty nesters downsizing and your children are “too old” to play with Legos because they are now (gasp) adults.  Then, because you are a sentimental parent (or maybe you are the adult children who secretly still love your Legos and want to save every piece of your childhood), you end up with a Ziploc bag of random toy parts in a drawer in the guest room and Hogwarts in a box under your bed, waiting for (grand)children (someday).  Okay, fine.  I bought the Harry Potter Legos when I was in college.  But still.  #NeverTooOldForLegos
  3. Companions (i.e., your other children): We do have animal companions in the form of two spoiled cats.  They have toys, too. Lots of small toys that squeak, shake, jingle, or roll, typically under things out of reach (Note: This picture clearly shows a ball within human reach, but you get the idea).  IMG_2332How many of you have a pet that pouts when his/her favorite toy is under something and he/she can’t reach it?  My cat just falls asleep where his toy is lost, but he’s not exactly an active breed.  My husband’s cat, however, is a different story entirely.  She will whine and fidget in front of a piece of furniture until someone rescues her toy from underneath it, which is usually rather quickly because a Siamesesque shriek is hard to ignore (Siamesesque because she is a rescue cat that has seal-point Siamese markings, but we think she isn’t a purebred).  Usually this rescue mission involves a contortionist act with a Swiffer duster and shoulder dislocation, which brings us to #4.
  4. Critical Injuries: How many people land themselves a visit to the chiropractor trying to unearth toys for sobbing children and whining pets?  If you are a DIYer, go ahead and triple that number.  DIYers probably experience an above average number of accidents (and ER trips) resulting from assuming they have super-human powers (but come on, everyone’s favorite superheroes have a weakness here or there, so aren’t DIYers allowed a few tragic flaws, too?).  A trip to the ER is fairly expensive these days, so if you are a DIYer with pets and children, stock up on Aleve. You’ll need it unless you have mobile furniture that reduces the frequency of opportunities for neck strain and shoulder separation.
  5. Company: As an only child, my childhood involved having lots of people over to my house for pool parties and sleepovers.  Wouldn’t games of Twister have been much easier if the furniture easily rolled back?  Nowadays, when we get together with my husband’s family, the inevitable Xbox 360 dance marathons or Wii Sports games involve lots of action and the need for lots of space.  Furniture relocation for game nights is a cinch if everything rolls in/out.  
     Roll it out for dance sessions and roll it back in place for boardgames. Because who wants to injure their backs before the dance marathon happens? Not this kid, especially since Kinect dance-offs are the only thing I usually win when playing games with my husband’s extremely competitive family.  My family is only competitive when it comes to SEC football, but piling a bunch of people into a room to yell at the TV watch football comfortably would be helped by rolling furniture, too!
  6. Christmas/Holidays: Company frequently coincides with the holidays, no matter what holiday you might be celebrating.  More people = more furniture and less room for it.  If you celebrate Christmas like we do, there may also be the addition of a tree or two (or several).   Trees need space, which involves moving even more furniture. Casters make Christmas (and Christmas decorating) a happier time.  And who doesn’t want to have a happy holiday?
  7. Creative Whims: Decorating for Christmas certainly necessitates furniture finagling to fit everything and everyone in the room together cozily yet happily.  However, if you are like me, a creative whim to change decor and rearrange furniture can strike at any moment–not just the holidays.   Casters make it possible to cater to your creative whims, especially if creative inspiration usually strikes you when you’re home alone but don’t want to wait to try out your new idea until reinforcements arrive.
  8. Cross-country Moving: Whether moving cross-country or cross-city, you may not always have the financial resources to hire a professional moving company or be fortunate enough to have your company pay for movers if relocating to a new job/job site.  I have lived in 5 states and have moved 14 times in 29 years.  Only twice did those moves involve professional movers.  Moving furniture would be much simpler if everything rolled so that you could save your strength for lifting across thresholds and up ridiculously narrow ramps and staircases.  Plus, you wouldn’t have to use those small, rolling dollies that seem prone to wiggle out from under furniture at the worst possible times and are best suited for pet skateboards (or beds, in this case, thanks to the soft towel laid on top to protect the sofa in transit to make it more comfortable).  IMG_2331
  9. Critters: The Great Mouse Roach Hunt: This section is not for the faint of heart.  We currently live in a townhouse with neighbors on both sides.  We have perfectly wonderful neighbors on one side, and interesting neighbors on the other (interesting: a Southern female euphemism for less than savory).  These interesting neighbors have habits that seem to invite critters of the six- and eight-legged variety.  I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that the combination of a mild winter and dry summer plus those neighbors has led to critters finding their way to our home, too.  We have regular pest control services (and our service provider is absolutely fantastic!), but last weekend we saw a ginormous roach emerge from the floorboard along the wall we share with those neighbors.  Neither of us had seen a roach that big since dorm days.  It zoomed under furniture, up walls, and even attempted to fly-hop across the kitchen before we trapped it. I completely lost my head and stood on our new storage ottoman from Target (with casters, of course) while my brave husband went after it.  I am normally only that creeped out by spiders, centipedes, and snakes, but this thing was as freaked out as we were, which made it that much worse.  If all the furniture had been on casters, we would have been able to end The Great Roach Hunt more quickly. Blech.  At least it wasn’t one of those infamous German cockroaches. Exponential blech.IMG_2282
  10. Couching: This last one may be a new one for some of you.  If you grew up as a suburbanite, perhaps you may or may not have participated in (or been the recipient of) a toilet-papering/rolling/TPing of someone’s house.  What you may not have done is “couch” someone’s house.  This involves the traditional toilet paper, accompanied by various and sundry other random things deposited in the victim’s yard, including: traffic cones, street signs, toilets, and couches.  (All of these things found their way into my yard at some point during my high school years.  You know who you are). 😉  Things like toilets and couches were allegedly scrounged from people’s yards who had set them out to be hauled away to the dump (translate: NASTY condition).  Things like traffic cones and street signs, well, you can figure those out.  Not legal, folks.  Don’t do it.  Now,  I would imagine that sneaking a couch into someone’s yard would be made much easier if you could simply roll a couch down someone’s driveway and run/drive off, rather than carefully placing it on the front porch.  Of course, maybe that would be taking some of the fun out of it, if, in fact, couching is a fun activity.  My dad played a good joke on the people who “couched” our yard one chilly night in late October that involved a toilet and a gigantic pumpkin, and let’s just say, there were no more couches or toilets in our yard for a long time afterwards.  Maybe this is why I love pumpkins so much.  At any rate, I’m not endorsing couching, but as an OCD person, I wanted a list of 10 reasons, and this came to mind as something humorous/bizarre/unique to add to the list when I was thinking about why you would want casters for moving furniture more quickly and easily.

Can you think of any more reasons why casters would simplify/improve your home/work/life (preferably a better reason than #10)?  Please share!

Not Feeling Hemmed-in Anymore

Have you ever found a pair of pants that fit you perfectly, bought five pairs of them (in different colors, of course), and lived happily for several years, only to later discover that the store no longer carries the perfect pant for you anymore?  Feeling “hemmed-in” by “standard” sizes that supposedly fit the average person and actually fit no one? I feel your pain.  About seven years ago, Banana Republic made a regularly sized pant with a shorter inseam (denoted “S”) that was the best fit ever. I bought almost every color of that pant available and literally wore them out.  When I returned to buy replacements a few years later, I discovered that they had replaced their “short” pants with a petite collection that was not a 1:1 substitution.  Complete and utter disappointment.  When I tried on a pair of their petite pants to find a small enough waist and inseam, the distance from the waist to the crotch was too short, and there was barely enough room in the thighs for my former gymnast/dancer/cheerleader legs (read: NOT TOOTHPICKS, FASHION INDUSTRY! Grr!).  When I tried on a regular pair of pants, the situation reversed.  Banana Republic was literally the ONLY store that carried a dress pant that fit me, but not anymore.  Now, my shopping experience at BR was like every other shopping experience at every other store =  feelings of self-loathing and bitter frustration.

Since this was back in my “newlywed educator with zero income to spend on tailored clothes and zero sewing ability” days, I did what any normal girl would do: I bought a buffet of differently-fitting (read: ill-fitting) pants.  On days where I needed to look “professional,” I suffered through the pants with the tighter crotch and legs (suffer being an understatement), while on casual days, I tripped over the long legs of the baggier, bigger pants (nothing says “put together” like tripping on your pants at a job interview, right?).  After tearing through a mile-long hem with a stiletto heel and experiencing petechial bleeding across my hips from the tight-fitting pants, I resorted to wearing yoga pants and “outdoorsy” pants to work–the kind with the expandable waist and zip-off legs that you buy at places like REI. Seriously.  Now granted, I work in the freer world of graduate student/academia, where you can get away with a more eclectic (translates: casual) wardrobe, but nothing says poor graduate student like ill-fitting pants. Or yoga/hiking pants.  Since most of the other female doc students have become pregnant in the last couple of years or so, I knew it was a matter of time before people naturally assumed I was wearing stretchy and expand-a-waist pants because I was carrying a bundle of joy.  I was desperate for a solution.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just wear skirts instead of pants to work.  Reasons: Overworked women do not have time to shave their legs daily. I am an overworked woman. You can fill in the rest. Also, I work best with my feet propped on top of my desk.  Again, you can fill in the rest.
 

That’s when I realized I had started sewing again.  If I could repair a zipper on an old skirt and sew some pillow covers, surely I could hem some of those baggy dress pants, right?  I could make MY OWN “short” pants (Take that, BR!).  Of course, the thought of sewing mismatching leg lengths was intimidating, which is why I didn’t cut off the extra material.  That way, if I screwed up, I could undo the disaster and give them to someone else to fix. At some point. In the distant future. When I am not a poor grad student.  (Correction: In the near future.  I hope. Please.)

I started with a pair of Gap khaki pants, thinking that I would save my nicer dress pants for post-practice sessions.  I put on the too-long pants, and rolled up the pant legs to the desired length, making sure they appeared even. foldinghemsup Since the pants are made of a relatively thick khaki material, the cuffs stayed rolled up long enough for me to take them off, match up the legs to ensure they were the same length, and reverse the cuffs by rolling them under.

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I realize this isn’t exactly how most people do this, but we’re talking amateur tactics that actually worked. Miracle. Feel free to ignore the weird black grunge on the edge of my desk–years of sweaty wrists, methinks? #FurnitureHandMeDowns It’s clean.  It’s just permanently stained.  But don’t worry.  It’s getting painted with Annie Sloan Chalk paint as soon as we move out of #Rentervilletuckingunderhem

I selected a stitch that looked like the original hem, then sewed each leg, starting and stopping at the interior seam (This probably seems obvious to most of you, but I took the attachment base off my machine so that I could sew in a circle around the pant leg, rather than sewing the leg hole shut!).   I used a cotton, khaki-colored thread from Coats and Clark that my husband actually bought to sew some buttons on his own pants.  After witnessing his attempt at button-sewing, I graciously offered to sew the rest for him. 🙂hemming I backstitched the beginning and end of my hem and across the interior seam to reinforce it because this was a fairly heavy weight khaki.  backstitchseamPlus, I wanted my work to last–at least for one wear and wash, anyway. Long enough to prove I could actually hem a pair of pants. Yeah, something like that.2legsfinished

I tried on my pants post-sewing and was amazed that they actually seemed to fit for the first time ever. Yay!  Now I’m no longer “hemmed-in” by store sizes.finishedNow on to the trickier dress pants.  Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to wear my yoga pants for yoga and my hiking pants for hiking soon!