Bacon-Cheese Mini Meatloaves…For Weeknight Meatloaf Happiness

Though dinner continues to be a source of debate around my house, I’ve had another victory this week in making a meal that the picky heathens actually like.

As a working mom, I have limited time on a week-night to get dinner on the table. I’ve tried making meatloaf by assembling it the night before, but most meatloaf still has a cooking time of at least an hour; not a good thing when you have a kitchen full of hungry boys hounding you to death. By splitting my favorite meatloaf into smaller portions, I cut the cooking time in half. I promise this is your best bet for enticing picky eaters into the land of meatloaf and maintain your week-night sanity.

Here’s what you need:

Mini Bacon-Cheeseburger Meatloaves

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  • 4 strips of bacon
  • ¼ cup Red Bell Pepper, Finely Chopped
  • ¼ cup Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • 2 pounds Lean Ground Beef
  • 1-½ cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • ½ cup Oats
  • ½ cup Light Brown Sugar, Divided
  • ½ cup Yellow Mustard, Divided
  • ½ cup Ketchup, Divided

First things first. I needed to cook the bacon, and use some of the bacon drippings to sauté my veggies, However, I HATE cooking bacon on the stovetop. It pops, it sizzles, it burns me and it makes a mess that is a pain in the rear to clean up. I’m lucky enough to wash the dishes on a given night; scrubbing bacon grease off my backsplash is not going to happen. I solved this problem by cooking the bacon on a foil-lined baking sheet. I just popped it under the broiler for a few minutes, turning it once. I had watch it carefully, so it wouldn’t burn.

Once the bacon was cooked, I removed it to some paper towels to cool, and carefully poured the drippings into a small skillet. Because my baking sheet was covered with foil, I got to throw the mess away and save time on dishes. While the bacon was still cooking, I chopped my bell pepper:

as well as the onion and garlic:

Once the bacon was cooked and my drippings were in my skillet, I turned on the heat to med-high, and added my bell pepper, onion and garlic to the skillet:

While the vegetables were sautéing, I chopped up my cooled bacon:

And grated my cheese:

At this point, my vegetables were nice and soft, so I removed the skillet from the stove and let the vegetable mixture cool down for a bit:

Once I was fairly certain that I was not in danger of burning myself, I began the meatloaf assembly. In a large bowl, I combined the beef:

Cooled vegetable mixture:

Cheese:

Chopped bacon:

Oats:

As well as ¼ cup ketchup, ¼ cup mustard and ¼ cup brown sugar. I reserved the remaining ketchup, mustard and brown sugar to make the sauce later:

Using my (relatively clean) hands, I combined all these ingredients until the mixture looked fairly uniform:

I divided the meat mixture into 12 portions (kinda like I was making 12 big meatballs), and placed it into a muffin pan that I liberally sprayed with non-stick spray. At this point, I covered it up and tossed it in the fridge until the next day, but if you aren’t making this ahead of time like I was, just carry on:

When I got home from work the next day, I popped the meatloaves into a 375 degree oven and baked them for 30 minutes. Because I wanted them to brown well, I removed the meatloaves from the oven after about 20 minutes, and VERY CAREFULLY, I tipped the muffin pan gently over the sink to drain off any excess grease. I retuned the meatloaves to the oven to bake for the remaining 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I combined the remaining ¼ cup ketchup, ¼ cup mustard and ¼ cup brown sugar in a small bowl:

After the meatloaves baked for the full 30 minutes (with that brief break to drain the grease at the 20-minute-mark), I removed them from the oven and topped them with my sauce mixture:

I then returned the meatloaves to the oven, and baked them an additional 10 minutes, or until they looked dang tasty:

I let the meatloaves cool about 5 minutes, then I plated it up and basked in a week-night meatloaf success:


As you can see, I served it with a double helping of vegetables to compensate for that whole bacon-cheese factor.

Because in my mind, that made perfect sense.

My Budding Yet Camera-Shy Photographer

My youngest heathen has taken up photography as a hobby…if you count taking pictures of anything that will hold still long enough with an iPhone as photography.

I made these cookies for the boys’ Valentine’s Day class parties. My youngest was very impressed that I magically managed to make pink cookies. One day, he will discover the reality of food coloring, but in the meantime, I keep it hidden away so my status as the cool mom remains intact.

I knew he was excited about the cookies, because sure enough, out came the iPhone.

He snapped, he posed and he artfully arranged cookies to his exacting specifications:

He acted more neurotic than any magazine editor:

 

Despite his newfound love of photography, he is decidedly uncooperative when Mom decides to take some pictures of her own:

The kid is a mass of contradictions.

But, I happen to know that he is easily bribed with Oreos.

Garden Fever and Manual Labor

I came home to this today:

The bulbs around the yard have started to sprout like crazy. Meanwhile, our seeds sprouted too:

And the weather this weekend looks very promising. I think we may find time to construct the raised beds we have planned for our vegetable garden. Both the landscape of our yard and the soil are not very conducive to healthy gardening, so raised beds are the best option for vegetable success. We’ve built raised beds in the past by following the easy picture tutorial from Ree Drummond, a.k.a the Pioneer Woman (http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeandgarden/2009/02/build-your-own-raised-flowervegetable-bed/). Having all the steps and materials described in layman’s terms made constructing the old beds a snap, so I bet we could knock out all four new beds in an afternoon. I may be getting overly optimistic, but I really want to conquer my green thumb of death this year.

Besides, the kids are old enough now for manual labor, and I foresee pulling weeds as the new punishment for mouthy boys.

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

The Almost-Perfect Weekend

The weather this weekend was absolutely gorgeous. Sunshine, 70 degrees and hints of spring had everyone in a great mood. Sure, we all know the typical cold snap of Louisiana March is probably right around the corner, but we’ll take our faux-Spring days when we can get them. Knowing that perfect weather on a Saturday was too good to pass up, I texted J, rounded up my husband and kids, and we headed to the lake for some fishing and exploring.

We tried to catch a monster fish:

But we didn’t even get a nibble. After a very disheartening fishing effort, we abandoned our poles and set out exploring the shore. During the winter, the lake level was intentionally dropped, so we had huge new areas to explore.

We found a turtle meandering along:

But he was a little camera-shy. The boys were pretty frustrated with me because I would not let them take the turtle home. After several “but Mooooommmmm!!!” moments, I tried to explain all about conservation and environmental responsibility, but I don’t think they were very impressed with my attempts at educational content:

I tried to get them to pose for pictures:

And that was the best one I took after 30+ attempts. My youngest was hard-pressed not to pelt me with his ball after I kept trying to take some semi-orderly pictures of him:

I would have taken some pictures of J, but she threatened to beat me to death with my camera if I even tried. She and the turtle should be BFF’s.

After a fun-filled day, we came home, ate enough boiled shrimp and boudin for a small army, and enjoyed some time on the front porch.

The only drawback of our near-perfect weekend is that my youngest woke up very sick today.

If he can’t keep some water down soon, I foresee a trip to the doctor tomorrow. Does it make me a bad wife/mom that I am secretly glad that my husband will be the one to brave the hell that is our pediatrician’s office? It’s about time I got a pass on the three-hour wait-in-the-claustrophobic-room-while-listening-to-a-dozen-children-cry ordeal.

I’ll try to keep my gleeful relief to myself….riiiiigggghhhttt.

Ohhh, Louisiana…How I Love Ya…

I had to make a too long road trip today from my home in northern Louisiana to the very south end of Louisiana for a work function. Despite the fact that driving six hours is sheer torture, I always get a kick out of the incredibly weird stuff I see on the highways and back-roads of my home state. Today, I observed the following:

  • An elderly man rollerblading down I-49
  • A sign warning drivers: “Prison in Area: Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers!” Because, of course, we Louisianans need reminding that some hitchhikers may be dangerous…like for real, ya’ll.
  • At least six different roadside stands called “House of Meat, ” half of which offered fresh turtle meat! Yummers.
  • A hand-painted (poorly) sandwich board manifesto that started with “Every village has an idiot…;” I could not read the rest, or I would have probably run off the road. This six-foot tall manifesto was propped against a pole outside a service station, next to a hound dog also tied to the pole.

Yep, I love living in the weird capitol of the nation.

My Kids are a Science Experiment

I have a theory about my kids and germs.

My kids always manage to contract some type of bizarre, hyper-intelligent germs that lie in wait until the most inconvenient moment possible. For example, I swear that every ear infection they’ve ever had presented itself right about 5:05 p.m. on a Friday night. What better time to realize we need to see the doctor than right after his office closes?

Right before my very first, big business trip, they both came down with swine flu…which was also not one hour after my husband left on a week-long business trip of his own.

This year, they got the regular flu on the first day of Christmas break, and that lasted through every last day of our vacation.

The past week has been a flurry of activity, and work has been kicking my rear up one side and down the other. My poor husband has plenty of his own work stuff going on, and I have to go out of town for business tomorrow.

You know what that means, right? Yes-sir-ee-bob. My youngest came down with the cough, sniffles and fever last night.

I’d bang my head on the keyboard, but I don’t need to add a broken laptop to mix.

Good Weather + Ambitious Husband = Victory for ME!!!!

My husband has been busy this weekend. In an effort to stop me and the kids from slipping and sliding in the mud between our deck and the cars, he decided to recycle some paving stones the previous owners of our house left behind.

As you can see, this is a work in progress. He laid out a path from the driveway to the deck, and then another from the deck to the detached garage. He has been hard at work, digging out the squares, sinking the pavers, and leveling the whole mess off.

I helped too…that is, I kept him supplied with cocktails and tried to look far too delicate to do any heavy lifting.

Hopefully, he’ll finish this section soon, but in the meantime, I can get to my car now without my heels sinking into two inches of mud. For these small things, I am grateful.

Alarm Clocks are Not Necessarily the Spawn of Satan

It doesn’t matter how early I go to bed, how much sleep I get, or how good the sleep in question was.

I still take it as a deeply personal and intentional insult when I wake up to an alarm clock. At 6:01 a.m., I firmly believe that the alarm clock is a self-righteous, annoying  spawn of Satan, who lives and breathes to tick me off.

I am seriously not a morning person. I thought I would outgrow this after high school. Then I hoped I’d out grow it after college. I REALLY hoped it would get better once Demon Baby slept through the night. I REALLY, REALLY hoped I’d get used to it when I went back to work.

But, alas, I now have to chalk this one up to genetics, nature or some voodoo hex I’ve yet to discover.

In the meantime, my family will just have to maintain the morning safety perimeter until I’ve had my Diet Coke, lest they ask for breakfast too soon and draw back a nub.

Spaghetti Casserole for a Faux Snow Day

Today is yet another Louisiana “snow day.” Unlike last week, when we had an actual real snow day, today was once again a day when school was cancelled under a threat of mythical snow that never materialized. I guess the real snow we had on Friday made everyone a little overly optimistic. I am not complaining, however. I’ve managed to tackle my sentient laundry pile, bake some bread and brownies from scratch, and talk to my mom for longer than five minutes at a time.

Work has been so busy lately that our meals, though homemade, have been the thrown-together variety. Yes, I am the mom who served her family French toast and sausage for dinner last night…sue me.

When I do actually have longer than thirty minutes to feed the heathens, I try and make food we all can agree on, and Spaghetti Casserole certainly fits the bill. Want to satisfy three hungry, excessively picky guys? Here’s what you need:

Spaghetti Casserole

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-1 pound lean ground beef

-1-1/2 cups of your favorite pasta/spaghetti sauce

-a small onion

-8 ounces of spaghetti noodles

-1 can cream of mushroom soup

-2 cloves garlic

-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (yes, I cheated and used the Velveeta crumbles…I was feeling especially lazy)

-1/2 cup water

-2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

-wine of your choice

To get started, pour yourself a glass of wine…and celebrate the fact that it’s Tuesday, five o-clock, sunny outside, the Mardi Gras season or whatever other reason you can think up:

While you are at it, get a large pot of water boiling to cook the spaghetti noodles in. Next, chop up the onion:

In a large skillet over med-high heat, brown the ground beef and onion together, stirring occasionally:

While the meat is browning, chop up the garlic cloves, have a sip of wine, and crank up the music:

Once the ground beef is browned, add the garlic to the skillet and cook for a minute or two:

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti noodles according to the package directions:

While the noodles are cooking, add the cream of mushroom soup, ½ cup of water and 1-1/2 cups of the pasta sauce to meat mixture:

Reduce the heat to low, stir and simmer until the beef mixture is well-combined and looks like this:

By now, the spaghetti noodles should be about done. Drain them and add them to the skillet with the beef mixture, stirring gently to combine:

Pour the spaghetti mixture into a lightly greased 9×13-inch casserole dish, and spread it around evenly. Sprinkle casserole with both the cheddar and parmesan cheeses:

Bake the casserole at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until bubbly.

As you can see from the top picture, I just served it with green beans, garlic bread and called it a done deal. Sure, the heathens complained about the green beans, but I did get super-mom credit for the casserole.

That’s about all a girl can ask for, I guess.