- 1.5lbs. ground beef (or mix of beef and pork)
- 2/3 c. cooked brown rice
- 1/3 c. tomato sauce
- 1/3 c. cooked, mashed, sweet potato or squash
- 1/2–1 c. shredded carrots or zucchini
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c. diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. basil
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. thyme
- First: prepare any cookie sheets or loaf pans you’re going to use.
- Then throw everything into your mondo-est bowl, take your wedding rings off, plunge hands into mess and mix until uniform.
- Helpful mom hint: Make sure the kids aren’t going to take advantage of your raw meat hands being stuck in the bowl for a few minutes!
- A batch with 1.5 lbs of meat will make one large meatloaf OR two small/medium loaves OR about 60 walnut-sized meatballs. I make the meatballs either with my hands or an ice cream scoop, depending on my mood and what I got out before getting meaty.
- To bake meatloaf: Pack meat-mix into a loaf pan and bake at 350F for one hour or until no longer pink in the center. I recommend leaving extra time before dinner in case your loaf needs more time because it’s bigger than a standard one-hour loaf, or you’ll be saying, “Family, we’re going to start with salads tonight…because the meatloaf isn’t quite done yet…” Cool 10 minutes to slice (or be cool with it falling apart on the plate!)
- To bake meatballs: Place on baking sheet (I line it with parchment paper for easy clean-up as these are incredibly messy little buggers) and bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes until no pink in center. If you’re baking a batch with a loaf or two, just bake at 350F and make it work!
- You can bake a lot at once, just swap from the bottom to top shelves equally. This will take a little bit of math if you do balls and loaves at the same time.
- To use meatballs in soup: Bring some homemade stock to a boil with some veggies and herbs. Add the meatballs (about the size of a bouncy ball or slightly larger) right into the broth, and it will only take about 5 minutes for them to be cooked through! Check one by cutting it in half and looking for pink. (For you exact recipe people, I got your back again – here’s a great meatball soup recipe that comes together in almost no time at all!)
To freeze meatloaf (options):
- Freeze raw in the loaf pan. You can put freezer paper under it so that you can lift the loaf out once frozen and reclaim your loaf pan. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before baking with above directions.
- Freeze whole, cooked meatloaf, cooled well, in a plastic bag with all the air sucked out of it with a straw. Thaw completely before baking at 350F for 30-60 minutes until heated through.
- Cool cooked meatloaf, then slice and freeze slices on a cookie sheet. Transfer to a plastic bag for storage once frozen. To bake, lay slices flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 350, about 15 minutes if already thawed, 30+ minutes if frozen. (You’ll want to use a sauce if you freeze slices as they’ll get a bit dry. You can pour the sauce on them right away in the oven to heat all together)
- To freeze meatballs: Freeze individually on a baking sheet, then transfer to a plastic bag for storage. You can usually get out the number you want for a meal and put them (frozen) in a pot of spaghetti sauce to heat. If you want meatballs with gravy or sauce, just place them on a baking sheet and follow the directions for sliced meatloaf.
No cooked rice on hand? Use dry oatmeal (although for some, uncooked oats are hard on the digestion).
Grain-free? Subfor the rice.
What to do instead of eggs? It does work to use the basic “flax egg” substitute that is often seen for baking: Mix 1 Tbs. ground flax seed with 3 Tbs. hot water. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes to gel up before adding to the meatloaf. (That ratio is for one egg, so if you’re using more than a pound of meat, double it, and so on for larger batches.)
No tomatoes in a meatloaf? Oh yes, totally possible. Just use pureed orange veggies like sweet potato or squash in place of the tomato sauce. If you’re going to use them in soup or cook in a sauce, you can skip the saucy ingredient altogether.
Want to add liver? Just be careful – liver in meatloaf can get overpowering if you use too much. I recommend not a speck more than 1/5 pound for every 1 pound of other ground meat. You can finely chop it raw or “grind” it yourself in a food processor. I have other ideas for eating beef liver without tasting it too, in case you need to use up the rest of the piece! And if the liver flavah gets you every time no matter how you try to hide it, do what I do 90% of the time and grab liver capsules from our sponsor, Vital Proteins.
I add veggies for a healthy boost to the meatloaf/meatballs, but you can skip it or swap out other veggies at your leisure (see below).
Seasoning variety: The garlic, onion, and salt will make a fine meatloaf without anything else, and especially if you’re using these healthy meatballs in a flavorful sauce, you can either omit the herbs or swap them for other flavors.