Today was work from home day, which means slow cooker dinner day. I love a good meat loaf. There are so many variations on the meat loaf, but I'm pretty much a plain Jane meat loaf kinda gal. Meat loaf is one dish it never would have occurred to me to cooking the slow cooker. One reason is that awesome little crust you get on the outer edges when cooked in the oven. But, this recipe from my Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook is too awesome not to eat over and over.
I decided to make mac 'n cheese with it instead of mashed potatoes, which I would normally make, since we just had potatoes with the CFS on Sunday. The recipe I like to use is one I saw Rachael Ray make years ago on her show. It is probably the best homemade mac 'n' cheese I've ever had--perfectly creamy and cheesy. It also travels well--I've taken it to potlucks with friends and work.
Kelly's Famous Meat Loaf
(Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook, 2006)
Prep: 9 minutes
Cook: 5 hours
Slow-Cooker Size: 3-quart oval
- 1 1/2 pounds ground round
- 1 (1-oz) envelope dry onion soup mix
- 1 cup ketchup, divided
- 1/4 c. water
- 3/4 c. fine, dry breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 c. (4 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. prepared mustard
Combine ground round, soup mix, 1/2 cup ketchup, and next 6 ingredients; shape mixture into 8- x 4-inch loaf. Place loaf into lightly greased 3-quart oval slow cooker.
Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW, and cook 3 hours. Remove ceramic insert from cooker, and carefully pour grease off meat loaf; return insert to cooker.
Stir together remaing 1/2 cup ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard in a small bowl; spread over meat loaf.
Cover and cook on LOW 1 more hour or until meat loaf registers 160. Remove meat loaf from ceramic insert, and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
I try to use ground turkey as much as possible in place of ground beef. We've gotten to where we don't really even notice the difference. But, I still have a small aversion to ground turkey in large "chunks"--burgers (I'm almost over this one), loaves, balls. So, for this dish, I mix half ground turkey with half VERY lean ground beef. This time I also went ahead and used a pound of each for a 2-lb loaf. I just adjusted the cooking time 30 minutes at each level and it turned out fine.
I also use low fat cheese because I have it on hand and it is just one more place to cut back fat and calories.
As I've mentioned before, I have an 8-quart slow cooker, but I don't find that to be a hinderence in this recipe. If anything, it might help in that it keeps too much of the grease from getting on too much of the loaf.
Cheddar Cheese and Macaroni
(Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2, 2003)
- 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes or al dente to package directions
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil (once around the pan)
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 3 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 c. whole or 2% milk
- 3 c. shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (a couple pinches)
- Salt, to taste
This recipe is way too heavy and fattening for a normal, everyday meal, so I took some steps to lighten it up.
I used skim milk instead of whole. I actually meant to buy some fat free half and half, which I've used in another light mac 'n' cheese recipe, but I forgot, so I used what I had on hand. The trick to using skim milk in something like this is to heat it slower than you normally would. But, I had no problem with it thickening right up.
I also use Smart Balance Whipped as opposed to regular butter. Fewer calories, less fat, less sodium, and good things like Omega 3 added. And you still get the butter taste.
I prefer to use the Ronzoni pastas. I don't really like whole wheat so much, so this is a good compromise. It may still be higher in carbs, but it also has good things like more protein, more fiber, and I think the Omega 3 too.
And, like in the meat loaf, I used low fat cheese. I used a combo of pre-shredded medium cheddar and a block of Cabot reduced fat sharp. The cabot reduced fat is a bit more expensive than a generic cheese, but it's really good. I do use the white cheddar when I'm making this dish for a potluck, but the difference isn't THAT great.