Stout & Cheddar Meatloaf

Everyone has their favorite meatloaf recipe. It’s one of those classic American comfort foods that doesn’t photograph particularly well, but definitely deserves a place in a food blog. Every family adds their own special touch, like this Asian Meatloaf with a Sweet & Spicy Glaze that Dustin and I came up with last year, inspired by our time in Japan. There are so many possible combinations of ground meats, add-ins, and glazes that this Create Your Own Meatloaf Tool on Fine Cooking’s website is pretty awesome if you’re looking for inspiration on how to add a twist to this comfort food classic.

Instead of the usual corned beef & cabbage this year, we ate this delicious meatloaf that was infused with Irish cheddar and Stout, and then wrapped in bacon. It was a little more time consuming than we thought it would be, but because it was a holiday, we felt it was worth the effort. Instead of beef & veal, we used a combination of beef & lamb (a nod to another comfort food favorite, lamb and Guinness stew). We also formed two smaller meatloaves, and baked them side by side, instead of one large one that the recipe suggests.

Stout & Cheddar Meatloaf

(Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking)

2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup small-diced carrots
1/2 cup small-diced celery
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup stout beer, such as Guinness (we used a local Stout called Dark Knight from Santa Cruz Ale Works)
4 oz. medium-coarse white bread, such as Italian or French, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
1 cup whole milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground lamb
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Irish White Cheddar (or regular domestic cheddar)
1/4 cup dried mushrooms, re-hydrated in hot water and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
10 oz. sliced bacon (about 9 strips)

  • Heat 2 TBS. of the oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the stout, and simmer briskly, until almost dry, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until warm.
  • In a shallow dish that holds it in a single layer, soak the bread in the milk, flipping once, until soggy but not falling apart, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the coarseness and freshness of the bread. Lightly squeeze a handful of bread at a time to remove some of the milk (it should be wet but not drenched). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the vegetable mixture.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Add the beef, lamb and eggs to the onion mixture. Scatter the Cheddar, re-hydrated mushrooms, and parsley over the meat, and then sprinkle with the Worcestershire, 2-1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Use your hands to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined; try not to compact the mixture as you do this.
  • Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment. Form 2 rectangular blocks (it will become loaf-shaped as it cooks) with the meatloaf mixture and place side by side on the pan. Finish by draping each one with slightly overlapping strips of bacon, tucking the ends under the loaves.
  • Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F in the center of the meatloaf, 40 to 55 minutes.
  • Broil the meatloaf about 6 inches from the broiler element until the bacon is brown and crisped, about 3 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board or serving platter with a large spatula and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch-thick slices.

While we were busy making the meatloaf, Levi was busy with his new hobby, opening kitchen drawers 🙂

Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

It’s no surprise that we’ve been busy lately! Levi’s been crawling for about a month now, so dinners have had to be quick and easy to throw together while he zooms around the kitchen. These pitas are great for a weeknight because they are as quick to prepare as tacos but more exotic-tasting. Cinnamon-spiced ground lamb is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a refreshingly bright orange and cucumber salad with mint, and a dollop of cool Greek yogurt. A warm, chewy pita holds everything together for ease of eating! (And keeps one hand free for feeding bites to a baby).

Levi is quite the eater! We’ve moved away from purees at dinnertime (he was getting bored with them and much more interested in what was on our plates – do you blame him?) and now he pretty much eats whatever we eat for dinner. He loved each little bite that I made for him of pita, ground lamb, and a little greek yogurt (which somehow ended up on his forehead :))

Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

(From the Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

2-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large oranges
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 pitas, halved and very lightly toasted
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • Heat 1-1/2 TBS. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add about three-quarters of the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a small bowl; set aside.
  • Cook the lamb, cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in the skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes; drain well.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining raw onion and transfer to a large bowl. Cut the peels and pith from the oranges. Working over a bowl to collect the juice, cut the orange segments free from the membranes. Cut the segments into chunks. Add the oranges, orange juice, cucumber, vinegar, mint, and the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the chopped raw onion; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fill the pitas with the lamb and cooked onions. Add some of the orange-cucumber salad and a dollop of yogurt. Serve the remaining salad on the side.

Lamb Tikka Masala

Our lamb traveled from Greece to India this week, appearing first in gryos and then in a spicy masala sauce. We used Jamie Oliver’s recipe for this one. It just so happens to be in his top 10 favorite meals. You can use any kind of meat you like, since it’s cooked separately from the sauce; making it ideal for using up leftovers. The only change we made was adding a lot more spices than the recipe called for. We tasted it at the end and pretty much doubled the amount of paprika, cumin, coriander, and salt. Did you know that some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had was in Japan of all places? We used to go to this one place in a small town called Minou — the people who worked there were always so friendly. Maybe they were happy to see some fellow foreigners come into their restaurant. One man in particular was very animated and used to beam at us through the kitchen window, while he was preparing chicken to throw into the tandoori oven.

Lamb Tikka Masala
(From Jamie’s Dinners)

6 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled
2-3 fresh red chiles, de-seeded

olive oil

1 TBS. mustard seeds

1 TBS. paprika

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander

3 TBS. garam masala

a generous 3/4 cup plain yogurt

leftover cubed lamb, or 4 medium skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks

1 TBS. butter

2 medium onions, peeled and sliced

2 TBS. tomato puree

1 handful of ground cashews


1/2 cup heavy cream

a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

  • Grate the garlic and ginger on the finest side of a grater into a bowl. Chop the chiles very finely and add them to the bowl. Mix together.
  • Heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add them to the bowl with the ginger-garlic mixture, along with the paprika, cumin, coriander, and 2 TBS. of the garam masala. Put half of this spice mixture into a slightly larger bowl and add the yogurt and the lamb (or chicken) pieces to it. Stir to coat the meat and allow to marinate for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Melt the butter in the same pan the mustard seeds were in and add the sliced onions and the remaining half of the spice mixture. Cook gently for about 15 minutes without browning too much. It will become very fragrant and you’ll want to eat it right then and there!
  • Add the tomato puree, ground cashews, 2 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir well and gently simmer until it reduces and thickens slightly. Turn off the heat.
  • Take the meat out of the mariade and cook until done on a bbq, or in a pan (if using already cooked meat, this obviously won’t take as long. You mostly want to reheat the meat and let the marinade cook off a bit).
  • Warm the sauce and add the cream and the remaining 1 TBS. of garam masala. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary (this is where we added more of every spice!) As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, take off the heat and add the grilled/cooked meat. Check the seasoning once more and then sprinkle the cilantro over the top. Finish with the lime juice. Serve with steamed basmati rice. Serves 4.

Grilled Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki & Summer Chickpea Salad

We’ve been thinking about gyros ever since we went to a Greek Food Festival with our friends last month. I think my favorite part of a gyro is the tzatziki. The cucumber, lemon and yogurt make for a refreshing sauce that goes perfectly with grilled meat, tomatoes and onions. Last night we made our own version of a gyro by wrapping pita bread around grilled lamb that was marinated in olive oil, herbs, and garlic, some homemade tzatziki, and a summery salad of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and herbs that I found in one of my favorite Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Some grilled summer squash rounded out what we deemed the perfect summer BBQ meal.

Last night was a wonderful night to eat outside. Not only are we approaching the longest day of the year so it stays light long enough to finish both dinner and dessert (and a bottle of wine or two), but it’s been staying warm until the sun goes down. Also, we planted a little vegetable garden today and wanted to be near it! Some sugar snap peas will soon be growing up bamboo sticks. Grow, peas, grow!

We also planted two varieties of tomatoes (Early Girl and another that I’ll have to get back to you on, but it’s an heirloom variety), an artichoke, a zucchini, and basil! Look how cute this little sugar snap pea plant is! I haven’t gotten around to photographing the other plants yet, sorry!

Unrelated to vegetables, the hydrangeas are gorgeous right now! Don’t they make you want to be outside? My cats love to jump around and try to catch the bees that hover over their flowers. Sometimes they do little back-flips in the process and it’s very entertaining to watch. Cats really do always land on their feet! Ok, now let’s get to some recipes …

Summer Chickpea Salad
(Slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced

2 fresh red chilies, de-seeded and sliced

2 handfuls of yellow pear tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), halved

2 limes

extra virgin olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper

chili flakes

1 14 oz. jar of chickpeas, drained

a handful of fresh mint, chopped

a handful of fresh basil, finely ripped

7 oz. feta cheese

  • In a bowl, combine the sliced onion, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes. Dress with the juice of 1 1/2 limes and about 3 times as much olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili flakes (or whatever combination of spices you desire).
  • Heat the chickpeas in a pan. Add 90% of them to the bowl. Mush up the remaining 10% and add these to the bowl as well (Jamie says they give a nice, creamy consistency. They sure did).
  • Allow salad to marinate for a little while and serve at room temperature. Just before serving, add the fresh mint & basil. Taste one more time and adjust the seasoning. You can also add the juice from the remaining lime half if you think it needs it. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad and gently mix. Serves 4.


1 english cucumber
1 cup yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 of a small red onion, minced (optional – we had some leftover from the salad)
a handful of fresh oregano, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber onto a kitchen towel or heavy duty paper towel. Pick up the towel and squeeze the excess moisture out of the cucumber. Do this several times until no more water is coming out of the towel.
  • In a small bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, minced garlic, oregano, and salt & pepper. Mix well. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for a little while so the flavors can mingle. Taste again before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb Gyros
(We explained to our butcher that we wanted to grill lamb to slice to make gyros. He was very helpful and offered to sell us the boneless legs that they usually use to make the marinated lamb cubes. The moral of the story is – don’t be afraid to ask your butcher if you don’t know exactly what kind of cut of meat to get! They are there to help you out!)

2 lbs boneless leg of lamb

salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
several cloves of garlic, minced
fresh rosemary, chopped
fresh oregano, chopped
about 1 TBS red wine vinegar

  • Make a dry rub out of enough paprika, cumin, salt and pepper to cover every surface of your lamb. Place in a baking dish or pie pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine enough oil, minced garlic, chopped herbs, and vinegar to create a pesto-like consistency. Rub this mixture all over the lamb. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. Two is even better. Prepare a charcoal grill (we used mesquite charcoal for a delicious, smoky taste). Let lamb come to room temp before grilling.
  • Remove the lamb from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, turning occasionally until the meat reaches an internal temperature of about 145 degrees for medium-rare. Let rest 10-12 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Assemble the gyros by heating up some whole wheat (and/or regular) pitas on the grill. Top with a few slices of lamb, a spoonful of chickpea salad, and some tzatziki. Alternatively, you can enjoy “de-constructed gyros” by placing all these components on your plate and enjoying in whatever order/combination you like!