Beefy Comfort Food: Meatloaf, Burgers, and Shepherd’s Pie

Nothing warms up a house like a hot oven and these three recipes are sure to do just that. Each recipe uses two pounds of ground beef in a different and delicious way. Of course, you can substitute ground turkey for a slightly healthier version of the same dish. They are very simple and easy to prepare. But don’t be fooled, your family will love them and ask for seconds… or thirds. Rest assured, these recipes leave welcome leftovers, if there is anything left after dinner, that is.

My Mom’s Meat Loaf is what I crave on cold winter nights and what I want for lunch the next day. Years ago, she started making meatloaf to encourage us to eat more vegetables. If your family has favorite vegetables (green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.) use those in this recipe, just chop or shred them so they cook easily.

Another family favorite is Sean’s Blue Cheese Burgers, a flavorful twist on a classic. They are almost too good to cover with a hamburger roll.

Shepherd’s Pie has never been easier with this recipe inspired by the excellent food at the Red Lion Pub in Chicago. With their chilly winters, you know this dish is sure to warm you up – and fill you up!

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Mom’s Meat Loaf

2 pounds ground beef

1 package baby carrots, shredded

1 package vegetable soup mix

½ pound mushrooms, sliced

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup parsley, chopped

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1 small can tomato soup

1-2 cups of panko or bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, put the meat, shredded carrots, soup mix, and sliced mushrooms. Mix the ingredients together using your hands. One at a time, add the eggs, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes, mixing well after each addition. Combine with all but 2 tablespoons of the undiluted tomato soup.

3. Add the bread crumbs little-by-little as you blend them in with the meat mixture. No more crumbs are needed when the mixture is moist (but not wet) and holds together easily. If you are preparing this ahead of time, you can refrigerate the meat in an air-tight container for up to 24-hours before cooking.

4. Separate the meat mixture in half.  Shape each half into a loaf.  These can be baked in loaf pans that have been lightly greased with a non-stick cooking spray or butter, but I prefer baking on a broiler pan or well-and-tree platter, so excess fat can drain away. It is important to wash your hands after handling raw meat.

5. Bake the loaves for 35 minutes. During this time, stir the softened butter with the remaining 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. At the 35-minute point, spread the mixture evenly over each loaf to help keep the top moist. Bake for an additional 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the loaves has reaches 140 degrees.

6. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes as they continue to cook and then cool slightly.

7. Serve in slices alongside rice or mashed potatoes and a salad. The leftovers make delicious sandwiches.

Sean’s Blue Cheese Burgers

2 pounds low fat ground beef

5 ounces crumbled blue cheese

2 teaspoons olive oil

desired condiments and rolls

1. In a bowl, mix the raw ground beef with the crumbled blue cheese. Blend completely to make sure the cheese is evenly distributed within the meat. Form hamburger patties to suit your family’s appetite. Do not press hard when shaping the burgers. A tightly formed patty ends up being a fairly dense burger. Remember to wash up after handling raw meat.

2. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place the burgers in the skillet and cook them uncovered for 3 minutes. Flip them over and let them cook for 2 to 3 minutes. They may need additional time so check them with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be a minimum 160 degrees to properly cook the meat. You can also broil or grill the burgers, but I prefer to keep the cheese from dripping by cooking them in a skillet.

3. Serve the burgers with your favorite condiments on a fresh roll. A few pieces of crumbled blue cheese and some mayonnaise make especially tasty toppings for this burger, bringing out the flavor of the blue cheese.


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Shepherd’s Pie 

(inspired by The Red Lion Pub of Chicago, Illinois)

2 pounds ground beef

4 tablespoons dried onions

12 ounces cream of mushroom soup

2 teaspoons butter

2 cups green beans, fresh or frozen

1 cup sliced carrots, fresh and parboiled

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sauté the ground beef over medium-high heat. Mix in the onions and stir until the meat is cooked thoroughly.

3. In a different saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the green beans and cover for 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cover again. Stir intermittently as you let the beans cook for an additional 7 minutes.

4. Mix the undiluted soup with the cooked ground beef. Blend completely over low-medium heat.

5. Spoon half the green beans into an oven-safe bowl. Add the meat mixture. Top with the remaining beans.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with mashed or baked potatoes.

Option: Top with sliced parboiled or creamy mashed potatoes before baking for one-dish dining.

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Shepherd's Pie

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