Cooking by Intuition

Historically, I’m neither a talented nor a creative cook. My husband, on the other hand, has a real knack for coming up with delicious dishes. Slowly but surely, his philosophies have started wearing off on me. Lately, I’ve managed to come up with a few ideas that not only worked, but worked very well.

In general, his principles seem to be:

Add lots of garlic – preferably minced garlic in olive oil
Use onions or onion powder
Wine – white, marsala, sherry or a combination thereof depending
Kosher salt (something about the coarser texture… I don’t know)

Basically, he cooks like an Italian.

I don’t do anything with salt personally, because I usually use at least one prepackaged food of some kind in my dishes, and they’re already loaded with salt. I also like to use Mrs. Dash Table Blend as a sort of general flavor enhancer. I don’t know if it really does anything but add a little color, but I use it anyway.

So, the other night I made a meatloaf. My mom taught me a recipe when I was a kid that she had made up when she was a kid that makes meatloaf with a mushroom cream sauce instead of ketchup. I’ve always used a variation of it because I never liked the ketchup variety.

This is what I did:

2 lbs ground beef, thawed

2 ‘tubes’ “Roasted Vegetable” flavored crackers (I used Savoritz because that’s what I had – my mom used to use plain saltines)

1/2 onion, chopped

4 eggs

I also added a couple of shakes of garlic powder and Mrs. Dash. I don’t measure, just dump until I get the feeling, “That might almost be too much.” Generally if I stop then, it ends up being about right.

Crush the crackers (great job for a kid!) , then knead all the ingredients together into a lump.

In a separate bowl, carfeully combine a family size can of cream of tomato soup and a generous portion of moscato (at room temperature). I think I probably ended up using about 2/3 of a cup, but I didn’t measure, just eyeballed. Combine this slowly with both ingredients at room temperature, and it won’t curdle.

Then! Find a big pan with a lid, spray the bottom with olive oil, and form the meat mixture in to a loaf in the center. Drain a can of mushrooms or fry some fresh ones and pour over the top of the loaf. Next, pour the cream/wine mixture over the top. Finally, cover the bottom of the pan with milk (I used 1% because that’s what happened to be in the fridge). Too much milk is not a problem – you can just bake it longer to make a rich cream gravy. Not enough milk makes for dry meat loaf. Ew.

Cover and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs or until the center is done.

It turned out amazing!

This morning, I took last night’s leftover instant mashed potatoes and made potato pancakes that are serious carb bombs, but were delicious.

So, I had probably a cup of mashed potatoes. I added 4 eggs, because that’s how many I had to use up. That turned in to mush, so I added a handful of flour, then decided I was going to end up with more flour than potatoes if I was going to get the mix the right consistency, so I changed horses midstream and added Jiffy, instead. Probably about a cup worth, but enough to get the mixture to pancake batter consistency. I also added a bit of onion powder, garlic powder and Mrs. Dash, because the potatoes were already garlic-flavored, so I may as well go with the theme.

I fried them on the stove in about a tablespoon of butter each, and they turned out picture perfect… If I were trying to make pancakes. They were delicious, but on the understanding that they did not look like what they tasted like. We ate them plain, but they would probably be really awesome with sausage or brown gravy “syrup”.

I have in the past been unwilling to experiment because my dad’s “experiments” usually involved something like frying leftover macaroni and cheese and hash in bacon grease and then smothering it with ketchup. Yecchhh! Mine have mostly turned out pretty well so far, though. Tim says, “Better watch out, I’ll teach you how to cook, after all!”

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