I am always trying to trick my kids into eating more vegetables and one of the easiest ways i have found is by sneaking them into other popular dishes. Meatloaf is obviously the easiest since everything gets all mixed together and baked anyway. So I have spent the past couple of years perfecting the perfect 50/50 blend of meat and vegetables for this crowd pleasing meatloaf.
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of ground meat you want to use. I almost always opt for a super lean ground beef, however you can use turkey or even sausage, whatever you would normally use. Then comes the fun part, picking your veggies. Now here’s where I’m gonna be real with you. There is no hard and fast recipe that I use, I always just use whatever we have already. The important part is that you end up with 2-2 1/2 cups of chopped veggies when you are done. I always chop and mix my veggies up before I even open the package of meat for a couple of reasons, and I’ll tell you when we get there. But first, the veggies.
Spinach is almost always the base of my veggie mix. You can put half a bag of spinach into the food processor and end up with less than a cup of chopped spinach. I swear it’s some sort of black magic, but it’s delicious black magic. Then I’ll add the crunchy stuff, half an onion, a handful of baby carrots, broccoli, peppers, really, WHATEVER you have in your fridge. That’s the beauty of meatloaf! You’ll want to get those veggies super chopped so I really do think you’ll want to use a food processor to chop them. But you don’t have to break the bank on this if you don’t have one already. I picked up a mini food processor at the Goodwill for under $5 and even with almost daily use it’s as good as new!!!
Once you have all your veggies chopped and dumped into a big bowl mix them together. Add in an egg, a package of onion soup mix, a half cup of either ketchup or bbq sauce and maybe 3/4 cup bread crumbs. Stir them all together reallllllly good. Now you add your meat. You will want to get your hands dirty and mix this all up by hand. However DO NOT over mix. the more you handle, smush, knead, and work the meat the tougher it will get. And tough meatloaf is not a crowd pleaser. So mix it only enough that the meat and veggies are all intertwined together and then leave it alone.
Now you are faced with your second dilemma. You can either spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and pack your mixture into it OR you can free form a loaf shape on a baking sheet. There is also another method, one that works well for kids if you are lucky enough to be trying to feed small people on a regular basis. Well even if you only try to feed them once in a while. You can use a cupcake pan. I know, mind blown. There are pros and cons for each, but really I think it’s a matter of personal preference. If you use a traditional loaf pan you will need to drain off any excess fat during cooking. If you use a baking sheet it spreads itself out. Your choice.
Now you bake! I bake almost everything at 400 degrees so yeah, get that oven hot. And then cover your raw meat loaf with some foil (not necessary in the cupcake pan). Traditionally meatloaf takes about an hour to cook all the way through, but use your judgement (and a meat thermometer) to check your loaf after about 40 minutes and then every 5-10 minutes after that. Unless you are making mini ones, then cut the time in half!
Once your meaty loaf of goodness has reached the right temperature pull it out, and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Then slice it up and eat it! One last secret. I like meatloaf straight outta the pan as much as the next girl, but sliced meatloaf on toasty sourdough with some melty cheese and bbq sauce is down right amazing! mmmm….meatloaf sandwiches…
Hearty Veggie Meatloaf
- 1 lb ground meat
- 2-2 1/2 cups veggies
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup ketchup or bbq sauce
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1 package onion soup mix
Mix all your veggies, the egg, ketchup, breadcrumbs and soup mix together thoroughly. Add in the meat and mix only until they are combined. Bake at 400 degrees in either a loaf pan or on a baking sheet for 40 minutes and then 10 minutes increments after that checking the internal temp with a meat thermometer. Slice and enjoy!