Thrifty Good Food: Not Your Grandmother’s Meatloaf or Spaghetti

Spaghetti squash with Italian sauce. (Photo courtesy of I. Winicov Harrington)

Winter seems to have just teased us with the white stuff this year, but last Friday Mother Nature finally gave us the gift of proper snow and made the view from our window look like real Maine in January. Snowy days tend to inspire me in the kitchen, whether it be to try a new recipe idea or revisit some old standby and infuse it with new flavors to create an appetizing meal.

What can be more of an old-fashioned standby than meatloaf? Your grandmother made it (ground beef, onion, egg, softened breadcrumbs, salt and pepper) in a loaf pan many years ago and it came with gravy and mashed potatoes as a tasty and satisfying dinner at least once a month. The following recipe melds several complementary flavors and gives meatloaf a definite flavor lift and can even be made to suit a keto diet with little modification.

Meatloaf with mushrooms and cheese

For this, start with a mixture of 1/2 lb of ground beef, pork, and veal each.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan and cook 4 oz sliced ​​cremini mushrooms with 1 medium chopped onion until softened about 5 minutes, stir in 1-2 tbsp tomato paste, and continue to cook until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine 1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs (for keto diet, use 1/4 cup almond flour instead) with enough milk to moisten in a thick paste. Stir in 1 beaten egg, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1 tsp thyme, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese . Add the meat and knead well together using your hands.

Form the meat mixture into a long loaf on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and remove the loaf on a plate leaving behind the rendered fat. Serve sliced ​​with buttered noodles, light gravy (optional), and a green vegetable. This meatloaf can be reheated and makes excellent sandwiches.

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is dieting for weight loss after indulgent holidays, which means decreasing carbohydrate calories. Yet, it is difficult to give up the old weeknight standby dinner of spaghetti. Spaghetti squash, being low in carbohydrate content, is the perfect solution to this problem.

Spaghetti squash with Italian sauce

Select 2 medium to long spaghetti squashes, wash, and cut each lengthwise in half and scoop out the seeds. Spray each cut surface lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and lay the 4 pieces face down on a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Prick the skin of each half in 3-4 places with a sharp fork and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, turn cut side up on the same pan, and shred the flesh of each half squash with a fork pulling from the sides towards the middle.

While the squash is baking, prepare the sauce. In a medium skillet brown 3/4 lb Italian sausage, casings removed, and the meat crumbled. Pour off excess fat and stir in 1/2 to 2/3 cup flavorful spaghetti sauce to thoroughly coat the meat.

With the squash cut side up, distribute the meat among the 4 squash halves and mix lightly with the squash strands. Top each squash with 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella and broil 4-5 minutes to melt the cheese. Serve hot with a green salad.

What a delicious way to diet!

(I. Winicov Harrington, of Waldoboro, is the author of “How to Eat Healthy and Well for Less Than $5.00 a Day: The Smart-Frugal Food Plan.” For more information, go to

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