Rolled Italian Meatloaf…With Spinach, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

By Jodee Weiland

When my children were younger, I was always trying to find ways to make dinner more interesting to them.  One of the things I tried was making my meatloaf like a jelly roll cake putting cheese and broccoli in the center.  I even tried calling it cheeseburger meatloaf.

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It worked out pretty well and is the inspiration for my newest recipe.  In this Rolled Italian Meatloaf…With Spinach, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce, I’ve taken my recipe to a whole new level. This recipe is, without a doubt, the tastiest meatloaf I have ever made.  Here at home, it got rave reviews from my husband!

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Instead of broccoli, I chose to combine mozzarella and spinach for the center of my Italian Meatloaf recipe.  To finish it off, I made a tomato basil sauce from fresh garden tomatoes.  Also from my garden, I used fresh basil and parsley in the meatloaf mix.  I love using fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden, so with the season winding down, I am looking for recipes that make the most of my garden.  When you taste this recipe, you will want to make it over and over again.

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Rolled Italian Meatloaf…With Spinach, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

For the Italian Meatloaf

2 to 2 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
2 eggs ( I use egg whites)
2 cloves garlic chopped or 1 teaspoon minced garlic more or less to taste
1 medium onion chopped or 1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
2 tablespoons snipped and chopped parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced and chopped or 1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1/2 teaspoon red cayenne (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup grated imported Pecorino Romano cheese ( more or less to taste/ no salt needed since the cheese adds saltiness)
3 or more slices of mozzarella
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare meatloaf pan by coating with olive oil.

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Add egg whites to the ground sirloin first, then the imported Pecorino Romano cheese. Blend together. Then add the remaining ingredients. When well blended together, put the meat mixture on a large piece of heavy aluminum foil.  Flatten the meat out a little longer than your pan and wide enough to fold over at least once from each side.

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Once flattened out in a rectangle, first put the mozzarella slices across the middle and then top that with your spinach leaves.  Remember the spinach will cook down quite a bit.  Using the foil to lift the meat, fold over one side at a time, covering the spinach and mozzarella.

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Once folded over, shape your meat into your loaf making sure you fold in the ends of the loaf as well.  Form the meat into a loaf size meatloaf.  It should fit right into a loaf pan. I always spray my pan with olive oil before putting in the meatloaf. I use a loaf pan with an insert that can be lifted out after cooking, so that any juices from the meat can drain to the bottom, rather than have my meatloaf sit in them. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50-55 minutes. Check meat to make sure it is done how you prefer it.

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While this is cooking, prepare your Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce to pour over the meat loaf when done cooking and ready to serve.

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For Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 to 6 fresh medium to large tomatoes cut into pieces
1 to 2 cloves garlic chopped
4 fresh basil leaves sliced and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar or 1 finely grated carrot (I use sugar, but some people prefer using a carrot)

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Put the olive oil, garlic, and basil into a sauce pan over a low heat.  Add tomatoes and sugar, cooking over a medium heat covered, but stirring occasionally.  Once the tomatoes cook down enough, cool slightly and put the sauce in a food processor to puree.  Using the pulse button, gently puree without doing so completely.  You want some texture left on your sauce from the tomatoes. Put the sauce back into the sauce pan and simmer over a low heat uncovered to the desired consistency.

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When the Rolled Italian Meatloaf…With Spinach, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce is done cooking put the meatloaf on a serving platter and pour some of the Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce over the top, reserving enough to pour over individual servings.  Serve this meal with a salad, a crusty loaf of bread, and a red wine for dinner.  Your family will love it.  The flavors of the meatloaf with the spinach and mozzarella, then topped with the fresh tomato basil sauce are outstanding.  I know if you try it, you’re going to love it, so enjoy!

Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Spinach Pasta…With Olive Oil and White Wine

By Jodee Weiland

With fresh Roma tomatoes ready to be picked in our garden, I decided to make a pasta dish using our garden Roma tomatoes and spinach.

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Cooking a pasta dish with fresh garden vegetables is always an easy and delicious way to use an abundance of garden produce.  In our home, a well-made pasta dish is always appreciated.

http://learnfromyesterday.comWhen we went to pick our latest batch of Roma tomatoes, we realized that we had more than we could possibly use.  Having already given bags of tomatoes to friends and relatives, I decided it was time to be creative.  That’s when I came up with tonight’s dinner selection.  I used the Roma tomatoes in a pasta dish with spinach.  I was also able to use some of the fresh basil from our garden, although I always have a use for the basil.  With the basil, I usually make Italian Pesto and freeze batches for those winter months when my garden is under snow.  But this time, the basil was used in this recipe and added to the flavor of this pasta dish.

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1 pound pasta of your choice
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine (I used Riesling)
18 or more fresh Roma tomatoes (you can use other tomato types if preferred)
3 chopped garlic cloves
8 to 9 basil leaves sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 cups or more fresh baby spinach
Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese to taste

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On the stove, heat olive oil and add garlic, fresh basil (roll leaves and then slice), and white wine.  Then add fresh Roma tomatoes whole.  Cook covered over a medium heat until tomatoes cook, then reducing to low heat.  You can add the crushed red pepper at this time.

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While tomatoes cook, prepare your pasta according to the package instructions.  When the pasta is about 4 minutes from being ready, add spinach leaves to the tomato mixture. Over a medium heat, cook the spinach until it is wilted and ready.  Once the pasta is done cooking, spoon the tomato and spinach mixture over the pasta, stirring it in gently.  Add grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese to each serving or eat it as is.

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Fresh Roma Tomatoes and Spinach Pasta…With Olive Oil and White Wine is delicious.  The sweet flavor of the tomatoes mixed with spinach makes this dish not only healthy but filled with a distinct flavor enhanced by the olive oil and white wine sauce.  Serve with Chianti and have a meal that not only satisfies, but delights your taste buds.   If you decide to try this dish, I’m sure you will love it, so enjoy!

Baked Parmesan Sliced Potatoes…Easy and Delicious!

By Jodee Weiland

I love baked sliced potatoes because they taste great when seasoned right, and they are so easy to make.  Whenever I buy a large bag of potatoes, I always ask myself how I will ever use that many potatoes, especially since it’s just me and my husband most of the time.

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If the kids are in town, that’s great, because there is no problem using large quantities of most foods, potatoes or otherwise.  But when it’s just the two of us, I have to figure out ways to make sure things don’t go to waste.

http://learnfromyesterday.comThat’s one of the reasons I decided to make my Baked Parmesan Sliced Potatoes.  I cook using for the most part a Mediterranean style of cooking.  The reason for this is twofold.  First, I’m Italian, and that’s the type of cooking I grew up with as a child.  Second, as most of us know these days this is one of the healthiest ways to eat, if done right, and I am a health nut.  So I decided to bake my potatoes like my father often did when I was growing up.  But I have adapted the recipe a little in order to make it healthier.

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My father used to make the best potatoes, cutting them into wedges, seasoning them with garlic and onions, and frying them in extra virgin olive oil.  They were great.  Later, he even baked them.  What I have done with his recipe is to add a little more seasoning.  I added parsley and black pepper first.  Then I added on the Parmesan Reggiano cheese.  And remember, these are not potato chips.  They are baked potato slices.  There is a difference!

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Baked Parmesan Sliced Potatoes…Easy and Delicious! 6 or more potatoes (I used red Potatoes) sliced about 1/4 inch thick Extra virgin olive oil as needed Garlic powder to taste Onion powder to taste Parsley flakes Sea salt to taste (optional) Ground black pepper to taste Grated Parmesan Reggiano (enough to sprinkle over the tops of the potatoes) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cover the cookie sheets with parchment paper for an easy clean up. http://learnfromyesterday.comhttp://learnfromyesterday.com           Wash and scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush.  With a mandolin slicer or a knife, slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick.  Put the potato slices in a bowl and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat all the slices.  Then put the onion powder, garlic powder, parsley flakes, salt, and black pepper in to taste and one at a time, stirring with a spoon and making sure all slices are seasoned.  When this is done, place the seasoned slices on the baking sheets.  Then take your grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese and with a spoon, lightly coat to taste each slice by sprinkling on the cheese.

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Bake at 400 degrees in oven for 18 to 22 minutes.  Watch closely and check with a fork to see if the slices are done.  They should be like fries, but not completely dried out like potato chips.  These are baked slices, not potato chips, unless you want them like that.

http://learnfromyesterday.comThese Baked Parmesan Sliced Potatoes are delicious!  We served ours with grilled filet mignon, Grilled Corn on the Cob with Jalapeno Lime Seasoning, and a nice red wine.  The meal was great and the flavors blended nicely.  I feel certain that if you try this recipe, you will find it not only easy, but worth what little effort it takes.  I would suggest a mandolin slicer though because that makes preparation of the potatoes so easy.  Try this recipe soon, and enjoy!

Italian Bread…Nothing Better than Fresh Baked Bread

By Jodee Weiland

Being Italian, I know how important good Italian bread is to complete an Italian meal.

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When I was growing up, my parents always had Italian bread in the house.  It complemented many different meals in our home from pasta dishes to soups to Italian beef and more.  It was even sometimes used as a teething ring for the babies in the family.

http://learnfromyesterday.comThat’s true!  It seemed that every baby in our family was handed a fresh loaf of Italian bread to gum to death when teething.  Of course, they were watched closely as the traditional family picture of the baby was taken holding a loaf of Italian bread to their mouths and attempting to chew on it.  The babies were all naturals at this process, and mom and dad were always overjoyed to see them do this.  Today, those are fond memories held by all the children and grandchildren.

That’s why making Italian bread is so much more than just making the bread for me.  It’s memories of family that go along with this process of baking the bread that make it special for me.  So enjoy this recipe and hopefully, you will have some memories of your own that making this bread will bring back to you as well in one way or another.

Italian Bread…Nothing Better than Fresh Baked Bread

3 and 1/2 cups bread flour (the last 1/4 cup or less to be added as needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 and 3/4 cups warm water (1/2 cup of this will be for the yeast mixture)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 gently beaten egg white

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare parchment paper for baking sheet.

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In a small mixing bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast and a pinch of sugar with 1/2 cup of warm water, that is water that is warm to the touch, about 100 degrees. Stir this and let it rest for about 10 minutes until it becomes foamy.

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Then in a large mixing bowl, gradually blend together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast and water mixture, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and remaining water as you begin to work this with your hands into dough. At first, you may blend the ingredients with a spoon, but as it thickens you will work it with your hands. Once your dough is all blended, continue to work the dough with your hands and begin to knead the dough for about 8 minutes. Do this on a flat surface, where you will add flour as you go to the surface to keep your dough from sticking.

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Once done, place your ball of dough into a bowl, smoothing a touch of olive oil over the dough.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean towel for about 20 to 30 minutes and let it rest.  It should double in size.

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Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it again before shaping into a loaf.  Place your loaf on a parchment covered baking sheet and cover loosely with a towel while it sits.  Once again, it should double in size.  When it does so, take the gently beaten egg white and brush it on the loaf.  You may not use all of it.  Then with a sharp knife cut 3 to 4 (1/4 inch deep) slits diagonally across the top of the loaf.  Put the bread into the preheated oven and bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.  My loaf took about 34 minutes to bake.  Allow bread to cool briefly before cutting and serving.

http://learnfromyesterday.comThere’s nothing quite like fresh baked Italian Bread.  No matter what meal you serve it with, your family will enjoy it.  This bread recipe is a basic Italian bread recipe, but you could add whatever you like to it.  This basic recipe can be the base for a cheese bread or olive bread or any type Italian Bread you want.  Next time I make it, I am going to make it with a cheese and some jalapenos.  Try it out and see how many different ways you can vary it.  I think you will like it, even if you just choose to make just the basic recipe.  So try it, and enjoy!

Too Many Fruit and Vegetables…Freeze or Dehydrate Them!

By Jodee Weiland

If there are times in your life when you find you have too many fruits and vegetables, either from store purchases or gardens, I have an alternative for you to tossing them because you didn’t find enough recipes to use them in before they went bad.

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One, you can freeze some of them.  Two, you can invest in a dehydrator and dehydrate them.  Either way, you avoid wasting them.

http://learnfromyesterday.comOne thing my folks taught me early on was this: don’t waste food!  As a kid, I always heard about those kids less fortunate than me who didn’t have food to eat, and this was true.  There were people who would have loved to sit at our table and be able to have a good meal.  Meals were always great in our home, so I believe you shouldn’t waste food, if you can avoid doing so.  One sure way is to invest in a food dehydrator.  Another is to make use of your freezer.

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For us, bananas and other fruits often start going bad the soonest, since we always have fresh fruit in the house.  My way of saving fruit, some of the time, is to clean it and freeze it.  I then use this frozen fruit in recipes later or smoothies.  I even use some frozen fruit in sangria or just add it to various drinks or wines.  It’s great because the fruit is used, not wasted, and I get to enjoy the fruit in a completely different way.

http://learnfromyesterday.comAnother way to save fruit and vegetables, as well as herbs, is to dehydrate.  A food dehydrator is great for this and fairly simple to use.  I love dehydrated apple slices.  They actually make a wonderful before or after dinner treat, especially in the fall.  My son put these out one Thanksgiving and that’s when I first fell in love with them.  Try them and find out for yourself!

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Dehydrated Apple Slices

6 to 7 apples sliced 1/8 to 3/8 inches
Orange juice as needed to pre-treat (for longer shelf life)
Cinnamon to taste

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Core the apples, and then slice them with the skin to desired thickness with a food processor or a slicer.  Place in a bowl with a fruit juice to pre-treat.  I used orange juice.  Remove from the juice and place on the trays of the dehydrator.  Sprinkle to taste with cinnamon.  Then set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F (57 degrees C) on the machine, cover and start.  If your slices are 1/8 inch, it will take about 2 and 1/2 hours.  If they are 1/4 inch thick, it will be about 4 hours or more.  Each machine’s directions will tell you that the slices are ready when pliable but does not have moisture beads left when torn apart. If done without skin, times may vary.

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The directions will vary with different fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but they really are not complicated.  Just follow the manufacturer’s directions and find new uses for the fruits, vegetables, and herbs as a result.

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I really feel it is important for all of us to do our part in making the best use of all our food resources and to try not to waste if we can.  By doing so, we will benefit from the results and get more bang for our money spent on food.  Even if we are growing our own food in gardens, it’s nice to know we are making good use of everything our gardens produce.  Be sure to take a look at what you can do to use, not waste, good food, and as a result, enjoy!