Tag Archives: ground beef

Abuela’s Juicy Meatloaf (or a reasonable, nostalgia-driven facsimile)

5 Oct

It’s not that I have the actual recipe, or ever did, or was even paying attention when it was being made, but guided by a bit of nostalgia — and inspired to meatloaf by a gorgeous Mexican Meatloaf recipe from fellow blogger Karen at Backroad Journal  — I put together a meatloaf that is reminiscent of what my late grandmother used to make for me.

Call it culinary forensics, trolling the recesses of my taste and scent memory for clues; flipping through the archives of meals at the round glass table of her dining room in urban Hato Rey; re-focusing my attention from the sounds of trucks blaring political messages from the avenue ten stories below, from the sensation of the cool tile floors under my bare toes, from the crumpled sogginess of the inevitable paper napkin, soaking up the condensation from the glass with the green and gold designs painted on it, the water flat tasting because she boiled it before drinking.

When I peeled away the distractions, finished my detective work and let my inner kitchen voices have their way, this is what I came up with – something fairly juicy, with fairly typical Puerto Rican seasonings and with tomato paste incorporated two ways. The one thing I am sure of is the tomato paste on the top, like icing on the cake for the savory set. The rest is an educated guess. In fact, it probably tastes nothing like what my grandmother used to make, but it gave me that same feeling and was mighty sabroso, so I am sticking with it.

As a note (and call for advice): my dad and I are currently using the Verde Farms organic ground beef from Costco. The flavor is good, but it does have a fair bit of fat and the texture is a bit more fine than we like for things like meatloaf and meatballs and burgers (it’s okay for crumbled beef dishes). So this particular meatloaf is misshapen and reluctant to firm up and stick together for slicing purposes. It may be that I am doing something else wrong that could be corrected, so shout it out if you have an idea! The organic thing is important to me, in particular because of my son; any suggestions for a better ground beef available in Long Island would be most welcome.

Abuelita’s Juicy Meatloaf

2lbs ground beef

1 Cup dry breadcrumbs (seasoned is fine)

¾ Cup chopped onion

1 Tbs grated onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ Cup green bell/sweet pepper, minced

1 tsp cumin

2 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped (may substitute parsley if someone has a cilantro aversion)

1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped (halve if using dried)

1 Tbs fresh culantro (recao), chopped, optional

½ tsp chili powder

2 Tbs ketchup

1 Tbs tomato paste for the meat, plus 3 Tbs for the top

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F. Add all ingredients (except additional 3 Tbs tomato paste) to large bowl. Mix all ingredients with a fork or hands just until thoroughly combined, but do not work it through or knead it, or else the meatloaf will be tough.

Place in 8×5 loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the reserved tomato paste evenly over the top. Return to oven and finish cooking (another 5-15 minutes – until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 140°F). Allow to cool slightly before serving.


Pastelón de Yuca (Puerto Rican Shepherd’s Pie)

22 May

In an October post I gave you my recipe for Basic Seasoned Ground Beef (recipe repeated here, so don’t lose heart!) a Latin-style ground beef basic (similar to Carne para Rellenar, for the cognoscenti) that I make loads of at a time and freeze in serving size portions to be transformed into nachos, chili con carne (with the addition of red beans, tomato puree and chile pepper), ragu sauce for pasta (add Italian seasonings and tomato puree) or any number of things.

One of my favorite things to do with Basic Seasoned Ground Beef is make pastelón; the Puerto Rican equivalent of Shepherd’s Pie. It doesn’t take a lot of active prep (although it does require oven time in addition to stove top time) and it is a warming dish that will take everyone to their happy place. Click here for Pastelón de Platanos – Plantain Pastelón – another classic version of this dish). The more beef you use, the thicker it will be. You can also substitute Pollo Guisado (stewed chicken). The first section is the yuca preparation, but I also include the beef and chicken recipes in this post so you have them handy. Continue reading

Latin Seasoned Ground Beef: Transforms into sauce, stuffing, chili…and more

27 Oct
Basic Seasoned Ground Beef

You can build on this dish to make many different meals

Mondays don’t completely suck, but they are the busiest day of my work/mom week.

Out of the house with dressed toddler and breakfast and packed lunches in the car by 6:45 a.m., teaching and office ’till 2:15 then walk back to the daycare to pick up the little man; shopping or playground till 4 p.m. swim class (on the cheap at the county pool) then pick up vegetables at Sophia Garden C.S.A. (more on that in another post) to get home around 6 p.m. to make dinner — whew!

So, it is crucial that dinner be fast and and brainless and provide leftovers for the next day lunch.


This Monday was a triumph. Why? Because I had my Basic Seasoned Ground Beef at the ready. I make three pounds of it at a time, divide it in three and freeze it down in plastic bin things so when I am in a bind, I can do any number of things with it that get a relatively wholesome, tasty meal ready in a flash.

I had remembered to take a tublet out of the freezer in the morning, plus I had a bag of tortilla chips (organic blue corn are our favorites, low-salt works better, but oh well, not today) and cheddar cheese slices, so I was good to go.

Heated the oven to 350, spread the tortillas on a baking sheet, sprinkled some of the meat on top and sliced up the slices into thin shreds (why pay more for a chintzy bag of the pre-grated which is dry and tasteless?) and put it in for about 15 minutes, et voila! le diner.

Hot sauce for me (sriracha, my fave) and plain for the boy. Done! We usually have some sliced avocado on the side too, which counts as a vegetable in my world and should in yours too.


Forgot to take the meat out? This is a problem many on-the-go moms I have spoken to say happens all the time. With Basic Seasoned Ground Beef, it doesn’t matter. You just switch gears. As Mark Bittman, The Minimalist from the New York Times and a personal hero, has suggested, whenever you get home, just put a pot of water on the boil, ’cause then you have it going for whatever comes up.

So I boil up some pasta (we love Bionaturae whole wheat organic – no kidding, better than white!) and dump the (still frozen) beef in another pot with a 28 oz. can of tomatoes (whole, peeled; diced; pureed – whatever I have) and an extra tablespoon of whatever dried herbs I am in the mood for (oregano for Spanish flavor; basil for Italian, for example; bay leaf never goes astray) and let that simmer up while the pasta boils. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano on top and luscious!


In fact, while we ate our insta-nachos this particular triumphant Monday, I had the next-day pasta on the boil and the remainder of my tublet of seasoned beef with half a can of tomatoes…easy-peasy.

The best part, of course, was that I actually had everything under control. Really! With a little more time, I might have taken the same beef, same 28 oz. can of tomatoes AND a 15 oz can of red kidney beans, added a tablespoon (or more) of chili powder and a tablespoon of cumin powder, put it on rice and called it chili con carne.

With loads of time, I would have boiled and mashed yuca and made Puerto Rican shepherd’s pie in the oven. What I am trying to say is that with a tub of Basic Seasoned Ground Beef in my freezer, I can do anything!

BASIC SEASONED GROUND BEEF (this is half of what I usually do to freeze. To do 3 lbs. at a time, double everything)

2 Tbs extra virigin olive oil

1 baseball sized onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced (go for more if you like – I do!)

1.5 lbs. ground beef

(Optional1/4-1/2 C. chopped red pepper fresh or roasted from a jar)

1/2 tsp adobo powder* (if desired – I generally don’t use it, but some people love the extra salt and the umami)

1 heaping Tbs capers, drained

10 manzanilla olives (pitted and stuffed with pimientos)

(optional 1/2 cup tomatoes from a can – diced, chopped, whatever or a spoonful of tomato paste you need to use up)

Heat oil on high in a large saucepan until thin and fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring, for two minutes until well coated and getting translucent. Lower heat to fairly low and cook for five minutes, add garlic and cook for another minute. Raise heat to high and crumble in ground beef, stirring and breaking up frequently until fully-browned. Spoon out fat or pour off (don’t make it too dry!) into sink (carefully!).

Return to heat, add red pepper, optional adobo, capers, olives and optional tomato. Mix completely. Lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes until fat begins to separate from sauce. Serve or freeze.

 *instead of adobo powder, mix 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, parsley) or 1 tsp dried

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