Toward the end of March I started realizing that I was eating a lot of sweets. And french fries. And more pizza than usual. My carefully developed healthy habits had taken a nosedive, and I was feeling it. I decided to declare April Health Month. My intention wasn’t to embark on a month of strictness and deprivation, but to remind myself how much better I feel when I’m eating more vegetables, and being thoughtful and conscientious about the amount of sugar, meat, and fried things I’m putting in my body. I re-read Mark Bittman’s Food Matters, and I started planning healthy meals.
I can’t say I’ve been super vigilant. Last week involved a burger, after all, not to mention a fair amount of beer. I even ate a donut. But I’ve also been trying out some new recipes that emphasize whole grains and vegetables, when they don’t exclude meat completely. This meatloaf is a perfect example. It’s a recipe from Bittman’s book for a grain-heavy loaf that includes meat as a flavor component more than anything else. I modified the recipe just slightly to account for what we had on hand. And I really liked it. It’s dense and hearty. There are a variety of flavors and textures. And I felt satisfied without feeling like I needed a nap. Total Health Month winner.
I served the not-so-meaty meatloaf up with some roasted potatoes and asparagus, and it felt very 1950s up in this place.
This is a very dense loaf. If you like your meatloaf light and airy, this might not be for you. This one is solid. But I love how colorful it is! The flecks of carrot and spinach are so festive. Bittman’s recipe recommends using this mixture for loaves, burgers, or meatballs, and I think that’s not a bad idea at all. If you fry your meatballs, they might end up absorbing more oil than normal, thanks to the bulgur, but I think they’d be great baked. You can use any meat you like, even fish, but I loved the ground turkey here. And if you really want to exclude meat, Bittman recommends substituting beans for the meat. I suspect that would be delicious.
- 1 cup bulgur or whole wheat couscous
- 1 large bunch of spinach, stems removed
- 1 pound ground turkey breast meat
- 1/2 a medium onion, minced
- 1 large carrot, minced
- about 1 teaspoon paprika
- about 1 teaspoon salt, and some pepper to your taste
- 1 egg
- Flavorful ketchup (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with spray oil, or lightly oil it with olive oil.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then add the bulgur or couscous. Cover and remove from the heat to let the grains cook and soak up the water. This should take about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Put a steamer in a large pot with about an inch of water, and steam the spinach for about three or four minutes, until it's wilted. You could also sprinkle water on the bunch and microwave it for a few minutes. Drain the spinach and squeeze it to get rid of as much excess water as you can.
Add the wilted, drained spinach, ground meat, onion, and carrots to a large bowl. You want the carrot cut into pretty tiny pieces; this is totally your chance to practice your fancy knife skills.
Mix together the meat and vegetables gently, then add paprika, salt, and the bulgur. Mix again, but be careful not to overmix. Stir just until things are blended together. Whisk the egg in a small bowl, then stir the egg into the meat mixture.
Transfer the mixture into a loaf pan. You can also shape into burgers or meatballs and place on a baking sheet. Cook the loaf in a 400 degree oven for about 50 minutes (burgers and meatballs will take less time). You want the loaf to be firm and lightly browned on top.
Let it cook for about 5 or 10 minutes before you slice it; this will help it keeps its shape. You can serve this with some ketchup if you like, or perhaps blend together some roasted red peppers and mayonnaise. It's also tasty without any sauce.