Ah…I just love when a classic comfort food can be turned into a lighter, healthier version of itself; don’t you? Classic meatloaf, when done right, is succulent, moist and tender; it’s a savory, flavorful and herb-a-licious little slice of heaven topped off with a sweet-tangy, caramelized tomato-y crust, fork-tender and ready to be slid into a fluffy pile of mashed potatoes, scooped up and popped into the mouth only to melt away slowly, and warmly. Softly. Mmm…meatloaf…(I feel a bit like Homer Simpson when he speaks of doughnuts). What a cozy meal that meatloaf makes in the bitterly cold wintertime; it gives wonderful opportunity for the oven to do its magical thing: to bake, and to warm the kitchen, all the while producing aromas that entrance. The classic version made with beef, or a combo of beef and pork, can also contain quite a bit of fat, however, and that pretty much puts it on the “naughty” list when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. But thank goodness meatloaf is as versatile and malleable an option as it is, open to suggestions and fresh ingredients. It’s truly a comfort food that, with a few tweaks, need not be given up when the dietary resolutions come ’round, urging and coaxing us into healthier eating and waistline-friendly fare.
I enjoy being able to change things up a bit every now and then just to see what can be done to make a meal a little more healthy, or a touch leaner, without anyone even noticing what I’m up to. The trick when it comes to eating “healthy” is not about completely removing all of the comfort of our favorite foods; it’s about making small adjustments that over time, add up in our favor. It’s not about deprivation, but about making conscious selections, and consciously eating and enjoying the food we eat—every bite of it. Meatloaf is a prefect little meal to make some of those small adjustments to: by substituting lean ground turkey for beef or pork, and using aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices, one can enjoy a cozy and filling meal, while lightening it up a bit. All of the flavors and textures are there, yet with less fat. It sounds to me like a win-win situation, one definitely worth sinking my teeth into.
Our favorite, home-style comfort foods can absolutely be turned into delectably lighter versions of themselves, each bite enjoyed fully and without the gravy…er, gravity of guilt. Small substitutions and the addition of fresh ingredients can make any beloved, classic-comfort-food meal that much more inviting and enjoyable to eat, leaving everyone happy and warmed. Italian-Style Turkey Meatloaf is a little taste of what healthy homemade comfort food can be like, without missing any of the succulence and the experience of the classic. And I’ve certainly got no beef with that.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Italian-Style Turkey Meatloaf with Fresh Herbs and Rich Tomato Glaze
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(Serves about 6)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium white onion, finely diced
1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus a pinch, divided use
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus a pinch, divided use
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1 ¼ – 1 ½ lbs lean ground turkey
1 ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs* (see note)
1 egg, whisked
¼ cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes (if using “oil-packed”, then drain and dry of excess oil)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• Rich Tomato Glaze (recipe below)
*I put 1-2 thick slices of French bread into the food processor and processed until fine breadcrumbs; any good quality white bread will do.
**Featured in the photos are Spicy, Roasted “Healthy Home Fries”, and the recipe can be found below.
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or foil that is lightly sprayed with cooking spray. (This is a free-from style meatloaf.)
-Begin by sauteing the vegetables for the meatloaf by placing a medium-large, non-stick saute pan over medium-high heat, and add the 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the diced red bell pepper and the onion plus the pinch of salt and pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until they are softened and lightly golden; next, add in the pressed garlic cloves, and stir to combine; once the garlic becomes aromatic, turn off the heat, slide the sauteed veggies onto a plate, and allow them to cool slightly for a moment.
-To prepare the meatloaf, place the ground turkey into a large bowl; add to the meat the 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, the ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper, the breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients through the Italian seasoning; using your clean hands, gently mix the meat with the ingredients, incorporating everything as much as possible, without over mixing the meat too much; next, form the meat into a mound and place it directly onto the parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and begin shaping/pressing it into as rectangular a shape as possible, one that would resemble a meatloaf out of the pan; add about 4 tablespoons worth of the Rich Tomato Glaze over top of the meatloaf, and using a brush or even your fingers, evenly spread the glaze over the entire outer part of the meatloaf, getting the sides, as well (you can give an extra twist of freshly cracked black pepper, as well, if you’d like); bake the meatloaf for about 45 minutes, or until juices run clear; allow the meatloaf to rest for about 10 minutes lightly covered with foil, then slice and serve with a little of the Rich Tomato Glaze on the side to dip it in, or drizzled over top.
Rich Tomato Glaze ingredients:
1 (15 ounce) can organic tomato sauce
¼ cup organic ketchup
1 tablepsoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• Salt (pinch or two)
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
-Add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk to blend the ingredients well; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately. (This glaze can be served cold, or gently re-heated and served warm.)
Spicy, Roasted “Healthy Home Fries” ingredients:
4 large red potatoes, quartered and cut into smaller pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
• Cracked Black Pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
• Pinch (or two) cayenne pepper
-Preheat the oven to 425, and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
-In a large bowl, toss the red potatoes pieces with the olive oil, a couple of good pinches of salt and a couple of pinches of cracked black pepper, the garlic powder, the paprika and the cayenne pepper; turn the seasoned potatoes out onto the parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and roast the potatoes for about 40-45 minutes, stirring about half-way through the roasting process to allow for even caramelizing.