So it’s been my mission for a while to create an affordable recipe for meatloaf that fully captures the flavor and consistency I so loved growing up. I think I’ve succeeded with this one.
I know I will forever associate this meal with wonderful family Sunday dinners in the colder months of the year, the wonderful aromas wafting through the house, and the kitchen warmed by the heat of the oven.
Nowadays, we have microwaves that actually do an excellent job of steaming vegetables, and I use mine all the time for the squash and potatoes. But I still often pop everything into the oven. You can’t beat that approach for sheer simplicity and the lovely crispy potato skins that result.
While baked potatoes are one of my favorite foods, sometimes I crave what I consider to be the ultimate comfort food -- homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. That’s the option I present here. It’s a bit more work than baked potatoes, but on occasion, I just don’t mind the extra effort.
In addition, I use a pressure cooker in this recipe, but you don’t need one to make this. Simply follow the directions for boiling the lentils and barley in a covered pot instead. The rest of the recipe is the same.
This meal is very affordable. The meatloaf yields about 8 generous servings, and costs about $5, so around 65¢ a serving. With the squash, potatoes and salad, the whole meal comes in at well under $2 per person.
Actual prep time for the meal is about 25 minutes. From start to finish time is about 90 minutes.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time – approximately 25 minutes
Total start to finish meal time – approximately 90 minutes
Recipe Cost – approximately $5
Per person meal cost with squash, mashed potatoes, and salad – approximately $1.50
For the “ Meatloaf”:
¾ cup barley
¾ cup lentils
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup oatmeal
4 cups water total
2 bouillon cubes (beef or vegetarian suggested)
1-1½ teaspoons of salt
1 medium onion
½ cup red wine (optional - I recently tried this and really liked the flavor it provided, so you may like it as well)
¼ cup canola oil
1 can (6 ounce size) tomato paste
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)
For the Gravy (optional):
3 cups water (or approximately 2½ cups, and the liquid from the optional canned mushrooms to make 3 cups)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
½ cup corn starch
2 tablespoons red wine, sherry or madeira (optional)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon browning sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can mushrooms(8-16 ounce size) (optional)
For the Meal:
1-2 pounds winter squash (butternut, buttercup, etc.) or other vegetable of your choice
8-10 medium – large potatoes
½ - 1 cup milk (optional, if making mashed potatoes)
Tossed green salad
Recipe continues below pictures.
- Put 3½ cups of water in a pressure cooker and add the 3/4 cup of barley, 3/4 cup of lentils and the 2 bouillon cubes or salt. Or if you do not have a pressure cooker, simply use a pot with a lid. Cover and place over high heat. Once the contents are boiling, or the pressure cooker is up to pressure (the button pops up, and the weight begins to rattle a bit), turn the temperature down to low. Simmer for 25 minutes if you are using the pressure cooker, or about 1 hour if you are just using a pot. The water should be mostly absorbed, the lentils should be soft, and the barley done al dente. Set a timer to remind yourself.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Meanwhile, wash and scrub the potatoes. Remove any badly damaged areas. If you are baking them, then pierce them with a fork, knife or skewer. Or cut a deep X into the top. If you are boiling them, cut them into quarters or eighths so that they cook faster. Cover them with water in a medium pot, cover the pot and place it over high heat. The cook time will be about 15-20 minutes.
- Wash the squash and cut it into portion size pieces using a knife with a strong, stiff blade. Arrange the pieces in an oven-proof or microwave proof dish. Add about ½ inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Cover the squash and place them in the pre-heated oven if you are using it, or, if you are using the microwave, set it aside.
- Now peel and dice the onion. Heat the ¼ cup oil in a frying pan or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. If you are using the red wine, add it after about 5 minutes and cook 2-5 minutes longer, letting the wine boil and reduce.
- Add the ½ cup oatmeal, the 1 cup of breadcrumbs and ½ cup of water to the onions and stir to mix well. Set aside.
- When the timer for the lentil/barley mix goes off, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and run cold water over it to reduce the pressure. When the button pops back down, and any hissing has stopped, remove the weight and then the lid. Allow the contents to stand and cool for about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion/breadcrumb and oatmeal mixture to the lentils.
- Add the can of tomato paste, the 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, the ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, and the 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the mixture.
- Break the 3 eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork or whisk. Stir the beaten eggs into the lentil/barley mix and mix everything together very well.
- Grease or oil a 5x9 baking dish, using a paper towel dipped in oil or vegetable shortening. Scrape the entire "meatloaf" mixture into the greased baking dish. Place in the pre-heated oven and set the timer for 40 minutes.
- Check the boiling potatoes. They are done if they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain them.
- Heat the ½ -1 cup milk in the microwave on medium power for about 1 minute. Mash the potatoes using a hand masher or a ricer. Add the heated milk as needed for the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the mashed potatoes aside over a pan of hot water on the stove to keep them warm until the rest of the meal is ready.
- If you are microwaving the squash, put it in the microwave and cook for about 5-8 minutes on high. The squash is done when you can pierce it easily with a fork. Add more time in 3-5 minute increments, as needed.
- To make the gravy, dissolve the bouillon cube in the microwave in about 1/2 cup of the water. Mix the remaining 2 ½ cups of water/mushroom liquid with the ½ cup of corn starch to make a slurry. Combine the bouillon broth and the slurry in a small pan. Add the 2 tablespoons of wine, the 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, the 1 teaspoon of browning sauce, the 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, the 1 teaspoon of onion powder and the 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Once it is boiling, turn the heat down to low and keep stirring for a few minutes, until the gravy thickens. Stir in the mushrooms (optional). Remove from direct heat and keep covered until ready to serve.
- When the timer goes off for the meatloaf, remove it from the oven and let it stand for about 5-10 minutes.
- Check the squash, if you cooked it in the oven. It is done when it can be pierced easily with a fork or knife. Remove it from the oven.
- While the meatloaf is standing, make the salad by adding some cut up vegetables to washed and drained greens. Dress it with pre-made dressing or by measuring oil and vinegar over it. See my simple starter recipe for salad dressing here.
- Slice the lentil loaf and serve it with or without the gravy, along with the potatoes, squash, and salad for a wonderful, satisfying meal that speaks of home.