Food Hack: Over the Top Meatloaf Sandwich

I have an obsession. If I love something at a restaurant, I have to try to recreate it or improve it at home. I just can’t help myself. Hence my wonderful Chicken Bryan (à la Carrabba’s) or Yummy Salmon Pasta (based on a no-longer-offered TGI Friday’s recipe). It’s no surprise, then, that since The Cheesecake Factory cut my FAVORITE sandwich, I have felt a strong calling to recreate it. And recreate it, I did!

Behold:

meatloaf sandwich

Yes, it was good. Pretty near close to perfect, actually. Yes, it was so good that we are going to eat it again for lunch tomorrow. The essential ingredients of the sandwich (in order from bottom to top) are Texas toast, meatloaf, sauteed onions and mushrooms, swiss cheese, a beer, fresh arugula, tomato bacon jam, and garlic aioli. Here are my suggestions for making it perfectly:

  • Meatloaf — Use the recipe on the back of the Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix box, but substitute Stove Top Stuffing for breadcrumbs. Cook a portion without ketchup covering the top, and use that for the sandwiches. It’s best on the day after you had it for dinner (trust me).
  • Sauteed onions and mushrooms — TCF sautees these in Guinness, which we didn’t have on hand but that I would definitely suggest because it does add something extra. I didn’t use mushroom since my husband doesn’t like them, and I added some Worchestershire sauce when carmelizing the onions because of not having a dark beer on hand like Guinness. It helped.
  • Swiss cheese — TCF marinates their swiss in Guinness as well. I just did it in regular beer. I think I’m going to do a beer/Worchestershire sauce mixture next time, even if I have Guinness on hand. I topped the bottom of my sandwiches with these cheese slices that had been soaking in beer and stuck them in the oven for a minute or two under the broiler. Perfection!
  • Arugula — use a heaping fist-full. Seriously, you think it might be weird, but it brings a real balance to the sandwich.
  • Tomato bacon jam — Use this recipe but skip the pepper. It unbalances the whole sandwich if you have the pepper. It really wasn’t bad to prepare as far as jams go and it makes a whole pint, so you will have plenty extra to freeze for later use (it only lasts 3-4 days in the fridge). This is the closest recipe I’ve found to TCF.
  • Garlic aioli — I mixed minced garlic with mayo. I didn’t run it through the food processor like I should have and I used way too much garlic. Good thing we are a garlic-loving family or it would have been too strong!

So there you have it, the ultra-complicated-yet-perfectly-matched-and-delicious sandwich. What are some of the recipes you’d love to copy from a restaurant?

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Menu Planning Help

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Update: I will soon be sharing each of these recipes so if you want to know how to make them, stay tuned!

I started an iPhone photo dump last night (actually, I didn’t realize my iPhone did it automatically to my computer lol!) and as I was going through photos planning photo dump posts so you can see what we’ve been doing since I got pregnant (sorry), a brilliant idea struck.

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You know those times when you don’t know what to cook? It happens in our house a lot. I’m a great cook with lots of ideas, but nothing sounds good. And, often, when I finally decide to make something and we are just kind of blasé about it, by the time it is finished we realize how good it actually tastes and that it really did hit the spot. But when we go to restaurants, we have the same problem unless there are pictures. We both tend to gravitate towards menu options that have a satisfying-looking photo accompanying the description, or else we stick to something we’ve had before.

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So, beginning with the very few pictures I have on my phone, I’m going to start a menu photo book labeled with what is on the plate. It just means remembering to take a pic with my phone before we start eating, and then labeling and printing that pic later. I’m not going to do any fancy laminating or anything – just throw the pics in a binder and let them sit on a shelf until we can’t decide what to have. But seriously, what an EASY life hack to help us out! Do you have any great menu planning ideas for those nights when you don’t know what to have? Leave a comment below!

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Updated Taco Casserole

Just like many of you, I often troll Pinterest looking for recipe ideas for dinner. We’ve felt like we’ve been a food rut for a while, so it’s been happening more and more often. I’ve been smart lately and printing recipes we loved with substitutions to stick in our meal planning binder (more about that to come!) so that I can easily find and add them to our meal rotation in the future.

Image Courtesy of Wannabe Chefette on AllRecipes.com

Tonight, I found this gem and decided to make it. I loosely followed the quantities listed, but changed a few things and it was wonderful so I’m adding my version of the Taco Casserole here on TBP.

  • ground beef
  • jar of salsa
  • can of red beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortilla chips, crushed
  • sour cream (I would recommend 1.5 times the called for amount if you love sour cream like us because it will soak up in the recipe)
  • guacamole
  • diced green onion
  • diced tomatoes
  • sliced black olives, drained
  • copies amounts of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (we’re sharp cheese people!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown and drain ground beef; add salsa and beans and heat until liquid is gone/beans are warm. Put the crushed chips in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and layer beef mixture on top. Spread sour cream overtop beef and then guacamole overtop sour cream. Sprinkle green onions and tomatoes, then cover with cheese. Lastly, top with olives as desired (in our family, I’m the only one who doesn’t like olives). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Everyone in our family loved it, including Clark, whose favorite foods right now are tomatoes and olives. We’ll definitely be making it again with the substitutions!

Recipe Showcase: Panera-Style Tomato Soup

Love Panera’s tomato soup? Per request, I’m sharing my semi-homemade (or as I prefer, “doctored up”) version of tomato soup. After you read this, you’ll never go back to plain old Campbell’s again!

Ingredients:

Can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup (I don’t mind off brands, but this is one thing that I usually buy brand name)
Milk
Dried Basil -or- Fresh Basil, Finely Chopped
Shredded Parmesan Cheese (don’t use grated – it really makes a difference!)

Add can of soup to saucepan. Fill empty can 3/4 to all the way with milk and add to saucepan. Sprinkle in enough basil to “freckle” the soup throughout; whisk together. Heat on medium until warm, and sprinkle in a decent amount of shredded Parmesan cheese and continue to heat until cheese starts to melt and soup is hot. Add a nice heap of shredded Parmesan on the top of the soup (and croutons if they are your thing!). It sounds silly, but these few changes make your soup taste homemade!

Recipe Showcase: A Twist to Chicken Salad Dip

Sorry there aren’t any pictures with this post. My Nikon pooped out so I no longer have a DSLR 😦 I guess it’s time to buy a cheap point and shoot and start saving for a D90!

If you are on Pinterest, you’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of a delicious looking stuffed baguette. I decided I was going to make one for my lunch tomorrow, but stuff it with chicken salad dip. In the process, however, I changed the dip and made it even yummier than before! My husband emphatically agrees, haha.

The original chicken salad dip recipe is this:

One can chunk chicken, drained

One package cream cheese

A whole small onion, diced finely

A fair dash of lemon juice and worchestershire sauce to taste

Mix it all together and serve on crackers (my favorite are the Crunchmaster Multi-Grain Gluten Free crackers that you can find in Kroger’s Deli or in bulk at Sam’s – they have an amazing crunch, even if you don’t need something gluten free!).

So how did I change the recipe?

First, I finely diced some sun-dried tomatoes and added those plus the onion in a small skillet to sauté. Because the tomatoes are packed in olive oil, I didn’t need to add anything to the pan. Once the onions were good and translucent, I added the chicken and broke it up with my wooden spoon, then the lemon juice and worchestershire sauce. Finally, I add the cream cheese and the mixture to a mixing bowl and combined everything. Pop it in the fridge to gel, and you’ve got a tasty little dip.

Now, stuffing it into the baguette takes it to a whole new level because you can just slice it all up and go. Mmm, mmm – are you jealous of my lunch tomorrow?