Recipes: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll get to the end of the internet and then I stumble upon a gem that makes me fall in love all over again. The internet is a giver. I love recipes…new ones, old ones, tried and true ones. As long as the result tastes delish and the cooking only requires reasonable kitchen skills then I’m in.
My new friend is Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Go straight to “The Best Recipe” section and you will truly find the best recipe of that one dish; I promise you. I’ve made her Glazed Mini Meatloaves and her Classic Baked Ziti. She ain’t playin’! They were both so good that I contemplated opening up a meatloaf cart Uptown and I declared the baked ziti better than any Italian restaurant version.
I’ve included both recipes below for your convenience. Get to cookin’, Smarties!
Glazed Mini Meatloaves from melskitchencafe.com
*Makes 5 mini meatloaves.
17-20 saltine crackers, crushed fine (about 2/3 cup)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley (or I used 3 Tablespoons of dried)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground meat (combination of lean ground chuck and lean ground pork OR meatloaf mix)
2 teaspoons oil (vegetable or canola oil)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir cracker crumbs, milk, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, egg, mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl. Add ground meat and combine until uniform. Shape mixture into oval loaves.
Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until the oil is rippling. Add meatloaves (without letting them touch sides) and brown well on one side, 3-5 minutes. Carefully flip loaves over and tidy up edges using a spatula (I didn’t need to do this – my meatloaves managed to hold their shape really well). Brown on this side for another 2-3 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix glaze ingredients together until smooth. Transfer mini meatloaves to a foil-lined baking pan and spoon the glaze over the top of each meatloaf. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the center of the loaf registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Classic Baked Ziti from melskitchencafe.com
1 pound 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces grated parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound ziti or other similar pasta (like penne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, finely minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil (use 1/2 cup fresh basil if you have it but add it to the sauce after it has simmered and you take it off the heat)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (I used shredded because I’m lazy)
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup of the paremsan cheese together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, about 7 minutes (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain pasta and leave in colander. Do not wash the large pot.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, basil and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Take off heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir cornstarch into heavy cream and transfer mixture to the now-empty large pot the pasta cooked in. Set the pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup of the simmered tomato sauce, and half of the mozzarella cubes, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.
Transfer mixture to a 9X13-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cubes and remaining 1/2 cup parmesan cheese over the top. Cover the baking dish with foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve.
Freezable Meal: Prepare recipe right up until the baking step and then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. To bake, increase baking time to 1 hour and 15 minutes, with the final 30 minutes baking the dish uncovered as stated in the initial recipe. If baking from frozen, bake covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, uncover and bake 30 minutes longer.