We just had a birthday in the house! Usually, birthdays mean we get our own special birthday dinner – and Victor’s birthday favorite is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and peas.

My work schedule and my meatloaf-making-and-cake-baking schedule didn’t quite jive, this year, so I thought I’d do something completely different – Burgers from Five Guys and Cupcakes from Cupcakes Gourmet. Since we really don’t go out a lot and really do make all of our meals at home, this was a treat. And a bit of an eye-opener.

When someone else makes your food, it’s really expensive. I know that on the grocery-level, because I see the prices of prepared foods at the grocery store vs simple ingredients. I’m an ingredient-shopper. Two bacon cheeseburgers for us, 2 small plain cheeseburgers for Nonna and Cybil, and 2 large fries to share was $32. A dozen assorted cupcakes? Also $32.  It was a birthday dinner so I didn’t bat an eye as I handed over the debit card, but it did get me thinking…  Sixty-four bucks is two-thirds of our normal weekly food budget – and we eat well around here. Do folks really do this often? How do they afford it?

All of it was very good. The burgers were properly huge and messy and we had more french fries than we could eat. The cupcakes were unique, varied, and quite tasty. In the grocery store I’ll pass over a cheap national brand for a more-expensive local or imported product with better quality or what I deem cleaner ingredients. We are willing to pay for quality and in both cases here, we received it.

I guess I’ve been out of the loop for a while and it just caught me off guard, but it did reinforce the notion that cooking your own food is a lot less expensive than having someone else do it for you.

So since the Birthday Boy didn’t get his meatloaf dinner on Saturday, I thought I’d make it on Sunday.  I had everything I needed except for the peas, so I thought I’d get my weekly shopping out of the way and headed to the store.

I forgot the peas.

I tend to make the same meatloaf and decided since it was a Birthday Meatloaf, that I’d try something different. I’ve made a few “recipe” meatloaves over the years and am always willing to try another. This one struck me because of the rather unique use of dijon mustard, BBQ sauce, and horseradish. It worked.


The croutons, on the other hand – along with the bay leaves and unpeeled garlic – were overkill.  I did like them on the bottom but the stuff on top was unnecessary. It looks like a lot of ingredients but it comes together fairly quickly.

A Not-So-Basic Meatloaf

adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 5 strips lean bacon, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs  ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 tbsp bottled horseradish, well drained
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp finely minced fresh thyme (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme)
  • 2 to 3 cups croutons
  • 10 whole, unpeeled, garlic cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375°.

Sauté the bacon for about 5 minutes in a medium-sized pan. Add the garlic, onion, and carrot and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent but have not taken on any color. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool.

Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and milk and, using your hands, work the liquid into the meat. Add the bread crumbs and continue to work the liquid and crumbs into the meat. Add the cooled vegetables, mustard, barbecue sauce, and horseradish along with 1/4 cup of the parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme. Using your hands, gently work all of the ingredients into the meat until well combined.

Place one-half of the croutons into a 9×13 baking dish.

Shape meatloaf into a loaf about 3 1/4 inches wide X 2 1/2 inches high X 12 inches long. Press the remaining croutons into the loaf, making sure that they are partially pressed down into it.

Gently press the unpeeled garlic cloves into the top of the meatloaf. Carefully lay the loaf on top of the croutons in the baking dish. Pierce the meatloaf with the bay leaves and thyme sprig. Place the meatloaf in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reads 165° and the top is nicely browned.

Remove the pan from the oven. Allow the meatloaf to rest for about 5 minutes before transferring it to a serving platter. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top of the loaf and around the platter. Cut crosswise into 1-inch, or thicker, slices and serve.


As I said, the croutons on top – along with the unpeeled garlic and bay leaves – were a bit unnecessary, although the croutons did add a bit of texture to the dish. If I made it, again, I’d most likely omit them.

The best part of the dinner, though, is the leftover meatloaf that’s in the ‘fridge, right now. It’s going to make some awesome sandwiches for lunch!