02 April 2009

Here is what I made for our Lenten potluck meal on April Fool's Day. They look like frosted cupcakes, but they are really mini meatloaves with colored mashed potatoes on top! Aren't they cute? So springy!

I got the idea from a recipe on Recipezaar. I was looking for something else and came across it. I filed it away for later and then it wasn't long before I realized we had a potluck at church on April 1st. Perfect!

Here is the recipe I used, but you can use any meatloaf recipe that you like. Mine were okay, but if you have one you prefer, then definitely use that one. Just remember to adjust the cooking time since the loaves are so small.

Meatloaf Cupcakes

1 cup soft white bread crumbs (not the kind in the can)
¼ cup whole milk
2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used 90%)
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning (I used Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
2 tbsp finely diced onion
18 foil baking cups
4 to 5 cups prepared mashed potatoes
food coloring (without sugar added)

Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine milk and bread crumbs and set aside. Gather other ingredients in large mixing bowl. Once milk has been absorbed into the bread, add it to the mixing bowl. Combine all ingredients, mixing enough to evenly distribute, but not too much that it becomes gummy.

Line 18 muffin cups with foil liners. Fill each liner with ¼ cup of meatloaf mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, separate mashed potatoes into small bowls (the number depends on how many different colors of "frosting" you want). Mix food coloring into frosting.

When meatloaves have finished baking, frost the cupcakes with the mashed potatoes.

Makes 18 mini meatloaves. Allow 2 per serving.

Now here are some notes:
I did not use the meatloaf recipe that came with the cupcake idea. I got the milk/bread idea (called a 'panade') from America's Test Kitchen. They use it in hamburgers to keep them moist when cooking them well-done. I thought it would work to keep lean meatloaf moist as well. Then I just seasoned it with what I felt like at the moment. Tuscan Sunset is a really good Italian seasoning that I use on roasted potatoes. I think it worked really well in the meatloaf. I was expecting that 2 lbs. of ground beef would make 24 cupcakes, but it only filled 18 cups. Which was okay, because we ended up with a small crowd at church and didn't need that many anyway.

I found it impossible to find the old fashioned kind of food coloring. I was looking for the kind that comes in a liquid and you do so many drops into your food. All I could find were food coloring gels or pastes that contain sugar. What happened to the other kind? I looked at the regular grocery store (2 different ones), Hobby Lobby, Michaels, a cooking supply store, and a specialty cake baking supply store. Nada. Everything had sugar in it. So I was in despair, thinking this wasn't going to work, when I called my mom. She came up with a genius idea. It is just before Easter (thankfully!) so she suggested I get an Easter egg coloring kit and use the dye in that. Brilliant! I never would have thought of that. The kind I got had little tablets that you dissolve in vinegar. Instead of vinegar, I dissolved them in hot water.

The thing you have to keep in mind when making your potatoes is how watery your dye is. If your dye is watery (like mine was), you have to make your potatoes a little on the thick side since you'll be adding water to them along with the color. And lighter colors will require more dye and therefore water, so keep that in mind. I had to add probably three times as much yellow water dye than I did the pink and blue. The green was light too. So when making the potatoes, err on the side of too thick, because you can always thin them out once you get the color right. And you do either instant or real potatoes. My instant potato of choice is Potato Pearls from Gordon's Food Service. They are much more smooth and creamy than any real mashed potato I could make. They are smoother than any other boxed instant potato from the regular grocery store. I highly recommend them.

The "cupcakes" went over well at the potluck. The funniest reaction was when a five year old boy took a bite of the "frosting" and made a face and said, "Ewww, tastes like 'tatoes!" Ha ha ha! So funny! I've never been big on making April Fool's Day jokes, but this was fun!

Thanks so much, Mom! I couldn't have done this without you!

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