Not Your Mom’s Meatloaf Recipe


Meatloaf was an American staple in my home growing up.  At least twice a month my mom served it alongside a boiled vegetable, an iceberg salad and rice with butter and salt and pepper – It doesn’t get more Americana than that!

Here’s a new recipe turning a classic on its head.  I snagged this recipe from Timothy Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Chef.  More than most dishes, this is one my kids ask for time and again and its perfect if you’re diabetic because instead of using bread crumbs, Ferriss’ recipe comes with baby belle mushrooms.

While visiting my family in Washington this past January, my daughter asked me to make this for everyone.  We enjoyed cooking, laughing and gathering around the table to enjoy this meal and one another’s company; which has become a new and welcomed family tradition at my Aunt’s home whenever I visit.


2 lbs. fatty ground beef
2 whole eggs
3 scallions chopped
1 large yellow onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic minced
6 medium mushrooms minced
1 large handful of fresh spinach
3 – 4 oz. Chevre goat cheese
2 tbsp. tomato paste
4 shakes of cayenne pepper
3-finger pinch of oregano
2 3-finger pinches of salt
6 coarse grinds of black pepper
1 tsp. turmeric (Not in Ferriss’ recipe but I add to almost every dish now)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (1 chopped and the other whole for garnish)


Preheat oven to 425 F

Mix meat with eggs. Then add chopped scallion, onions and garlic and mix well. Add minced mushrooms (I mince in a food processor to get them really small) and mix all together with hands and then add the spices.

Lay out about 18″ of plastic wrap on the counter and transfer the meat mixture on the plastic and begin to flatten out.


Add the spinach and then goat cheese across one side of the loaf, reaching the ends. Then lift one end of the plastic wrap and begin to gently roll up the loaf, pulling back the plastic so it doesn’t roll into the loaf.


Pull together the sides enclosing all the goodness and transfer to a baking dish. Frost the top of the loaf with the tomato paste and chopped rosemary. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until the middle reaches 150 F with a thermometer.

I take all that juice that is in the bottom of my pan and make a delicious gravy.

Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve to those you love the most!



While home visiting my father and his girlfriend in California, I enhanced this recipe by adding a layer of thick, smokey-sweet, peppery bacon to the top.  It took it to the next level for me.  #everyonelovesbacon #baconmakesitbetter #bacon


Post-Holiday Cooking: Here’s a Quick & Easy Sausage & Egg Pie Recipe

wp-1484173950945.jpgFrom stuffing, basting, patting, pricking, roasting and toasting, most of us foodies who refer to the holiday season as the “Olympics of Family Cooking,” have taken a deep sigh of gratitude for the love and joy that was shared amongst our family and friends.

All the gifts have been opened, clothes tried on (and modeled on the living room runway) and Google Home was streaming music at our demand when I noticed that I was starving! But, I was also tired and didn’t have the energy to create breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  But clearly, we all needed to eat.

So, here is a quick go-to recipe I like to use that comes loaded with the right amount of nutrition, salty savoriness, and warmth.  This pie oozes with comfort and cozy post-holiday sit-around-the-house goodness.  I like to think of it as alinner (lunch and dinner) dish or a classic brunch dish too.

– Don’t worry, you’re not required to make your own pie crust, I promise.


1 Pie Crust (for the inquiring minds, yes, I used the type you buy and roll out).
1 tablespoon of butter
1 good-sized shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4-6 sun-dried tomatoes loosely chopped
8 ounces of Italian sausage or chicken sausage (remove the outer skin and crumble)
1 three-finger pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of oregano or thyme (or both)
3 – 4 handfuls of fresh spinach or kale
2 cups of freshly grated California cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute shallots and garlic until translucent. Add salt, oregano and thyme. Add the crumbled sausage, sundried tomatoes, and cook until browned. Add the spinach or kale and cook until the greens wilt and set aside.

In a pie dish roll out the pie crust and pinch the edges.   Add 1 cup of cheese on the bottom and then add the sausage mixture on top of that.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs and heavy cream and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese (you can also use almond milk or any other milk/cream variation).  Season with a pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Pour the egg mixture over the sausage mixture.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  I also added a little extra romano in this pie – I mean, can you blame me?  Take a brush and lightly coat the edge of the pie crust with some of your egg mixture for a crispy finish.  (not too much).


Place your pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted toothpick or knife comes out clean.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



Special thanks to Mele Cotte for the inspiration of this recipe.  I use it in many reincarnations.


Here is one I made with Kale

Paying Homage to Family Lineage

Leona Mae Berg.jpg

Leona Mae Berg

For the past week I have been  in Suquamish, Washington with my mother and all of our family celebrating the life of my grandmother. On May 23rd my mother Glenda Lee and her sister Cindy Claire collaborated and got together all of our known family to memorialize the life of my Grammy, Leona Mae Berg-Strickland.   Today I am baking a recipe I shared with my grandmother – I’ve posted it before – the delicious banana nut bread.   Once again, with a new twist, I’ve added cinnamon in addition to the chocolate.  The truth is, it was by accident.  Out of habit from baking oatmeal cookies, I reached for the cinnamon and added the usual teaspoon.  I’m looking forward to tasting this new recipe.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my love of baking and cooking can be directly linked to this beautiful woman.

This afternoon we are setting out on a family ancestral adventure. First my mother and I will meet my cousins Krista Tseu and Rick Berg along with their father and mother, Uncle Ricky Berg and Aunt Kathy Berg at the Kitsap County Forest Lawn Cemetary to pay homage to our family of veterens and my great-grandmother Meltry Jennette Rahier (b: 28 Jan. 1901 Burlington, WA Skagit County d: 13 May 1989 Bremerton, WA).  We’re going to also delve into the family archives and do a little research on our family lineage.  I’m focussing my attention on the Carter side of our family – the Cherokee Indian side – from Virginia.  My mother wants to do research on the little bit of Irish that we have.  Afterward we are going horseback riding with the cousins.  This is a long-awaited dream of mine finally being realized.

There is more to the family treasure chest of experiences.  My cousin Katie Zollman, the daughter of my mother’s brother William Strickland Jr. has moved here with her adorable daughter Shayna.  I am utterly enjoying that infectious laughter and smile of hers and quickly passing down to her the tradition of baking.  This week we have scrambled eggs, made toast and today we are baking the bread.  Here she is with her recent haircut holding the bread before it goes into the oven.

Making Chocolate Banana Nut Bread with my Niece

Making Chocolate Banana Nut Bread with my Niece

So to make this bread, follow my previous post titled “Love Thy Neighbor with Chocolate Banana Nut Bread.”  The subtle differences are as follows:

1 Tsp Cinnamon

2 Tbsp Butter in place of 2 Tsp of Coconut Oil (my mom’s pantry was short that one ingredient – hard to believe).


Left to right:

Auntie Kathy Berg, Cousin Krista Tseu, My Momma Glenda Lee and her childhood bestie, Susan Giglioni, at the cemetery on Memorial Day 2014 -honoring our greats!


Just before her passing I wrote the following:

Thinking of my Grandmother Leona ‘Berg’ Strickland Tonight
March 5, 2014 at 12:19am
My mother, my aunt, my brother and many of my cousins gather at my Grandma Lee’s bedside tonight. Taking in the love of one another, remembering times long past, comparing my grandmother to her sister (their mother) who she will soon join in heaven.

I imagine the mood to be calm, warm, safe and tender. I see my cousin Barbara Lawrence-Piecuch,beautiful, angelic and brave and tender with her children or grandchildren by her side. My dear sweet Aunt Cindy Ellis, her beautiful daughters Tleena Ives and Trisha Ives and their six children filling the rooms with dimples,tears and little bits of laughter. My brother Mike: stoic, handsome,kind, and gentle, there by my mother’s side, offering up no drama, just kindness and reassurance of strength. I imagine if I were there I’d bring a little too much frenzy and not enough serenity. My mother and I wouldargue over a misinterpreted breath, expression, look or hand gesture. Then we’d have to take to separate rooms for a while. One of us would startsmoking.

I imagine my mom there now, perhaps she is remembering the precious memories of her childhood, times where she had her momma’s lap all to herself, times when she had to smell the liver cooking in the kitchen a smell she’ll probably never wish, now, to forget. I imagine her blue eyes fill with tears, her hands gently tickling her momma’s back or holding her hand.

I imagine every ounce of my love pouring over my Grammy now. I want to fill her every pore with my love and the love of my children Giulianna and Emma Grace.

I want my own mom to know she’s not just appreciated but cherished for all the times I got her lap to myself, for the back tickles, bedtime prayers and hugs and kisses; for the smell of her shoes when she’d collapse on the sofa after along day of work, the sass in her walk at the bowling alley and all her various silly little – and sometimes very big – laughs!

I love you”mama” Glenda L Medeiros. You are a very good daughter. You have shown your mom so much kindness, patience and love. God knows your sadness and your joy and He even knows your dreams; He hasn’t forgotten about them, so don’t you!

Grammy, if I were there, I imagine I’d cuddle up in your tiny bed with you. I imagine George would come to lick our faces because he’d just know that I was trying, with every ounce of my strength, to fight back my tears. Dog spelled backwards is God, after all. George, the all-knowing, ever-wise one, is probably offering up his best kisses and going from person to person with that silly expression on his face that makes you absolutely love him and forgive him, all at once. At least three people have said the words, “No George!” since I began to write this.

Oh Grammy, George does fill up a lot of space in your home but no lap-jumping, food-snatching,ball-chasing, run-away, annoying and totally lovable dog could ever take up the nooks and crannies your life has inhabited.

Every lace doily, fry pan,blending machine, cooking tool, Tupperware, copper mold, china cabinet, blue glass, brown and yellow kitchen towel, dictionary, crossword puzzles,pencil, plastic table-cloth, sewing tomato, thread, needle, fabric, measuring tape, simplicity pattern, jelly jar, coffee cup, Bisquick box, gold picture frame with one of your grandchildren’s pictures from 1974 all echo you and your laughter. That will never fade.

Thank you Grandma Lee for letting us switch roles when I was just 4 or 5. For a little bit I got to be you and you had to be me. I got to tell you”No, Dena don’t touch that,” until all those “no’s” became unbearable even for you.

Thank you for the drives from California, past Donner Pass, through Tahoe, Oregon and up to beautiful Washington State (your true home). Thank you for showing me the majesty of the California Redwoods: trees so big we could literally drive through them, the salmon swimming up-stream, waterfalls hidden in the crags of mountains, deer along roadsides, eagles, hawks, and blue jays. Nature really did captivate you. Thank you for the road-trip songs we sang, like “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.”

Thank you for biscuits and gravy, freshly grated hash browns, magic twenty layer Jell-O molds, pumpkin-roll cakes, banana cream pies with vanilla wafers and your very own Mrs. Fields’ Cookies and peanut butter balls.

This is the space I leave for my family to make jokes, to laugh until they cry until they laugh again in celebration of your life.

Until I see you again Grandma, bask in the love surrounding you. Let it fill your heart with the greatness God desires each of us to possess. You deserve every single juicy bit of it!

Happy LIFEDAY Grandma Lee!


Your granddaughter Dena