Meatloaf in a clay pot = amazing!

I am getting more brave with my clay pot cooking experiments. We started with the Cornish Game Hens, then did chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, and today I want to share with you the meatloaf meal. I love meatloaf, and thought it would be a lot of fun to try this cooking method.

Claypot Meatloaf
Meatloaf is in the pot and ready to go. To prepare your pot for cooking read my Cornish Game Hen post.
Clay Pot Meatloaf - cooked
TAA-DAA! The recipe says to cook it ~90 minutes, I think at ~80 minutes you could put your meat thermometer in and see if it was ready. Next time I would also double the amount of yummy goodness spread over the top (aka ketchup blend).
Clay Pot Meatloaf dinner
I served the meatloaf with squash and a green salad. The meatloaf was excellent!

So far, the meatloaf has been my favorite clay pot dinner. It was very moist and had a rich, meaty flavor with the hint of earthiness from the clay. This recipe was the hardest to clean up afterwards. Some of the meat was stuck pretty good to the bottom of the pot. Next time I would add just a bit more liquid, or as I mentioned, decrease the cooking time. I also found a meatloaf and potato recipe. This one suggests putting the potatoes around the loaf, but I think I would put a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then the meat on top. Stay tuned, we have some other clay pot creations coming.


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Clay pot chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

I have had a lot fun experimenting with cooking in my clay pot. The first thing we made were the Cornish Game Hens, which were good, but they were not great. In my research of clay pot cooking I found a recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic – yum! As a garlicholic I knew we had to try this.

I covered my pot in a 5-gallon bucket worth of water (perfect size I might add), and let it soak while I peeled 40 cloves of garlic.
garlic - final
The garlic, yes I counted to make sure I had 40. Would hate to short change the recipe 🙂

Garlic hack: throw your garlic in the freezer with skin on, I just put it in a ziplock bag (left). When you are ready to use it, pull out what you need (top right), peel it (bottom right), and use as you would with fresh garlic. Fresh garlic can sprout or rot quickly, and it can make your house smell a little fragrant (bologna like). I have had garlic in my freezer up to year, and it is just perfect when I use it!

Claypot chicken - raw
I lightly coated the chicken in olive oil (the recipe calls for butter, but that is too messy for me, as I learned in the Cornish Hen cooking) and seasoned with my favorite poultry rub. I put a few cloves of garlic under it, inside of it, and sprinkled the rest over the top, and put just a touch of lemon juice over the top. Doesn’t it look beautiful?
Clay pot chicken with 40 cloves of garlic-cooked
TAA-DAA!! The last few minutes I cooked it with the lid off so it would brown.

The original recipe called for 50 minutes with the lid on, but it took this one about 70 minutes with the lid on (size of the bird probably has something to do with it). Make sure to check the internal temperature with your meat thermometer to ensure it is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

This recipe was great! The meat was so tender and juicy and the garlic was amazing too. We will definitely be making this again.



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Clay Pot Cooking: Cornish Game Hens

Over the Christmas break my Mom and I cleaned out her cabinets and found a gently used clay pot that she was willing to re-gift to me 🙂 Thanks Mom! I have never cooked anything in one of these babies… So the first thing I did was head to Google to read all about how I could master clay port cooking. I found several sites with some great information including The Essential Kitchen: Clay Pot Cooking, Cooking with Shirley and Cooking in Clay Pots, and the kitchn Two Unique and Unexpected Benefits of Cooking in Clay.

So after reading all about cooking in clay pots, it was time to give it a try. I wasn’t sure if a chicken would fit into my pot, so I decided to start with Cornish Game Hens. I also had a bunch of veggies in the fridge. But first things first, I had to soak the pot. My dang sink wasn’t big enough to accommodate both the top and bottom on the same side. So I had to soak them on separate sides, which to me was a waste of water. Normally I would water my plants with this water, but I gave all of my plants away when we moved (and I digress…). Next time I am going to try soaking them together in a 5-gallon bucket filled in the tub, stay tuned on how that works for me.

Soaking the clay pot.

From my background reading it said to put the seasoned meat which had been rubbed with butter into the pot. I literally rubbed soft butter over the Hens, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I hoped it would, and got pretty messy. There were seasoned clumps of butter all over the Hens. Next time I will melt the butter first, use a brush to apply it, and then season the meat. It was at this stage that I also added my veggies (garlic, onion, carrot, potato, and jalapeno) to the pot.

Cornish Game Hens with veggies in a clay pot.

One of the sources I read said to add the juice of 1/2 lemon over the top, so I did that and put the lid on. In everything I read they made it clear that no additional juices or liquids should be added, as the steam and juices from the meat and veggies would be plenty. It is important to note that the pot should be put into a cold oven, once the oven is turned on, the oven and the pot can heat together. Putting the pot into a hot oven may cause it to crack. Also, when you take the lid off to brown the bird(s) in the final stage, the lid should be placed on a fabric potholder or towel, as setting it on a cool surface may crack it.

The wet pot has all of the yummy goodness inside and is going into the oven. PS, I just love the agriculture scene on the lid.

I couldn’t find any guidelines for how long to cook Cornish Game Hens with veggies, so I just went with the amount of time that was suggested to cook a chicken. At about 50 minutes I checked on the Hens and saw that the juices coming from them were bloody, so I let it cook for an additional 10-15 minutes with the lid on. I think adding so many veggies to the pot increased the cook time, which was not a big deal, I will just keep that in mind next time.

When I removed the lid the second time, the juices ran clear and the internal temp was taken. As recommended, I let it cook an additional 10 minutes with the lid off to brown the top of the Hens. After I pulled it out of the oven I let it rest for about 10 minutes. I am not sure if that step was necessary, as everything keeps cooking since the pot is so hot. Be cautious when removing and replacing the lid, they are very hot and there is steam!

TaaDaa!! The finished product.

The end product looked delicious. We were anxious to try it. The meat was so moist and tender, it was great. The veggies were tasty too, especially the garlic, which had great flavor. There was a slight flavor of clay with everything, it was a little strong to me, but The Hubs didn’t notice it as much. I think as the pot becomes more seasoned this flavor may dissipate. It added a very earthy flavor.

Clean up of the pot wasn’t bad. There was a lot of liquid in the bottom, so nothing stuck there. As you can see in the picture, there were a few veggies stuck to the side. I just let the pot soak in plain water for about 20 minutes and those scrubbed off. The information I read said not to use a detergent/soap to clean the pot as the pores will soak up the detergent and give your food an off flavor. A baking soda paste for the real stuck on stuff was suggested. It was also not recommended to put the pot in the dishwasher because of temperature fluctuations. I let the pot dry on the counter for several days before putting it away as I read it could get moldy if put away wet/damp. If that happens it was suggested to use a baking soda paste on those areas.

Next in clay pot cooking I am going to try a chicken with 40 cloves of garlic! Now that I know a chicken will fit, and I know that garlic is excellent in the pot, it seems like a logical next dish in my culinary experimentation. I want to also try meatloaf and a stew. I have also read that if you plan to bake sweets in a clay pot, a second one should be purchased, as cooking sweet foods in the savory seasoned pot may make bad/weird flavor combinations – remember the pores in the clay soak up the flavors.

Have you cooked in a clay pot? What is your favorite thing to make? What advice do you have for me? I would love to hear from you.

I have been experimenting, and have tried this clay pot dishes too:


Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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Balsamic Glazed Steak Wraps

I am a foodie… I love trying new recipes, new flavors, and flavor combinations. As you can imagine I am that person that rarely orders the same thing twice at a restaurant. So when I found this recipe at Tablespoon, I knew I had to try it!

 Balsamic Glazed Steak Wraps

Steak wrap prep - fina
Lots of fresh, healthy ingredients.
Steak rolls - final
Aren’t they beautiful in their final form? So colorful.
steak roll eating - final
And they tasted great too… I told the Hubs it reminded me of Cowboy Sushi 🙂

I made a few adaptations from the original recipe.

  • At my local retailer I found round steak already thinly sliced into 7 pieces.
  • I added a yellow squash to my lineup of vegetables. I think you could add or eliminate whatever suited your tastes.
  • I chopped the rosemary and added it to the glaze versus just using the springs and then removing them.
  • The balsamic glaze was amazing, but I wanted more of it as I was eating the rolls, so I doubled the recipe.
  • We paired this with rice and it was a great accompaniment.
  • We pan fried these as we weren’t sure how they would hold up on the grill. I think they would be fine as long as you were fairly gentle when you flipped/rolled them over.

Here is a copy of the recipe I used, adaptions and all.

Balsamic Glazed Steak Wraps (2)

I think it would be fun to make a breakfast version of this with herb potato slices and a fried egg inside the steak roll with a spicy salsa drizzled over the top? What other versions would you make?


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Homemade Taco Seasoning

spice container-finalTaco seasoning is a staple in our house… tacos, burritos, taco salads, nachos, soups, casseroles, etc. In the past I have purchased a large container of it. However, when I recently used up what I had, I decided to look up recipes to make my own. I knew it would be easy enough, and that the ingredients would not contain any preservatives or fillers.

spice label-final

I am a bit a spice and meat rub lover/connoisseur (if one can be of such things), so I had everything on hand for the do-it-yourself taco seasoning.

Taco Seasoning

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. Southwest chili powder (if you do not have this, use 2 Tbsp. regular chili powder)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. dried ground oregano

1 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika (can be omitted or substituted for regular paprika)

3 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. seasoned salt (can be omitted for less sodium option)

2 tsp. black pepper

Mix together. Store in air tight container. Makes approximately 6 Tbsp. of taco seasoning. ** You can adjust amounts for spiciness too, we like things a little spicy in our household.

It looks so pretty…
mixed spices-final
Mix your spices together, and you have homemade taco seasoning.

What other spice mixes do you like to make? Do you make your own meat rubs?


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NEW Holiday recipes…Wordless Wednesday

I love to cook and try new recipes, and today I wanted to share some of the new (to me) ones I have tried this holiday season.

Homemade Fresh Pumpkin Pie from Randy Scott on AllRecipes– This was easy and delicious (and it made two pies)!

Pumpkin Pie - final
Next time I would use baking pumpkins. I also pureed my pumpkin filling after it baked to get the consistency perfect.

 Homemade Cranberry Sauce from Jill at The Prairie Homestead — Four ingredients, and the perfect combination of sweet and a little tart!

I failed to get a final photo…But it was delish! I also used honey that was crystallized, and it melted down perfectly.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing from Lori at Recipe Girl — I am not a baker, but I have made these twice! The first time just like the recipe, and the second time I made apple rolls with a vanilla apple icing.

cinnamon rolls - final
Luckily we have had family in town to help with eating these guys. I also added nuts to the filling – yum!

What new recipes have you tried or will you try this holiday season?


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Gluten Free Myths

Today I am featuring a guest post by my friend and Extension colleague, Dawn Earnesty, MS, RDN with Michigan State University Extension. Dawn is a mom, wife, extension professional, and a student! I met Dawn through NELD (National Extension Leadership Program) (and have blogged about our experiences here and here) and have enjoyed getting to know her better personally and professionally.  Dawn has a great passion for foods and healthy eating and today she provides more information on gluten free myths!

As a reminder…Gluten is a protein that is common in the diets of U.S. consumers. It is found in wheat, barley, rye, and their grain relatives. Gluten is what helps bread expand while the dough is rising and hold its shape while it’s baking and after it cools. It’s also what makes bread chewy.

Dawn Earnesty, MS, RDN – Michigan State University Extension

Gluten free, dairy or lactose free, low or no carbohydrates, fat free, no Trans-fat, increased protein? These are some of the catchy nutrient descriptions that are used to market diets and food products. Moreover, we often hear a lot from the media and pseudo medical professionals about the wonderful benefits of either decreasing or increasing the amount of a specific food nutrient, which may create two groups that advocate opposing views.

Subsequently, the public becomes confused with the inconsistent health information. This may lead to some people following a restricted diet when it is not necessary or someone not following a diet restriction when they are at risk or have a health condition that requires a specific diet. This is why it is really important to seek out information from professionals that are knowledgeable in evidenced-based nutrition or simply, a registered dietitian nutritionist before starting any type of restricted diet. These professionals have the knowledge to guide you in making sure the lifestyle changes you are following are appropriate for your situation. So what are some of the known information regarding a gluten-free restriction?

Gluten free food products are now very popular: Sales of these products are expected to raise $10-15 billion within the next two years. While there are people who actually have celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there are more who follow a gluten-free diet for reasons other than gluten sensitivity.

When food companies remove ingredients or nutrients from foods, they may add other items that may not provide health benefits. For example, some gluten free product alternatives may likely be processed, higher in calories, higher carbohydrates and lower in nutritional value. People who do not necessarily need to follow a gluten free diet may be better off eating whole grain food products that provide them nutrients such as fiber, not found in gluten free foods. For more information on gluten download the Facts about Gluten sheet.

When it comes to nutrients, gluten free does not necessarily mean healthier: A good example to look at is the nutrient value of a gluten free cinnamon roll versus a regular cinnamon roll.

 (Regular) Pillsbury cinnamon roll:

One roll with icing

 (Gluten free) Udi’s cinnamon roll: One roll with icing

Calories: 140

Total Fat: 5 grams

Sodium: 340 milligrams

Total carbohydrates: 23 grams

Sugars: 9 grams

Calories: 300

Total Fat: 6 grams

Sodium: 370 milligrams

Total carbohydrates: 50 grams

Sugars: 30 grams

Some of the gluten free products, however, have no difference in nutrients as shown in gluten free bread versus regular whole wheat grain bread:

(Regular) Nature’s Own 100%

Whole Grain Bread:One slice

(Gluten-free) Udi’s

whole grain bread: One slice

Calories: 100

Total Fat: 2 grams

Sodium: 150 milligrams

Total Carbohydrates: 19 grams

Sugars: 3 grams

Calories: 70

Fat: 2 grams

Sodium: 130 milligrams

Total Carbohydrates: 11 grams

Sugars: 1.5 grams

People who enjoy choosing gluten free foods, even when it is not medically necessary must remember to still make half of their plate fruits and vegetables. It is also necessary to choose lean proteins and provide variety and balance within snacks, beverages and meals. It is most beneficial to focus on our whole diet intake rather than one single nutrient.

Consumers also need to look into health claims, even when sources may appear trustworthy. We are constantly bombarded with information from both sides of the argument. It is up to us to be informed and always rely on evidence-based information. Sometimes recommendations change and that is fine. If we do not understand the given information, we can always seek assistance from a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Source: Michigan State University

 Looking for gluten free recipes and baking tips? Check out the UNL Food page!


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Broth vs Stock – There is a difference!

I recently blogged about my crock-pot chicken, and how I froze the broth. A reader asked if I ever further boiled down the bones and fat. I have not done it for chicken, but as I researched it more, I made a discovery. Those of you that already knew this are probably going to chuckle…

But I learned that broth is what I make – the juices that the chicken is cooked in, seasonings, and vegetables. However, stock is from the bones, vegetables, and some meat – furthered boiled down! Stock offers a much richer, bolder taste that really enhances recipes like chicken or beef noodle soup! Additionally, there are several reported benefits to drinking it by itself if you are ill or not feeling well, as it contains numerous nutritional advantages.

In doing more research online, it can be a little confusing as people tend to use these words interchangeably, and their definitions vary a little. This website and this one do a great job of further explaining the difference.

I found a few recipes and guidelines if you are interested in making your own.

Chicken stock recipe here and here.

Beef stock recipe here and here.

You can also make turkey, fish, or vegetable stocks.

I love the rich color of the stock! This has inspired me to take my bones to the next level and to make some stock!

Chicken stock. Photo source: Elana’s pantry.
Beef stock. Photo Source: Simply Recipes.

Have you ever made stock? Do you notice a big flavor difference between stock and broth?


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Crock-pot chicken: Meat, broth, money savings

I love my crock-pot! It is so easy to throw something into it in the morning and come home at night to a near ready meal! It sure makes dinner a breeze. Plus the leftovers are great for lunch the following day.

One of the easiest (and most economical) things I do is throw a whole chicken into the crock-pot. I will share with you how I can turn a chicken into several meals and freeze my own chicken broth! I showed how to turn a pork loin in several meals here.

I bought a 5.65 pound roaster chicken at the store for $6.16.

I put the thawed chicken in the crock-pot, added 1 cup of water (you can add more if you want more broth), and a few seasonings (garlic salt, pepper, and a little chili powder). If you remove the skin, the seasonings really don’t matter, except for flavoring your broth. For more meat handling, thawing, freezing, and safety tips visit here.

The chicken is ready – with water and seasonings.

I usually cook this on low all day (~7-8 hours) because I start it when I leave my house in the morning and pull it out when I get home in the evening. You can cook it for less time, but this is what works for me. Also, cooking one overnight to be ready in the morning works really well too!

To determine that it is fully cooked, you can insert a thermometer. I do the “leg-check” if one of the drumsticks easily pulls away or falls off the rest of the bird, then it is done.

When it is fully cooked, pull it out of the crock-pot and out of the juices to let it cool. Do not try to shred it until it cools, it will burn your hands! Once it is cool enough to handle, I separate all of the meat from the bone and fat (which I just throw away).

A bunch of shredded chicken.

I use the chicken for various meals during the week, it is very convenient and easy to re-purpose into a meal – or you can eat it fresh out of the crock-pot!

Crockpot chicken_final
The hubs and I were able to use the 5.65 pound chicken in EIGHT different meals ! We used it as a topping for 2 pizzas, we made pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches, I included it in a morning breakfast, and I added it to a salad! That is $0.77 per serving for meat protein!

Let’s talk about chicken broth. Ever since I have started doing the crock-pot chickens I have been saving the broth (aka the juices it cooks in) from it. I do this when I make beef roasts too! This way I know there are no preservatives and it is low sodium – as I season it myself. Keeping the broth is easy. I put the crock-pot in my fridge overnight (the freezer for a shorter time works well too if you don’t have room in your fridge). It just needs to be long enough to make the fat solidify on the top so you can scrap it off.

Once cold, the fat solidifies on the top of the broth…
Gently use a spatula to scrap off the thin layer of fat. I put it in an old plastic container to be thrown away.

Once you get your chicken out you will see chucks of “stuff”. This stuff is the liquid protein (juices) that came out of the chicken while cooking – it is good for you. So leave it in there, just make sure no bones were left behind.

And you are left with the broth. After I scrape the fat off I stir the broth up just to get anything that settled to the bottom, so when I portion it out there is an even distribution of flavors.
Portion it up, I usually do 2-4 cups per bag, as that is what most of the recipes I make call for. Be sure and use an airtight container so it doesn’t freezer burn (unless you plan to use it quickly).
Label it! Include the date, what it is, and the amount. It sure makes it easier when you use it in later recipes.

By cooking several crock-pot chickens a year, I am able to provide us with enough broth that I rarely have to buy any. And with fall quickly approaching, my freezer is stocked with chicken broth for our favorite soups and stews.

What other ways have you used shredded chicken? Do you save your own broth?


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Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

Earlier in the week I shared with you how to save money at the meat counter by buying in bulk and freezing in individual portions sizes. I recently defrosted a couple of packages of pork chops and made Sweet and Sour Pork Chops – and there was plenty for leftovers the next day! Recipe at bottom.

Mustard and brwn sugar
Brown sugar and mustard.
Sweet and sour
Mix together until you get a sauce.
Place pork chops in a baking dish and cover with the brown sugar and mustard (do not add water).
Bake on 350 degrees F until done – YUM!

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops


– mustard

– brown sugar

– pork chops

1. Add brown sugar and mustard to a bowl, mix together until well blended. You can make them sweeter or more sour by adjusting the amount of either ingredient.

2. Place pork chops in a single layer in a baking dish and cover with the brown sugar/mustard sauce. Do not add any additional water to the pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F until done (check them at about 25 minutes). Use a meat thermometer to test their doneness. Remember pork chops only need to be cooked to 145 degrees F!

4. Drizzle some sauce (aka delicious goodness) over your chops when served.

5. Serve with your favorite sides – enjoy!