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.

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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.
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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.

Enjoy!

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The faces of agriculture… National Ag Day

National Ag Day (and week) is a time to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. In 2015 I wrote National Ag Week… 5 reasons to thank a consumer. In reading it over again today, I think it is still very relevant.

You may or may not personally know the people who grown and/or raise your food, so today I wanted to share some blog posts and introduce you to various agriculturalists.

Sustainable – More than meets the eye introduces you to three farming and ranching families who are practicing sustainability. They share with you what sustainability looks like for them and how it plays into the fact that these are multi-generational businesses.

Dr. Dee Griffin (cow vet) shares what agriculture means to him in Meet… Dr. Dee Griffin

Wondering what a sixth generation agriculturalist looks like? Trent Loos is a farmer/rancher as well as an advocate for agriculture. In Meet… Trent Loos, he shares what agriculture means to him.

I often share stuff that is happening on my family’s ranch and animal care is no exception. Just over two years ago the Pineapple Express Storm hit the west coast, in California ranchers bracing for Pineapple Express storm I shared what my parents and their neighbors were doing to prepare for this massive weather event. In Care of baby lambs in freezing temperatures, I share what we do to ensure the animals are comfortable and healthy.

As we all know, newborns are delicate and fragile, whether they are human or animal. Sometimes animals need a little extra help. A day in the life of a sheep rancher is a page from my Mom’s playbook and demonstrates how that care is administered, and how that may result in animals being taken to the house. My Mom was also featured in Bummer lamb to replacement ewe

At the end of the day ranchers and farmers are just regular people too. They celebrate life’s milestones and try to take vacations 🙂 In these posts, I introduce you to my Dad in Even ranchers have birthdays! and Shout out to my Dad.

I hope that some of these posts give you some insight and connection to the people growing and/or raising your food.

National Ag Day

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10 things for my younger self on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. I have enjoyed seeing my social media platforms highlighting all of these great women, and it has lead me to do some thinking about being a woman in agriculture. Although life doesn’t come with a manual, if I could go back and share some wisdom with my 20-something self, these are the things I would say to her:

  1. Believe in yourself, always. Believe that you will eventually get to where you want/need to go. Your route may not be the most direct route to get from A to B, but you will get there. Sometimes you will be the only person who believes in you and your ideas, but hang tight, because others will soon be believers too.
  2. Grit will get you through more situations than you would like to think about. When you have nothing else left, when you are raw and vulnerable, wipe away the tears and dig deep to find that grit.
  3. Work for others like you would work for yourself. Treat each and every job you have like it is the most important job ever. You will learn something from each of these jobs (even if you learn that job is not something you ever want to do again) and you will meet some great people along the way. Never loose site of your honesty, integrity, morals, or values for these jobs.
  4. Appreciate the small things, some days that will be all you have. Enjoy birds chirping, sunrises, sunsets, rain, laughter, a slight breeze, and just enough change in your ash tray to buy a bean burrito at Taco Bell. While these may not seem like big things, they will be things you value and appreciate.
  5. Live frugally so that you can save your money to see the world. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful country, explore it! Leave the state you live in, leave America, and see what else the world has to offer. It is always great to travel, but it is nice to come home too. This will give you a greater appreciation for what you have or don’t have here. Plus would you rather see the Natural Wonders of the World in real-life or from behind your computer screen?
  6. Be an eternal optimist. You know the saying you can get more bees with honey than vinegar? Optimism will get you more opportunities than pessimism will. Plus laugh lines are more attractive than frown lines.
  7. You will have some amazing friendships. The friends you will have come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and classes than you can imagine. Some of them will be in your life for a day, some for years, and some will be the kind that would help you bury a body. Be the friend who is like family to the ones who matter.
  8. Try to never give up! Sometimes giving up seems like a much easier route than actually going forward with what you wanted to do. But always ask yourself, could you live with the decision you made to give up on something? On a few occasions the answer will be yes, and know that you tried hard, and that you had to give up before you lost sight of who you were.
  9. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Some interesting things will present themselves to you, things you never thought you would have a chance to do. Consider them carefully, but try not to pass them up. Sometimes the timing will not be right, but put it on the back-burner and return to those opportunities.
  10. Having a career in agriculture and helping people in agricultural fields will not be easy, but it will be rewarding. As a woman you may have to work harder, longer, and for less pay than your male counterparts. Sometimes you will have to fight (not literally) to be heard and taken seriously, pick your battles and don’t back down when the times come. You are meant to be in the agriculture industry for a reason, go prove it.

Pic collage

What advice would you give to your younger self?

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Does freezing meat make it more tender?

Does freezing meat make it more tender? The answer is… Maybe. One of the great things about research is new things are being discovered daily, or we are expanding on previous research that has been done, which provides more information to things we did not previously know.

Kansas State University has been doing research to see if freezing meat can make it more tender. Six different muscles from the hind quarter were the focus of the research by Dr. John Unruh and grad students. They found that freezing the strip loin and inside round steaks improved tenderness by as much as 10%, as compared to the tenderness before the steaks were frozen. The research used paired strip loins (available in a retail setting), which were frozen, thawed, and evaluated for tenderness using a Warner-Bratzler Shear Force test, which determines how tender or tough meat may be (video demonstration).

Dr. Unruh said the strip loin (from the sirloin) and inside round (from the round) steaks were more tender because they did not loose as much moisture during freezing as the other steaks did. As you can see, this research opens the door for further research… What about those steaks/muscles helps them retain moisture? Is it associated with a locomotion or movement muscle on the animal that is impacting moisture holding? Does animal diet/stress/age/etc. impact water holding capacity in those muscles?

You may be asking yourself, so what or who cares? Well have you ever heard anyone recommend a steak because it was tough or hard to chew? Me neither. We like steak to be tender. We can preserve meat by freezing it and now this research indicates that freezing may be advantageous to meat tenderness versus detrimental. It will be fun to see what further research in this field finds.

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A handy chart of various beef cuts and where they come on the carcass. Source: Certified Angus Beef.

For more information on meat cuts, I also like Beef Cuts: Primal and Subprimal Weights and Yields.

** Note: I am not promoting one entity over another, just using the materials as reference.

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Meat: To wash or not wash?

To wash or not wash your meat before cooking… This has been a discussion of debate for a long time. Well wait no longer dear readers, the verdict is in.

Dr. Jonathan Campbell, meat extension specialist at Penn State University, says“from a food safety standpoint, it’s a bad idea because we can potentially spread the bacteria that are on the meat to all other areas of our kitchen. That makes the food safety hazard even worse.” Campbell adds that washing meat also is not effective at removing all of the potential bacteria, which is best accomplished by cooking the meat to the proper internal temperature as confirmed with a meat thermometer.

A new Meat MythCrusher video produced by the North American Meat Institute and the American Meat Science Association also discusses the best strategies for safely removing meat from packaging to avoid any cross contamination and the proper temperatures for various cuts of meat and poultry.

 

If interested, the Drexel University website discussed in the video is found at Don’t Wash Your Chicken.

germ vision
Source: Drexel University, Don’t Wash Your Chicken

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Out for a ride… Throwback Thursday

My sister, left, on Rowdy, and myself on Cayenne out for a ride. We were probably out checking cows in the fields… I am guessing this was about 15 years ago. Our dog, Teko, was tagging along that day. Unfortunately, all of the animals have since passed, but we will always have fond memories. In horseback in the mountains I shared more about how Cayenne came into my life, as well as how he went out…

horses

Do your childhood memories included horses and animals?

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Essential oils: Can they reduce antibiotic use in livestock?

If your social media pages are anything like mine they are filled with claims that something you eat, drink, or wrap yourself in has miracle and restorative properties. While these products may help you loose weight, look younger, and feel better, is there really really any truth to them?

I recently saw a headline that said researchers have found that essential oils could help reduce antibiotics in poultry. My immediate thought… is this woo or is this true?

MeatingPlace.com reported that Cargill researchers have found that essential oils can be a viable alternative to antibiotics to promote gut health in a poultry feeding program. It was found that certain essential oil compounds, particularly those derived from thyme, cinnamon, and oregano had the most comprehensive effect on overall gut health. Benefits included antimicrobial activity, modulation of immune response, antioxidant activity, improvement of nutrient digestibility, and stimulation of mucus production, the company said.

Cargill indicated the essential oils were particularly efficient in conditions where intestinal infections such as Salmonellosis and Coccidiosis were present, and were most effective when combined with organic acids. In addition, combined results from 12 trials showed that birds given Cargill’s Promote Biacid Nucleus additive, which contains a mixture of seven essential oil compounds, in combination with an antibiotic-free diet, improved body weight gain by 2% and feed conversion by 1.5%, the company said.

Cargill said it has been researching the use of non-medicated feed additives for several years as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters. Since 2009, it has conducted a total of 77 trials on additives including essential oils, probiotics, yeast derivatives, and medium chain fatty acids. “Only essential oils have both a broad spectrum of activity against pathogens and a direct impact on digestive function,” said Stephanie Ladirat, global technology lead for gut health additives in Cargill’s animal nutrition business.

It is interesting that this research has been going on for seven years, no doubt we will see/hear more about essential oils and natural medicine for animal agriculture in the future. Being the skeptic I am, I have decided to research these essential oils a little further to see what else I can find about their supposed claims to being an alternative to antibiotics. Stay tuned as I will do a follow up post after doing some research.

Aviary Systems (2)_UNL photo-final
Can essential oils be a viable alternative for antibiotics in poultry?

** Note: I am not endorsing essential oils or their use, I am just merely investigating uses in animal agriculture.

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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.

IMG_2604
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.

IMG_2605
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.

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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!

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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:

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