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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

Surprise! No Cheese

September 27, 2006

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. First show of the season, and meatloaf to boot. Of course, there was no way I was going to get down to the Fitzgerald Theater in order to HAVE some meatloaf so I figured I'd whip one up on my own. Now my family is used to Meatloaf Surprise, where you pack half the meat into the pan, dig a trench, fill it with something delicious, and bury it with the remaining meat. Pull it out of the oven half an hour or so later, cut into it, and everyone hollers, "Surprise!" Out spills cheddar cheese and peppers, or Swiss cheese and mushrooms, or Colby and fried onions, or just plain old Pepper Jack.

So it's not all that much of a surprise. You can pretty much count on the cheese, and you're a bit limited when it comes to the "other." Well, I thought I had my act together but apparently I'm not quite there yet. The trench was dug and there was no cheese to be found. None. Now, were I living in Alaska or Naples, Florida, this would not be a major issue. Nope. Cheese, in many places, is an afterthought. A nice touch. A treat. I live in Minnesota, for God's sake. Cheese is a staple, right there with water and shelter on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You can count on finding anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds of cheese in my refrigerator on a given day. An assortment. A range of cheese. But not Saturday night. Surprise! No cheese.

Well, when you're in the midst of a minor crisis, to walk away is poor form. Giving up is not an option where I live. You give up and they may find you in the woods next spring, all curled up and frozen at the foot of the tree where you said, "To heck with it" and lay yourself down. Or worse yet, they may not find you. Maybe the Canadian honkers will.

Anyway, I scrounged and found some mashed potato flakes in the cupboard, added some boiling water, and seasoned them with a bit of butter, parsley, and salt. I filled the trench, and made another, smaller trench in the potatoes, which I filled with nearly a bulb's worth of fresh chopped garlic. Covered it with potatoes, packed it down with the rest of the meat, and wrote "Enjoy" with ketchup on top.

Well, things worked out just fine. I steamed some green beans and rolled out a small batch of buttermilk biscuits. The meatloaf was lovely to behold, no one mentioned cheese, and there were considerable silences during the meal which, where I live, is a fine compliment.

Went shopping this morning, and wouldn't you know it? 8-ounce blocks of cheese were on sale for $1.29, so I loaded up. Bought some garlic, too. You just never know.

Meatloaf Surprise

1 1b hamburger
4 slices bread, shredded into small pieces
1 egg
1 egg white
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 T ketchup
2 tsp. mustard
1 T barbecue sauce (optional)
Dashes of salt and pepper

brown sugar

miscellaneous fillings

In large bowl, mix raw hamburger, bread, egg, egg white, and seasonings until well blended. (Works best if you use your hands.)

Cover bottom of 9 X 5 loaf pan (or your favorite loaf pan) with brown sugar (about ½ - ¾ cup). Squirt ketchup in a grid design over brown sugar until it is about half covered (1/2 cup or so). Press about 2/3 of the meat mixture onto the brown sugar/ketchup base. Create a shallow trench in the meat by pressing a large spoon down the center. Fill with cheese of your choice. If you wish, add some chopped green pepper or mushrooms or whatever. Cover completely with remaining meat.

Bake covered at 350 for 30 min. Bake uncovered another 20 minutes or until it's done to your liking. Remove from oven. Let sit five minutes, loosen edges with a spatula, and carefully invert onto a platter. Your meatloaf will be covered with a tangy sweet sauce. Makes good sandwiches as leftovers. Enjoy!

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