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Can’t beat a mother’s meatloaf

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When Ann Strawser's son graduated from high school, after working in many fast-food restaurants, he concluded that he and his mother should go into the restaurant business.

"He thought my potato salad, meatloaf, ham loaf and chocolate cake with whipped buttercream frosting would make it go," the Arlington, Texas, mother wrote in an e-mail message. "But after cooking for a husband and five kids for so many years, the last thing I wanted to do was go into the business.

"I was looking forward to a break."

But her meatloaf is apparently legendary. When her son finished school and went out on his own, she recalled, the family could always tell when he had a new girlfriend.

He would call home to get new copies of his mom's recipes after the old girlfriend absconded with them.

A lot of people call Strawser for her meatloaf recipe, although it used to be a regular item on the back of the Quaker Oats boxes.

Strawser said even one of her own daughters called from Ohio in a panic one day when she reached for the Quaker Oats box and realized that the recipe was no longer there. Fortunately, Mom had it written down.

"Among my friends, mostly in Arlington Newcomers, the word has gotten around, and I think most of them, by now, have gotten their copy of the recipe," she said. "They asked me why I didn't submit it for the cookbook that we did a few years ago, but I didn't realize then what poor excuses for meatloaf other people had."

The topping is a personal addition, she said, and is what the kids really like. It must be the ketchup thing, she said.

"I recently made a meatloaf for friends who have a boy — about 8 years old — and he was 'very skeptical,' " she said.

But after trying a few bites, he "ate three pieces and asked his mom not to eat the leftovers," she said.

"When we were home in Ohio for our spring visit, the kids were discussing what foods they grew up on, and this meatloaf was the one thing they remembered most," she concluded.

They also remembered the potato salad. Strawser went on to explain that the secret to her mother's potato salad was to pour a hot dressing over the potatoes to bring out the flavor of the celery seed and onion.

She doesn't dare alter the potato salad recipe, she said, but did recently consider a change to the meatloaf.

"I have never been tempted to alter it but, this week when I saw Martha Stewart make one with shredded carrots in it, I thought I might try that," she said. "Actually, I have made it with V8 juice, and that was good."


MEATLOAF

Yields 10-12 slices

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup tomato juice

Topping:

1/2 cup ketchup

1 to 2 teaspoons mustard

1/4 cup brown sugar

Dash of Worcestershire

Mix first 7 ingredients well but don't compress the meat too much — that robs the meat of moisture. Form into one or two loaves. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

During last 15 minutes, drain grease from pan and spread loaf with topping mixture.

Note: You need a little fat in the meat to produce the best results. You also can adapt this to appetizer meatballs, doubling the topping sauce.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 193 calories, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 656 milligrams sodium, 43 percent of calories from fat.


GRANDMA'S POTATO SALAD DRESSING

Yields 8-10 servings

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 pounds potatoes, diced, cooked and cooled

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2 large celery ribs, chopped

Celery seed, pickles or pickle relish to taste

2 diced boiled eggs

1 cup Miracle Whip

Combine sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs and mustard.

Add milk, vinegar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick.

While still hot, pour over cooked, diced, cooled potatoes, onion and celery seed and salt to taste.

Add chopped celery, pickles or relish and diced boiled eggs to taste.

Add Miracle Whip to desired consistency. A little more mustard might also be added.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 423 calories, 11 grams fat, 75 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 95 milligrams cholesterol, 355 milligrams sodium, 24 percent of calories from fat.