Miniature, fun foods are a great way to get my kids to eat something that’s on the healthier side – it’s a great distraction. Recently, I made these mini meatloaves in muffin form – I have to say these came out even better than I expected. What I love about this recipe is that it packs in lots of vegetables and uses whole grain oats as a binder.
Not only do the vegetables and oats make this a moist and healthier meatloaf recipe, but they help stretch out a pound of ground meat to feed 6 people. My kids love my Balsamic Glazed Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf, which is packed with vegetables too, so I was pretty sure they’d like this one too.
By finely chopping all the vegetables in a food processor, and cooking them before adding them to the meat, they virtually disappear into the meatloaf. My kids had no idea that there was almost as much vegetables as meat in these meatloaf muffins. Served alongside Mashed Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower and Garlic, my kids probably had 3-4 servings of vegetables at dinner without even blinking an eye.
After doing some reading about the differences among conventional raised beef, organic beef and pasture-raised beef, I decided to try Organic 100% Grass-Fed Pasture-Raised Beef in this recipe. Now that’s a mouthful. However, each word in that description means something. Although all cows graze on pasture for the first six months of their life, the remainder of their life is what differentiates conventional raised cows from organic and pasture-raised cows.
Conventional raised beef means the cows are “finished” in confined feedlots, fed a diet of grains (e.g., corn, soy) to promote rapid weight gain, and are most likely given hormones and antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease; their feed may also contain animal by-products. This results in a faster product to market because the cow will reach market weight up to a year faster than a pasture-raised cow, and beef with more marbling (e.g., more fat). However, because these cows are given hormones and antibiotics, and eat non-organic feed, meat from these cows contain undesirable hormones and chemicals.
Organic beef is not the same thing as pasture-raised beef. Nor is “All Natural” beef the same as organic beef. “All Natural” simply means nothing has been added to the beef, e.g., salt or MSG. It does not mean organic. Organic beef means the cows have been fed organic feed and have not been given hormones or antibiotics. To be certified as organic, cows must be born and raised on certified organic pasture and have unrestricted outdoor access. However, that does not mean the cows are eating grass. They are also fed certified organic grains (e.g., corn), which yields meat that is higher in saturated fat.
Pasture-Raised beef is from cows that have been raised on pasture and have not been given hormones or antibiotics; however, that does not mean these cows grazed on grass alone, nor does it mean they were fed organic food. They may have been finished on grains (which has a higher percentage of fat).
Grass-Fed beef means the cows were fed grasses, but does not mean they grazed on pasture, nor does it mean organic.
Finally, Organic, 100% Grass-Fed Pasture Raised beef means the cows were raised on pasture, and grazed on organic grass their entire life. This yields a leaner beef, and is the way cows used to be raised.
There have been some studies that indicate that grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to conventional beef – generally lower in total fat and saturated fat, higher in omega-3 fatty acids (and a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids), B vitamins, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acids (potential cancer-fighter) and beta-carotene.
The terminology can be so confusing, and everyone has to make their own choices, of course, but now that I think I finally understand the differences, I can make a more educated decision next time I buy beef. For my family, I choose meat that has not been treated with antibiotics or hormones, so that means no conventional meat, whether it’s beef or chicken.
What are your thoughts?
Gluten-Free Meat Loaf Muffins
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2-3 carrots peeled, trimmed, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks trimmed, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey or lean ground grass-fed beef
- 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats ground finely in a food processor
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup barbecue sauce choose one that has no additives or preservatives
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, celery, garlic, oregano, thyme and basil. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Cool.
Combine cooked vegetables, salt, pepper, ground meat, ground oats, mustard, beaten egg, 1/4 cup barbecue sauce and parsley in a bowl. Mix well.
Lightly oil muffin tin. Divide meatloaf mixture among 12 muffin cups. Spoon a little barbecue sauce on top of each meatloaf muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from pan. Brush a little extra barbecue sauce on top, if desired.
Adapted from Cooking Light
Mercola:The Secret Sauce of Grass-Fed Beef
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Conjugated Linoleic Acid