Jean Kieffer makes a tried-and-true 20th century meatloaf recipe for her millennials. With an almost empty nest in her Liberty home, Kieffer doesn’t stray too far from the traditional when it comes to preparing food for her family, which includes her husband, Michael, and their three children: Cameron, 26; Elliott, 24; and Melanie, 22.
For Elliott, his mother’s meatloaf is a taste of home. “My mom’s meatloaf makes me happy, but I also think it makes her happy to make it for me, too,” he says. “I requested her meatloaf before I left to study in Germany for a year, and it was the first meal I wanted when I returned. Nothing beats home and my mom’s meatloaf.”
Q: How sweet is it that Elliott nominated you for the column with your meatloaf recipe?
A: Oh my! My friends will absolutely die when they see this, but for my son, I will do this. I have a picture of Elliott eating the meatloaf before he left for southwest Germany, near the Black Forest, to study computer science for a year.
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It tickles me that Elliott was bragging about my meatloaf. I am flattered, but it is the Quaker Oatmeal recipe. There’s no need to mess with tradition, especially when it comes to meatloaf.
Q: Do you believe you have an appetite for adventure?
A: Elliott and I share a great sense of exploration, just not when it comes to the recipes we enjoy most at home. I retired a year ago as a medical record coder at Liberty Hospital, and that leaves me time to seek out the next adventure or new experience. If there’s one thing you learn by working in a hospital, it’s the lesson that life is precious and that every day is a gift.
I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, as the middle child — like Elliott — only we had seven in our family. My mother, Dolores Weisbecker, always had a full meal prepared every night, complete with meat, vegetable, starch and, of course, dessert.
While I experienced a traditional upbringing, I try to live by the adage that it’s better to be green and growing rather than ripe and rotten.
Q: So is travel part of your plan to be “green and growing”?
A: I love to travel and experience life in big cities — Boston, New York City, Chicago — but I also love to take in other regional parts of the country, such as Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin and Colorado. Each area has something to offer that takes us out of our routine, and that includes the food we eat while on vacation. Michael and I like to find where the locals eat wherever we travel.
When we traveled to Germany and Paris, it was great fun to immerse ourselves by literally getting a taste of the culture at different restaurants, cafes and bars. It is enjoyable to consume local traditions through the foods they serve.
Q: So, to that extent, is your cooking literally a taste of home for your family?
A: I’ve never thought about my meatloaf in terms of that — just that any leftovers make really good sandwiches — but I guess that’s true. Maybe my children have grown up and associate the feelings of being satisfied, content and well-fed after they gather to eat my traditional meals.
The world of global gastronomy is open to this generation like never before. Our children are adventurous in so many ways, but maybe it’s up to me to be the keeper of tradition and the maker of the meatloaf.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Makes 8 servings
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup tomato or vegetable juice
3/4 cup uncooked quick or old-fashioned oats
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir ground beef, tomato juice, oatmeal, egg, onion, salt and pepper together using a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Press mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until meat registers 160 degrees when measured with an internal thermometer.
Drain off clear juices and allow to stand for 5 minutes before slicing into 1-inch servings.
Per serving: 274 calories (63 percent from fat), 19 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 90 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 312 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.