sunday supper: italian roasted tomato olive meatloaf 'cakes'

sunday supper
notes from maggie's farm

One of the fondest memories I revisit from my childhood is the aroma of my mother's pot roast simmering away in the oven which greeted us upon our return from church.

After I'd spent half the sermon writing notes to my brother on the little white envelopes (bad! bad!), I'd have already likely been the recipient of 'the look'--my mother's perfectly groomed dark eyebrow rising, it seemed, right off of her forehead.  I'd be dreading 'the talking to' I was going to be getting the car ride home, and, worse than all, I'd have spent the second half of the service being hungry.  Third-world hungry, to my immature thoughts.  My stomach would growl.  I might pass out, I worried.  I was STARVING.  

I always marveled to my brother, 'how is it that church makes a person so hungry?'.  I was never more ravenous as I was during those last strains of 'Just As I Am'.  When I joined the Baptist Church as a young mother, well, my stomach might just growl right over the chorus. 'Just As I Am' could go on for ten minutes, repeating verses as the pastor called out, sure that the spirit was moving someone to be saved, someone who was just being stubborn, therefore, a few more choruses.  Maybe launch into 'Lamb of God'.  This sort of thing didn't happen at the Methodist church.  If it wasn't on the bulletin, it wasn't going to be sung.  There were subtle, and not quite as subtle, differences in the Methodist and Baptist churches.

Thirty-five some years later, I neither attend Methodist or Baptist services.  I've visited umpteen churches, in 15-20 towns, cities, states, locales.  I've joined, and moved from, the ranks of several denominations, but whether Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Catholic, Non-Denominational, or First Christian, it's still the same--I am always RAVENOUS when I get out of church. And I long for the return home to smell my mother's pot roast.  Or any other slow-cooking comfort food she may have had waiting for us.

A hitch in that traditional enjoyment occurred, sadly, just after I married and moved a state away from Mom's Sunday pot roast.  We had a fire.  My husband and I, married 7 days, returned home one day, to find most of what we had destroyed by a fire.  The firefighters said it took 14 minutes from the time they got the call to the time the last flame was extinguished.  Fourteen minutes to lose all of our belongings, including those beautiful wedding gifts, along with the comfortable memory of a roast cooking away during church, destroyed. The details of that day, we'll save for another time, but the big picture of it was--trauma.  Some thirty years from that day, I can still smell, in my mind's senses, the odor of fire.

It's that memory of the odor of fire that erased the joy of the aroma of pot roast waiting for us when we returned from church.  Since that day, I've never been able to leave something cooking the way my mother did all through our childhood, whether in the oven, a roaster, even a crock pot, without fear of returning to a home ravaged by fire.  I could never enjoy the service for fear of fire.  It's just one of those grown-up things--the practicalities brought on by experiences that teach us to be careful.  But careful can be such a bummer.

So why am I going on about this?  Well, I'm still ravenous when I get out of church on Sundays!  But comfort foods often take longer than I'm willing to wait to eat.  Occasionally, I'll get most of the meal made on Saturday evening, and reheat after church, but, often, Saturday takes on a life of its own and the road to hunger is paved with good intentions--but no meal is made.  A little trick I discovered years ago, however, has helped get a fresh, aromatic, comfort-filled meal on the table, stat.  Enter this little tip for churning out meatloaf, using our roasted tomatoes from earlier in the week along with a little no-chopping helper, in half the time of the traditional prep.

italian roasted tomato and olive meatloaf 'cakes'
yield: about a dozen 'cakes', serving 6

1/2# ground chuck
1/2# ground pork
1 cup olive salad (working double duty from this recipe)
1 cup roasted tomatoes (working double duty from this recipe)
1/2 cup bread crumb mixture (working double duty from this recipe)
1 large egg
silicone baking spray

preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix ingredients, above.  Spray 12 muffin tins with silicone baking spray. With a large spoon or ice cream scooper, create balls about the size of a small softball, about 4" in diameter.  Press into muffin tins, allowing a small mound atop.  Fill all tins, then place muffin tin on a baking sheet to catch 'run off'.  Bake, in preheated oven, until tops are browned and crisped, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove from tins, and allow to cool and drain on a cooling rack 5-10 minutes before serving.

What I love about these little babies:

1. No chopping.  I love the taste of cooked green olives.  Roasting knocks off a bit of the pungency but leaves a smooth, buttery, green flavor, which, along with the carrots, celery, cauliflower, capers, onions, and more, that traditional olive salads contain, give crunch and character, without the fuss.  We make our own, but you can also purchase in the market's jarred olive section.

2.  CRUST!  My favorite part of meatloaf is the crusty edge on top.  Cooking individual loaves like this means greater crust to interior ratio, and that suits me FINE.

3.  Caramelization--the added tomatoes caramelize where they meat the exterior crust, and the intensity of flavor suits the mixture of pork and beef beautifully.

4. Ease.  I mix the ingredients before church, covering and refrigerating.  When I return, the extra chilling has enabled the meatloaf to easily form together without a crumbling mess.  You might even fill the tins before leaving, but I'm not an early riser, so this extra step may or may not be accomplished before church in my own kitchen. The roasted tomatoes, breadcrumb mixture, and olive salad have all been prepared for previous meals in large batches, and stashed in the fridge to use for meals, following.  Like this one.  Bingo!

Have a lovely Sunday.


  1. Those tomatoes look amazing!

    As a Preacher's kid, I know what you mean. Church is wonderful to work up an appetite. :)

    1. Ah, thank you, Larissa! I bet you had to be extra good during the sermon! lol

  2. I do wonder why church makes one very hungry! When we were young my mom would feed us a super big breakfast before church. As an adult, I didn't do that, and would be ravenous. Now, my hubby and I have a big breakfast together beforehand. I LOVE roasts and slow cooked dinners on Sunday, so i start them upon return and we eat around 4 pm. I can't wait to try your meatloaf cupcakes! I love the crusty parts too, and these should have a lot of that! Thanks for the heads up about not using the slow cooker unattended, I always do, but now am rethinking this as it just isn't worth the chance. I am soooo sorry to hear about your fire and loss of your belongings. I know the memories must be so hard.

    1. I am a HUGE FAN of the crusty bits, and, yes, this a perfect way to get MORE CRUSTY BITS per BITE! Woohoooo! I'm not sure I've ever heard of a slow cooker causing a fire, but prior to our own, I'd never heard of a plugged-in can opener causing a fire, either.

      Thank you for your sweet concern. I am thankful that it didn't happen after all these years, and collecting of family heirlooms and pictures and such. That would be devastating. We were young, silly, and unattached to anything much, so we got over it, except for my housefire fears that stuck around.

  3. Love this post-Sunday suppers were a staple in my life growing up. Mostly roasted meats and fresh baked rolls but always finished with a pie. It's a tradition I have sadly moved away from, this story makes me want to start those traditions up again. Thanks. I love the big flavors punched into those little cakes, as well as the ease of time.

    1. I think I need to start being more mindful of my sweet fella's sweet tooth and surprise him with a pie after dinner more often.

      Thank you for your kindness!

    2. Can I get an AMEN!

    3. I thought you might like that idea, church boy.

  4. Such a beautiful post, though bittersweet. I've long been wanting to try making meatloaf in muffin pans. Thank you for reminding me to get on with it. Being careful all the while, of course. :)

    1. Thank you, Mary! Careful is soooooo not my M.O. Maybe life had to get my attention early-on in order to avoid the same kind of fate later in life, when the loss would be even greater. Who knows how these things work?

      Now the meatloaf in the muffin pan? Well, that worked GREAT. lol

      Have a great week!

  5. what a horrific experience for you! i don't like to leave things cooking like my mother did either.

    i will try to be adventuresome and actually fix this recipe sometime ~ the olive salad sounds sublime! i'm afraid that i have never ventured out from my mother's meatloaf recipe ~ ketchup topping and all! {it's soooo good!} i love the idea of the mini-loaves and am certain i will use that idea!

    1. Well it might be hard to live up to a favorite mom-recipe, and sometimes 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' is the best way to fly. Maybe your fave recipe in the muffin tins will be a fun way to try to mix the old and the new, favorably. Let me know how it works!
      Thanks for dropping by today.


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