With muscles exercised by snow removal, you’re ready for some good hearty food to fill that void in your center. Cooks, tired of the shoveling and chipping, deserve something easy, like meatloaf.

With muscles exercised by snow removal, you’re ready for some good hearty food to fill that void in your center. Cooks, tired of the shoveling and chipping, deserve something easy, like meatloaf.


Chopping only if you want it (you can skip sauteed celery and onions), mixing a few savory ingredients and covering the whole thing with bacon, allowing it to bake slowly in the oven — this is one of those times when cooks are allowed to cheat, using instant mashed potatoes to be topped with bacon-y slabs of meatloaf. The meat drippings flavor the potatoes so well that no one will be the wiser, especially if you top the whole thing with a little more grated cheese while everything is still very, very hot.


Vegetarians deserve something equally bone-warming. Unfortunately, vegetables do need some of that peeling and chopping you manage to skip with meat loaf cookery. The trick is to do the grunt work before heading outdoors or you’ll be too tired to do anything but make toast.


Chowder made with fresh, and not “clean-the-refrigerator,” winter veggies enhanced with a few frozen tidbits fits the bill. The recipe below calls for diced vegetables, which are very nice. But there are several advantages to cutting them in larger country-style pieces. First, there’s not as much cutting. Second, they simmer longer, giving you a chance to finish the job outside. In the end, the chunkier pieces look and taste more satisfying.


A delicious winter vegetable chowder relies on sweet butter as a starter. Don’t be tempted to substitute canola or vegetable oil because they won’t provide that lustrous texture you are expecting. You can, however, substitute broccoli for the cauliflower or use some of each.


I make no apologies for the judicious measures of bacon, butter or whole milk in the following recipes. You worked it out there in the elements. You used those calories. You decide whether to tone them down or pump them up.


Baked Meatloaf


To save on the cleanup, place the loaf pans on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil to catch any drips when baking. Just throw away the foil, and the sheet pan cleans up quickly.


1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil (optional)


1 medium onion, diced (optional)


2 stalks celery, diced (optional)


2 cups white breadcrumbs


2 (28-ounce) cans Kitchen Ready tomatoes (ready to use) or tomato puree


1 1/2 cups canned beef or chicken stock, not heated


1 cup chopped fresh parsley


1 cup grated cheddar cheese, or mixture of cheeses


1 teaspoon salt


A couple of drops Tabasco (optional)


1 tablespoon Worcestershire (optional)


Salt, pepper, to taste


3 pounds lean ground beef


2 pounds ground pork


1/2 to 1 pound sliced bacon


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. If using the optional vegetables, heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook 5 minutes until tender. Take the pan off the heat.


2. Mix together breadcrumbs, tomatoes and half the stock, saving the other half to use if the mixture seems too dry. Add onion, celery, parsley, cheese and seasonings. Mix the ingredients until completely blended.


3. Divide mixture between two loaf pans. Cover the top of each loaf with bacon strips. Bake 45 minutes. Carefully drain the fat from pans. Return the meatloaves, still in their pans, to the oven and bake 10 minutes longer. Let one meatloaf sit for 5 minutes before cutting, allowing the other to cool. Serve the first meat loaf really hot over mashed potatoes.


4. When the second loaf cools down, wrap it tightly –– first in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil –– and freeze it for another day.


Makes two large meat loaves (one for the freezer).


Vegetable Chowder


To make chunkier chowder, peel and cut the carrots into 1- or 2-inch chunks, break the cauliflower into larger pieces and cut the mushrooms in half instead of chopping. Cook the mixture longer than the times specified here, tasting to be sure that the vegetables are tender when it’s time to eat.


1 tablespoon butter


1 cup chopped red onion


2 cloves garlic, minced


1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


2 large potatoes, peeled and diced


4 medium carrots, peeled and diced


2 cups chopped cauliflower


1/2 pound mushrooms, coarsely chopped


2 cups corn kernels (defrosted if frozen)


Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1 1/2 cups water


1 quart whole or low-fat milk


1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese


A handful of finely chopped fresh chives and basil leaves


1. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot. Add onion, garlic, thyme and basil. Cook while stirring over medium heat 5 minutes. Add potato, celery, carrots and cauliflower. Cook while stirring another 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and corn; continue cooking until the potato and carrots are barely tender, another 5 to 7 minutes.


2. Add water. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cover partially and simmer about 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Check for tenderness by removing and biting into a piece of carrot or potato.


3. Heat the milk in a separate pan and stir it into the mixture. Take the pot off the heat until nearly ready to serve, swirl in the grated cheddar and the fresh herbs and reheat over medium-low heat being careful not to burn the bottom.


Makes 8 servings.


Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com.