Smoked Meatloaf with Mashed Butternut Squash and Pears

This month’s Four Ingredient Challenge had what I thought would be some pretty easy ingredients.  I mean how hard would it be to come up with a dish that contained ground meat, butternut squash, pears and quinoa.

The first question you might ask is what in the heck is quinoa so here is a, longer than normal, explanation of quinoa: 

Quinoa is the edible seed of the plant, Chenopodium quinoa, which belongs to the genus Chenopodium in the family Amaranthaceae. Though, commonly used as a cereal or food grain, quinoa is in fact a pseudocereal, which is derived from plants other than grasses. Almost all true cereals are grasses, but, quinoa does not belong to grass family. It is related to plants like, amaranthus, spinach, etc. and like these plants, the leaves of quinoa too are used as vegetables. However, the most common use of quinoa is like a food grain only. The following information will help you to understand what is quinoa.

Quinoa grains are almost flat with an oval shape and pointed tips. There are three types of quinoa that differ in color. This include white, red and black grains and these types slightly differ in flavor too. While, black quinoa is very rare, the common and regular variety is the white one. When cooked, quinoa grain has a soft, creamy texture and a mild nutty flavor. Even quinoa flour is widely used for culinary purposes.

Quinoa was one of the staple foods of the Incas in South America, before 6000 years. For them, quinoa was a sacred crop. But, with the conquest of South America by the Spanish, this crop was ignored, as the latter did not allow the natives to cultivate quinoa. However, recently quinoa grains have regained its popularity as people started identifying its use and health benefits. It is cultivated in many parts of the world and is easily available in the market. This article will provide you with some interesting information about what is quinoa grain.

Quinoa being high in magnesium, is good for cardiovascular health, as magnesium relaxes blood vessels, thereby lowering the risks of high blood pressure and other heart problems. It is also said to have a good fiber content, which is said to be helpful in preventing breast cancer. It is also rich in insoluble fiber and so is recommended for gallbladder stone prevention in women. The copper and manganese content in quinoa grains help to boost the immune system and protects cells, especially, red blood cells, from damage. It is also said to be good for tackling asthma in children.

In short, quinoa is claimed to be a super food with various nutritional and health benefits. Hope you got the answer to the question, ‘what is quinoa’? If you want to include it in your diet, gather some quinoa grain recipes and reap the benefits offered by this food item. However, make sure to soak and rinse the grains well before cooking, so as to remove the coating of saponins, which have laxative effects. Apart from that, saponins may make the meal slightly bitter in taste. –Courtesy of

 I’ve eaten quinoa once before and didn’t think much of it.  It seemed a little bland so I wasn’t all that thrilled with it as an ingredient.  After some research and recipe reading I decided the best choice for ground meat was a meatload with the quinoa as the “binder.”  It turned out to be a great choice.  The qunioa worked like a charm and took on the flavors of the meats and vegetables.  The flavor has given me a little push to try it again as a side dish.

I used the both turkey and beef in the meatloaf.  It tasted good and the texture was moist and didn’t fall apart.  But the color just wasn’t as appetizing as I wanted.  I think the best thing to do would be to use either all beef or a combination of beef and ground pork.  The turkey just turned white and doesn’t look as good as you would want.

Meatloaf with Quinoa

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 rib of celery, very finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup ketchup or chili sauce

Preheat your grill or smoker to high heat (350 degrees +)

Make sure you rinse the quinoa well using a fine mesh strainer and lots of running water.  Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.  Once quinoa is cooked drain it well and set aside to cool completely. If you are using Red Quinoa it’s best to plan ahead and soak your quinoa for several hours prior to cooking.

When the quinoa is almost cook go ahead and heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Cook the onion, celery and carrot over medium heat, about 4 minutes or until soft.  Add mushroom and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally.  The mushrooms will give up lots of liquid.  Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and the veggies are tender.  Let mixture cool.

Once the quinoa and the vegetable mixture have cooled completed place the meat, quinoa, vegetables, cilantro, eggs, fish sauce, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  

Form the meat mixture into a loaf and place it on a lightly greased pizza pan or similar type of perforated pan.   Place the meat loaf into your smoker or grill (set up for indirect cooking). Smoke/roast for about 30 minutes.  Remove from smoker and spread ketchup/chili sauce, continue to smoke for 30 to 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.  Let meat stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

(NOTE:  When it came time to glaze the top of the meatloaf I discovered we didn’t have any chili sauce.  I didn’t want to use just ketchup so I mixed a tablespoon of sambral oelek with a cup of ketchup.  It was fantastic.  What a great flavor it added to the meat loaf.

Mashed Butternut Squash with Pears

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 Pears (I used Bosc)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons Todd’s Dirt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the butternut squash into four large slices.  Remove all the pulp and seeds.  Cut the pears in half and remove seeds.  Rub each slice with a little olive oil and grill on a hot grill until soft. 

Remove all the skins.  Mash with a potato masher.  Fold in butter, vanilla, brown sugar, Todd’s Dirt.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Make sure when you mash the butternut squash and pears together that you “mash” them instead of puree them.  The texture needs to be more like mashed potatoes and not runny.

Additional participants in this month’s Ingredient Challenge include:

Paul Haight of No Excuses BBQ – ENTRY HERE

The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world. Somewhere along the way things got out of control…

Marc Van Der Wouw of Grill Adventures-ENTRY HERE

Grilladventures by broadcastmarc is started on march of 2010.I started the BBQ thing when I was 30,before that we eat a lot outside.have fun,but when the kids came in our life We start serious cooking.Most of it is realy healthy I think;-)The grill has a special place in my heart,We love to do things outside..Everything I make is an adventure,and sometimes we use the books.We try to grill as much as we can year round.

Robyn Medlyn of Grillgrrrl – ENTRY HERE

Robyn Medlin is the “grill girl” behind Her focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. She encourages women to learn to grill as it a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen. This “grill girl” holds quarterly “Women’s Grilling Clinics” as a way to encourage women to not be intimated by the grill.

Chris of Nibble Me This – ENTRY HERE

The Nibble Me This website was created to share Chris’ misadventures in live fire cooking. ”I have no culinary training….I’m just entertaining myself with fire and food”.

4 Comments on Smoked Meatloaf with Mashed Butternut Squash and Pears

  1. Nice looking dish in spite of the ground turkey challenges. I’ve used it in meatloaf before and am also not fond of the resulting color. The butternut squash and pear combo looks pretty good; we enjoyed the squash and pear combo we did as the sweetness and textures compliment each other.

  2. Wow never thought of a meatloaf with butternut…. great looking….

  3. landarc bob // January 24, 2011 at 8:55 am //

    Interesting, both you and Paul used the quinoa as a binder, I was curious how it was going to work.

  4. I almost went with a butternut mash too but never even thought of the pear adding in. How did you like the taste together, did it work? Looks like the perfect texture and color.

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