Meat Loaf should be listed in the dictionary under the definition of "Comfort Food". It is a very versatile dish and there are many variations. Meat loaf goes well with almost any vegetable side dish. And, you can freeze left overs for later use. It re-heats very well and is almost as good as when fresh made.

This easy recipe will be a hit with your family and guest. We start with a simple basic recipe then provide the option to add ingredients to make it special.

If you want it simple, use the basic recipe but consider celery and bell pepper in the "make it special" ingredients list... if nothing else.Celery really adds a lot of flavor.

Here is our basic recipe:

Ingredients

* 2 lbs ground beef 
* 2 eggs 
* 2 slices bread, crumbled 
* 1/2 cup saltine crackers, finely crumbled 
* 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped 
* 1 teaspoon salt 
* 1 teaspoon black pepper 
* 1 and 1/4 cups ketchup 
* 1/2 cup milk 
* 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
* Additional 1 cup ketchup for glaze 
* 1/4 cup honey for glaze

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except glaze ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Note: Add milk last, a little at a time while watching the consistency of the mix. You want to end up with a moist, firm consistency that holds a shape. It should not be crumbly dry or runny wet. This may require adding more or less than the 1/2 cup milk.

3. Form mix into a loaf shape and transfer to a loaf pan.

4. Make glaze by combining ketchup and honey. Place the mix in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to thin so you can mix easily.

5. Brush half of the glaze over the top of the meat loaf. Reserve the remaining half.

6. Bake in the pre heated oven for 1 hour or until firm and top is brown.

Serve hot with the reserved glaze on the side for those that want to add more at the table.

Make it special:

To add more flavors and make it unique you may add any of the following in step 2 above.

* 1/2 lb. breakfast sausage, crumbled 
* 1/3 cup celery, finely chopped 
* 1/3 cup bell pepper, finely chopped 
* 1 teaspoon sugar 
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin 
* 1/2 teaspoon oregano 
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce 
* 1/3 cup cola or Pepsi

Have fun with this recipe and feel free to experiment with the "make it special" ingredients to create your own signature meat loaf.

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K. A. Miller is an accomplished cook with interest in gardening, nutrition and classic recipes. He has published other articles on Gardening, Pet Care and Cooking.

Visit his website at www.olsouthrecipes.com