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VERSATILE MEAT LOAF WITH VARIATIONS

BASIC MIX:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 c. fresh Italian style bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water or beef stock (can use bouillion)
3 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. Parmesan, grated (optional)

In a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, ketchup, Balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and water/beef stock.

In a large bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs, onions, green bell pepper, parsley, chopped garlic, egg, seasonings, 3/4 cup of tomato mixture, and optionally, Parmesan cheese.

Form into loaf. Place into shallow 7 by 10 in. pan or bread loaf tin, lightly oiled. Pour remaining liquid over meat loaf to coat. Bake in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for one hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally with ketchup or your favorite barbecue sauce.

Optional Variations:

Choose one:

1. Eliminate salt, bouillion, and substitute 3 T onion soup mix. Sprinkle top with tomato soup and crushed crackers instead.

2. Use old-fashioned rolled oats instead of bread crumbs.

3. If you have leftover bread, especially Italian or French bread, substitute milk for the water listed in recipe, and soak about 2 cups bread in the milk prior to mixing into the meat mixture. Squeeze out the excess slightly before adding. Substitute this bread for the bread crumbs. After mixing everything together, you can also form this meat mixture into meatballs and fry in 1/2 inch olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet (such as cast iron). If making Italian meatballs, leave out the brown sugar and Dijon mustard, but be sure to use the Parmesan cheese. Season the oil in the pan with 2-3 whole cloves garlic (don't chop it up or it will burn instead of just roasting).

4. If you're in a hurry, you may use as a substitute 2 c. of barbecue sauce and eliminate the following ingredients: 1 c. ketchup, 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp. of brown sugar, 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce.

5. Eliminate the bread crumbs. Saute this mixture with onion and garlic for 5 minutes and layer a casserole with no-cook lasagne noodles. Place meat mixture to cover noodles. Add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and 1/3 pound ricotta mixed with one egg, 1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley or 1 cup fresh spinach and 1/2 pound grated mozzarella cheese. Cover with another layer of noodles, and top with 1 large can of tomato sauce mixed with 1/2 teaspoon each basil and oregano. Place in 325░F oven for 60 minutes or until bubbly, basting occasionally with sauce to prevent lasagne from drying out.

6. Form meat mixture into large doughnut shapes, approximately 6-7 inches across. When forming the doughnut, don't allow the center to actually become a doughnut hole; just thin it out, leaving a well in the center. Optionally, brush with ketchup. Crush 8-10 Saltine or Ritz crackers into crumbs and sprinkle over the doughnut shaped burger, concentrating the excess crumbs into the center. Sprinkle with onion and garlic powder and a liberal dose of soy sauce, allowing a 1/2 spoon or so to form in the well. This can optionally be topped with cheese and canned mushrooms if desired. Place in microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes or so, according to size, until the juices run clear and meat doughnut is done. Served with meat drippings as topping, there is no need for a bun. This is a fast and easy low-carb lunch. Sliced meatloaf travels well in lunch boxes wrapped in foil and reheats easily at picnics and cook-outs!

7. Use your imagination, get creative, and enjoy!

Submitted by: CM
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