1. Pick Your Meat
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put 1 1/2 pounds ground meat in a large bowl (choose 1 or a combination).
2. Choose a Binder
Add 1 cup to the bowl with the meat (choose 1).
*Instant rice (uncooked)
*Crackers or croutons, crushed
*Fine bulgur (uncooked)
*Oats (quick cooking or regular)
*Instant potato flakes (use 1/2 cup)
*Quick-cooking barley (uncooked; use 1/2 cup)
3. Pick a Vegetable
Prepare 1 to 2 cups (choose 1); add to the bowl.
*Frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
*Swiss chard or kale, finely chopped
*Bell peppers, finely chopped
*Mushrooms, finely chopped
*Zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry
*Celery, finely chopped and sautéed
4. Choose a Mix-In (Optional)
Add 1/2 cup total (choose up to 2).
*Raisins or prunes, chopped
*Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
*Cooked bacon, chopped
*Pickles or gherkins, chopped
*Canned green chiles or pickled jalapeños, chopped
*Roasted red peppers, chopped
*Shredded cheese (up to 1 cup)
5. Bake the Meatloaf
Add 1 cup grated onion, 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons chopped herbs (parsley, chives, basil and/or thyme), 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands until just combined. Shape into a 9-by-5-inch oval loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with strips of bacon, if desired. Bake about halfway, 30 minutes.
6. Make a Glaze
Brush the top and sides of the meatloaf with a glaze and continue baking until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F, about 25 more minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Mix 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 teaspoons brown sugar and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce.
Mix 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 grated garlic clove and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
Mix 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, 2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar.
Mix 1/4 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons apricot preserves, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
Photograph by Andrew Purcell