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Mexican Meat Loaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (see note)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large egg
2/3 cup milk or milk substitute
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ground dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/3 cup salsa
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup ketchup, for spreading on top

Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, gently mix together all the ingredients except the ketchup.
Spread the mixture into a loaf pan or shape the meat loaf into a 9×5 inch loaf shape and place it in the 9×13-inch pan.
Spread the ketchup over the top.
Bake uncovered for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done (160 on instant read thermometer)
When done, remove from the oven and drain meat loaf.
Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the meatloaf to set then remove the meat loaf from the pan and enjoy.

Note: To make fresh bread crumbs, tear bread into pieces and place them in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the crumbs are fine. One average slice of bread usually produces about 1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs.

Individual Meat Loaf Muffins – Spray 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the meatloaf mixture evenly among the cups. (They will be very full.) Brush the meatloaf muffins with ketchup. (You will probably only need about 1/4 cup to cover them all.) Place the muffin pan on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the thermometer reads 160 when the tip is inserted into the center of the meatloaf muffins located in the center of the muffin pan.

Hints & Tips
Mix the ingredients together gently for the most tender meatloaf.
Baking the meatloaf as a free-form loaf on a baking sheet will result in a drier meatloaf, while baking it in a loaf pan will make it moister.

Shortcuts & Substitutions
You can substitute the 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs with 1 cup of dried bread crumbs, 3/4 cup of quick cooking rolled oats or 3 -4 slices of bread torn into small pieces.
Try topping your meat loaf with barbecue sauce or chili sauce instead of ketchup.
Try making your meat loaf with a combination of 1 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork or sausage.

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