I'm sure you can assume that since I have a food blog, I really love to cook. It's true...I love trying new recipes, and I am always trying to make every dish I make the be best it can possibly be. My husband really enjoys everything I make...he jokingly says it's half the reason he married me. :-) Even though he is of course extremely happy with a big fancy meal where every piece is made from scratch and perfect, some of his favorite dishes that I make are the most simple. This meatloaf is one of those meals. It is so very easy and always delicious. I actually told him the night before that I would be making this for dinner the next day and he texted me a little after lunch and said he had been looking forward to meatloaf all day. An easy meal that makes my husband that happy? Count me in!
This is not just any regular meatloaf recipe, and the subtle changes are what makes it most appealing to me. You see, growing up I did not like meatloaf...at all. Not even a little bit. My mother would fry up a plain hamburger patty for me to eat because I simply refused to eat meatloaf. (What a pain I must have been to cook for...sorry Mom!) I first saw this recipe in a Kraft Food and Family Magazine several years ago, and the idea really intrigued me...a meatloaf recipe that actually sounded good?! Surely not! So what, you may ask, makes this meatloaf recipe so special? First of all, it is topped with barbecue sauce instead of ketchup, which is a big plus for me. I like ketchup to dip French fries in, and that's about it. But the ingredient that really makes this meatloaf shine is the store bought stuffing mix. (Gasp!) I know, I know...it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but this is not a dish that we eat that often...maybe every other month or so. The stuffing mix is used in place of any bread crumbs or vegetables, and it is really delicious! Not convinced? Let me show you how this goes...
First, combine ground beef, store-bought stuffing mix (I buy it in the large canisters, so it is easy to measure out), water, barbecue sauce, an egg, and some finely chopped baby spinach leaves in a bowl. The spinach leaves are a new addition, and honestly you could not taste them and they added pretty little green flecks to the meatloaf, so I will put them in from now on...I will probably add even more spinach next time.
Mix these ingredients together with your hands until just combined. Sorry folks...you have to mix meatloaf with your hands. There is really no other way to combine the ingredients together properly. Also, be sure not to over mix the ingredients or you will have tough meatloaf, and nobody wants that. I went ahead and divided mine into 4 equal portions since I am making individual meatloaves instead of one big meatloaf.
My husband and I both really like the ends of the meatloaf the best...you know the parts that get just slightly crispy at the edges? Yum! So I have started making these like individual meatloaves, so we get those edges all the way around. Best. Idea. Ever. I actually didn't look at my own recipe card when I was making these today, or I would have seen that I was supposed to separate these into 12 1/4 cup portions. Instead I just divided the meat mixture evenly to make 8 individual meatloaves...so make 8 or 12...whatever you like. I think I'll try to pay better attention and make 12 next time because smaller meatloaves equals more crispy edges, and that's what it's all about to me! Whatever size meatloaves you make, put them on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Then pour a bit more barbecue sauce over the top of each meatloaf. I don't measure this, but we like ours totally covered in barbecue sauce. I used my homemade barbecue sauce, and it was delicious, but usually I use store bought. I just happened to be out of it this time, and my homemade sauce is super easy to make! I drizzle a bit of sauce on top of each one.
Then I use a spoon to spread it around, making sure the top and sides are completely covered. If it doesn't look like enough, I just add a little more sauce. I did end up adding more here...yes we like a lot of sauce on ours!
Bake the mini meatloaves at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes. (If you do 12 smaller ones, bake them for 16-18 minutes). If you prefer a regular meatloaf, just shape the meat mixture into an oval loaf shape in an 8x8 a baking dish and bake for 50 minutes, or until cooked through.
When you separate them into 12 portions, they look a bit more like meatballs...I guess it would be meatloaf balls? Well that just doesn't sound right at all...let's stick with mini meatloaves, shall we?
A regular meatloaf will look like this...not too shabby, eh? We ate it like this for several years with no complaints, but I have to say my husband and I both prefer the individual meatloaves.
I always serve meatloaf with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. Today I had some asparagus that I needed to use, so we had roasted asparagus.
Since I usually have them on hand, sometimes I sprinkle some French fried onions over top.This is not a necessary step, but it sure is tasty!
Roasted Brussels sprouts are also delicious on the side.
As are green beans and green bean casserole. That's actually where the idea for adding the French fried onions came from...I already had them out for the green bean casserole, so I figured why not?
However you serve it, it is delicious! I can't resist anymore...I'm going in!
The Easiest Homemade Meatloaf
Adapted slightly from: Kraft Recipes
1 pound ground beef (lean is best, but I usually use ground chuck)
1 1/2 cups chicken flavor stuffing mix
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup barbecue sauce, plus more for the top of the meatloaf.
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped baby spinach leaves (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl just until blended.
3. Place meat mixture in 1/4-cup portions onto prepared baking sheet. (You should get 12 individual meatloaves).
4. Bake for 16-18 minutes. (For 8 larger individual meatloaves, bake 20-22 minutes. For a regular sized meatloaf, shape into an oval loaf in an 8x8 pan and bake for 50 minutes.)