When my son was born, the nicest present we received wasn’t a bouncy seat, stroller, or diaper bag. The gift I appreciated the most was a week of lunches and dinners friends sent to our home. I think I ate better during the first week of motherhood than I have in the past two years.

Now, when a friend has a baby, I always try to send food. But, if I have time, I prefer to cook some meals. When I’m tired and bleary, I crave comfort food, so I typically stick to my tried-and-true repertoire of homey dishes for new parents.

Last week my friend Maria gave birth to a bundle of joy named Meg, and I made her my famous meatloaf. It is a favorite of my friends and family.

Lauren’s Meatloaf
(Adapted from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman—If you don’t have this book, buy it, or put it on your Amazon wish list! I own more than 50 cookbooks, and this is the one I use the most.)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 cup of plain bread crumbs
½ cup of milk
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 pounds mixed ground meats: beef, veal, lamb, turkey, and/or pork
1 egg lightly beaten
¼ cup fresh minced parsley
½ cup of Heinz Chili sauce
½ teaspoon of garlic, minced
1 small onion minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
½ cup of creamed spinach—I prefer Seabrook Farms Brand
Salt, cayenne pepper, and fresh ground black pepper
3 slices of bacon (optional, but good, especially if meat is very lean)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Soak the bread crumbs in the milk in a large bowl until the milk is absorbed, about five minutes.
2. In a pan, sauté the garlic and the onions until they are clear, about five minutes. (If you are pressed for time, you can omit the onions and the garlic.)
3. Mix together all of the ingredients in the large bowl. Shape the meat into a loaf in a baking pan; top with the bacon if you like. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, basting occasionally with rendered pan juices. When done, meat loaf will be lightly browned and firm, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf will read 160 degrees.

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