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When women work, there's room for teen-agers in the kichen

The last decade has seen great changes in the American family's eating habits. No longer is it correct to assume that Mom always works alone in the kitchen to prepare three meals a day for her family.

Because more women are working full- or part-time, teen-agers often assume responsibility for selecting menus, shopping, and cooking the family dinner.

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This is a logical arrangement, as these young people usually get home from school ahead of their working parents.

Each year girls between the ages of 13 and 19 spend at least $13 billion on groceries, or about one-third of the family food budget, thus wielding greater influence over food purchases, including the selection of brands.

They cook about 13 meals a week, and more than 95 percent bake cakes and cookies every month.

What is a practical main-dish choice for a teen-ager just learning to cook?

Meat loaf is one of the most popular. It's easy to prepare and can be made ahead and frozen or kept in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking. It also holds well if all members of the family are not able to eat at one sitting. Basic Meat Loaf 2 pounds ground beef 2 cups fresh white or whole-wheat bread crumbs (about 4 slices) 1/2 cup milk, sour cream, tomato juice, or tomato sauce 1/2 cup minced onion 2 eggs 1-2 teaspoons salt, or to taste 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon mixture into 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and level top. Bake 1 1/2 hours.

For easy serving, let meat loaf stand at room temperature 5 minutes. Pour off and discard drippings.

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With spatula, loosen meat loaf from pan. Invert onto warm platter. Serves 6.

Substitutions: Use only 1 1/2 pounds ground beef but add one of the following: 1/4 pound ground veal and 1/4 pound ground pork; or 1/2 pound diced sweet or hot Italian sausages, or pork-sausage.

There are many ways to change the appearance and flavor of meat loaf by adding or substituting various ingredients.

To 2 pounds of ground beef, add any one of the following: 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 garlic clove (minced), 1 teaspoon liquid hot pepper sauce, or 3/4 cup sweet pickle relish.

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