1. Preheat the oven to 350. Soak the bread crumbs in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
2. Mix together all ingredients except bacon. Shape the meat into a loaf in a baking pan; top with 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 into the center of a meat loaf will read 160 F.
How to spice up meat loaf:
Mix in options:
Fresh herbs: Parsley, chives, basil
Chili/curry powder/other spice mix
Parmesan, other cheese
Cooked greens, spinach
Shredded carrots or other veggies
Zucchini through the middle
Herbed sour cream
Satay sauce (peanut butter based)
Cheese or cheese sauce
To add any of the additions in the list, just integrate them into the raw mixture as you mix it. Use your judgment as to amounts; you'll want a teaspoon or two of most spices or strong herbs, a tablespoon or more of mild herbs like parsley or basil, and up to a half cup, or even more, of shredded or diced vegetables.
To use any of the toppings, spoon them over the top of the loaf about halfway through cooking. About a cup should do it, though you can use more if you like.
To make free-form meat loaf, just use your hands to shape the raw mixture into a loaf in a baking dish and bake as usual. It will hold its form.
To make meat loaf stuffed with zucchini or hard-boiled eggs, put half the raw mixture in the bottom of a loaf pan, and nestle a medium zucchini or two or three hard-boiled eggs in it. Cover with the remaining meat mixture and seal the sides.