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Divas: How to serve less meat to your family

A reader asked: “I have a meat and potatoes family; how can I save money on meat while keeping my family happy?” Sound familiar? Here are some tricks to serve less meat and your family won’t even notice.

Do it gradually. When you make your family’s favorite meals, use less meat than the recipe calls for.

Bulk up with veggies. Add beans to chili and zucchini to lasagna. Add celery, onion and carrot to meatloaf and hamburgers.

Use cheaper cuts of meat and stock up when they’re on sale. Instead of chicken breast, buy whole chickens. Instead of steak, London broil. Instead of pork loin, pork butt. Learn how to cook these cuts so they’re succulent and not tough. It’s not the cut of meat but the preparation method that determines tenderness.

Start Meatless Monday. Word to the wise – don’t serve piles of salad or bust out the tofu just yet or you could have a mutiny on your hands. Serve dishes centered around a non-meat protein like eggs, cheese or beans. Like quiche, cheese enchiladas, veggie lasagna, mac and cheese, bean soups, grilled cheese sandwiches.

Plan meals around favorite vegetables. Family like corn? Make corn chowder. Broccoli? Make broccoli cheese casserole. Potatoes? Serve loaded baked potatoes with cheese and veggies with little or no meat.

Save dough with dough. Make pizza with very little meat but lots of cheese and veggies. Fill calzones with tomato, spinach and mozzarella. Make pot pies or hand pies with veggie-based fillings.

Embrace the bean. Use garbanzos, black beans or lentils as protein sources. Beans don’t have to look like beans. Make falafel, bean burgers, refried beans or hummus.

If you can’t change dinner, economize on other meals. Like oatmeal for breakfast in lieu of bacon.

Diva’s Meatless Mexican Lasagna

What You’ll Need:

1 (12 oz.) bag frozen three pepper onion blend

2 (14.5 oz.) cans black beans – drained

2 cups salsa – divided

1 ½ teaspoons cumin – divided

1 ½ teaspoons chili powder -divided

1 ½ cup cottage cheese

1 egg

1 (7 oz.) can green chilies

1 teaspoon salt

1 (27.5 oz.) package corn tortillas

1 (16 oz.) Mexican blend cheese

Garnish – sour cream, avocado, tomato.

Here’s How:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the pepper blend until softened, add the beans and one teaspoon each cumin, chili powder and one cup salsa. Simmer.

In a medium bowl blend cottage cheese, chilies, ½ teaspoon each cumin, chili powder and salt.

Spread ½ cup salsa on bottom of the baking dish. Arrange one layer of tortillas over the salsa. Top with half of the bean mixture and cover with tortillas. Layer half the cottage cheese mixture and a third of the cheese. Repeat the layering sequence with the remaining tortillas, bean and cheese mixture. Top with the remaining salsa and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. No meat, no problem.

I’ll end with my number one tip – Don’t talk about it. Just make the change and chances are they’ll eat what’s on their plate.

Frugal Food by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! NEW website www.divasonadime.com

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