Last Chance! We’re Giving Away $50,000! Enter Now. See Official Rules

Reducing Your Meat Intake? Use It as Flavor

A small amount can add great taste to your almost-meatless meals

En español | It's been more than four years since my husband, David, and I decided to reduce our meat consumption. We love meat (although we're finding that the less we eat, the less we crave). Some nights we eat meatless; other nights we just eat less of it, using it as a flavoring rather than as the meal's centerpiece. Here are some ideas for dishes I like to think of as meat-accented.

Get AARP member-only discounts on restaurants, groceries and more. »

Love bacon and eggs? Three strips of fried bacon have nearly 10 grams of fat. Reduce this to a half slice per person and use it to season Swiss Chard and Ricotta Frittata With Bacon. Sprinkling the cooked bacon over the frittata before popping it under the broiler makes it more visible and more flavorful. And you've dramatically reduced the fat. Bulk up the frittata with kale for a super-food breakfast, lunch or dinner. This egg dish reheats well, too, so for those of us with smaller families, it's a prep-once, eat-twice meal.

Rather than go heavy on shrimp in Garlicky White Bean and Tomato Stew With Shrimp, I do just the opposite, figuring a mere 3 ounces of shrimp per person. The reduced seafood has another side benefit: It keeps this dish affordable. And check out how simple it is to make. Once you've gathered your ingredients, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare from start to table. Serve it with a hunk of bread and with salad for a soul-satisfying cool-weather supper. Thin any leftovers with broth for an instant hearty soup later in the week.

And soup, of course, is the perfect way to use meat as a flavoring. Rather than starting with ground chicken in my Quick Italian Wedding Soup, I use seasoned Italian chicken sausage, which means a shorter ingredient list and less preparation. I call for Israeli couscous — I like the way it simmers up into little pasta pearls — but if you can't find it, simply substitute another small pasta shape, such as orzo.

Sometimes at my house we still enjoy a nice steak or rack of lamb, but those meals are becoming less frequent as we discover that a little meat can add big flavor.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Frittata with Bacon, Meat as a Flavoring Recipe by Pam Anderson (

Instead of three strips of bacon and eggs for breakfast, sprinkle bacon pieces over a swiss chard and ricotta frittata. —

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Frittata With Bacon

Serves 4

  • 2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch (8 ounces) kale, washed, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta

Adjust the oven rack to the upper position and turn the broiler on high. Fry the bacon in a large (12-inch) ovenproof nonstick skillet until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. Pour off all but a couple of teaspoons of the bacon renderings. Add the kale, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/3 cup water and a light sprinkling of salt. Turn the burner on high, cover, and steam until the kale wilts, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the kale starts to sauté.

Meanwhile, season the eggs lightly with the salt and Parmesan. Shake the skillet to evenly distribute the kale; pour in the egg mixture. Using a wooden spatula to push back eggs that have set, tilt the pan slightly so that uncooked eggs run into the empty portion of the pan. When eggs start to set around the edges, turn off the burner. Use a teaspoon to dollop the ricotta over the frittata, and sprinkle with the bacon. Transfer the pan to the oven; broil until the eggs are puffed and are spotty brown, just a couple of minutes. Slide the frittata onto a cutting board, cut into 4 wedges, and serve.

Next page: Garlicky white bean stew with shrimp and quick Italian wedding soup. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

denny's restaurant member discount membership

Members save 15% all day, every day when dining at participating Denny’s restaurants.

Pepperoni Pizza, Papa Johns Superbowl promotion for AARP members

Members save 25% off regular menu price orders at Papa John's

Outback membership benefit aarp festive steak dinner

Members save 15% on lunch and dinner every day at Outback Steakhouse.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.