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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.

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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.

Garlicky White Bean and Tomato Stew with Shrimp, Meat as a Flavoring Recipe by Pam Anderson (

Using less shrimp in this white bean and tomato stew makes it a more affordable dish as well.

Garlicky White Bean and Tomato Stew With Shrimp

Serves 4

If you're using IQF (instant quick freeze) shrimp, save the liquid from thawing and use it as part of the broth.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) white beans, drained
  • 3/4 pound medium cooked peeled shrimp (preferably wild)
  • 1 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Feta, for sprinkling

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the tomatoes and beans, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, partially covered and adding a little water if the mixture thickens too quickly, to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Toss the shrimp, remaining oil and smoked paprika; add to the skillet along with the parsley. Simmer to heat through. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of feta.

Quick Italian Wedding Soup,  Meat as a Flavoring Recipe by Pam Anderson (

Using chicken sausage in this "quick" Italian wedding soup, you will need fewer ingredients and less preparation.

Quick Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 6

  • 3/4 pound chicken Italian sausage, meat removed from casing
  • 6 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 each: medium carrots and celery stalks
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup Israeli (or Middle Eastern) couscous
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 8 ounces (8 cups) baby spinach leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Mix the sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, Parmesan and egg. Divide the mixture and shape into 24 meatballs. Heat the oil in a large soup kettle. Add the meatballs, in batches if necessary, and cook, turning only once, until well browned, about 5 minutes total. Remove from the pan. Using additional oil if necessary, add the onion, carrots and celery; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the couscous and meatballs; cook to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Add dill and spinach; cook until the spinach wilts, a minute or so longer. Adjust seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at

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