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Stretch your meat with small cheats

In anticipation of rising meat prices, purchase limits and supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, here are some tricks, tips and techniques to serve less meat (and chances are your family won’t even notice).

Make changes gradually. When you make your family’s favorite meaty meals, use less meat than the recipe calls for and bulk up recipes with vegetables. Add beans to chili and zucchini to lasagna. Add celery, onion and carrot to meatloaf, hamburgers and meatballs.

A word to the wise: Don’t serve piles of arugula salad or bust out the tofu just yet or you could have a mutiny on your hands. To start, serve dishes centered around a familiar nonmeat protein like eggs, cheese or beans. Choose dishes like cheese enchiladas (recipe below), vegetable lasagna, macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Breakfast for dinner is always a hit.

When you reduce the meat in casseroles, soups, sauces and pasta, ensure the meat you use is flavorful. Items like ham, bacon and sausage are great examples of a little bit going a long way. Remember, there are sausages made from turkey, chicken and vegetables.

Plan meals around their favorite vegetables. Does your family like corn? Make corn chowder. Like broccoli? Serve broccoli and cheese casserole. Do they like potatoes? Serve loaded baked potatoes with cheese and vegetables but very little meat.

You also can save dough with dough. Everyone loves pizza. Make pizza with lots of cheese and vegetables. Fill calzones with tomato, spinach and mozzarella. Make pot pies or hand pies with vegetable-based fillings.

Embrace the bean. Explore recipes that use garbanzos, black beans or lentils as the protein source. Beans don’t have to look like beans when you make falafel, bean burgers or hummus.

Go with the grain. Many grains are excellent sources of protein, like quinoa, spelt, amaranth and buckwheat. Make grain bowls loaded with vegetables.

If meatless dinners don’t work for you, go meatless for other meals, like oatmeal for breakfast in lieu of eggs and bacon. Try vegetable-based soups, salads, peanut butter or cheese sandwiches for lunch.

I’ll end with my No. 1 tip: Don’t talk about it. Just make the change and chances are they’ll just happily eat what’s on their plate.

EASY CHEESY ENCHILADAS

What you’ll need:

8 soft taco-sized flour tortillas

4-6 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Enchilada sauce, purchased or recipe below

Serving suggestions: lettuce, tomato, sour cream and avocado

Here’s how:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 9-by-13 baking pan. Pour ½ cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan. Place 1/3 to ½ cup of cheese in a tortilla and roll it up like a loose burrito. Place in one end of the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas, placing them side by side and squishing them together.

Spoon ¼ cup of sauce over each enchilada. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes or until it’s all bubbly and melted. Serve with lettuce, tomato, sour cream and avocado.

^

DIVA PATTI’S ENCHILADA SAUCE

This sumptuous sauce is so easy to make you’ll never buy canned enchilada sauce again. This makes 3 cups of sauce for less than $1 and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Have everything measured and ready before you start as this goes fast and you don’t want to burn your flour and oil once you start.

What you’ll need:

¼ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 cups water

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

Here’s how:

In a 2-quart saucepan on medium, heat oil. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Add chili powder and whisk quickly to incorporate. Don’t burn this. Add water slowly and whisk vigorously. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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