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One of the secrets to good health and also to save lots of money on your food bill is to learn that meat is NOT the main dish, but that meat is to be used as a flavoring, i.e., sparingly.

I grew up in a culture of pork chops, roast beef, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and so forth. Meat was our main dish. In fact, the meal was built around the meat. Each person expected a big chunk of meat at the meal.

Then I went on a mission to Houston, Texas and as I worked among the Spanish culture, I came to realize that the very best foods actually use meat sparingly, and use it in combination with other ingredients that offer our taste buds a greater variety.

For example, look at enchiladas. They really use very little meat. Each time I teach a Spanish cooking class, I always have someone who thinks more meat is better. I warn them and explain that it is actually the blend of corn tortilla, chicken, filling, sauce, and cheese that makes our senses come alive.

At the end of class, I have all the students try each other’s enchiladas as well as mine and they always agree that the ones that had extra meat added do not taste as well as mine. Mine are restaurant quality (for those who do not know…we used to have a Mexican restaurant).

Just as when you put in too much garlic and that one flavor is over powering; if you add too much meat, the enchiladas will not taste first-rate.

Tamales, quesadillas, lasagna, spaghetti, pasta dishes, salads, etc., all use meat as a flavoring and it is the fusion of the different colors, textures, and flavors that makes food fantastic.

The Spanish meal also includesrice and/or beans, usually some type of salad, and chips or tortillas with some type of salsa.

Again, note the different combinations of vegetables, proteins, grains, colors, and flavors. This is food at its best.

When planning your menu, for example, instead of using one pork chop per person:

Making Pupusas would mean only needing 1-2 pork chops to feed 5-6 people.

You could grill 2 pork chops, then tear or cut them into small pieces and mix the pieces into Spanish rice with mixed vegetables.

Or you could toss those pieces into a salad –or mix them with a creamy sauce and pasta.

You could put those pieces in a pot, add a can of black beans, another can of red beans, a can of pinto beans, a can of corn, 1 Tablespoon of dehydrated onion, one teaspoon of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, some water as needed, 1 packet of Sazon Goya seasoning Natural Flavoring, 1 cup of Ragu traditional Spaghetti sauce, ½ of can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, and 1 pinch of crushed red peppers.

And now you have a soup that you can put grated cheddar cheese on top or even shredded uncooked cabbage or lettuce or raw onion or avocado slices (use your imagination). Eat it with chips and now you have enough soup to feed 6-10 people using only 2 pork chops.

The same recipe works with hamburger, stew meat, turkey, chicken, venison…any type of meat.

When I plan my menus, I allow 1/4 to 1/5 of a pound of hamburger for each adult—less for children.

Think about it. A Quarter Pounder is actually a good size hamburger and it is a quarter (1/4) pound of meat. That is more than enough meat for an adult.

Consider that a hamburger is a combination of meat (protein), bun (grain), tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle, etc. (vegetables), and cheese (dairy).

Diverse textures plus various food groups combined translates to yummy and filling.

Pizza is the same. There is a blend of bread, sauce, veggies, meat, and cheese. You are using food from the dairy, meat, vegetable, and grain food groups. The more food groups you combine, the more enjoyable and satisfying the meal.

Most restaurants realize this and plan their menus so your plate is a beautiful array of food combinations, pleasing colors, and textures.

At home, we can do the same, if we change some of our habits, plan better, and try some new recipes.

In addition, the results of eating less meat is- that our food budget will decrease, our weight will be easier to manage, and our energy level will increase as we consume more complex carbohydrates.

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