- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cutting back on meat, one of the big-ticket items in your grocery cart, is an obvious way to trim your food budget.

However, before you switch from steak to gruel, consider your eating habits.

If you enjoy the occasional meat-based meal, you’re not going to be happy with a dish of beans.

Likewise, if you tend to have a light breakfast and lunch and look forward to a satisfying dinner, a peanut butter sandwich may not meet your expectations.

Prune your grocery bill by making small changes in your carnivorous diet.

For example, don’t eliminate meat if you crave it, but opt for less expensive ground beef or lamb rather than a sirloin steak.

Stretch your favorite meat dishes.

You don’t need a hefty half-pound burger.

Eating that much beef in one sitting contributes more calories and fat than you should be consuming. Cut your meat serving to 4 ounces and fill your plate with vegetables and a starch. You’ll feel satisfied, but with fewer calories and less expense.

Take inspiration from other countries’ culinary traditions. You’ll discover different seasonings and ways of combining ingredients that enhance simple dishes.

The following entree for meatballs and spinach borrows its sour cream-based sauce and noodles from Hungarian cooking.

The rich flavor of this dish belies its modest price tag.

Meatballs with spinach

Makes 2 servings.

8 ounces lean ground lamb (see note)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 medium shallot, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 egg white

3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups beef broth

2 cups coarsely chopped spinach

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 cup cooked egg noodles

Combine lamb, garlic, shallot, oregano, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir in egg white. Mixture will be wet. Spoon flour onto a dinner plate. Gently form lamb mixture into 8 meatballs about the size of golf balls. Roll in flour, reserving 2 teaspoons leftover flour.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add meatballs and brown them. Remove meatballs. Pour broth into skillet and scrape up browned bits. Return lamb to skillet. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, cover again and simmer for 10 minutes or until lamb is cooked through.

In a small bowl stir together 2 teaspoons reserved flour with 2 tablespoons broth from skillet. Stir in sour cream. Stir into lamb mixture. Heat just to warm through and thicken sauce. Serve lamb, spinach and sauce over noodles.

Each serving has: 500 calories; 25 grams total fat; 30 grams protein; 70 grams carbohydrates; 1065 milligrams sodium and 3 grams dietary fiber.

Note: Lean ground turkey in place of lamb will save about 30 calories per serving and 4 grams of total fat.

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