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Meat Lite: Spaghetti with Garlic, Broccoli, and Ham

I had a very meaty Christmas and I loved every minute of it. In the span of a week, I indulged in one braised rump roast, one giant fresh ham, one roasted chicken and two spiral hams.

Today, the advance copy of our book, Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet arrived on our doorsteps. As I flipped through it for the very first time, I looked forward to returning to my Meat Lite lifestyle, and all its endless possibilities.

Yesterday, our packed car made the trip to Philadelphia from my family in the Hudson Valley with a generous helping of leftovers of the spiral ham that played a delicious role in Cuban sandwiches the night before. Back in my kitchen, it was divvied up for multiple recipes, including this week's Meat Lite feature.

Ham is the perfect ingredient for recipes that use just a bit of meat because its robust flavor goes a long way. We call on small amounts of it in Almost Meatless for Red Beans and Rice and Ham Stock.

Joy uses just an ounce of ham steak in her Pea Soup for 1 recipe, and because it shares a similar flavor profile, chunks of ham (about 8 to 12 ounces) can be swapped in for the smoked turkey wings in Smoked Turkey Soup.

These days, more and more producers are making cured ham from humanely-raised and heritage breeds of pigs, using natural processes and ingredients, and without nitrates and additives. If you're a meat lover and horrified by the realities of factory-farmed pigs and the looming alternative of test tube meat, look into options from purveyors offering respectable alternatives.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and tasty Almost Meatless 2009.

About the author: Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. Her blog, Crumbs On My Keyboard, is dedicated to delicious things in Philadelphia and lots of other places.

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