I grew up next door to my paternal grandparents. They owned a slaughterhouse, which today would be called a packing plant.

Grandpa made sausage that, depending on his mood, could be mild or extra spicy. We fried cracklins in a tub over a fire in the back room and always had chickens roaming around that became Sunday dinner. My parents paid Dr. Wood with half a hog for delivering me.

Needless to say, we were not vegetarians.

The news lately seems to point in the direction of limited or expensive meat. Who knows what will come to pass, but even in good times, there are some ways to make the most of what's available.

First up is stretching that package of meat. Cut the beef thinner, and pound out the chicken. Roast a chicken in the oven or slow cooker, then measure into 2-cup portions for more than one meal.

Make meat the side dish at a dinner featuring fresh vegetables. Use half a pound of ground beef in baked beans and the other half pound for goulash the next day. Fillers such as pasta, rice, oats, beans, barley and grated vegetables stretch most casseroles.

Just be sure to not add too much to lose taste and quality of the meat. Equal amounts of beans, 1 cup of rice, 3/4 cup grated veggies or 1/4 to 1/2 cup rolled oats per pound of ground beef is suggested. You can always start with less filler and add more each time until you hit the right balance for your family.

Maybe one day a week can be meat-free. Eggs and mushrooms are great meat substitutes. Veggie or cheese pizza, stir-fry or frittatas are good for filling you up. Vegetable lasagna can be made with all your favorites.

I've had the first recipe for about 50 years. Linda Woolsey brought this salad to work, and I loved it. I've always used Ott's French dressing, but zesty Italian works too. Add broccoli, black olives, green or red pepper, or red onions to make it your own. Try it this weekend. Find the Salad Supreme with the spices.

The other recipe is vegetarian and from "One-Dish Collection." Use half eggplant and half zucchini if you prefer. Quick, easy and tasty.

Have a safe Memorial Day, and happy eating.

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Salad Supreme

1 pound spaghetti, broken into half, cooked, drained and rinsed in cold water

1 bottle Ott's French dressing

1 large cucumber, diced

1 large tomato, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Salad Supreme

Mix all ingredients. Cover and chill at least one hour.

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Two cheese Mediterranean stir-fry

6 ounces penne pasta, cooked according to package directions

2 tablespoons vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 pound mushrooms, cut into quarters

2 cups diced zucchini

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips

1 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

4 plum tomatoes, cut into quarters and seeded

3 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Place 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet or wok; heat over medium-high heat 1 minute. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add next 7 ingredients; cook 10 to 15 minutes. Gently stir in tomatoes. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; toss with 1 tablespoon oil, provolone and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Place hot pasta on platter. Spoon veggies over top and serve with remaining Parmesan. Yields 4 servings.

Cheryle Finley is a food columnist for The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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