Menu planner: Mint ragu elevates American lamb

Thinking ahead to your next few meals? Here are some main dishes and sides to try.

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American lamb and mint ragu.

American lamb and mint ragu.

American Lamb Board

American lamb and mint ragu

Makes 6 or 8 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium chopped yellow onion, about 1/2 cup

2 shallots, chopped, about 1/4 cup

2 cloves minced garlic

1 1/2 pounds ground American lamb

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup dry red wine

24 ounces marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)

1 pound tagliatelle or other long flat pasta

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped, plus more for serving

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, stir, then cook 30 seconds longer. Add ground lamb to the skillet, then season with salt and pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break lamb apart. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until browned on all sides. Pour in red wine, then scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook 2 minutes at a rapid boil until wine reduces by half. Add marinara sauce, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

Prepare tagliatelle (or other pasta) according to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside. To ragu, add fresh ricotta cheese and chopped mint leaves. Stir to combine, taste, then adjust seasoning as needed. Simmer until ready to serve.

You can either pour spoonfuls of lamb ragu over noodles or add the cooked pasta directly to the pot of ragu, then toss to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and additional chopped mint, as desired.

Per 6 serving: 578 calories, 37 grams protein, 14 grams fat (22% calories from fat), 3.8 grams saturated fat, 70 grams carbohydrate, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 734 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Carb count: 4 1/2

Per 8 serving: 433 calories, 28 grams protein, 11 grams fat (22% calories from fat), 2.9 grams saturated fat, 52 grams carbohydrate, 61 milligrams cholesterol, 550 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3 1/2

Sliced baked ham and hoppin’ john

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 1 1/2 to 2 hours

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas

1- to 1 1/2-pound smoked turkey legs

1 chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Coarse salt and black pepper to taste

Water

1 1/2 cups rice

Shredded smoked cheddar cheese for garnish

In a large pot, combine peas, turkey, onion, crushed red pepper and salt and black pepper. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove turkey legs, remove meat from bone, chop meat and return to pot; discard bones. Stir in the rice; cover and cook 20 minutes or until rice is tender. (Add more water if necessary.) Serve immediately and garnish with cheese.

Per serving: 304 calories, 22 grams protein, 4 grams fat (12% calories from fat), 1.3 grams saturated fat, 46 grams carbohydrate, 43 milligrams cholesterol, 382 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3

Cranberry pear tartlets

Makes 30 tartlets

Preparation time: about 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup honey

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped

2 (2.1-ounce) boxes mini phyllo shells, thawed

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Finely grated orange zest

In a small saucepan, combine cranberries, honey, allspice and cinnamon; bring to boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in pears and simmer 10 minutes or until excess liquid has cooked off. Let cool, then spoon mixture into shells. Divide walnuts and top tartlets; lightly grate orange zest over top. Serve.

Per serving: 40 calories, no protein, 2 grams fat (36% calories from fat), no saturated fat, 7 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 13 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Carb count: 1/2

Fettuccini and ham salad

Cook 1/2 cup sliced carrots until tender; drain and cool. Cook 8 ounces spinach fettuccine according to package directions; drain. In a large bowl, toss 12 ounces cooked chopped ham, the carrots and the fettuccine, and 1 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings. In a separate small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon dried basil. Pour over pasta mixture; toss to coat. Serve warm or cold. Add a mixed-greens salad and cornbread muffins.

Baked potatoes

In a food processor, combine 2 ripe Hass avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and fold in 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream. Top potatoes with avocado mousse and serve immediately.

Tuna noodle casserole

Enjoy a good, low-cost meal. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix 2 (6-ounce) cans drained light tuna, 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can less-fat less-sodium cream of celery soup and 12 ounces cooked elbow macaroni. Spoon into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with crushed potato chips and bake 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. TIP: Add any leftover cooked vegetables to the tuna mixture before baking.

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