Break the Mold--Try Unique Holiday Recipes

Tired of cooking the same ol', same ol' holiday recipes? Try something new. Try preparing a meal with grassfed meat. Special cooking tips apply. Don't worry, though. You won't mess up if you learn a few basics of grassfed cooking.

Whether it's Easter, Christmas or Thanksgiving, (or maybe a romantic evening!), make it special with these holiday recipes.

There are four basic principles for cooking grass-fed meats.

One, Put away your timer, get a good meat thermometer, and be prepared to use it. Grass-fed meats are significantly lower in fat than meats you're likely to find on grocery store shelves. Since fat works as an insulator, it changes the way your meat cooks. Lean roasts will cook in the oven faster than roasts that are higher in fat.

Two, Turn down the heat. If the heat is too high when grass-fed meat is cooked, the moisture and the fat will exit quickly, which will toughen the protein. Until you're thoroughly familiar with cooking grass-fed meats, it's best to set the flame a little lower when you're grilling or frying, and to set the oven temperature lower, than is customary.

Three, Learn when to use dry-heat cooking methods and when to use moist-heat methods. This is a tip that works for all meats--both conventional and grass-fed. When cooking meat, there are two methods. The first is the dry-heat method. This is the process whereby fats and water are pulled from the meat, thus firming it up until it reaches the desired doneness. Dry-heat cooking methods include pan-frying, broiling, roasting, barbecuing, grilling, stir-frying, and sautéing. Dry-heat cooking methods are appropriate for tender cuts of meat--loin cuts, for example--those that come from the animal muscles that do the least work. When you press down on an uncooked lamb loin chop, it's soft and squishy. The job of the cooking process is to remove the water and fat until that lamb chop toughens just enough to make it firm but juicy. Doing so requires a dry-heat method.

Moist-heat methods are used for tougher cuts of meat and include braising, stewing, crock-pot cooking, and boiling. Tougher cuts typically come from the animal parts that do a lot of work, such as the shoulders. When muscles do a lot of work, they develop a connective tissue protein called collagen, which is what makes the meat tough. When a cut of meat contains collagen, your job as the chef is to break down the collagen, thus making the meat tender. When you press down on a corned beef brisket, it's tough. Boiling that meat breaks down the collagen, thereby tenderizing the meat.

Four, Ease up on the seasonings and sauces. The most common mistake made by chefs and home cooks is not trusting that prime cuts of grass-fed meat have sufficient flavor to stand on their own. As a nation, we've become accustomed to the flavor and texture of conventionally raised, factory-farmed meats. We assume we need to give the meat flavor through the use of seasonings and sauces. This may be true of the meats sold in grocery stores or served at most restaurants. But animals raised on pasture produce meats that have a distinctive flavor. Grass-fed meats should be seasoned delicately so as not to mask or compromise their true flavor. (Reprinted with permission from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: Healthy Cooking and Good Living with Pasture-raised food, by Shannon Hayes [Eating Fresh Publications 2004]. For more information see HTTP://www.eating

Concerned that holiday recipes may cause unwanted weight gain? Grassfed recipes keep French women slender. Why?

Follow the tips above and you will have great success with any of these holiday recipes.

Grassfed Leg of Lamb with Mint Sauce

6 pounds grassfed leg of lamb
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 scant cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoon strained bottled mint sauce

Directions for this holiday recipe:

Wipe lamb with damp paper towel. Dry with paper towel. Combine butter and oil and brush mixture over the meat. Preheat oven to 450. Place lamb in a roasting pan which has sides for holding sauce. Roast lamb for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning often, until meat is brown on all sides.

Remove pan from oven and reduce heat to 325. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part. Sprinkle the salt in the side of the pan. Add water and stir. Sprinkle sugar and pepper over the meat. Pour vinegar over the meat. Baste. Return to oven and roast about 1 hour, or until thermometer reaches 120-145, basting often during the cooking.

When lamb is done, remove from pan and place on platter. Cover lightly with foil to keep warm. Skim any fat from the liquid. There will be very little with this grassfed leg of lamb recipe. Add the Worcestershire and mint sauce. Reheat and serve with lamb. Sauce will be very thin and a rich dark brown.

Serving 8 guests? This holiday recipe will be just right.

Turkey with Honey and Ginger Glaze

12 lb pastured turkey
1/2 cup cooking wine
1" piece ginger root, grated
1/2 cup honey

Directions for this holiday recipe:

Dissolve honey and wine together. Add ginger root; sprinkle with salt and pepper; pour honey-wine mixture over bird. Cover pastured turkey loosely with foil to prevent burning the skin. Cook at 350° for 25 minutes to the pound. Baste every 30 minutes. When done, you will have a delightful, dark brown glaze. Serve with dressing.

Pecan Stuffed Ham

This holiday recipe featuring grassfed ham is a refreshing twist on ordinary ham.

6 to 7 lbs grassfed, boned, rolled ham (casing removed)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups packaged cornbread stuffing mix
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Directions for this holiday recipe:

Have butcher remove a cylinder of meat lengthwise from center of ham, leaving a 2-inch shell. (Meat removed may be ground and used for ham salad.) Saute onion in butter 2 or 3 minutes. Combine with cornbread mix, pecans, parsley, egg, and mustard to make dressing. Fill ham cavity lightly with dressing. Place ham on rack in shallow roasting pan and bake 1 hour in 325° oven. Mix orange juice and honey and baste ham. Continue baking for 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Let ham rest 30 minutes before slicing.

This holiday recipe serves 8-10.

Shish Kabob Holiday Recipe

This is the spectacular holiday recipe: its a meal-on-a-skewer. As the meat takes longer to cook, grill vegetables on separate skewers during last 10 minutes of meat's cooking time.

When putting chunks of meat on skewer do not overcrowd; heat should reach all sides of meat and turn to brown evenly.

Kabobs may be marinated with French dressing or a zesty sauce several hours before grilling and brushed during grilling.

Suggested combinations: 1-2 inch thick grassfed lamb cubes, mushrooms, cooked onions, green pepper chunks; lamb cubes, sliced bacon, mushrooms, tomato wedges, cooked small potatoes, pineapple chunks, cherry tomatoes.

Lamb Apricot Shish Kebobs

3 pounds grassfed lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp grassfed butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cups apricot pulp (11 ounces dried apricots, cooked)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp curry powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp vinegar
1 cup water (include cooking water from apricots)

Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes, adding water if mixture is too thick. Cool and pour over lamb cubes in bowl. Place in refrigerator several hours or overnight. Grill kabobs about 2 minutes. Heat the marinade and serve it with kabobs.

This is a super holiday recipe for Easter or any other special occasion. It makes 8-10 servings.

Classic Rack of Lamb Recipe (With a Nutty Crust Added)

To understand this grassfed rack of lamb recipe it might be helpful to know that the rack is the rib section of the lamb. It is a prime cut between the shoulders and the loin. Because the muscles here don't have to work as hard as the muscles in the shoulders and legs the meat in this rack of lamb recipe is very tender. It's meaty and easy to prepare and eat.

If the butcher has cracked the rack between the joints before you get it home, it's also very easy to separate into chops. And even if the rack is not cut at the joints between the rib bones, you can do it yourself after cooking to serve each person a chop. Or, as is commonly done, serve the entire rack on a platter. Either way, a rack of lamb recipe is a treat.

This is a traditional style of rack of lamb. However, this holiday recipe has a unique twist. The nuts add a crunchy crust and will most likely put a smile on every face. When you serve this rack of lamb recipe, get ready for a stream superlative of compliments.

1 grassfed rack of lamb (usually 8 chops per rack)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/4 cup fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup pistachio nuts (your favorite nuts may be substituted), toasted and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Season lamb rack with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan, pour in a little olive oil and sear the lamb rack on both sides.

Transfer the meat to a shallow pan and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes; remove from oven. Coat lamb rack with mustard.

In a medium-size bowl, combine thyme, oregano, rosemary, and parsley; pat mixture over the lamb. Pat pistachio nuts over the herb mixture. (This gives the crust effect). Return to oven and bake for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven. You may then slice between chops or serve the whole rack of lamb recipe as a roast on a platter.

Makes 8 small servings if cut into chops. (Lamb chops are small, about 1/2 the size of pork chops.)

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