Lean Dinners for Fat Tuesday

You’re looking at a marathon, folks.

TODAY WAS MARDI GRAS, bien sûr, and in Ann Arbor you couldn’t take three steps without running into some place selling pączkis. Traditionally, these were made to use up lard and sugar you weren’t allowed to eat during Lent. With 40 days of relative privation ahead, one could be forgiven for packing away a few at around 450 calories each. For me, however, it would only create the need to tack on five miles to my next run.

As careful as I tried to be, I was nearly sucked in when I stopped at the Coffee House Creamery near closing for a little Mint Moose Tracks(*). They had pączkis, naturally, and Jamie (I know all their names) was trying her best to get rid of the few they had left. Fortunately, they were out of Bavarian Cream, the only kind I like, so I escaped.

Anyway, in the spirit of balance, I’d like to share on this Fat Tuesday a couple of dishes from Cooking Light magazine that I made recently. They have the distinct advantages of being quick to make, low in calories, and high in nutrition. Oh, and they taste great, too. Click on their titles to get the recipes.

Herbed Shrimp and White Bean Salad

Herbed Shrimp and White Bean SaladThe greens here are great choices – the arugula looks good with the shrimp, and the watercress adds a great mild peppery bite. I used champagne vinegar in place of the sherry vinegar, and chopped Roma tomatoes instead of grape tomatoes. I was surprised that the shrimp was seasoned only with some diluted honey and a bit of salt, but they grilled up with great color and flavor. I think the key was to use good quality fresh shrimp, and not the frozen stuff, which gets rubbery very fast.

Grill pan
Available at your local Gateway to the Abyss Costco.

I used this enameled cast-iron grill pan for the shrimp. Just a couple of minutes per side did the trick. I left the tails on to protect the tail meat from overcooking and for a prettier presentation.

On the same website where this recipe can be found is a more involved one which you’re welcome to try if you’re more ambitious and/or have more time than I do at present. For us, this simpler version was just great. And just 267 calories per serving.

Crisp Lamb Lettuce Wraps

Crisp Lamb Lettuce WrapsThis one was a real surprise to me. I like Mediterranean food, but I was skeptical how well cinnamon was going to work with ground meat. The flavors came at me from all directions, but the hummus, yogurt and mint blended smoothly with the lamb and veggies to create a very satisfying mouthful. This one’s a keeper, too.

While I’m a big fan of wraps, I much prefer flatbread or some other grain-based wrapper to leaves. But the photo in the magazine looked so good I went ahead with the lettuce instead. I didn’t miss the bread. The Boston lettuce is sturdy enough to hold it all most of the way.

Two wraps (one serving) were enough to fill me up. For this much flavor and how filling it is, it’s amazing that they total only 158 calories. I probably used more than 1/4 cup of filling per wrap, but not that much more. This tasted just as good the next day served cold – maybe even better, since the flavors in the lamb mixture had time to mingle.

So there you have it – two healthy, low-calorie dishes to offset any fat-filled sugary goodies you may have consumed today. That said, I happened to stop at the ice cream place on my way back from shopping for some exotic ingredients. Details to follow when I try the recipe, but I will say it’s supposedly healthy but ain’t low in calories.


(*) Food of the gods.

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