Mardi Gras is right around the corner.
This Mardi Gras festivities began as a way for the Catholics to celebrate the day before Ash Wednesday, when the season of Lent begins. However, it didn't take long to develop into a cultural phenomenon that people all around the world, and of various religions, wanted to engage in.
Customarily, the celebration involves indulging on various fatty dishes, which has earned it the nickname of "Fat Tuesday." But that doesn't mean that you can't take matters into your own hands and create lighter versions of some of these traditional treats. Contrary to popular belief, participating in Mardi Gras, while sticking to your healthy eating habits, is possible.
Here are a few classic, yet healthy, Mardi Gras recipes to try this month:
1. Shrimp and Grits
This Southern dish courtesy of Southern Living magazine is light on calories, but packed with flavor.
For the grits:
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
For the shrimp sauce:
- 1 lb. unpeeled medium raw shrimp
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Vegetable cooking spray
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 2 garlic cloves - minced
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
- 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
To prepare your Parmesan grits, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. When it reaches a boiling point, slowly whisk in the grits. Lower heat and stir occasionally until thickened - this should take about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare your creamy shrimp sauce, begin by peeling the shrimp - if desired. Next, sprinkle prepared shrimp with salt and pepper. Using a large skillet coated in cooking spray, cook your shrimp for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add olive oil and quickly whisk in the flour to avoid clumps. Whisk in broth, green onions, garlic and hot sauce, and let cook until thickened. Stir in shrimp and spinach, heating until spinach is slightly wilted.
To serve, pour shrimp over grits. Enjoy!
2. Healthy Chicken Jambalaya
The leaner version of this classic Mardi Gras dish, found in Food & Wine magazine, is full of bold flavor and Cajun spice.
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs - diced into 2-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 3-ounce andouille sausage - sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
- 1 medium onion - chopped
- 1 small red pepper - chopped
- 2 garlic cloves - minced
- 1 tsp. adobo seasoning
- 1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1/2 cup canned black beans - drained and rinsed
First, heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet. Once it's heated, season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and drop it into the skillet. Cook chicken pieces until browned - this should take 3 minutes on each side - and then transfer to a plate. Place sausage pieces in the skillet and cook until browned - this should take about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer sausage to plate of chicken and set aside.
In the same skillet, saute the onion, pepper and garlic until browned - this should take 6 minutes. Sprinkle with adobo seasoning and chili powder, stir to coat, and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Gradually add the rice, stirring constantly to cook. Add the chicken stock, black beans, chicken and sausage, and then bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook until rice is ready and meat is tender - this should take about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy!
3. King Cake
What's Fat Tuesday without a delicious treat? Weight Watchers' version of King Cake will satisfy your sweet craving without feelings of guilt to follow!
- 1 cup fat free skim milk
- 4 Tbsp. reduced-calorie margarine
- 2 1/4 ounce packets of yeast
- 2/3 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup chopped pecan halves
- 1 1/2 tsp, ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. reduce-calorie margarine - melted
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. each purple, green and gold decorating sugar
- 1 small, plastic baby figure
To prepare your dough, heat 4 tablespoons of margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add milk and stir. Heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, then remove from heat and set aside.
In the meantime, mix yeast, 2/3 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl, then let sit for 5 minutes. Once the time is up, beat in the egg substitute, followed by beating in the cooled milk and margarine mixture. Stir in the remaining granulated sugar, salt and nutmeg.
Using a mixer with a dough attachment, or your hands, mix in flour, one cup at a time, until dough comes together. Remove from bowl and knead with your hands until smooth. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray, shape your dough into a ball and add it to the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
When the dough has doubled its size, punch it down to release the air. Remove from bowl and roll out into a 14-by-18-inch rectangle.
In a medium bowl, mix the brown sugar, raisins, nuts, cinnamon and melted margarine until crumbly to create your filling. Sprinkle evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving 1/4-inch edge clear.
From the wider end of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly until you reach the opposite end. Then, bring the two ends together to form a ring. Place the dough ring on a baking sheet prepared with non-stick cooking spray. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and then leave in a warm place to rise, doubling its size, for about 45 minutes.
In the meantime, heat your oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap the dough and cut slits all around the ring - about 1 inch apart - to create vents. Place in the oven to bake until golden brown - this should take about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, let cool for about 3 minutes and then insert the small plastic baby figure into the middle of the cake, forcing it to the bottom. Set aside to cool slightly.
To make your frosting, whisk the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of water until smooth. Pour over warm cake, and then sprinkle with purple, green and gold decorating sugar. Enjoy!