Create Tasty, Low-Calorie Freezer Meals from Holiday Lamb Leftovers

The paschal lamb is so interwoven with the traditions of Easter and Passover that it would be a shame to serve anything else over the holidays. Luckily for lamb-lovers who are also waistline-watchers, lamb is one of the leanest of meats. The fat-trimmed meat from a roast leg of lamb is only 38 calories an ounce. That's because lamb is a young meat with no fatty marbling needed for tenderness. If you've never served a lamb roast before, here are some clip-and-save directions:

Leg of lamb can be either whole or a half, bone-in or boned, rolled and tied. For best cooking results, use a meat thermometer, inserted in the thickest part, not touching bone. The following slow-roast method is the approved technique for the least shrinkage.

Slow-roast method: Arrange the roast on a rack in an uncovered roasting pan. Put in a cold oven. Set temperature to 325 degrees. Roast the meat uncovered until desired interior temperature is reached:

- 150 degrees for rare

- 160 degrees for medium (pink in the middle)

- 170 degrees for medium-well (still a bit pink)

- 175 to 180 for well-done

Approximate time: A leg of lamb will take about 15 to 20 minutes per pound for rare, up to 30 to 35 minutes per pound for well done. A boneless rolled roast takes longer, about 20 to 25 minutes per pound for rare; up to 35 or 40 minutes per pound for well-done, so arrange your cooking schedule to suit.

French high heat method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees before putting in the lamb in a roasting pan. Roast the lamb uncovered 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is seared. Lower heat to 325 or 350 degrees. Insert meat thermometer and roast uncovered until inner temperature indicates desired doneness (see above). Cooking time for this method is 20 to 25% less. Lamb cooked this way will be more crusty on the outside, but will shrink more.

Calories: Good news! A 3 1/2-ounce serving of roast leg of lamb, lean only, is only 130 calories.

Lamb leftovers: Lamb is a truly versatile meat, beloved in many cuisines so there's much more to do with leftovers than simply reheating it or serving lamb in sandwiches. Here's a strategy for maximizing use:

- After dinner, separate the meat from the bone. Use the bone to make soup.

- Reserve some lamb for meal-size salads. Dice the lamb and marinate it overnight with salad ingredients (recipe given below).

- Divide the meat into meal-size chunks depending upon family size (allow 3 1/2 to 4 ounces per person). Wrap, label and freeze. Thaw the meat overnight in the refrigerator and slice or dice it into imaginative low-calorie recipes.

- Package meat into meal-size low-calorie heat-and-eat dinners. Use foil pie pans or divided frozen-dinner trays for reheating in the oven, or actual dinner plates or heavy-duty plastic plates for reheating microwave-style. For each dinner, allow 3 1/2 to 4 ounces of thinly sliced lamb. On each plate put two servings of frozen vegetables taken directly from loose-pack bags. (For best results, don't use cooked leftover vegetables in frozen dinners.) Wrap each dinner in foil for the oven, or in plastic wrap for the microwave. Label and freeze. Reheat 30 to 40 minutes in the oven, 20 minutes on the "defrost" setting in the microwave, then on regular setting if needed, 2 to 4 minutes just until heated through. Don't overcook.

MARINATED LAMB

MEAL-SIZE SALAD

1 pound diced roast lamb, lean only

1 cup sliced celery

1 cup sliced cooked potatoes

1/2 cup thinly sliced onion

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3 tablespoons each: olive oil, olive liquid, lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Garlic salt and coarse pepper to taste

Large head of lettuce

2 ripe tomatoes, cubed

Combine ingredients except tomatoes and lettuce and marinate in refrigerator several hours, or overnight. Toss with torn lettuce and tomato cubes just before serving. Makes 6 meal-size salads, under 250 calories each.

Pita pocket salads: Omit potatoes. Reduce salad oil to 1 tablespoon. Spoon mixture into 6 1-ounce pita pockets. Under 275 calories per serving.

Lacking a reverse Easter bunny to come take away all of Easter Sunday's extra bounty, we focus on ways to resurrect holiday leftovers into nonfattening reruns. Sunday dinner, colored eggs, even chocolate rabbit ears, can find a way into calorie-trimmed dishes. Here are some ideas:

LAMB AND LINGUINE

3 cups tender-cooked linguine (or spaghetti)

1 cup sliced onions

2 cups thinly sliced rare roast lamb

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Dash each: ground cinnamon and nutmeg

Salt (or garlic salt), pepper, to taste

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

While linguine is cooking in boiling salted water (follow package directions), spray a large non-stick skillet or electric frying pan with cooking spray. Arrange onions in shallow layer. Cover and cook over moderate heat, just until onions are soft. Stir in lamb, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until lamb is heated through.

Stir in yogurt, just until warmed (don't allow to reach boiling point). Stir in hot drained linguine and mix lightly. Divide among 4 serving plates and sprinkle with fresh parsley. (Garnish with lemon, if desired.) Makes 4 main-course servings, 290 calories each.

Ham and linguine: Substitute cubed cooked baked ham (lean only) for the lamb. Omit cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Each serving, 315 calories.

LAMB PITA POCKETS

4 small (1 ounce each) pita breads

2 cups thinly sliced roast lamb

1 tomato, thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

Optional: 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Egg-Lemon-Yogurt Sauce (recipe given)

Toast pita breads lightly, if frozen. Slit partially along the edges, then open to form pockets. Spoon in meat and vegetables; top each pocket with 2 tablespoons Egg-Lemon-Yogurt Sauce (or plain yogurt, if you prefer). Makes 4 servings, 260 calories each.

EGG LEMON YOGURT

SAUCE

1 hard-cooked egg, peeled

1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic, mashed

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

Juice and peel of 1 lemon

Optional: salt, pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in blender or food processor. Process until mixture is smooth and thick. Store in refrigerator. Makes 1 cup, 15 calories per tablespoon.

DEVILED EGGS

8 hard-cooked eggs

1 tablespoon plain low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon low-calorie mayonnaise

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

Salt, pepper, paprika, to taste

Cut eggs in half and remove yolks. Mash yolks together with remaining ingredients, except paprika. Spoon yolk mixture back into eggs and refrigerate until serving time. Sprinkle with paprika. Makes 16 egg halves, 45 calories each.

Deviled egg salad: Using same ingredients, chop the eggs coarsely and mix with remaining ingredients. Makes filling for 8 sandwiches, 90 calories per serving (filling only).

CHOCOLATE SWIRL

MOUSSE

1 envelope plain gelatin

Skim milk

1 cup boiling water, divided

1 cup ice cubes

5 single-serving envelopes

Vanilla sugar-free milkshake mix

1 ounce milk chocolate, broken

Put gelatin in blender or food-processor container. Add 2 tablespoons cold skim milk. Wait 1 minute until gelatin is soft, then add 3/4 cup boiling water. Process until gelatin granules are completely dissolved.

Fill a 1-cup measure with ice cubes, then add fresh skim milk to the top. Add to gelatin mixture; process until ice is completely melted. Add milkshake mix; process until thoroughly blended. Divide 3/4 of the mixture among 4 dessert cups; reserve remaining one-quarter cup.

Weigh the chocolate on a food or postage scale; chop fine. Put in blender with remaining 1/4 cup boiling water and remaining 1/4 cup of gelatin-milkshake mixture. Cover; process smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into the 4 vanilla desserts; swirl lightly. Chill until set. Makes 4 servings, 140 calories each.

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