Deviating from Dessert: Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Lentil Stew

Hi. My name is Misty, and I’m a dessertaholic. Since Lent started last Wednesday, I have been dessert-free. This includes all varieties of cake, cookies, pie, pastries, chocolate, candy, ice cream–and even the leftover salted caramel that is sitting in my fridge. It has been 7 days, 11 hours and…about 3 minutes since my last dessert, and I have about…oh…40 days to go. But who’s counting?

I decided to give up dessert for Lent because it was becoming a serious problem. It got to the point where I had to eat it in large quantities every single day. I do believe it is possible to have dessert everyday in a healthy way, but when it comes to dessert, all my portion control discipline goes out the window. Almost every night I would fill a coffee mug with my soy ice cream, top it with some sugary cereal, maybe a dozen or two of dark chocolate chips, then bring it over to the couch to watch TV.

Now, the average person is probably happier on the couch watching TV, and after finishing a bowl of ice cream will continue to lay motionless on the couch. I, on the other hand, have trouble sitting for long periods of time. I am an active person and I like to stay in motion. Novin always gets upset because he can never watch a single show without having to push “pause” at least twice, while I get up to do this, or that. So once I finish my first portion of ice cream, I have no problem building up motivation to get up off the couch…to get more ice cream. And of course I have to top it again with a little more crunchy cereal and a little more chocolate chips—maybe with some salted caramel sauce this time. But wait! I forgot I have some leftover peanut butter chocolate soy ice cream to finish off so I better top it all off with some of that. Yeeeeeeees. Then I end up tossing and turning all night from the sugar overload and wake up sweating. If you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll notice this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned indulgent habits.

So you see, giving up dessert for Lent was imperative. And surprisingly, I’m doing just fine so far. Maybe it’s just because I started drinking more. And eating more cheese. It’s too soon to tell….

The only drawback is I am feeling less pressured to work out. After the first 3 days I got on the scale and found I was 5 pounds lighter, so I immediately started slacking. OK, by “slacking” I guess I mean I would run 6 miles instead of 10…but still. It’s slacking to me nevertheless. Last night I decided that no—NO I would not go to the gym. NO I would not go to yoga. Instead, I would stay home in my PJ’s, drink wine, listen to music and cook! And eat! I’m running 18.6 miles on Saturday anyway. I invited my friend Traci over–because cooking isn’t fun if people can’t enjoy the fruits of your labor—and made Cajun shrimp served over polenta, and a sausage lentil stew.

And for “dessert”—I ate an extra slice or two of Ciabatta olive bread to wipe up the leftovers at the bottom of the empty stew pot.

Cajun Shrimp and Polenta

This recipe is adapted from:







1 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups chopped tomato (I used grape tomatoes, cut in half)

1 to 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning (Or you can make your own. I used prepared seasoning then added a few dashes of paprika and cayenne pepper)

1 ¼ cup beer (a light beer works best)

1 pound shrimp

1 to 2 stalks celery, chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 to 2 T butter (I used Smart Balance)

1 to 2 T olive oil

½ tsp red pepper flakes (you don’t have to use if you don’t like a lot of spice)

1 tube prepared polenta (It’s easy!)

1 T cilantro, chopped (optional)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chop bell pepper, onion, garlic, celery and tomato. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a minute or two. Add remaining vegetables and saute another minute or two.

Add half of the Cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, and saute for a few more minutes. Push vegetables to the outside of the pan creating a hole in the middle, and add butter to pan. Add beer while gently stiring, and bring to a boil.

I used an Oregon-made lager, Session, made by Full Sail Brewery.

Add shrimp, the remaining Cajun seasoning and lime juice. Let simmer, turning down heat if necessary, and cook about 5 minutes or until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Mix in cilantro at the end of cooking, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the shrimp are cooking, prepare polenta. Cut tube of polenta into 1-inch slices. In a pan over medium heat, drizzled with olive oil or nonstick spray, fry polenta slices for about two minutes, or until they begin to turn slightly golden. Flip over, and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Let cook another two to three minutes.

 Top polenta slices with the Cajun shrimp and sauce.


Sausage Lentil Stew

This was originally supposed to be a split pea soup, until I realized I ran out of split peas. Red lentils work just as great.

2 to 2 ½ cups red lentils or split peas

About 6 cups chicken broth

About 2 cups water

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups carrots, medium diced

1 ½ sausages, chopped into small pieces (I used beer sausage, but kielbasa would work well too)

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium potato unpeeled, medium diced

1/8 cup olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp fresh thyme

½ tsp paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1 to 2 T of red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice

Sour cream for garnish (optional)

 Chop onion, carrots, garlic, potato and sausage.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and saute until soft. Add carrots, potato and garlic and saute another few minutes.

Add split peas, chicken broth, water and sausage. Bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils are soft.

Imported red lentils. I get these at a Middle Eastern store. They get creamier than regular red lentils.

Add oregano, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper and ½ of the red wine vinegar or lemon juice, and continue to simmer until stew is creamy, stiring occasionally. If the soup is too thick add more water or broth. I let this cook about 2 hours to really give it time for the flavors to come out, but you don’t have to cook it that long. Before serving, add salt, pepper and mix in remaining red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

Top with a dollop of sour cream, serve with a slice or two of crusty bread, and enjoy!


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