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Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with traditional lamb dish

Lamb is not widely consumed in the U.S. although it has a unique flavor. Special to The Forum

St. Patrick's Day brings out green beer, shamrocks, corned beef and cabbage in the United States. This year, why not serve a traditional Irish meal featuring lamb?

Corned beef is an Irish-American creation. Immigrants found beef more available and less expensive than in their homeland. The British invented the term corned beef in the 17th century to describe the size of the salt crystals used to cure the meat. They were the size of corn kernels.

Corned beef is a processed meat that is very high in sodium; three ounces have more than 1,000 milligrams. The American Heart Association encourages us to limit our sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, with only 1,500 milligrams as ideal.

Lamb is a red meat that is not widely consumed in the U.S. Americans eat less than one pound of it a year. Three ounces of lamb has only 50 milligrams of sodium.

About 80,000 small farmers in the U.S. raise lamb and sheep. Sheep are usually grass-fed, which results in a higher level of omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to be beneficial for our hearts and brains. These healthy fats reduce inflammation, and lamb is also a great source of lean protein, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and selenium.

Lamb has a unique flavor. If you'd like, use a mix of lamb and lean beef round steak or lean ground beef in these recipes. Try an Irish Stew or Cabbage Hotdish for a heart-healthy holiday meal. If lamb does not make it to your table for St. Patrick's Day, consider it instead of ham for Easter in two weeks.

Irish Stew

Ingredients:

One 2¼ pound leg of lamb*

½ pound eye of round beef, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ tablespoon olive oil

1½ cups onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced (about ½ teaspoon)

½ cup stout beer

2 bay leaves

2 cups unsalted beef broth (less than 200 milligrams sodium per cup)

1 teaspoon pepper

2 cups carrots, cut into ¼-inch slices

2 cups red potatoes, cut into ¾-inch cubes

2 teaspoons dried tarragon

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons water

17¼ ounce package phyllo dough, thawed (optional)

Directions:

Remove meat from lamb bone, cut into 1-inch cubes. Set bone aside. Brown all sides of beef and lamb cubes in oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, stirring beef and lamb occasionally. Add lamb bone, onion and next five ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add carrots, potatoes and tarragon. Cover and simmer 30-90 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves and lamb bone. Combine 2 tablespoons flour and water until mixture is smooth. Slowly add flour mixture to stew, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

Cut phyllo dough into shapes with a 5-inch shamrock cookie cutter. Place pastry shamrocks on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Spoon stew into individual bowls; top each with shamrock puff pastry.

*You can substitute 1½ pounds trimmed boneless beef eye of round roast, cut into 1-inch cubes for lamb.

Nutrition facts (calculated using lamb): servings, 8; serving size, 1 cup; calories, 245; total fat, 10 grams; saturated fat, 5 grams; cholesterol, 60 milligrams; sodium, 100 milligrams; potassium, 570 milligrams; carbohydrates, 20 grams; fiber, 2 grams; protein, 18 grams

Cabbage Hotdish

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef, ground turkey breast or ground lamb

1½ cups onion, thinly sliced

4 medium carrots, grated (about 2 cups)

1½ teaspoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)

3 cups green cabbage, shredded

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon hot pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Directions:

Add olive oil to large skillet over medium heat. Add ground meat and brown. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add cabbage, ginger, salt, pepper and hot pepper. Cook until cabbage is soft, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition facts (calculated using lamb): servings, 6; serving size, 2 cups; calories, 215; total fat, 12 grams; saturated fat, 4 grams; cholesterol, 60 milligrams; sodium, 185 milligrams; potassium, 475 milligrams; carbohydrates, 11 grams; fiber, 3 grams; protein, 17 grams.

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