Once the familiar crisp chill of autumn settles in, my mom eases back into her routine of making big traditional comfort meals for our Sunday suppers, instead of casual dinners cooked on the grill. A few years back she started making a dish called Lazy Pierogies that she learned from an old friend of the family. I was recently craving this dish, and as my mom was reading me the recipe over the phone, I saw my next project materialize.
It needed a little bit of a healthy makeover, 5 Star-style, and the timing could not have been more perfect. This month’s 5 Star Makeover theme is apples and I saw the perfect opportunity to ease them into this dish. Thanks to Natasha and Laz for hosting the event!
For the same number of servings, the original recipe for Lazy Pierogies has more noodles than my version, and if you can believe it, a lot more butter too (up to 1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons!). I’m all about the butter, but that’s excessive to the point of being ridiculous. And this dish traditionally has 1/2 to 3/4 cup of brown sugar (wow…there is no need for dessert when dinner has that much sugar!). Plus my mom usually serves Lazy Pierogies along with a generous portion of chicken kielbasa, which of course ups the amount of both fat and salt in the dish.
Health-wise, this recipe needed a little tweaking in more ways than one.
I wanted to keep the flavor profile of the dish while lightening it up a bit. (I’m trying to save up those extra calories for holiday baking that’s right around the corner!) So I did the following:
- I used less noodles, and then to bulk the dish up with minimal calories, I added fresh cabbage.
- Also because I used fresh cabbage, I used less sauerkraut (the original recipe calls for 2 lbs of sauerkraut and I reduced it to 1 lb, which is still a generous amount). I have to say, sauerkraut is a very healthy ingredient! The only reason I wanted to decrease it a bit was to lower the overall sodium content of the dish. (According to NutritionData, 100 g of sauerkraut has 661 mg of sodium, or 28% of the recommended daily value. So in the original recipe, the amount of sodium from 2 lbs (about 910 g) of kraut is: 910g kraut X 661mg sodium/100g kraut = 6,015 mg sodium. Yes, rinsing the kraut will remove some salt, but that is still a lot.) To reduce the salt, I not only rinsed the kraut before adding it to the dish, but I also cut the amount of kraut in half; since I added lemon juice, vinegar, and fresh cabbage, none of the flavor was sacrificed.
- I used much less butter; it was still enough to add to the flavor of the dish, but not so much that it’s just silly how much excess butter is in there.
- I took out the brown sugar (the amount that the original recipe calls for is outrageous). To provide a much more balanced subtle amount of sweetness, I used a lot less sweetener (I chose maple syrup instead of brown sugar) along with an apple.
- To make this a vegetarian meal, I took out the chicken kielbasa that my mom usually serves with Lazy Pierogis (this dish is filling enough without any meat!). If you want to include meat while keeping the added fat and salt to a minimum, you could use boneless, skinless chicken breast. Thinly slice it and cook it up right before you cook the mushrooms, removing it from the pot before cooking the shrooms.
It might be hard to believe, but this dish was every bit as delicious as the original version. And my mom actually asked me for the recipe!
A Quick Note on Pierogi: Of course, pierogi are actually dumplings filled with things like sauerkraut, potato, or cheese; what makes this casserole a quick version (or “lazy”, as the name says) is that it has all the flavors going on without having to make and fill each dumpling individually. According to Wikipedia, “Pierogi are small enough to be served several or many at a time, so the plural form of the word is usually used when referring to this dish. In Polish pierogi is actually the plural, pieróg being singular.”