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Celebrate Fat Tuesday with a Healthier Treat

It’s a Michigan tradition to celebrate Fat Tuesday as Paczki Day. A healthier alternative is blini sliders, which are easier to make.

Fat Tuesday is celebrated around the world. The Catholic holiday goes by different names based on location and culture such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Pancake Tuesday in Great Britain, and Paczki Day in many midwestern cities. Fat Tuesday originated as a holiday to indulge the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Catholic season of Lent.

Since Paczki Day is a Michigan favorite, let’s dig into this Polish dessert:

A paczki is a traditional Polish pastry made of deep-fried dough and filled with preserves, then topped with powdered sugar. It’s often compared to a jelly doughnut, but a paczki often has more filling and a heftier, almost brioche-like, dough.

The paczki gets a bad rap for being unhealthy, but are paczkis as unhealthy as we think they are? Let’s take a look below that includes comparisons of desserts from popular restaurants:

Food*Serving sizeCalories (kcal)Saturated Fat (g)Sugar (g)
Paczki filled with traditional preserves, dusted in confectioner’s sugar1 paczki300-4507-1520-35
Iced raspberry-filled doughnut1 doughnut300-4007-1020-25
Plain cheesecake1 slice400-100013-3518-30
Ice cream2/3 cup320-38010-1525-35
Brownie4-inch square450-5007-1040-55
Chocolate chip cookie4-inch cookie350-40010-1525-35

*Dessert calories are based on estimates and averages, and greatly vary among serving sizes, brand names and origin recipe.

It turns out, most Paczkis measure up to many common desserts in nutritional value. Because it’s loaded with sugar and saturated fat, it’s best to enjoy them once in a while in moderation, like on Fat Tuesday.

While some prefer to enjoy splitting a paczki with a friend to cut down on the heavy dessert, others prefer to give Fat Tuesday treats a healthier twist.

In England and some other nations, Fat Tuesday is sometimes referred to as Pancake Day. These blini sliders ( small pancakes) offer the flavor of the paczki, but without the effort of baking and sans the calories of the deep-fried treat. They’re bite-sized, so it’s easy to enjoy a couple for a smaller dessert. Better yet, you can enjoy other types of desserts using blinis, such as the Swedish Semla and the New Orleans’ famous King Cake.

Blini Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Spray oil

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, butter and vanilla until batter is smooth. Add dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk until smooth.
  2. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, spray oil.  Spoon batter into round 2- to 3-inch pancakes. Flip once golden. Then serve with desired topping/fillings.

Paczki Blini Filling Ingredients

  • ¼ cup raspberry or prune preserves
  • 1 cup whipped cream (not out of a can)
  • 3 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. Add 1 teaspoon preserves to blini. Top with 1-2 tablespoon whipping cream. Top with another blini and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

A Semla is a Swedish Fat Tuesday treat made of a sweet cardamom bun.  The lid is cut off and the inside of the bun is scooped out, then the bun is filled with almond paste and milk. The bun is then topped with whipped cream, its lid and confectioner’s sugar. Here’s how to make a traditional semla.

Semla Blini Filling Ingredients

  • ¼ cup almond paste
  • 3 T Tbsp. Milk
  • Add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom to blini batter (optional)
  • 1 cup whipped cream (not out of can)

Instructions

       1. Make blini sliders from the recipe above, add cardamom to mixture,

  • In a bowl, mix almond paste with milk with a fork; use pressing motions until well-incorporated. The final product should be slightly runny. Add more milk if needed.
  •  Add 1 teaspoon almond paste mixture to blini.  Add 1-2 tablespoons whipping cream.
  •  Top with another blini and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

If your family enjoys the traditional New Orleans’ Fat Tuesday King Cake, try this twist on the dessert with blinis.

King Cake Blini

Filling Ingredients

  • 4  ounces cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Make blini sliders from the recipe above.
  2. Mix all ingredients
  3. If desired, pour half of the batter into another bowl and dye of the batter purple and the other half green, traditional King Cake colors.
  4. Top a blini with 2 teaspoons of the mixtures (or 1 teaspoon each of the purple and green mixtures).
  5. Add a blini on top and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. Discover more at AHealthierMichigan.org.

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