Food & Nutrition

Three-Speed Dinners: Crab Meat

Crab cakes, chowder, and jalapeno poppers make a tasty bridge from summer to fall.

It may not have chilled down yet where you are (we've already got color on the leaves up here in New England), but we're all starting to hanker for fare that's a bit heartier; less deck and more dining room. The best match we know for this transitional season is crab meat, light and flavorful, a great way to keep the summer spirit alive even when the food's getting a little more . . . well, comforting.

Here are recipes that put the hearty flavors of crab in the foreground without weighing them down. For all three, we suggest using pasteurized crab meat, most often found in cans or cartons in the refrigerator case near the fish section of large supermarkets. This packaging keeps the meat fresh and light. Check the expiration date and keep refrigerated. The cans are often labeled "claw meat," "lump," or even "jumbo lump." Think about claw meat as you would dark-meat chicken: stronger in flavor, not quite as dry. But in the end, you don't need anything fancy for any of these recipes where we mostly care about flavor, not necessarily texture.

All three recipes make use of an unusual binder or thickener: dry potato flakes. They have fewer SmartPoints® values than breadcrumbs, even Panko breadcrumbs. Better still, they add a lot of flavor and so make these dishes pretty satisfying. They stand in for the potatoes entirely in our slow cooker chowder; adding earthy flavor and creamy richness to the soup in one shot.

So welcome to the transition season that is September. Here are three dishes that give you a bit more dining room bliss but still wouldn't be out of place on the deck on the last of the warm evenings.

About the 20-Minute Cajun Crab Cakes
For a more substantial meal, serve these easy crab cakes over a baby arugula and chopped cucumber salad dressed with a light, lemony vinaigrette. There's no need for fancy lump crab meat in this recipe since you're mixing the crab into the other ingredients and then pressing it into cakes. Form the cakes with clean but still damp hands. Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe.

About the 40-Minute Crab-Stuffed Jalapeño Poppers
Here's a great weekend lunch or easy dinner, spicy and very flavorful. Make it more substantial meal by serving the chilies alongside a mound of fresh salsa (salsa fresca) and a little fat-free sour cream. And consider placing them over chopped iceberg lettuce, dressing with lime juice and a little crunchy salt. Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe.

About the All-Day (Slow Cooker) Crab and Corn Chowder
We kept this easy chowder a bit summery by putting yellow, crook-neck squash in the mix, a sweet addition for this transitional time of the year. If you want to splurge on lump crab meat for meatier chunks, here's the recipe for it! And for a richer stew, add 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream to each serving (add 2 SmartPoints per serving). Click here for the recipe.