Healthy Cajun Options for a Healthy New Year

Red Beans & Rice

If you enjoy the way that Cajun food spices up your life but not the weight that comes with it, there is no need to despair. With most people shifting to diets to shed off all of those holiday pounds, we want to show that Cajun cooking can continue to be a part of your regular diet as long as you know how to cook it the healthy way. So rather than set your New Year’s resolution to cut rich Cajun food out of your meals, learn how to cook healthy Cajun meals that can be enjoyed regularly.

Whether you like Southern-Style Oven-Fried Chicken, Sweet-Potato Muffins, or Jambalaya, there are healthier ways to enjoy these Cajun favorites that taste just as delicious.  With the right knowledge and by using the right ingredients, you can transform any Cajun specialty into a healthy dish.

There is no doubt that Cajun food is spicy. But what may come as a surprise to some is that many dishes are also high in trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, saturated fat, or even a combination of all three. However, these issues can be addressed by using healthier ingredients and making the right eating choices.

Not All Dishes are Made Equal

If you enjoy eating all things Cajun on a regular basis, now is a good time to consider the impact each dish has on your health. Naturally, not all dishes are made equal and some are healthier than others.  According to the American Heart Association, avoiding fried seafood and hush puppies is a must if you want to put yourself on the path to healthy eating. When it comes to blackened entrees, these are commonly dipped in butter or oil, then coated in various spices and fried. If preparing this dish yourself, it is best to reduce the amount of oil the recipe calls for. If you are eating out, various gravies and sauces can add a high amount of calories to any meal. Ask for these to be served on the side so that you are not forced to consume them entirely.

One of the keys to cooking healthy Cajun food is learning to substitute ingredients. While some substitutions may shock and horrify, if you give them a chance and try them out, you might just be surprised how you have overlooked these tasty alternatives for so long.

It’s Not What You Cook but How You Cook Them

When it comes to healthy eating, sometimes the ingredients are not the issue but rather how you cook them. If you enjoy eating fried crawfish or shrimp, try eating boiled shrimp or crawfish instead. That goes for just about any fried seafood. It’s best to avoid fried meals at all costs. But you can enjoy an equally satisfying meal by using the boiling or grilling method.

Substituting or dropping certain ingredients from recipes can also go a long way to making a meal healthy. Fried shrimp and oyster Po’Boy sandwiches can be substituted with a turkey or roast beef Po’Boy. Rather than eating dirty rice filled with chicken gizzards, livers, and butter, just substitute plain white rice. If you want to go really healthy, you can even try using brown rice. If you like indulging in rich dishes like gumbo, etouffee, and any sauces made with a roux, try opting for a creole or jambalaya dish instead. For those who eat red beans and rice with sausage, try eating the meal without the sausage.

Learn to How to Cook Healthy Meals

Although these alternatives may not appeal to some, it is important to acknowledge that there are an infinite number of ways to alter meals to make them healthier. The more that you educate yourself on healthy eating practices and healthy ingredients, you will be able to adjust recipes to make them healthier while customizing them to suit your tastes and preferences.  They may not always taste quite as good as the rich favorites but you will need to compromise on some dishes. By learning to cook in a healthy way, you can enjoy a low-calorie, low-fat diet without sacrificing satisfying Cajun meals. Sometimes slight modifications to recipes can also be helpful. While they may not generate drastic results on the health front, there are definitely minor changes that you can make that will still provide a healthier option without any dramatic changes.

One dish that resides deep in the hearts of Cajun people is Gumbo. It’s a comfort food that few are able to part with. While recipes vary, one of the main secrets to a hearty and delicious Gumbo is a good roux. This is often made using an entire cup of flour and an entire cup of oil. With one cup of oil producing approximately 1900 calories and over 200 grams of fat, most people would agree that is simply too much fat. However, there are many solutions available for producing a fat free roux such as browned flour. As for the rest, no Gumbo is ever complete without onions, bell peppers and celery. Most of the main ingredients of the dish can remain the same but there are healthier choices that you can make such as using chicken breast and serving it over brown rice. These are all minor changes but they can have a dramatic health effect even just by using a fat free roux. With a little bit of creativity and enhanced knowledge of healthy eating options, there is no reason that “Fat Tuesday” should ever become a reality in your home.

Cajun Cooking – Rich History, Rich Taste!

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Cajun cuisine is one of the tastiest, most healthy diets it is possible to enjoy. Many people are a little put off by the associated strong flavors but they needn’t be – cooking Cajun food is simple, easy, tasty and very nutritious. It’s easy to find plenty of delicious Cajun recipes  but before you start cooking, maybe take some time to think about the history of Cajun food – and why it consistently remains one of the most popular styles of cooking in America – and in other countries.

The history of Cajun cooking is as rich and varied as the cuisine itself – and those with even the faintest interest in Cajun food would do well to learn about this fascinating group of people and their associated customs.  The word Cajun itself derives from the French term ‘Arcadian’ and relates to the original French-Canadian refugees who arrived in America following the Seven Years War.  With their own dialect (Cajun French), their own style of cooking and an inimitable style of music, Cajun people have left a mark on the world that will (hopefully) remain forever.

Who Created the First Cajun Recipes? 

Like many styles of cooking, Cajun food arose in response to a pressing need to feed large families. Rice quickly became a staple ingredient in many Cajun recipes primarily due to it being so very filling.  Similarly, bell peppers and onions were at that time in plentiful supply – hence their inclusion in almost all Cajun recipes.  The geographical location of the Cajun people also explains the rich variety of seafood found in many Cajun recipes – those cultures that live by the sea commonly benefit from a diet rich in fish!

Cajun Food = Joie de Vivre 

The simple rural life enjoyed by the Cajun people is reflected in the Cajun recipes that remain so popular today. Commonly based on delicious one-pot dishes that are both easy to cook and extremely tasty, the rich variety of flavors found in Cajun food is one of the main reasons it is still so popular today. Cajun people have a well- founded reputation for being happy, up-beat and full of life. This, too, is reflected in their food – never afraid to experiment with different spices and ingredients in order to concoct the most truly appetizing meals possible.

The Humble Cajun Jambalaya 

One of the tastiest recipes which seems to perfectly reflect the spirit of the Cajun people is the Cajun Jambalaya. A simple mix usually made with chicken breast, onion, peppers, chorizo, rice, tomato and hot sauce, this one-pot dish is perfect for cosy nights in or for having company over.  This versatile recipe can easily be modified to include various types of meat and/or fish and pretty much sums up both the rich history of Cajun people and their happy attitude to life.

Healthy Mind Healthy Body

The health benefits of a diet rich in Cajun food are enormous – bringing vitality and a much needed boost to well-being.  A nutritious diet is invariably essential for all of us but perhaps most important for those who are suffering from eating disorders.  Whether you need a guide for Colorado, Texas or Ohio, the same principles will apply, and recovery rates are good among those who seek help from medical professionals. All of us can benefit from adopting a healthy and varied approach to eating, however, and this is where Cajun cooking comes in. Geography is no barrier to a healthy, regenerative lifestyle, and  anybody who is concerned about their health can easily adopt a nutritious and varied eating plan which incorporates Cajun food. Luckily, ingredients for Cajun cooking can be found in almost every store no matter the location and Cajun recipes are often low in fat and high in vitamins. Cajun cooking is an easy and versatile way of ensuring you get the necessary vitamins needed for your health.

How to Cool Down your Cajun Cooking 

Of course, not everybody likes overly spicy food and critics of Cajun cooking often complain that it’s just too hot! Well, like the versatile Cajun people, many Cajun recipes can be changed so as to lessen the spice – and suit more delicate palates. One simple method is to add more starch based ingredients – rice or potatoes for example. This balances the flavors so that any spices don’t become too overpowering. You could always halve the number of peppers required in the recipe to appease tender taste buds or try adding cool natural yogurt to any sauces.

Crock Pot Cooking

Good things come to those who wait…especially regarding slow cooker recipes. Some think that a slow cooker recipe is a time consuming endeavor that should only be done for special occasions. However, it is quite the contrary. Once you add everything into the pot, you can go about your day as usual. In reality, you’ll probably only spend 5-10 minutes in the kitchen! The benefit of slow cooking, generally, is that the meat becomes incredibly tender, and that the flavor can infuse over time.

Below are 5 general tips that you should know before cooking with a crock pot:

  1. Don’t fill the crockpot over 2/3 of the way full. The contents won’t fully cook properly.
  2. Because vegetables don’t cook as quickly as meat, they should be placed on the bottom of the pot.
  3. Contents on the bottom of the crockpot will cook faster and be moister.
  4. Before putting meat into the crockpot, try removing as much fat as possible. Fatty foods cook too fast.
  5. DO NOT lift the lid. Every time the lid is lifted, add another 30 minutes to the cook time.

Slow cooker tips for specific contents:

  • Never cook seafood for more than an hour in the crockpot, or it will have a rubbery texture.
  • Don’t cook tender vegetables such as tomatoes and mushrooms for more than an hour in the crockpot.
  • Spices tend to lose flavor if in the crockpot too long, so include spices last 1-2 hours of cooking.

Slow Cooked Jambalaya with Rice

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Slow Cooked Jambalaya with Rice
 
Author: 
Ingredients
  • PAM No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • ¾ pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups frozen cut okra
  • ¾ cup chopped white onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic, undrained
  • ¾ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 ounces frozen cooked small shrimp without tail (6 oz = about 20 small)
  • 4 ounces turkey smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 6 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • Hot pepper sauce, optional
Instructions
  1. Spray inside of 3 to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Layer, in order, the chicken, Cajun seasoning, oregano, okra, onion, celery, bell pepper, jalapeño and undrained tomatoes in slow cooker. Add broth.
  2. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours.
  3. About 30 minutes before serving, add frozen shrimp and sausage to slow cooker; stir gently. Increase to HIGH; cover and cook until shrimp and sausages are hot.
  4. Serve jambalaya over rice
Notes
For a thicker jambalaya, stir in ¼ cup instant mashed potato flakes just before adding the shrimp and sausage.

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Justin D on behalf of Hunt’s. View more easy dinner recipes at Hunt’s website.

Easy Grilled Cajun Shrimp

It’s labor Day and that leads to cookouts, especially on the grill and this Cajun girl will not be having hamburgers and hot dogs. We are cooking up the easiest grilled Cajun shrimp ever! They are cooked in a foil packet which leads to juicy, plump, and perfectly cooked shrimp.

Garlic-Shrimp-13E

Fell free to play around with whatever seasonings you like. I love garlic and tend to add it to everything so I went with a spicy garlic butter shrimp.

Garlic-Shrimp-12E

We even made a ton of roasted garlic, yum!

Garlic-Shrimp-21E

On to the DELICIOUS recipe!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Easy Grilled Cajun Shrimp
 
Author: 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Louisiana Shrimp, deveined, tails left on
  • 1 stick cold butter
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash, Original
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, add the butter, Mrs. Dash seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. Pulse until fully combined.
  2. Lay out a sheet of foil large enough to fit the shrimp and fold over to make a pocket.
  3. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on the foil.
  4. Place pinches of the butter mixture over the shrimp.
  5. Fold the foil and make a pocket, making sure it is completely sealed. The packet should surround the shrimp closely, but not be tight.
  6. Place on the grill and cook until the shrimp turn bright pink and curl. All ow to steam to soak up all the flavors.
  7. To Serve: Transfer the shrimp to a plate and pour the sauce directly on top. You can also serve some of the sauce in a small dish for dipping.
Notes
This recipe can be doubled, tripled, or even more to you liking!

You end up with these beautiful juicy shrimp!

Garlic-Shrimp-32E

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Seafood-Stuffing Cakes

Seafood Cakes

Over the weekend I made a HUGE batch of my Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms and had more stuffing left over than I knew what to do with so what else immediately comes to mind than Seafood Cakes. Those of you who know me, know that crab cakes are my weakness, but adding more than just crab meat makes for a nice change.

Seafood-Stuffing Cakes
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Cajun
Ingredients
  • Leftover Seafood Stuffing
  • 3 ounces lump crab meat
  • 2 ounces chopped crawfish tails
  • 2 ounces finely chopped shrimp
  • Parkay butter spray or 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1-tablespoon cream
  • ½-cup bread crumbs
  • 1-tablespoon parmesan cheese
  • 1-tablespoon lemon juice + a wedge to squeeze on top
  • Lemon wedges for garnish
  • Hot sauce
Instructions
  1. These are the instructions for the Stuffed Mushrooms, which you can use or leave our the mushrooms.
  2. Wipe mushrooms with a damp towel.
  3. Pop out the stems, chop, and set aside.
  4. Spray mushroom caps with the parkay butter spray.
  5. Spay a shallow baking dish with butter spary.
  6. Pour 3 tablespoons of the butter into a saucepan; add reserved chopped mushroom stems, minced onion, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender.
  7. Combine cooked ingredients with breadcrumbs, green onion, Greek yogurt, cream, lemon juice, crabmeat, shrimp, and seasonings.
  8. At this point, I added a few dashes of hot sauce and a few dashes of Tabasco pepper vinegar.
  9. Fill each mushroom cap, piling up.
  10. Sprinkle each mushroom with Parmesan cheese.
  11. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes, until hot and mushroom caps are tender.
  12. Serve with lemon wedges & enjoy!
Notes
This recipe can be doubled