One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take recipes with a reputation for being unhealthy and refashion a guilt-free version. Mardi Gras may be over, but when I was asked to participate in the Ziploc® Fresh 180 Challenge devoted to making popular New Orleans-inspired dishes a bit skinnier, I embraced it with open arms and a big appetite. With a few simple tips, you’ll see how easy it is to give some of your favorite Fat Tuesday recipes a much needed makeover.
Small Substitutions, Big Difference
There are simple changes you can make that won’t compromise the flavor, but will reduce some of the fat.
* When it comes to seafood dishes, choose baking or grilling instead of pan-frying.
* If you absolutely insist on pan-frying, consider coconut or olive oil instead of butter. Both of those oils are much healthier choices than butter.
* Although most gumbo recipes require a roux, traditionally made with flour and lots of butter (…and then more butter), you can just as easily make a roux by whisking a little chicken broth into flour, creating a thin paste, then cooking for a few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.
* Add fiber and protein wherever you can. If Cajun catfish is on the menu, coat it with crushed pecans, which are full of healthy nutrients and protein. Simply place pecan pieces into a Ziploc® brand freezer bag, seal it, and crush the pecans with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin. Now you have a delicious crispy coating for your fish that is actually super healthy. (See recipe below.)
For jambalaya, there are small substitutions that will transform this dish into a healthy one without losing any of that great taste.
* Instead of pork sausage, use smoked turkey sausage, which has great flavor but less than half the fat.
* Use white meat chicken instead of dark and brown rice instead of white. In fact, for any Mardi Gras dish that calls for rice, you should always go with brown rice. It is high in fiber and much healthier than the white variety.
It’s incredible how much nutrition you can add and how much fat you can remove from a recipe simply by making a few small changes.
Fat is not the only thing we need to trim from our meals. Portion sizes need some downsizing, too. Let me be perfectly honest. I am one of those people who will eat just to eat, and even after I’m completely stuffed, if I’m really enjoying a specific dish, I’ll keep eating more of it. I find that strategically plating my food and making a premeditated decision not to go back for seconds is the best way to control my tendencies to eat more than I need. Also, I find it helpful to pack leftovers in separate Ziploc® brand containers so I have lunch the next day or dinner the following evening. By pre-packing the leftovers into individual servings, I’m preventing the urge to overeat.
A Little Sweetness Goes a Long Way
If you’re like me, you won’t want to skip dessert, so why not make bananas foster? Simply reduce the butter and sugar by half (letting the banana be the real star of the show) and serve it with low-fat frozen vanilla yogurt instead of ice cream. Trust me; it’s just as tasty as the original version (I’ve done the research). Or if there are Fat Tuesday sweets that you just don’t want to pass up or alter (King cake, anyone?), make the decision to just have a bite or two—and stick to it. If you think about it, the first bite of something is always the best, so by letting yourself have just a taste or two, you won’t feel like you’re really depriving yourself.
With just a few small tips, your favorite Fat Tuesday recipes don’t have to be so fat after all!
Cajun Pecan Catfish
Non-stick cooking spray
½ cup plain non-fat yogurt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 pound catfish fillets (1-inch thick), cut into 4 fillets
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
2. Combine yogurt, hot sauce, and Cajun seasoning in a medium size bowl.
3. Place pecans in a Ziploc® brand freezer bag, seal, and crush with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin.
4. Combine crushed pecans and panko crumbs on a large plate.
5. Dip each catfish fillet in the yogurt mixture. Then dredge in the pecan mixture, coating both sides.
6. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Disclaimer: I was paid to develop this post and to provide related images for Ziploc®. As always, all opinions are my own.