How Slidell Can Enjoy Cajun Cooking with a Little Less Guilt

As we ring in 2018, you can bet folks all over St. Tammany Parish are making resolutions to eat healthily, lose weight, reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke and get those "bad cholesterol” numbers down.

However, any Slidellian worth his (or her) salt loves those spicy dishes that Louisiana is famous for, and giving up that Gulf Coast cooking just to lose a few pounds may be more than many of us can bear.

Sure, the preparation of Cajun and Creole dishes such as crawfish étouffée, gumbo and jambalaya all start with a "holy trinity” base of onions, bell peppers and celery, but that’s where any semblance of "healthy eating” ends. These dishes also contain such sinful (and wonderful) components as thick roux, pork fat, lots of butter and enough red and black pepper to require a medicine cabinet full of Tums and Pepto-Bismol or a visit to our Heart Center.

With all the old-school bad-for-you ingredients that go into these legendary entrees, it’s not easy to keep them authentic, delicious and compatible with the present-day need to be mindful of calorie and fat intake.

If you’re new to the area, here’s some food history that you might have missed.

Cajun and Creole cuisines aren’t the same… Creole cooking got its start in New Orleans when French immigrants brought classic French and Spanish cooking techniques to the new world. It was a few decades later when the rural Cajuns—descendants of the Acadians who were influenced by German, Spanish and Native American styles —developed one-pot dishes like gumbos, dirty rice, jambalaya, fried catfish and a spicy smoked Andouille sausage.

These Louisiana recipes are known the world over. All too often, however, they are high in fat and cholesterol. So let's look at some (relatively) healthy substations that you can make both at home in the kitchen and "on the town” at a few of Slidell’s favorite lunch spots.

Healthy Twists on Cajun Classics

Substituting heart-healthy and low-cal ingredients for fatty (albeit flavorful) ingredients is an easy way to make Creole and Cajun recipes less guilt-inducing. And all you have to do is search for recipes in Google to find just about anything you could want. The problem is… Do they really taste as good as the original?

Here are a few recipes that will give you the Louisiana taste you crave without throwing your 2018 resolution out the window.

  • Crawfish. Even if you’re from up north and call them "crayfish,” they’re the first ingredient in a buttery Cajun crawfish étouffée (which means "smothered”). You can cut the butter in half in your favorite recipe and probably not miss it. Drop sodium levels with low-sodium chicken broth and salt-free Cajun seasoning. There’s even a paleo-friendly (grain-free and dairy-free) recipe here.
  • Whether Creole or Cajun style, Jambalaya is a cast-iron favorite around these parts. All that rice, though? Who needs it? Cut back on the carbs and calories by using Miracle Rice instead. It has no calories, no fat, no carbs and no sodium but leaves plenty of room to enjoy the spicy chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage.
  • Cracklins, also called gratons, are twice-fried scraps of pig fat designed to push your high cholesterol even higher. We’d like to say there is a healthy alternative to cracklins. But the only truly healthy option with these things is to RUN AWAY when you see them!

Healthy Choices at Local Restaurants

There are quite a few places to go out for a bite in the Slidell area. Many of them have the Cajun favorites our area is known for. And believe it or not, you can enjoy just about all of them without feeling guilty about it. Here are three of our favorites:

Bonnie C’s Café

1768 Front St.

Slidell, LA 70458

Salads topped with Cajun-style seafood can satisfy your Cajun cravings without requiring that you loosen your belt when lunch is over.Bonnie C’s has a few salads that fit the bill. These include Aunt Jean's Ah - Hee Tuna Salad (seared ahi tuna atop mixed baby greens, tomatoes, egg, cheddar, bacon, croutons and red onions) and Mary's Trawl Net (grilled or boiled gulf shrimp with fresh baby greens, tomatoes, egg, cheddar, bacon, croutons and red onions). Hold those croutons and get the dressing on the side and you’ll have no regrets.

Creole Bagelry

1337 Gause Blvd.

Slidell, LA 70458

Bagels aren’t the healthiest breakfast option, but Creole Bagelry also offers fresh salads and wraps. If you opt for a bagel, tell them to take it easy on the cream cheese (they are generous with it here). The menu items may be a little more "New York” than "Louisiana,” but look closely, and you’ll see a clear Cajun twist on many items, including "homemade Creole-aise sauce” (get it on the side and use in moderation!)

Restaurant Cote

2219 Carey St

Slidell, LA 70458

The Creole definition for Cote is "at the home of,” and the staff at Restaurant Cote wants everyone eating there to feel at home. For healthy eating, the best strategy here is to practice portion control. Ask for a takeout box as soon as the food comes and plan on taking half of your meal home. As for what to get, you can’t go wrong. The shrimp and grits have that distinctive Cajun kick, while the Creole scampi with sausage and shrimp comes on a bed of pasta noodles. The Cajun Cordon Bleu is a chicken breast stuffed with sausage, mozzarella, green onions and finished with a Creole sauce served over haricot verts.