BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – While the Deep South is recognized for its soulful comfort foods, Louisiana stands out for its Creole-Cajun take on traditional favorites and recipes that are unique to the Bayou State.

But according to some statistics, Louisiana has a higher rate of diseases of the heart than the national average as well as an ongoing struggle with obesity.

This is why a number of locals are interested in finding healthier ways to prepare some of their favorite comfort foods.

These individuals may enjoy the three recipes listed below.

Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice

Directions are based on a recipe from: Emile Eats

Ingredients

  • One can of red kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp of any kind of oil
  • One chopped yellow onion 
  • One chopped green bell pepper
  • Three ribs of chopped celery
  • Four cloves of chopped garlic
  • Hot sauce (to taste)
  • 1 tsp Dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp Paprika
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne
  • A few Bay leaves
  • One cup of vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cups of brown rice
  • Liquid smoke (optional) 

Directions

  • Rinse and drain kidney beans 
  • Saute onion, bell pepper and celery in oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 10 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in parsley, hot sauce, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper and stir to coat the vegetables.
  • Pour in kidney beans, bay leaves and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then cover and lower the heat to a simmer and let everything cook for about 15 minutes.
  • Prepare your rice while the red beans cook.
  • Blend 1/4 of the cooked red beans in a blender or food processor until smooth, then return them to the pot, add liquid smoke if you’re using it and stir
  • Serve your red beans and rice with a sprinkle of chopped parsley

What makes this version healthier? 

This plant-based take on traditional red beans and rice nixes the addition of sausage and added sodium is also gluten-free yet full of protein and flavor. 


Hearty Mac and Cheese 

Directions are based on a recipe from: My Recipes  

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces uncooked large or regular elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups pre chopped broccoli florets
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 ¼ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon flour 
  • One cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  • Preheat broiler to high.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add broccoli to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.
  • While pasta cooks, sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic, and turmeric. Then cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Once cooked, add the chicken to the pasta. 
  • In a separate pot, combine 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour, stirring with a whisk until it begins to boil and thicken.
  • Once it’s thick enough, add it and the shredded cheese to the pasta mixture and allow to broil until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

What makes this version healthier? 

The addition of turmeric enhances the color to make the sauce seem cheesier than it actually is. Including broccoli also provides fiber, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, protein, vitamin K, and vitamin B9. 


Plant-based Gumbo

Directions are based on a recipe from: Cilantro and Citronella

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (200 grams) okra, sliced
  • 1 can (400 grams / 14 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ½ – 3 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • 10 button mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups (330 grams) mixed beans or lentils (I used chickpeas, kidney beans, white beans and brown lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon dark miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Brown rice, to serve
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Heat a wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and sprinkle over the flour. Stir or whisk continuously until the roux reaches a dark caramel or milk chocolate color, which will take about 15 – 20 minutes. 
  • Add the onions and continue stirring continuously until soft. Add the green pepper, celery, garlic and okra. Sauté, stirring frequently for 10 – 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the okra slime has disappeared.
  • Add the tomato, 2 ½ cups of stock, mushrooms, beans, thyme, cayenne pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  • If you like your gumbo a bit thinner and more soup-like, add as much of the remaining stock as you want. Turn off the heat and ladle a small amount of the gumbo into a small bowl and add the miso paste. Stir well to dissolve and add back to the saucepan. Mix well. Taste the gumbo and add salt/pepper to taste.
  • Serve with brown rice and sprinkled with some fresh parsley.

What makes this version healthier? 

This thick and filling plant-based gumbo is full of nutritious value. Packed with magnesium, folate, as well as Vitamin K and Vitamin C, this gumbo’s well-seasoned vegetables are a tasty and healthy substitute for chicken and sausage.


Not everyone is a fan of plant-based foods. But every once in a while, experimenting with meatless versions of favorite comfort foods or versions that reduce sodium and unhealthy fats can go a long way in promoting health and wellness.