I'm not sure I had any idea the effects of eating lots fried food (and almost no vegetables) would have on my system until I went to Acadian country in Louisiana last week.
Let's just say that 48 hours after I arrived in Breaux (pronounced bro) Bridge, near Lafayette, my tummy was in rebellion, despite the fact that the fried shrimp, oysters, crawfish and catfish were unbelievably delicious. I admit, I did not hold back.
The boudin sausage, cheese grits and lots and lots of hot sauce I consumed didn't help, either. And while I did eat some grilled meat and lots of boiled crawfish, green items landed on my plate just once: a spinach salad I was glad to see.
I'm not exactly sure how folks in this part of the country don't have serious trouble with high cholesterol and blood pressure, unless all the dancing and crawfishing burns it away. I think it's very possible that smile muscles also are used to a greater extent here than anywhere else I've been. Going on that theory, I definitely worked off all kinds of artery-clogging food as I was standing in a john boat, listening to Cajun music on a boom box, grinning from ear to ear and hauling in wire baskets full of crawfish. That night, I enjoyed some of that catch (once I got past the tentacles, claws and beady eyes), boiled by people who were part of the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. We all sat outside, passed the paper towels and sipped bottles of Bayou Teche Biere (beer). Later, there was the two-step and Cajun waltz to learn. C'est si bon.
It may not have been a healthy eating trip, but it was so much fun.
So, now I'm craving food that is better for me. This recipe is a bit of twist on my yearning for green theme and comes from food writer Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times. This hummus recipe includes spinach and arugula, though if you don't like the slightly bitter taste of arugula, you can substitute more spinach.
2 cups spinach
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup diced green onion
2 small cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil
4 cups garbanzo beans
1/4 cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the spinach, arugula, cilantro, green onion and garlic.
With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil, then start to add the beans. Depending on the size of your processor, the hummus may need to be processed in batches: Remove some of the processed hummus to a large bowl, then continue adding beans to the processor.
Fold everything together in the large bowl, flavoring and seasoning as needed.
Add the lemon juice, then season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. This makes a generous 5 cups of hummus. Serve with pita chips or cutup fresh veggies.
And with strawberry season fast approaching, this tart is a healthier version for dessert. A typical strawberry tart with white chocolate custard has 364 calories and 17 grams fat per slice. This recipe has 197 calories and 7 grams fat.
STRAWBERRY FIELDS TART
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) 70% buttermilk-vegetable oil spread, cut into pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups evaporated skim milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 ounces good-quality white chocolate
1 pound fresh strawberries, stems removed
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Make crust: In food processor, process oats until fine crumbs form. Add flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; process to mix.
Add vegetable oil spread and pulse with on/off motion until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cold water and lemon juice, and pulse with on/off motion to moisten. Gather dough into ball.
3. On lightly floured waxed paper, roll out dough to 11-inch round.
Invert waxed paper with dough into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Peel off waxed paper and fit dough into bottom and up sides of tart pan. Trim edges. With fork, prick bottom of crust in several places.
4. Bake until lightly browned in center, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool.
5. Make filling: In large bow, whisk together 1/4 cup evaporated milk, egg, sugar and cornstarch, until blended.
In small, heavy saucepan, heat remaining 1 cup evaporated milk over medium heat until small bubbles appear around edge of pan.
Gradually whisk hot milk into egg mixture. Return egg mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking, 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Chop 2 ounces white chocolate and whisk into hot mixture until smooth. Pour mixture into tart shell and spread evenly with rubber spatula. Cool slightly. Place in refrigerator and chill completely.
6. Just before serving, cut strawberries in half lengthwise. Arrange strawberry halves decoratively on top of filling. With vegetable peeler, finely shave remaining 1/2 ounce of white chocolate over tart. Remove side of tart pan.
Nutrition: 197 calories; 5 grams protein; 7 grams fat (31 percent fat; 3 grams saturated fat); 28 grams carbohydrate; 173 milligrams sodium; 24 milligrams cholesterol.
Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.