River Road Recipes III, A Healthy Collection

288 pages; Black, White and Color Chapter Photographs. Spiral Bound Hardcover
The Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc. Fourth Printing August 1997
Reviewed for Good Cooking by Helaine Denenberg 12/02
River Road Recipes III: A Healthy Collection is a community cookbook that focuses on low-fat, low-sodium Louisiana cooking. It is part of a series published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, Inc., a volunteer organization that currently donates its book proceeds to school readiness programs for needy children.

The majority of the recipes in this book are easy to follow. Many contain convenience products--such as canned vegetables, beans, and condensed soups--making for simple, healthy weeknight meals for busy families.

Each recipe in River Road Recipes III was reviewed and modified by a registered dietician to insure a healthful, yet tasty, dish. Consequently, every recipe is followed by information on calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium--and sometimes tips (in the margin) for even lighter cooking.

The book is conveniently organized by category: appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, breads, vegetables, pasta, meats and game, seafood, poultry, and desserts. One of the final chapters of the book provides several more sophisticated recipes, which were contributed by local Louisiana chefs.

I recommend the Vegetable Chili recipe from River Road Recipes III (pages 116-117):

Vegetable Chili
Yield: 8 servings

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 zucchini, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
One 10-ounce can stewed tomatoes
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
One 16-ounce can kidney beans
One 16-ounce can white beans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put eggplant in a small shallow baking pan sprayed lightly with vegetable oil cooking spray and toss with one tablespoon olive oil. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes, stirring once. Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon oil in large pot. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add next 3 ingredients. Cook 5 minutes. Add next 6 ingredients. Cook 10 minutes. Add cooked eggplant and beans. Cook 20 minutes on simmer. The vegetables can be chopped the night before and stored in air-tight containers to save time. Can be garnished with grated cheese, chopped green onions, chopped parsley, light sour cream, or chopped cilantro.

Per Serving: Cal 230Fat(g) 2.1% Fat Cal 11Sat Fat(g) 0.4 Chol(mg) 0 Sod(mg) 55

This recipe is fairly flavorful as is, from all of the spices. The dish also provides good texture contrasts: the eggplant breaks down to thicken the broth, the beans have a soft creaminess, the vegetables are firm but tender. Admittedly, the chili tastes even better with a teaspoon of kosher salt added to the entire recipe (adds 140 mg of sodium per serving) and about 1/2 a teaspoon extra virgin olive oil drizzled over each bowl (adds 2.3 grams of fat and 20 calories per serving)--but don't let the registered dietician hear me say that!

Good Cooking comment: This is the third in a series of "River Road" cookbooks, with the emphasis in this one being on lighter, lower-fat versions of Louisiana classics. The entire series of books really shows the flavor of the area, Yum!

Fresh Herb Shrimp

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons tub margarine
1 1/2 lbs. fresh jumbo shrimp, peeled, tails left on
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup defatted chicken broth, less salt OR seafood stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pepper, freshly ground
Herbed Grits (recipe to the right)
Fresh rosemary, for garnish

In large nonstick saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Add the shrimp, basil, thyme, chives, and garlic. saute for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the broth. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the cornstarch with the wine. When the shrimp begin to turn pink, stir the wine mixture into the shrimp. Continue to cook until the shrimp are just done, another minute. Do not overcook. Season to taste with pepper and serve immediately over grits. Garnish with rosemary.

Here is the recipe for the grits needed to complete the dish

Herbed Grits

3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits
One 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
2 tablespoons tub margarine
1 clove garlic, minced
3 ounces light cream cheese, cubed and softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Pepper, freshly ground

In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly add the grits then blend in the evaporated milk. Cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently. Add the margarine, garlic and cream cheese. When they are melted, add the parsley and chives, and stir to blend thoroughly. Season to taste with black pepper.

Bourbon Slush

Yield: 1 gallon, 14 servings of 8 ounces each

4 tea bags
2 cups boiling water
1/2-3/4 cups granulated sugar
7 cups water
One 12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
One 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1 cup bourbon

Steep tea bags in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add all other ingredients. Stir. Pour into freezer containers. Freeze overnight. Remove from freezer 30 to 45 minutes before serving. Garnish with sprigs of mint.