A dietitian/nutritionist and educator at the Diabetes and Endocrinology Center of Suffolk in Medford, she lives in Rocky Point with her husband, Donavan, and son, Trevor, 9.
How did you learn to cook? My mother is a good Cajun cook. I'm from Baton Rouge, La. I grew up cooking simple, basic Cajun food. It was when I went to college to study to be a dietitian that I began cooking more.
What are some of your favorite ingredients? We have red beans and rice with sausage at least once a week. We cook with a lot of the same things up here that you would back home: catfish, crabs, oysters, shrimp. We're on the Gulf down there and on an island here. The one thing I can't find is the smoked sausage we use. But I substitute a smoked kielbasa that works pretty well. You can also substitute shrimp for crawfish.
Louisiana cooking isn't always considered the most healthful. How do you deal with that? The food isn't traditionally healthy, but most can be trimmed down and still taste really good. In most recipes you can trim the fat by about a third and it will still come out nice.
Does your son have a favorite Cajun food? His absolute favorite food is jambalaya (the Cajun dish of rice with shrimp, chicken and vegetables). He'd eat it every day if I'd make it every day.
What would you want people to know about Cajun cooking? It is delicious, and can be a healthful way to cook. It doesn't have to be full of cream and heavy sauces to taste good.
Creole Okra and Tomatoes
1 pound okra, fresh (or frozen, sliced okra)
2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1. If using fresh okra, wash the okra and cut into 1/8-inch round slices. Put oil in medium-sized pan and saute on medium heat until okra is no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.
2. Add chopped tomatoes and seasoning. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until okra is tender. Stir a few times while cooking to prevent the okra from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Makes 6 servings.
Green Beans and Artichokes Romano
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh, button mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3/4 pound fresh or frozen green beans or broccoli florets, steamed, drained
14-ounce can cooked artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
Salt, pepper and cayenne, to taste
1. Saute onion, mushrooms and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in crumbs, mixing until oil is absorbed. Remove from heat.
2. Add the cooked green beans, artichoke hearts and cheese. Season to taste. Toss gently to coat.
3. Place mixture in 8-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings.