How To Use New Orleans Style Cooking To Save Calories

If you know the right tricks, cooking can be a great way to gain control of your calorie consumption. Here in New Orleans we can make just about anything taste great, and healthy foods are no exception. Check out this list of calorie conscious swaps:

For three ounces of Andouille sausage you get a whopping 11 grams of fat. However,
the same three ounces of crawfish contain less than a single gram of fat. Many recipes come in both seafood and meat versions like gumbo, which can be made with crawfish or with Andouille. Skip the sausage and opt for the leaner shellfish!

Creole Mustard
Everyone loves a good condiment, but unfortunately not all condiments are made equal. Ketchup is high in sugar and mayonnaise is about 75% fat. Try Zatarain’s Creole Mustard (>1g fat per serving!) for a New Orleans recipe that’s been around since the late 1800’s.

Cajun Spices
“Slap YA Mama” seasoning can make just about any dish better, so why not use it to spice up an otherwise boring low fat/low calorie food? Use it as a rub on fish, a seasoning on cooked vegetables, or an extra kick in your broth-based soup. Seasonings are a wonderful alternative to high fat flavor-fillers like oil or butter.


Oil-Free Roux
Make a one-ingredient roux from flour and save yourself 2/3 of the calories of regular oil-based roux! Here is a recipe from Southern Cuisine Blog:

Ingredients: 2 cups all purpose flour


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    2. Spread flour evenly across the bottom of a 15-inch cast iron skillet
    3. Bake, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 hour
    4. Make sure to stir well around the edges of the skillet so the flour does not scorch.
    5. Cook Flour until the light or dark color is achieved depending on the purpose of the roux. The roux will become darker when liquid is added
    6. When the desired color is reached, cool on a large cookie sheet, stirring occasionally
    7. Store in a sealed jar for future use. 1 cup of oil-less roux will thicken 11/2 quarts of stock to a perfect gumbo consistency

5 Reasons Cooking Classes Are Good For You:


  1. Save Money. Dining in or taking out can become an expensive (and not to mention very unhealthy) habit. We do understand that cooking every night can be dull, particularly in the flavor department. A cooking class, even just one, can expand your skill set and introduce you to new techniques, spices, and meal ideas.  Shopping at the grocery store and making something special for your dinner at home is a lot more affordable than paying for someone else’s cooking skills every night.
  2. Improve Your Health. Just the mention of vegetables can send hungry people running for the nearest cheeseburger. However, learning to cook health foods properly can make for a flavorful and especially nutritious meal. Chefs can teach you important tricks to drastically change a meal. Have you ever tried smoked paprika on eggs? Tastes an awful lot like bacon, without the grease of course.
  3. Discover A New Hobby. Cooking can be a lot of fun, especially when you know what you’re doing. Learn to make real Creole and Cajun specialties you can enjoy making over and over again (We suggest spending a little bit of time with Nita Duhe in her Crescent City Cooking Class). Learning to cook new foods will spice up family dinners and impress your friends at dinner parties. Just a tip: Banana’s foster offers instant gratification to all ages!
  4. Bond With Family Or Friends. There’s no kind of bonding like that in the kitchen. Working together as a group with your spouse, kids, or friends to create something everyone can enjoy is the perfect activity any day of the week. Skip the TV dinners and opt for a real meal cooked with the people you love. Even better, do it with the instruction of a real chef.
  5. Enjoy A Cultural Experience. Whether you’re on vacation or just want to get to know your city’s roots a little better, a Cajun and Creole cooking class will show you what New Orleans spice is really about. In a city built on food, there is no better way to experience the heart and soul of NOLA with a true local to show you the way.

Get To Know the Owner: Nita Duhe!


To say that Nita Duhe lives and breathes New Orleans would be an understatement. Nita exudes what it means to be a New Orleanian by sharing her passion for local food, music, and culture with everyone she meets. The one way she educates and inspires people on the unique and beautiful charm of New Orleans is through what she does best: cooking.

Having grown up in New Orleans all of her life, and stemming from a long line of Louisiana ancestry, Nita shows no other place to call home. “Being from Nola means good food, good music and good times. That’s what we are all about here and that is soaked up in me and that is what exudes from my soul,” says Nita. Her grandmother was a large influence on her love for New Orleans, taking her to eat at Camellia Grill, grabbing beignets at Café Du Monde, or feeing pigeons in Jackson Square.

Nita started The Crescent City Cooking School a few years after Hurricane Katrina with the encouragement of her friends and family. She admits that she never had the opportunity to be classically trained in cooking like many local “celebrity chefs”, but her experience cooking with her family has given her enough to last a lifetime. “I was classically trained on the streets on Nola, where just about everyone is friendly and loves to talk about food, music and fun,” says Nita.

While her friends wonder how she manages to still provide great meals for her family with such a busy schedule, Nita states it’s because cooking is her passion and a big priority for her and her family. “After Katrina, when everything and everybody was just hanging on, I realized life is too short and I want to do what I love and I love to cook.”

Come visit Nita and soak up her knowledge and experience at one of her very own cooking classes – Or just stop by the shop to say hi and check out the shop!

Nita’s Healthy Seafood Gumbo Recipe

Featured on New Orleans Fox 8 News!

Seafood Gumbo

2 tsp Pecan or olive oil
2 med onions  (2.5 cups)
2 med bell peppers (2 cups)
4 stalks celery (1 cup)
6 toes garlic
2 whole Gumbo crabs, break in 4 pieces
2 diced tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes
Shrimp or seafood stock 3 quarts
Oil less roux (see below)
Shrimp 2-3 lbs, peeled and marinated in hot sauce and your favorite Creole seasoning.
Crab claw meat
3 tbl fresh Parsley
3 stalks Green onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste.

Put oil in pot. When it’s heated move around until the bottom is coated. Put in the onion, bell pepper, celery. Cook till the trinity starts to caramelize, add gumbo crabs and cook until trinity is browned. Add diced tomatoes and garlic. Cook about 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in the dry roux and simmer for 45-60 minutes with lid on. Add the shrimp, crab claw meat, parsley and green onion. Salt and pepper to taste.Serve.

Oil less roux
Preheat oven to 375 ( Sometimes, I do this in my toaster oven)
Put in flour, I’ll make 2-3 cups at a time.
Bake, stirring every 7-10 minutes until desired darkness. At least 45 minutes.
Can keep in jar until needed.

Nita’s Healthy Cooking Story!

Check out Nita discussing her healthy cooking tips live on WWL-TV, channel 4, tomorrow at 8:00 A.M.!


Nita Duhe, owner of Crescent City Cooking School and Store in the Riverwalk Marketplace, remembers cooking with her grandfather as the foundation of all of her traditional cooking knowledge. “When I was young, people did not think about what they were eating, and [they] were not very health-conscious,” says Nita. “My grandfather used bacon grease or lard for his roux and lots of butter for étouffée, oyster soup and other traditional dishes.” It wasn’t until Nita left for college when she began to realize how much fat was in the Cajun and Creole diet. In college, she lost 15 pounds just from not eating her usual Southern-style home cooked meals. Among her college friends, Nita was known as “mom” because she took responsibility for making the daily meals. At that time, she began working on ways to cut the unhealthy elements from her grandfather’s recipe and substitute the fatty ingredients with healthier alternatives, all while keeping the spicy Louisiana flavor.

Today, Nita teaches her students her secrets for healthy Creole and Cajun cooking. She starts form the very first step- the roux. “Most Southern foods start off with a roux and the best way to slim it down is to cut the bacon grease, butter or lard and use grape seed oil or safflower oil instead,” Nita explains, “If you prefer using the unhealthy oils, just reduce the amount of oil used in your roux,” which Nita calls making a “light” roux. She also suggests browning the roux in the oven carefully, which requires no oil at all. “Whenever there is something unhealthy in a recipe, there is always a healthy alternative,” says Nita. Though there is no doubt that the fatty oils and grease give a dish an unbeatable taste, there are other ways to make it “light” than just using alternatives. Nita recommends putting the dish in the freezer after it is prepared, this will cause the fat to separate to the top layer of the food which can be removed before serving.

Another quick way to cut the calories is to replace fattier meats such as sausage, pork and ham, with leaner meats like turkey, fish and chicken. “I recommend purchasing Cajun seasoned chicken or turkey sausage as your replacement to pork sausage. It could seriously fool anyone because the flavor is all in the Cajun seasoning,” Nita confirms.

Nita loves to make a special vegetarian jambalaya, which is made with brown rice, beans and Portobello mushrooms. “If you really want meat in your jambalaya, again use turkey sausage or chicken breast,” she says. To get the smokey flavor back into the dish, Nita uses bacon hot sauce (sold at her store) which surprisingly has no bacon in it!

Some other tips include using brown rice instead of white processed rice, doing a recipe with ¼ the amount of butter or oil, or using a wrap instead of French bread for your po-boys, which maintain the flavor but cuts the processed bread from the diet. Nita also mentions that most people also do not know you can cook your barbeque shrimp with oil instead of butter, using about ¼ the suggested amount, and still maintain the flavor. Easy cooking methods like grilling shrimp instead of frying shrimp for po’boys can cut calories in half. When it comes to desserts, it can be very difficult to cut the sugar and butter from Southern desserts, so cut out the fat when you can (except for when you make pralines) and always eat with moderation.

Nita always recommends experimenting with recipes and consider creating a personal signature dish. For example, she has created the New Orleans Taco, which replaces the beef of a traditional taco with blackened catfish or shrimp and instead of black beans she uses red beans. You can garnish this with shredded cabbage, red onions and a little bit of remoulade sauce for added flavor.

According to Nita, anyone can still enjoy all their favorite Cajun and Creole recipes without all the unhealthy ingredients

For more information about Crescent City Cooking School go to or call 504-529-1600