No misnomer seems more indelible to Texas than the conflation of “Mexican” food and “Tex-Mex.” And, in her recently published cookbook Mexican Light: Healthy Cuisine for Today’s Cook/Cocina Mexicana Ligera: Para el Cocinero Actual, Kris Randolph, a native of Houston who now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and owns El Buen Café, wants to make sure everyone knows the difference. For Randolph, the most discouraging effect of the lack of distinction between the two terms is that the average eater associates Mexican food with the fat and grease, characteristic of most border food—Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex. In actuality, authentic interior Mexican food, rooted in the ancient eating practices of the Aztecs, is based on a very healthy diet of wholesome nuts and grains, lean meats, and loads of fresh fruit and vegetables. The resulting cuisine is low in saturated fat, low in sugar and carbohydrates, and high in protein.

The book is chock-full of recipes for savory stews, crispy salads, and spicy meats. It’s also a mini tutorial of sorts on the basic components and techniques of interior Mexican cooking—including a quick rundown of the preferred varieties of peppers as well as formulas for basic chicken stock and marinade. The recipes themselves are simple and easy to follow with added suggestions for low-fat and low-carb variations. Additionally, all of the recipes are written both in English and in Spanish on corresponding pages.

Randolph’s introduction also offers some historical background for how the cuisine has developed since the 1700’s, as well an explanation for the break between the healthier interior Mexican food and the high-in-fat Tex-Mex, which cites migration and gender as major factors.

The emphasis in Mexican Light is on simplicity, freshness, and speed. In that regard, the soups and salads are perhaps the most intriguing. The salads incorporate fresh fruit and nuts with light, juicy dressings (Green Salad With Jicama, Mango, and Cucumber or Roasted Cactus Salad), while the soups feature Mexican chiles and peppers in full effect, mingling with a colorful array of vegetables like Chayote, zucchini, and corn. But carnivores need not worry; there are also plenty of delicious meat dishes as well, including a recipe for Mexican Beef Tips. Randolph’s book also features four entirely fruit-centric desserts as well as a cooler-than-cool beverage section featuring recipes for fruit-and-water drinks, or aguas frescas, perfect for the Texas summer.

Some other recipes include:
Chicken Vegetable Consommé
Shrimp Ceviche Salad
Chicken With Roasted Tomato Salsa
Pork Loin With Tomatillo-Pineapple Salsa
Meatballs in Chipolte Salsa
Sea Bass in Garlic-Citrus Sauce
Cauliflower With Spicy Tomatoes
Zucchini With Tomatoes, Corn, and Chipolte
Shrimp Salad-Stuffed Poblano Chiles

Mexican Light: Healthy Cuisine for Today’s Cook/Cocina Mexicana Ligera: Para el Cocinero Actual: Kris Randolph, published by University of North Texas Press, 2006