Soul food is often synonymous with comfort—and for good reason. Eat a nice, big plate of fried chicken, mac n’ cheese, collard greens, or anything smothered in gravy, and you are going to feel such comfort that sleep will soon follow. Growing up, Sundays in my house were synonymous with naptime, preceded by Church and a large meal. And though I have to thank my grandmother for putting her foot, no entire leg, in each dish, I realize now that my body was tired after eating for a reason, and that reason did not have my best health in mind. But, it doesn’t always have to be this way. There are ways to enjoy the soul-satisfying tastes of many foods without having to compromise your health or energy.
If you are looking to make some easy adjustments, start with these three simple steps:
Leave those high sodium canned vegetables in the cupboard. Buy fresh vegetables instead, such as green beans, spinach and corn, and take full advantage of the nutrients these foods provide. Check out your local Farmer’s Market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and you will be supporting locally grown food as well.
Replace 'fry' with 'bake'. There is something magical that happens when chicken hits grease; this cannot be denied. But the beauty of chicken is how flavorful it can be, no matter how it is prepared. So, hold off on the frying, and try roasting, baking, or even broiling instead. If you still can’t resist the sizzle, substitute lard or oils high in saturated fat with vegetable or olive oil.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Salt and pepper are tried and true seasonings in every kitchen, but fresh herbs provide a different kind of kick that don’t result in high blood pressure. Next time you reach for the salt, try a flavorful herb instead, like rosemary or mint. Throw in some lemon and let it marinate– then marinate on how tender that meat is going to be.
Here’s a simple menu to get you started. I’ve even replaced the sweet tea for something healthier, just as delicious, and that won’t cause a sugar crash. You can save that energy for the dishes.
Lemon Parsley Catfish
2 tbs. fresh minced parsley 1 tsp. salt ¾ tsp. smoked paprika ½ tsp. dried thyme ½ tsp. dried oregano ½ tsp. ground black pepper 4 whole catfish fillets Juice of one lemon 2 tbs. of olive oil ¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 cup of chopped green onions Non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all seasoning in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice. Place fillets in 9×13 baking pan that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mixture over fillets.
Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes or flakes easily with a fork. Top with green onions. Serve with brown rice and fresh vegetables.
Sautéed Collard Greens and Kale
1 large bunch collard greens, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
1 large bunch kale, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
3 tbs. of olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tbs of minced garlic
½ cup of vinegar
3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of red pepper flakes
Rinse collard greens and kale well in a large bowl of cold water. Drain and cut off tough stems. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces.
In a heavy skillet or pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add collard greens and kale until leaves start to wilt. Add stock and lower heat. Season with the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Let simmer for up to two hours for optimal flavor.
Lemon Ginger Soda
- ½ cup of ginger, grated or thinly sliced
- 1 cup of simple syrup (1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water)
- ½ cup of lemon juice
- 1 cup of club soda
- Put ginger, sugar, and water in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Turn the heat low to a simmer and slowly cook for around 30 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let cool completely.
- Add lemon juice and stir.
- Remove the ginger pieces and fill a glass with ice, then add the ginger soda.
- Garnish with a lemon slice and mint.