While watching the news of yet another act of racism, violence and injustice, I thought about a cookbook I purchased at the very beginning of my career called The Black Family Dinner Quilt Cookbook. It is a cookbook about creating healthier versions of traditional black family recipes, along with the food memories that are a part of each recipe. But it is more than just a cookbook. It embodies how we are stronger when we act together. The quilts are a tangible example in history of how black women used the resources at hand to enrich their lives. The book was created to share their stories, experiences and memories, symbolizing a colorful quilt ~ embodying how dinner conversations over their past 50 years created history and delicious food, never to be forgotten. The book explores quilting as a metaphor for communication, fellowship, and richness of sharing between women of all races.

The cookbook is based on the same balancing act we are all working on today, enjoying nutritious, tasteful and satisfying foods, through balance, moderation and variety. Here is my adaptation on the tips provided, that remain relevant today:

  • Cook and bake with healthier oils, versus lard and shortening. Cook with monounsaturated oils. Replace shortening and oils in baking with applesauce or mashed avocado.
  • Avoid deep-fat frying. Go with “oven fry” or the air fryer. Both methods involve just lightly spraying your food with an unsaturated oil (for example, placing olive oil in a plant-spray bottle) and baking, or using an air fryer.
  • While food shopping, read labels. Our food labels have become much more helpful since 1993, especially breaking out the different types of fats and sugars on a label.
  • Avoid seasoning with heavy salt. Use fresh herbs, pepper, garlic, lemon, vinegars, etc, for deliciousness.
  • Remove the skin, which is mostly fat, from chicken and turkey before cooking or eating.
  • Include more fiber rich foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (It actually states eat more pasta, rice and potatoes, which we know is not what we need to strive for today. ->Moderation and whole grains.)
  • Skim fat off meat juice before making gravy.
  • Limit high fat, heritage dishes such as chitlins, organ meats, or fried food to special occasions.
  • Home cooked meals preserve the loving family togetherness Americans have always cherished. A kitchen warmed with the appetizing aroma of a tempting meal can put love and feeling back into a hurried lifestyle — simple pleasures…”

Since the cookbook was published in 1993, there have been many more nutritional advances in the world of cooking. I have adapted these recipes with our healthful ingredients available today, yet continuing to share these wonderful and traditional recipes of our past.

picture from The Pioneer Woman

JAMAICAN JERKED CHICKEN

This recipe calls for Crisco oil, which I replaced with low sodium vegetable broth, as well as decreased the amount of sugars and sodium. Though it makes 10-12 servings, and most of us are not quite so many right now, share with a neighbor in need or freeze for another meal. The recipe suggests marinating for 2 days — for full flavor!

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups soy sauce, low sodium
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup thin sliced fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped fresh garlic
4 green onions, trimmed and roughly cut
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1/4 cup ground allspice
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2–3 dozen chicken thighs and/or legs, skinless, trimmed (about 6 pounds)

PREPARATION
Place soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, onions and peppers in a food processor bowl. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in vinegar through cloves. Let stand 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings with soy sauce, lime juice and brown sugar. Marinade should be spicy, gingery and slightly sweet and sour. Place chicken in large heavy resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Seal and refrigerate for 2 days, turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from marinade. Grill or broil. Turn frequently to avoid charring. Makes 10–12 servings.

NEW ORLEANS STEW

One of the most beautiful things I have seen and listened to during COVID-19 are the faces and sounds of the musicians of New Orleans. They come in every color, shape and size…they represent the United States of America, from ear to ear… www.lettersfromtheporch.com, a concert series supporting local musicians as they pay tribute to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. As for this stew :-), it is a traditional New Orleans dish, lightened up on the amount of fat and sodium, but keep it hot with spicy heat!

INGREDIENTS
1 pound of ground turkey, lean (or meat substitute)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
8 ounces mushrooms, washed and sliced thin
1 10-ounce bag whole kernel corn
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups brown rice, pre-cooked
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1 green bell pepper, washed, seeded, cut into strips
parsley and hot sauce, to taste

PREPARATION
In a large skillet, sauté turkey while mixing often to break apart. Add onion and mushrooms. Cook until tender. Add water, corn, salt and chili powder. Bring to a boil.

Stir in rice, tomato and green pepper. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with hot sauce. Makes 5 servings.

CRISPY OVEN FRIED FISH

I do love a tasty, crispy fried fish. I will not order it when out, but I will make it at home — by baking it. You can oven fry almost anything. You could use an air fryer as well, but for soft, flakey fish, the oven works best.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 flounder or sole fillets (about 1 pound)
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white wine
nonstick cooking spray (or olive oil in a plant-spray bottle)

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray baking sheet with oil.
Combine bread crumbs through garlic powder in shallow pan.
Combine lemon juice and wine in another shallow pan.
Rinse fish fillets and pat dry.
Dip each fillet in liquid mixture, then in crumb mixture, coating both sides.
Place on baking sheet and spray top of fish with oil.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Makes 4 tasty servings.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. ~Maya Angelou

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amysmargulies@gmail.com

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.