Unless you’re deeply committed to a life of vegetables, words like plant-based can be a turnoff when it comes to menus and cookbooks. Sure, many of us, myself included, want to expand our vegetable repertoire but still need to indulge their inner carnivore—particularly when we think of a bleak future with nothing but quinoa and steamed broccoli. But Kate Ramos, who created the blog ¡Hola! Jalapeño! with the goal of merging authentic ingredients and flavors with modern preparations, has our back. Taking that philosophy, Ramos has written her Plant Powered Mexican: Fast, Fresh Recipes from a Mexican-American Kitchen , published by Harvard Common Press, it’s a lushly photographer book with recipes that are so wonderful it’s easy to forget there’s nary an animal protein anywhere in her book.
Instead, Ramos offers us such dishes as Chileatole (a thick soup) with Masa Dumplings and Lime Crema, Potato and Collard Greens, Crispy Tacos with Ancho Chile Crema, and my personal favorite–One-Pan Cheesy Rice Chile Relleno Casserole.
In her first chapter, Ramos tells us what’s in her pantry, providing us with an entrée into the world of chiles, peppers, oils, spices, herbs, and Mexican cheeses as well as the equipment she relies upon. The latter are simple enough. Just a comal (but she notes you can use a cast iron skillet instead) and a molcajete and tejolote, a volcanic stone mortar and pestle for grinding spices and making chunky salsas. As for the ingredients she commonly uses, I’d be willing to bet that many of us have such items as black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, kosher salt, and coriander in our spice drawer already. That just leaves a variety of dried chile powders—ancho, guajillo, arbol, and habanero as well as a few other ingredients that can be bought as needed. Unlike many entrees into a new cuisine, Ramos keeps it simple and inexpensive.
Six of the remaining chapters are divided into cooking methods—slow cookers, stovetop, grills, and oven. Instant Pot aficionados will be very happy to hear that there’s an entire chapter devoted to recipes using the beyond popular small kitchen appliance. Ramos cooks out of a small kitchen and says she’s never been enamored of kitchen equipment until, that is, she fell in love with her Instant Pot. Besides, its ability to cook beans—a common ingredient in Mexican cookery–quickly, Ramos offers a selection of recipes she’s developed for quick dinners for busy home cooks like Black Bean Enchilada Casserole, Smoky Tomato Tortilla Soup, and her Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Lime Crema, Sofrito Beans, Roasted Kale, and Chives.
The recipes I made all worked without me having to make tweaks to salvage them. That’s a plus because I have encountered recipes that haven’t been tested or at least not well evaluated before being included in a cookbook. If I have one complaint about Plant Powered Mexican it’s that the font is small so instead of just glancing at the recipe while cooking, I often had to pick up the book to be able to read the directions. It’s a small complaint and shouldn’t stop anyone who is interested in plant-based cooking from purchasing this well-written cookbook.
Vegan Picadillo Tostadas with Rice and Peas
For the tostadas
12 6-inch corn tortillas
For the picadillo
2 tablespoons avocado or sunflower oil
1 medium white onion chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
3 small Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced
1 pound plant-based beef
1 recipe Magic Spice Mix see below
1 ¼ cups Gluten-free beer or vegetable broth
½ cup frozen peas no need to thaw
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 cups steamed rice
1 large avocado diced
1-2 medium jalapeños thinly sliced
To make the tostadas: Heat the oven to 350°F. Once the oven is ready, lay the tortillas directly on the oven racks with plenty of room around them for air to circulate. (I put six on the top rack and six on the bottom in my oven.)
Bake for about 15 minutes, turning the tortillas halfway through, until they are very crisp and crack if you break them. Look for a light brown color, no darker than the shade of a roasted peanut. Remove the tortillas to a serving platter.
To make the picadillo: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, and potatoes. Cook until the garlic and onions start to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the plant-based beef and spice mix, breaking up the meat with the back of a wooden spoon. Continue cooking until the beef is browned, about 3 minutes. Add the beer or broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer the picadillo for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Stir in the peas and parsley, and cook for about 1 minute.
To Serve: Spread ¼ cup of rice on a tostada, and top with ¼ cup picadillo. Pass the garnishes at the table.
Magic Spice Mix:
Mix 1 tablespoon guajillo chile powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon ground coriander, ½ teaspoon dried epazote or oregano (preferably Mexican) together in a small bowl until evenly combined. Use immediately or keep in a container for up to 1 month.
Chilled Avocado Soup
FOR THE SOUP:
1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 cups cold water
2 small Persian cucumbers
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE FAIRY DUST
1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup popped amaranth
1/4 cup edible flower petals, such as nasturtium, pansies, marigolds, or cornflowers
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
To make the soup:
Blend soup ingredients. Add avocado, water, cucumbers, scallions, chile, lime juice, cilantro, oil, and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth.
Chill. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours.
To make the fairy dust:
Combine. Add the sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, amaranth, flowers, and cumin seeds to a small bowl. Mix gently.
Serve. Ladle the cold soup into bowls and sprinkle fairy dust over the top.
Though vegetarianism is much more mainstream today than it was even ten years ago, the movement is not new. Back in the early part of the last century, though vegetarianism was rare, it was practiced in Southwest Michigan. Indeed, though it’s surprising to learn, starting in 1908 there were several vegetarian restaurants that thrived until the mid-1970s.
The premise is similar to the current philosophy of sustainable local agriculture – eating what is grown near home–contributed to the popularity of three restaurants that thrived for a considerable amount of time. They were Eden Springs Park Restaurant (opened in 1908 and closed in 1932), Mary’s Vegetarian Restaurant which opened in 1932 and closed 34 years later and Mary’s Café, in business from 1931 to 1975 in downtown Benton Harbor.
Produce served in these establishments was grown on the grounds of the Israelite House of David in Benton Harbor, founded in 1903 and reorganized by Mary Purnell in 1930 as Mary’s City of David.
1912 Vegetarian Cookbook
According to Ron Taylor, of Mary’s City of David, one of the nation’s oldest continuing communes, the freshness of the ingredients used was one of the reasons for the long time popularity of the restaurants. Taylor, who worked at Mary’s Café for the last four years of its existence, has long been an archivist of the colony’s history. Several years ago he reprinted a limited edition of the 1912 cookbook titled “Vegetarian Cookbook” with recipes from the Eden Springs Restaurant.
Now, Taylor has put together the “Vegetarian Cookbook” that includes not only the recipes from the 1934 cookbook but also photos and historic anecdotes from the years when Mary’s City of David had their own bakery, dairy, cannery, chickens (for eggs) and orchards.
“We had a greenhouse for growing vegetables in the winter,” said Taylor at the time we chatted. Taylor, an avid historian dedicated to preserving the unique history of the community.
Mary’s City of David also attracted a large clientele of visitors who spent the summer in the numerous cottages on the property.
“The cottages didn’t have cooking facilities,” said Taylor, “and so people ate at the restaurant.”
Interestingly, one of the largest groups of returning summer residents were Romanian Jews from Chicago.
“They were attracted to coming here because vegetarian is Kosher,” said Taylor.
The colony’s commitment to vegetarianism came from the Gospels, as Taylor points out in the book by quoting Biblical passages including ‘Meats of the belly and the belly for meats and both shall be destroyed (1 Cor. 6-13).
The book also includes old menus from Mary’s Restaurant which was located on Britain Avenue. Like most old menus, it’s always amazing to see how cheap prices used to be. The 1947-48 menu lists such items as a pimento cheese sandwich costing 20 cents and homemade pie or cake ten cents and spaghetti in tomato and cheese sauce going for 35 cents. For those who often splurge on lattes or cappuccinos, take note, a cup of coffee with extra cream cost 15 cents while something called Boston coffee sold for 15 cents as well.
“This is a book of recipes,” Taylor writes in his introduction. “It continues authentic and unique tastes of a history, from a community of that generation. It was designed to serve a healthy and nutritious meal for a working class. Convenience to a fresh market of local produce precluded the use of exotic ingredients and thus retained the colony’s desire of making an affordable and family friendly menu. It remains a book of ingredients that saw its popularity within the era of one of America’s greatest generations.”
Mary’s City of David
The cookbook is for sale at Mary’s City of David at 1158 Britain Avenue in Benton Harbor. The cost is $24.95. For more information or to order, call 269-925-1601, order online at www.maryscityofdavid.org or stop by in the afternoons when the office is open. For those who’d like to visit and have a meal from the cookbook, the annual, “Welcome Back To 1934” Vegetarian Lunch will be served at noon on September 29th at Mary’s City of David, 1158 E Britain Avenue, Benton Harbor.
Note: These are old fashioned recipes where the directions are often vaguer than what we’re used to in modern recipes. Often, there are no temperature settings for oven and instead terms like slow oven and hot oven are used. Also, the cookbook uses the term tablespoonfuls, cupfuls, etc. rather than the current terminology of cups, teaspoons and the like.
2 cups brown sugar
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 heaping tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat the yolks of eggs until light; add flour, sugar, milk and butter; cook in double boiled until thickened. Remove from fire and add vanilla. Have ready two under crusts baked and fill with the butter-scotch. Whip the whites of eggs to a stiff froth and add two tablespoons sugar. Spread lightly over the top of the pies and set in a slow oven to color a golden brown.
Sidebar: Mary’s City of David Bakery
Within their first year of business, the bakers at Mary’s City of David Bakery were working seven days a week providing food for the more than 300 members of the colony as well as for the baked goods shop in the downtown Benton harbor hotel and the resort restaurant. Baked good as well as milk, butter, cream and eggs, all grown on the colony’s grounds, were also sold at the bakery. Here are several baked goods recipes from the cookbook that were made at the bakery.
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup bran
1 egg, beaten light
1 ¼ cups milk
3 tablespoons melted shortening
Sift the first four ingredients together twice; add the bran, the egg, milk and shortening. Mix together thoroughly. Bake in hot, well-greased muffin pans about 25 minutes.
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
1 cup flour
½ cup cheese
1 tablespoon oil
Mix and sift dry ingredients. Work in oil lightly with tips of fingers. Add liquid gradually and then sprinkle in the cheese which has been grated. Toss on floured board and roll out one quarter inch in thickness ad cut with small cutter. Bake in hot oven ten minutes and serve hot with salad course.
A great recipe from Sowmya’s Spicy Corner, a blog that I follow, for Baingan Bharta / Roasted Eggplant Curry – a delicious and smoky Indian variation of the Mediterranean Baba Ganoush.The dish, which is simple to make, has a unique smoky flavour that comes from grilling the eggplant on direct fire or charcoal. Once grilled, its chopped/mashed, spiced up and cooked to a delicate finish. This smoky and flavour packed baingan bharta / roasted eggplant pairs well with Indian flat breads like roti/ paratha/steamed white rice.
The flavors and foods of Miami, with its imaginative and creative cooking, wide ranging cultural traditions, and unique culinary identity, are brought to the fore by its amazingly talented and award winning chefs and mixologists, Sara Liss, who has been writing about the city’s food scene for more than 15 years captures the culinary essence of the city’s fascinating food scene in Miami Cooks. Presenting 75 signature dishes and drinks from 35 of the hottest restaurants and chefs, either just rocketing to fame or James Beard winners, Liss shares their recipes–ranging from craft cocktails to satisfying brunch dishes to airy desserts. The flavors are global–Cuban food capital of America, but it also home to so many other cuisines―Peruvian, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Jamaican, Cuban, Mexican, Asian, classic French with a Miami twist, and Floridian (of course). All evoke the passionate gastronomic spirit of The Magic City.
But Liss takes it one step further. Stating that her mission was to make the entire creative process acceptable and achievable for the home chef, she makes it easy for us to take our cooking to the next level.
Miami Cooks, published by Figure 1m is currently available for purchase now.
With beautiful photographs and intriguing recipes, here are a few more to contemplate:
Cubano “Croque Monsieur” – This recipe was crafted by Executive Chef Frederic Delaire from Bar Collins. A Cuban play on a French classic, this towering sandwich teems with slow-roasted pork, an indulgent béchamel sauce, and many layers of ham and Swiss.
Hamachi Cilantro Rolls – “You’ll be sure to wow your mom with some homemade sushi rolls! It might seem intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, the technique is fairly easy,” writes Liss.
Shrimp Cakes – This recipe is an Executive Chef Klime Kovaceski specialty from Crust. Riffing on the classic crab cake, Chef Klime has created an easy go-to dish when you’re looking for a hearty brunch course.
Golden Geisha – This raspberry vodka cocktail recipe is from Owner David Grutman of Komodo. This refreshing cocktail is deceptively easy to prepare and heightened to a luxe level with edible gold leaf flakes.
Jim’s Yellow Fedora – From Executive Chef Daniel Roy from The Jim and Nessie, Jim’s Yellow Fedora cocktail is made with whiskey and chartreuse – a liquor distilled using 130 natural herbs, spices and flowers. In this recipe, it adds depth to whiskey for a play on the classic green hat cocktail.
Korean Braised Chicken with Glass Noodles
This popular Korean dish, also known as Andong jjimdak, originates in the city of Andong, Korea. All at once savory, sweet, and spicy, it sees spicy braised chicken cooked together with Korean glass noodles for a dish that explodes with flavor.
Serves 2 to 3
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
41/2Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp concentrated pear juice (see Note)
2 Tbsp mirin
11/2tsp sesame oil
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
Note: Korean cooking often calls for pear juice for marinating and tenderizing meat. It can be found in most Asian markets.
2 lbs, bone-in chicken thighs
Marinade (see here)
5 to 6 oz Korean glass noodles (sweet potato starch noodles)
Sesame oil, for searing
5 dried red chiles (divided)
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 scallions, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, combine chicken and marinade, turning to coat, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Soak glass noodles in water for 20 minutes, until softened.
Coat a large skillet with sesame oil and bring to high heat. Add 3 chiles and sauté for 5 to
7 minutes, until the chiles darken. Discard chiles.
Add chicken to the skillet, reserving marinade, and sear for 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Transfer chicken to a plate.
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the reserved marinade and 4 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, then add chicken, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken is almost fully cooked. Add the remaining 2 chiles and the potatoes, onion, and carrot and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
Add noodles, mushrooms, and scallions and simmer for another 6 to 8 minutes, until noodles are cooked. Remove the 2 chiles and serve immediately.
“My grandmother used a lot more sour cream and lots more butter and sugar,” says Guy who started cooking from scratch when she was 14 because that’s when she went vegan.
“I had to figure out a way to veganize all the things everyone else in my family was eating,” she says. “My experimental approach to cooking is a consequence of thinking outside the box with recipe development from a very early age.”
Guy, author of the popular blog, Chocolate for Basil, looks at her book not only as stories of her life told in recipes but also as inspirational.
“I want to inspire black women to reclaim their kitchens, diets, bodies, and personal power,” says Guy, who contributes recipes to the New York Times.
The following recipe is reprinted with permission from Black Girl Baking by Jerrelle Guy, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.
Apple Cider Monkey Bread
Egg-free, vegan option
Makes 1 loaf
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
¼ cup warm water, at 115°F
2 tsp active dry yeast
3–3½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided
½ tsp salt
¾ cup warm milk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
½ cup softened butter
Apple cider coating
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup applesauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons applesauce
5 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
To make the dough, add the brown sugar to the bowl of warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, and let it bloom until a cap of foam forms on the top, 5 to 10 minutes.
In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, combine 2½ cups of the flour and the salt. Mix on low speed, pouring in the warm milk, apple cider vinegar and bloomed yeast mixture. Add about ½ cup more of flour and knead until all the flour is mixed in, then add the butter and mix until the butter is completely worked in. Add extra flour gradually just until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl. You may not need all the flour. Take the dough out of the bowl and place it in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm, dark place for 1 to 1½ hours, or until doubled in size.
To make the coating, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, salt and butter in a bowl. Oil a Bundt pan and drizzle 3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) of the coating on the bottom of the pan.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down in the center to release the air. Pinch off about 1½-inch balls from the dough, roll it into a ball and submerge it in the coating. Place the drenched ball into the Bundt pan. Continue until all the balls are coated and arranged in the pan. If there is any leftover coating, drizzle it
over the top of the dough. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
To make the glaze, melt the butter, applesauce, brown sugar and salt together in a saucepan on the stove top or in a bowl in the microwave. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the center of the oven.
Remove the plastic from the risen monkey bread, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through, and it passes the toothpick/skewer test. Remove the monkey bread from the oven and carefully flip it out onto a serving tray while hot. Drizzle it with the apple glaze, and serve warm
VEGAN OPTION: Replace the butter with virgin coconut oil, at room temperature, or dairy-free butter, and make sure the milk is plant-based.
For more recipes and information, visit Guy’s website.
I often spend what seems like hours reading the labels on the food products I’m considering buying at the grocery store. And I always find unpleasant surprises such as how a simple can of kidney beans often contains either high fructose corn syrup or sugar If you didn’t look you wouldn’t know and you’d be adding unnecessary calories to your chili or whatever dish you were planning to make. And who needs extra calories? Who wants sugar in their beans? I certainly don’t. And so I was happy that my friend Kath Beyer sent me some fascinating information on Pyure that takes stevia plants and refines them into a powerful but non-caloric sweetener we can use as a sugar substitute. But even better, the article she sent shows how to really read the new nutrition panels on the foods we buy.
Stevia is a plant product that can be used as a sugar substitute
First some background. As much as we love our sweets and sweet tastes, no one wants the extra calories nor what sugar does to our health. There are many sweeteners on the market but Pyure is a line of plant-based, sugar substitutes created for people who want the best sweeteners for both their taste and the health benefits we’re all looking for.
The Pyure Process
It starts with harvesting and drying the highest quality leaves from the best tasting species of organic, non-GMO stevia plants.
Then through a process similar to steeping tea, we extract the very sweetest part of the stevia leaf.
What’s left with is known as Reb A, a fine white powder 350 times the sweetness of table sugar!
For more information, the Sweet Talk blog is filled with information about the benefits of organic and zero-calorie stevia products.
Sugar and the New Food Label
Families using Pyure are taking a step towards more healthy eating.
First the Really Bad News
We as Americans consume WAY too much sugar. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the average person consumes approximately 17 teaspoons per day or 270 calories from added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to 10% of our total daily calories (about 50 grams for a 2000 calorie diet) while the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams per day (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons) for men.
That means we are typically eating almost three times the AHA recommendations. According to the FDA, scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar.
The new nutrition label makes it easier than ever to identify sugar and added sugars in your food.
Identifying added sugars on the label.
Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods like fruits, veggies, and dairy products like milk or plain unsweetened yogurt. These nutrient-dense foods are encouraged as part of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and the sugar grams found in them will count towards the total carbohydrates on the label.
The new label also requires listing “Added Sugars” in grams and as a percent Daily Value (%DV). The added sugars category includes sugars that are either added during the processing of foods or are packaged as is, like a bag of white sugar. It also includes sugars from syrups and honey, sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices and sugar added to dried fruit.
The question of “refined sugar” can be confusing. Bottom line. When it comes to our bodies, sugar is sugar. Agave, coconut sugar and pure maple syrup may be marketed as better for you, but they are still 100% sugar and all count towards the proposed daily limits for added sugars.
The new labels are a huge improvement for savvy consumers because until now it was impossible to distinguish the amount of sugar that was added to foods containing both naturally occurring and added forms of sugar like flavored yogurt or a fruit and nut granola bar.
What about low and no calorie sweeteners?
Low and no calorie sweeteners like stevia are not included in added sugars since they do not provide significant calories, carbohydrates or behave like sugar in the body. That’s important for the more than 100 million Americans living with diabetes or prediabetes, as well as diseases like low blood sugar.
Since stevia is 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar only a tiny amount is needed to achieve the sweet taste we look for in our favorite foods. That makes stevia or products sweetened with stevia an easy way to help manage the amount of sugar we consume.
Where do you find sugar alcohols on the label?
Since sugar alcohols fall into their own category, they have their own line on the nutrition facts panel. Sweeteners, like erythritol, that contribute zero calories per gram do not affect glucose or insulin levels, but they are counted in the total carbohydrate content on the food label.
That adds a bit of confusion, so there is a separate line for these sugar alcohols under the “sugars” line on the food label. To calculate the “net carbs,” subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrate grams. For example, Pyure Organic Maple Flavored Syrup (1/4 cup serving):
Total carbohydrate: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 13 g
Erythritol: 10 g
Net carbs = 4 g
Only foods that actually contain sugar alcohols will have the separate line listed on the label, making them easier to identify.
Although the new label is more realistic and designed to be easier to read, when it comes to carbohydrates and sugars, there is still some sleuthing that needs to be done. We hope this breakdown clears everything up for you.
Now we’ve learned about reading labels, let’s take a break and try one of the recipes on Pyure website.
Microwave the cream cheese for 10-20 seconds to soften it. Make sure it doesn’t turn into liquid.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs well with a hand whisk.
Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia. Whisk until well incorporated and smooth. This will require some time and patience!
Heat half the butter in two mini nonstick skillets (or use an egg frying pan) over medium heat. Add ¼ of the batter to each skillet. Cook until golden brown and set on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil.
Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the pans.
“People are eating African American food every day, but they don’t know it,” Angela Shelf Medearis says to me when we chat on the phone. In part, she’s talking about James Hemings who, in the complicated way of slavery, trained in the culinary arts in Paris and became a noted chef de cuisine and yet lived most of his life enslaved. Hemings either created or introduced a variety of the foods we eat now such as macaroni and cheese, ice cream, French fries, meringues, crème brulée, and French-style whipped cream. Another dish he created that we don’t eat regularly if at all is his handwritten recipe for snow eggs–soft, poached meringue, set in puddles of crème anglaise.
Hemings was the son of Elizabeth Hemings, an enslaved woman and John Wayles, the man who “owned” her. The two had six children together. Wayles also had a more traditional family and his daughter Martha married a plantation owner named Thomas Jefferson. Thus, James was the half-brother of Martha Jefferson who “inherited” James (that’s so creepy I even hate writing it) when Wayles died. James was eight when they all came to live at Monticello. His youngest sister, Sally was just an infant. To make matters even more complex, after Martha died and Sally reached some type of maturity—she was probably in her mid-teens, she became Jefferson’s mistress and had six children by him, four of whom lived to adulthood.
So, Sally Hemmings was Martha Jefferson’s half-sister, and her children were half-siblings to Martha and Thomas’s children. I only mention all this to show how intertwined Black and White families were and also how the foodways of both merged.
But while Hemings introduced the Frenchified cookery to America,
Medearis, the founder of Diva Productions, Inc., the organization that produces her multicultural children’s books, cookbooks, videos, and audiocassettes, points out that people weren’t eating black-eyed peas before Africans arrive in this country.
“Back then they even thought tomatoes were poisonous,” she says. “But when they shipped slaves, they also shipped the foods they ate with them because that was a cheap way to feed them,” she says. “The recipes for those foods traveled from one place to the other. If they stopped in the Caribbean or South America before coming here, then the recipes changed with the foods and spices available and the types of cooking techniques.”
“I only cooked enough that social services wouldn’t come and take away my children,” she says with a laugh. But her mother, after she retired, decided she wanted to market her raisin pie for some extra income.
While her mother and sister did the cooking, Medearis who often wears feather boas during her TV appearances and on her PBS cooking show and isn’t shy about being in the limelight, did the marketing.
But when her mother and sister decided to quit, Medearis knew she had to learn to cook if she wanted to keep her food business going.
Though she originally didn’t cook Medearis had written several loved historic research. Did I know that George Washington Carver drove a food wagon around to introduce people to healthy foods?
No. I knew that Carver, who famously said, “There is probably no subject more important than the study of food,” was born a slave and became a botanist, author, educator and agriculturalist. He also collaborated with auto magnate Henry Ford on growing peanuts and soybeans.
And don’t even get her started on Carver and black-eyed peas.
“Black-eyed peas, okra, peanuts and sesame seeds, and the oil they produce, are documented contributions from Africa via the slave trade to our American cuisine,” she writes in her syndicated column. “I prepared black-eyed peas any number of ways while doing research for my first cookbook.”
That would be The African-American Kitchen: Cooking from Our Heritage, a best seller that even now 30 years later is considered a standard on the foodways African Americans bought to this country. The problem though was getting it published. Her award winning children’s books were published by Dutton and when she brought the idea for her cookbook, she found an editor there who loved the book. But the editor at the next level turned it down, saying he’d published an African American cookbook almost 30 years earlier and no one bought it. He didn’t think the country was ready for another.
What’s a Kitchen Diva to do? Make a peach pie, of course, as it’s representative of both Black and Southern food history.
“You could hardly get a peach pie anywhere back then in Manhattan,” says Medearis. Wrapping up both the peach pie and the manuscript, separately we presume, she sent both off to the publishing company.
She got the contract.
“That book sold so many copies it was crazy,”
Overall, she’s written 107 books seven of which seven are cookbooks. Published in seven languages, she’s sold a total of 14 million books. But despite that, she’s not ready to stop.
“People ask me when I’m going to retire,” says Medearis who lives in Austin, Texas. “Why should I? I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m doing what I want to do.”
Creole Chicken Stew
Makes 8 Servings
“This is a quick and healthy version of New Orleans-style gumbo,” writes Medearis about this recipe, which was published in her book, the . “Using frozen vegetables is a real time-saver when making this tasty stew; it’s also the perfect way to use kohlrabi when in season. Select small, tender okra pods for this recipe, and don’t slice them until right before you add them to the stew.”
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons diced seeded jalapeño chile
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup peeled cubed Yukon Gold potatoes or kohlrabi, or a combination
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup halved okra or frozen cut okra
4 cups cooked brown rice
2 green onions, chopped, including green parts
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaf, jalapeño, salt, pepper, and thyme and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a plate, leaving as much oil in the pot as possible. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Stir in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to turn golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Gradually whisk in the broth and cook for another 5 minutes, whisking until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the chicken, potatoes or kohlrabi, and zucchini. Return the sautéed vegetables to the pan. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the okra and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over ½ cup of rice per person and sprinkle with the green onions.
Kitchen Diva: Tap Your Inner Chef With DIY Recipes
Angea Medearis, the Kitchen Diva, wrote one of her syndicated columns on creating Do-It-Yourself recipes.
“Basically, a DIY dinner recipe is about finding a way to retain the flavors of the recipes you love while using the ingredients that you have on hand,” Medearis writes. “If you have always wanted to free yourself from the restraints of a recipe, now is the time to do it! Think of the current lack of ingredients as permission to tap into your inner chef.”
To ease into creating your own DIY dinner recipes, Medearis suggests starting by making a pot of chowder.
“No one really knows the origin of the term chowder,” she writes, “but whether it came from French, Caribbean, Portuguese or Brazilian cooks, the basic meaning is connected to the large pot that the meal is cooked in.”
Medearis is a history buff paritcularly when it comes to food.
“Chowders were introduced to North America by immigrants from France and England more than 250 years ago. Native Americans called the dish ‘chawder’.” she says noting the word interpreted as “chowder” by early settlers and fishermen in New England.
“The original versions of the dish consisted of a pot filled with a mixture of fresh fish, salt pork, leftover hardened biscuits (which were used as a thickener), onions, water and whatever spices were available, writes Medearis. “A chowder is a delicious way to use the ingredients you have on hand to create a meal that does not require extensive prep or simmering for hours. My recipe for Seafood and Sweet Corn Chowder uses the basic techniques.”
My recipe for Seafood and Sweet Corn Chowder uses the basic techniques for making a chowder, but is designed to accommodate the need to vary ingredients based upon what you have on hand or what you can purchase at the store.
Whether you decide to make a seafood or vegetarian chowder, feel free to create your own version of this DIY dinner.
SEAFOOD AND SWEET CORN CHOWDER
If you don’t have all the vegetables, seafood or spices on hand, omit or substitute the ingredient with what you do have. This chowder will still be delicious without it!
3 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup (about l large stalk) chopped celery
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried dill or tarragon, or 1 tablespoon dill pickle juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken broth, seafood stock, clam juice, bouillon fish base or water
1 to 2 large Russet potatoes, or 3 red skin or Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 2-inch cubes, about 2 to 3 cups
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cups frozen corn, thawed, or 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel or cream-style corn, or 6 ears sweet corn, husk and silk removed, or frozen corn on the cob, thawed with kernels cut from the cobb
2 cups heavy cream, half and half
Whole milk or 2 (14-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1 3/4 to 2 cups fully cooked, skinless salmon chunks, or 1 can (14 3/4 ounces) salmon, drained, flaked, bones and skin removed, or 1 to 2 cups fresh or frozen peeled and deveined shrimp, cooked peeled and deveined shrimp, or cooked crab meat (checked for pieces of shell) or a combination of the seafood equaling 1 3/4 to 2 cups.
1. Place the butter or oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven placed over medium heat. Add in the celery, onion, green bell pepper, garlic or garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper, dill, tarragon or dill pickle juice, and the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Saute, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the broth, stock, juice or water, potatoes, carrots and the remaining teaspoon of he salt and pepper. Cover and bring the chowder to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to low; stir the mixture, cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are nearly tender. Stir in the corn, cream or milk, and the salmon, shrimp or cooked crab meat (or a combination of seafood). Simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
4. Garnish with lemon wedges, chopped parsley or green onions. Serve with toasted French bread or crackers. Serves 6
Here’s the Jerk Chicken recipe that won the Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
Combine the oil and vinegar in a medium glass bowl. Stir in the orange and lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, cilantro, green onions, garlic, chili, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sage,thyme, allspice, pepper, and nutmeg.
Place the chicken pieces in a large baking pan and pour the spice mixture over them, coating each piece well. Cover with plastic wrap and place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate 12 hours or overnight, turning once.
Allow the chicken pieces to come to room temperature before grilling. Heat the grill until the coals are somewhat white with ash; the flame should be low. Place the chicken on the grill and cover with the lid. Grill for 30 to 35 minutes, turning pieces to cook evenly. Baste pieces with remaining marinade.
Growing up in Tahoe City, a one stoplight town in California’s High Sierra Mountains, Lindsay Navama yearned for the big city life. Los Angeles offered just that, and she was happy there in her career as a recipe developer, personal chef, and owner of Cookie Culture, a boutique bakery.
But when she and her husband, David, moved to Chicago for work, Navama felt unmoored and wondered what to do next in her life.
Lured by articles about the wonders of Harbor Country, the swath of countryside starting at the state line and curving north along Lake Michigan to Sawyer, Michigan, the couple decided to check it out.
Unfortunately, upon arrival the two were totally underwhelmed.
“We heard people call it the ‘Hamptons of the Midwest but we thought is this it?” says Navama.
The two didn’t return for several years, but when they did—they both experienced what she describes as the region’s magic. It was more than just the beautiful beaches, the eight quaint small towns each unique in its own way, lush farmlands, orchards, rivers, and woods, there was also an appealing vibe. Each visit brought new discoveries– an estate winery, a fun delicatessen that became like a second home, a Swedish bakery that first opened for business in 1912–and new friends.
Wanting to spend more time there, the couple moved into a small place in New Buffalo and dubbed it “Camp Navama.” There Navama cooked and entertained, developing her own recipes and tweaking them when needed to feed friends on gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo, and other diets. She learned the rhythms of the land and seasons such as when deep blue Concord grapes were peaking at Dinges’ Farm in Three Oaks or when an order of fresh caught sturgeon arrived at Rachel Collins’ Flagship Specialty Foods and Fish Market in Lakeside.
In ways it was a convergence of Navama’s experiences growing up in the High Sierras and adulthood in the ever-so-hip L.A. food and cultural scene. Navama identified with many Harbor Country residents who moved to or had second homes in the area and brought that big city sensibility with them when it came to art, food, entertaining but appreciated a more rural way of living and a lot less concrete.
Navama no longer felt lost and instead saw the direction her life should take.
“I wanted to preserve those memories, great meals, and good times in Mason jars,” she says.
A great cookbook with 50 recipes and photos by Gabrielle Sukich of Benton Harbor, it’s also a travel guide with small maps, listings of restaurants, wineries, intriguing hideaways, and everything else the area has to offer.
“I never saw myself as living any other place than California and here I am in a tiny town in the Midwest,” she says. “And I’m beyond grateful it happened.”
Whistle Stop Asian Noodle Salad
Contributed by Whistle Stop Grocery and Chef Eva Frahm
1 pound angel hair or capellini pasta
5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
¼ cup plus ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
¾ cup hoisin sauce, divided
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium yellow bell pepper
¼ cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
Sriracha, to taste (optional)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water, if desired. Add the angel hair and cook 7 to 8 minutes until just al dente, so the noodles are still slightly firm and not overcooked. Drain into a colander, rinse gently with cold water, let drain again, then place in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms in ¼ cup of the olive oil for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Season with ⅛ teaspoon of the salt and ⅛ teaspoon of the pepper. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of the hoisin sauce. Stir to coat and set aside.
Julienne the bell peppers by cutting them into ⅛-inch-thick strips. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 tablespoons hoisin sauce, the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil, the rice vinegar, the garlic chili sauce, and the Sriracha (if using). Set aside.
Add the mushrooms, peppers, scallions, cilantro, and sauce mixture to the noodles. Toss gently to incorporate. Season to taste with the remaining salt and the remaining pepper and transfer to a serving bowl or store covered in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
Lake Life Cranberry Limeade Cosmo
3 ounces favorite vodka
1 ounce triple sec
2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail
3 tablespoons limeade concentrate, thawed
a cocktail shaker and martini glass in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
Add the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and limeade concentrate to the chilled cocktail shaker. Shake your booty while you shake your Cosmo for about 10 seconds, because why not?!
This holiday season, give some fascinating food products that also give back to needy causes to the food lovers on your list.
Blue Lotus Chai, a spiced tea free of all sweeteners, additives, artificial flavorings, or colorings, comes in an assortment of masala blends—Traditional, Golden, Mint, Rooibos, Star Anise, and Mandarin. Caffeine-free, it’s easy to prepare, and contains anti-oxidants. This year, Blue Lotus Chai won the Specialty Food Association’s 2020 sofi™ Award for innovation and taste in the 48th annual awards. They donate 10% of their net profits to charitable organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Research and A Hope for Autism Foundation.
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice)
½ teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon hot water (enough to dissolve chai powder & sweetener)
A few ice cubes
In a measuring cup, dissolve Blue Lotus Chai powder and sweetener in hot water; stir.
Add it, along with milk of choice and ice cubes, into a blender. Blend until ice is well crushed and milk is frothy. Add chia seeds, stir, and let sit for a few minutes. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Note: If you prefer, you can add the chia seeds to the dissolved mixture before adding milk and mix them up in the blender. This adds to the creaminess, with no crunch & chew from the seeds.
Another company that donates 10% of all company profits, in this instance to the Rainforest Trust, Sacred Sauce is a medium-heat sauce made with serrano chilis, cacti and blood oranges containing only vegan-friendly, organic, and natural ingredients. Their Sacred Salad Sauce is probably one of the few medium heat sauces for salads. Made with habanero and serrano chilis, mashed up mango flesh and citrus tangerines giving it a sweetness with out having additives such as sugar or artificial sweeteners. The spicy taste contrasts well with the coolness of salad greens.
Neither Sacred Sauce nor Sacred Salad Sauce contain any preservatives, chemicals, xanthan gum, extracts or concentrates.
With the mission to leave the world a happier, healthier place, the mother and daughter team who founded SkinnyDipped offer a variety of whole nuts “skinnydipped” in thin layers of a dark chocolate, milk chocolate or white chocolate. There’s cashews skinnydipped in a dark chocolate salted caramel, Milk Chocolate Peanuts, almonds in dark chocolate espresso and their Lemon Bliss–almonds in white chocolate with lemon. Low in calories, the ingredients are also non-GMO verified, gluten-free and contain no artificial ingredients.
SkinnyDippers are now available nationwide at @walgreens! Snag a bag of Peanut Butter + Cocoa Almond to keep yourself fueled up when you’re on-the-go! To find out where else they’re available, click here.
SkinnyDipped Peanut Butter Banana Pudding
• 2 cups almond milk
• 1 box (3.7 oz) organic vanilla instant pudding
• 2 bananas, sliced
• 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
• 1 cup Peanut Butter SkinnyDipped Almonds
• 4 dollops of whipped cream
• 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
• 1 tbsp crushed Peanut Butter SkinnyDipped
1. Start by preparing the pudding. Pour 2 cups almond milk into medium mixing bowl, add vanilla instant pudding and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Set aside.
2. In four jars, layer sliced bananas, peanut butter, SkinnyDipped and pudding mixture. Repeat layering until all ingredients have been used and refrigerate.
3. Before serving, top each jar with a dollop of whipped cream, a peanut butter drizzle and some crushed SkinnyDipped. Enjoy!