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Bean Soup – or what to do with your Easter ham bone…

Yummy Soup Ingredients

On Easter, we had the ham from the local hog we recently bought.  It was quite tasty and since it was a whopping 18 pounds, we have lots of leftover ham in both the freezer and fridge.  As we always do when we have a ham bone, I made our family’s Bean & Hominy Soup.  I used dry navy beans and canned hominy this time, but since I got the recipe from my mom and she always uses canned beans, I am giving the recipe using those. Of course, you can use dried hominy and beans, instead of canned, if you prefer. It will be both cheaper and healthier to make that way.

This is the navy bean soup that my family makes. It is a recipe that my Mom got from her Mom and is a dish that they used to make in Key West, Florida. My grandparents were Key West “Conchs”, meaning they were born and raised in Key West. I guess that this recipe came over to Key West from the Bahamas (or maybe Cuba?) along with the immigrants from there in the late 1800’s. I’ll call it “Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup” after my grandmother.

But, I will note that while my mom has always made it with hominy, recently she did she reveal that when she was a young child (late 1930’s) her Mom, Ida, made it with dried white “cracked corn”. Later, as it became easier to find hominy and more difficult to find food-grade cracked corn for human consumption (it is used today in chicken feed), they switched to hominy.

Wikipedia states about hominy that “Soaking the corn in lye kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.”

It’s great with hominy, but I guess the cracked corn is more authentic.  Also, we always used white hominy, but this time I used half white and half yellow and it still looked and tasted fine. Feel free to adjust the hominy to bean ratio to your tastes, but there must be some hominy in it.  Sadly, there is no vegetarian version of this, since the ham bone and attached ham is what give it most of the flavor.

Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup

  • 1 ham bone (with some ham left on it)
  • 4 cans Navy beans, 15 oz. size cans (you can use Northern beans, but it’s not quite the same)
  • 2 cans white hominy, 15.5 oz. size cans (hominy is lye-soaked corn, yellow will do if you can’t get white)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Old Sour, for adding at the table (optional)
  1. Simmer the ham bone in water until the meat drops off and the water makes a rich broth. I use my crock-pot and cook it on low overnight.
  2. Remove the bone and cut up any larger chunks of meat to small bite-size pieces. Drain and rinse the beans and hominy and put the chopped onion in the broth/meat in a pot along with the hominy and beans. Add additional water if necessary, as the final product should have the consistency of a stew when finished.
  3. Cook on low heat (or in a crock pot) for several hours, until the beans and hominy have softened a little and made a saucy-broth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. At the table, you can add “old sour” to taste.

“Old Sour”  is Key Lime Juice that has salt added to it, and is then left to sit and sour/ferment for a while.  I think that its use goes back to the seafaring heritage of many Key West and Bahamian folks, as the preserved  lime juice is a good source of vitamin C when you are out at sea.  That is why “limey” is a slang term for a sailor.

I found this recipe on a Key West web site, in case you can’t find it ready-made. By the way, my Mom doesn’t use peppers in hers, just lime juice and salt. Old Sour is a very old Key West tradition and Conchs use on it just about everything.

Old Sour

  • 2 cups Key Lime juice or Persian Lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 Bird Peppers or a few drops of hot sauce, optional
  1. Strain the lime juice through cheesecloth three or four times to make sure to remove all pulp.
  2. Mix lime juice and salt together. Pour into bottles with Bird Peppers. Cork.
  3. Refrigerate two weeks or more before using, the longer the better. Store in refrigerator three to six months.

Serve the bean soup with buttered Cuban bread, or French or Italian if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a town like Tampa were you can get Cuban bread.  A salad goes well with it and gives you something green.

The girls really like this soup and at their request have taken it for lunch in their thermoses the last two days.

– Stacey

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops

Sorry I yet again disappeared for several weeks.  We have had a spate of illness here…stomach virus, then strep, and then another virus that caused high fevers.  One or two of the girls got each thing over the last 2 weeks.  Now I know one reason that folks home school, to keep their kids away from other sick kids.  🙂  I do post interesting articles and links on my blog’s Facebook page even when not posting to the blog itself, so come join me either there or on twitter if things are quiet here.

In the meantime, we purchased half of a locally-raised in the great outdoors hog from one of our friends that has a few. I shared the half with another friend, so I ended up with about 38 pounds of prime pork in my freezer.  All the meat we have had so far has been delicious and the bacon and sausage are both nitrate-free.  I have to say the bacon was amazingly tasty.

Well, last night, I pulled out a package of the pork chops to cook.  I got home at about 6:10 and had to leave at 6:55 to get to a meeting, so needed a fast recipe.  Luckily, Mike had already peeled and cut up the potatoes and had them on the stove, so when I got home, I seasoned the chops and sautéed them while steaming the asparagus and cutting up some fresh fruit, kiwis and blueberries.  I know the serving size on the mashed potatoes is a bit large, but we rarely have them, so I indulged. Timewise, I was a few minutes late, but did make it to my 7 pm meeting. 

The meal was delicious, especially the pork.  I don’t know if it was the spices or the excellent quality of the meat, but either way, I am sharing the recipe. I based mine on a recipe for “Pepper-Rubbed Pork Chops” from Bigoven.com, but I tweaked and simplified it even more.

Peppery Spiced Pork Chops
(serves 3-6 depending on appetite)

  • 1  1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper, coarsely crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-6 pork chops (depends on thickness, about 2 pounds)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Stir together everything except the pork chops and the olive oil until well mixed.  Rub spice mixture on both sides of chops.  (I put mine in an old spice shaker bottle to make it easier to apply.)
  2. Put olive oil in large skillet or frying pan and heat on medium-high.  When hot, add pork chops and cook thoroughly turning once, until crispy on the outside and chops are done throughout.
  3. If you want some “gravy”, after removing your chops, you can deglaze your pan with 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream. 

It was loved by all.   Mike and the kids had some of the “gravy” on theirs, but I didn’t.

– Stacey

Holiday Recipe – Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger

image

I am heading off to visit family for the holidays, so I probably won’t be posting here for next week or so.  But, I wanted to leave you with a recipe for  “Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger”.  The recipe originally comes from Clean Eating Magazine.  It was in their 2009 Fall edition, I believe. 

I have made it the last two Thanksgivings and it is great and a perfect “real food” alternative to the canned cranberry sauce stuff which typicallly is full of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  The recipe makes two cups which is a lot since the flavor is intense.  So, if you don’t have a large family to feed, you might want to cut the recipe in half, although I am sure it would freeze well.

For Thanksgiving, my menu plans are:

  • Roast Turkey Breast
  • Dressing (made from homemade cornbread and storebought 100% whole wheat bread)
  • Homemade Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger
  • Green Bean Casserole (made using organic canned green beans and the Cream of Mushroom soup from Pacific Natural Foods)
  • Waldorf Salad (apples, celery, raisins, chopped pecans, unsweetened coconut and a little mayo/yogurt dressing)
  • Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with maple syrup & cinnamon
  • Spiced Pumpkin Mousse

If I decide to go a bit crazy, I might add some sautéed Brussel sprouts, but they are not at all a traditional part of our Thanksgiving; just trying to add some more non-starchy vegetables to the meal.  Anyway, here is the recipe.

– Stacey

Cranberry Sauce with Apples & Ginger
from Clean Eating Magazine
Serves: 8-16, Makes: 2 cups

  • 12 oz cranberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted
  • 1 apple, cored and finely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, finely minced
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cranberries break down, apples soften and mixture thickens (sauce will continue to thicken slightly as it chills). Stir often to prevent sticking on bottom of pan.
  3. Transfer to a serving dish or storage container, cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Our local FOOD DAY event was GREAT!

Food Day BagI posted a few weeks ago about our PTA’s plans for celebrating Food Day at our local elementary school.  Our school if from Pre-K to 5th grade and has just over 530 students.  Well, I wanted to let you know that it went great.

Fruits and veggies prepped for Food Day

Fruits & veggies prepped for one grade for Food Day

We had a lot of support from the community and from other PTA parents, as well at the teachers.  Our speakers included: Matt Runkle of Native Roots Market, Becky Black from the OSU Extension Office, a local farmer William Edgar, Wanda Danley from the Norman Farmer’s Market, Prof. Deborah Dalton from OU’s Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Environment program, and one of our PTA moms that did double duty, Laura Vaughn, who is an enthusiastic home gardener.  We are very thankful to all our speakers, especially considering the short timeline in planning the event.

We had gotten produce donations from Native Roots Market, Natural Grocers, and our local Homeland store.  That was supplemented with some extra veggies funded by the PTA and then several parents sent enough of their kids favorite fruit or veggie for that child’s class.  All the kids got to taste broccoli, apples, celery, spinach, grapes, bananas, summer squash, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers.  We also had samples of fresh ginger and basil to try.

Volunteers from OU’s OUr Earth student organization helped throughout the day.  They guided the speakers from class to class and helped the teachers serve the fruits and vegetables during the tasting.

Prior to Food Day, we put posters up around the school announcing it and we also included a flyer in the kids’ “Thursday Folder” that goes home to parents each week.  That is where we invited parents to send additional fruits and veggies for their child’s class.

Teacher Food Day Tasting

Blindfolded Teacher Fruit & Veggie Tasting

The morning of Food Day, the school started the day with their regular Monday Morning Assembly, but it included an introduction to Food Day and a blindfolded fruit and veggie tasting with three of the teachers.  The kids loved that part.  We had the teachers taste all of the fruits and veggies that the students would be trying later that day.

Then, during the class’ regular “snacktime” the speakers talked for about 10 minutes about where your food comes from and making healthy food choices including eating more fruits and vegetables.

The cafeteria also joined in during lunchtime by highlighting the Sodexo “Fruit of the Month” for October which was grapes.

– Stacey

Here are some pictures of our Food Day speakers in the classrooms:

Food Day - Pre-K

Matt Runkle of Native Roots talking to the Pre-K kids

 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
 
Food Day - 1st grade

1st grade learning about cantaloupes from farmer William Edgar

 
Food Day - 2nd grade

Matt Runkle of Native roots talking to a 2nd grade class

 
Food Day - 4th grade

Wanda Danley of the Norman Farmers Market talking to 4th graders

  
 

 

Cooking with Kids plus a kid-friendly recipe

Girls thumbs up at Platt My PlateI think it is important that you include your kids as much as possible in actually planning, shopping for, and preparing the family meals.  If they are a part of that process, they are more likely to try and even enjoy healthier foods that you prepare. 

Also, many people today are lacking in basic cooking skills and that leads to a reliance on fast food and microwave processed foods, neither of which is healthy.  I believe that unless you are wealthy enough to have a personal chef, you have to be able to cook in order to eat healthy.  So, I try to include at least one or two of the girls when I cook.

Last weekend, the girls and I attended an event in Oklahoma City called “Platt My Plate, a hands-on cooking expo for families”, that was co-sponsored by Platt College’s Culinary Institute and the Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition

The Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition is a statewide initiative to improve the overall health and well-being of Oklahoma youth and families by reducing childhood obesity. From their press release about the event:

” The goal of the Platt My Plate event is to get people moving and to teach them to cook a healthy meal based on the USDA “My Plate” guidelines.  In Oklahoma, one in three children are overweight or obese, we rank last in fruit and vegetable consumption and we’re on track to be the most obese state in the nation by 2018.”

By the way, “My Plate” replaces the USDA food pyramid with new nutritional information and encourages all families to choose to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

Girls talking to a chef at Platt My PlateAt the event, we had an opportunity to work together as a family to cook one “My Plate” meal under the direction of a presenting chef, who was Christine Dowd, Owner and Executive Chef of Trattoria Il Centro and Aunt Pitty Pats. Plus, the event was free. There was a great turnout and every cooking station in all three time slots seemed to be taken.

Girls cooking food at Platt my plate

The students from Platt College had already prepped all the ingredients for the families, so it only took a few minutes to cook our food and we didn’t have to use any knives.  The kids had a lot of fun making the  “Sautéed Chicken with Cider Sauce and Squash Noodles” and were very excited to take half of it home for Daddy and tell him that they made it.  They also enjoyed eating the other half themselves.

-Stacey

 

Girls eating food they cooked

Here is a link to what the finished dish looks like  and below is the recipe we made:

Back from vacation…new posts coming soon

kids at beach

On vacation at the beach with the kids

Well, if you were wondering why the blog has been so quiet, we have been on vacation for the last 2 weeks.  So, because of limited computer access and being busy having fun with the family, I didn’t get to post.  But, I did think about lots of food related topics especially those related to travel…car trip snacks, eating at other people’s homes who follow a SAD (standard  American diet), eating out while staying in a hotel, lunch/snacks at a water park, etc. that I will hopefully be blogging about soon, so please stay tuned.

– Stacey

Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity

Who watched “One Nation Overweight” on CNBC this week?  I think I had seen parts of it last year…some was familiar and some was not.  You can watch it on hulu here or on CNBC here.

There were lots of remarkable parts…did you notice the number of overweight or obese doctors, nurses, and orderlies in the section about bariatric surgery?  That shows what it means that 2/3 of American adults are either overweight or obese. Even the people who work in healthcare have the same struggles.  But, as a parent the most unsettling piece was on childhood obesity here.

On Saturday, we went to the Oklahoma City Zoo with the girls.  I guess I am just becoming more observant, but I really noticed the numbers of overweight and obese children that were there.  For some reason, the numbers seemed to be higher than what I see around my girls’ elementary school.

We all have heard that the rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has been increasing over the years.  Federal government data  shows:

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. Another significant chunk is “just overweight”.
  • Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • There are significant racial, ethnic and socio-economic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents.

For example, back when I was a “kid” in the late 1970’s the rate of obesity among 6-11 year old was 6.5%. In 2007-2008, the rate in this same age group was 19.6% according to the data here.

childhood obesity graph

While I was an overweight teen and am an obese adult, I was not either as a child.  In Oklahoma, a state where over 30% of adults are obese and thus I “fit right in”, I wonder how many of them were a “healthy weight” as children…probably most.  The fact that so many American kids are now starting out overweight or obese really scares me about what their health futures will be.  It is predicted that this generation of children is the first that will have a shorter lifespan than their parents and a lot of that is attributable to weight-related health problems.

For more on the data, there is a new CDC report “Children’s Food Environment State
Indicator Report, 2011” available here  and there is also some interesting information here.

So, why do we care as parents and as a society?  Well, as parents, I would hope that we would all care about the health and happiness of our kids.  I think that almost all parents care, they just don’t realize how inundated they and their kids are by food marketing and how surrounded they are by a poor food environment from which to make choices.  As a society, we will be paying for the medical costs of this trend for years to come.  So, even if you and your kids are a healthy weight, you need to care
about their friends and classmates, especially if they are reliant on the government through various social programs to provide them with much of their food.

So, what are the problems that childhood obesity can cause?  Some of them are the same as adult obesity, mainly health issues, etc.  But, some are more critical to kids and teens.  Bullying is a big threat when you are overweight or obese.  I recently witnessed some elementary-age boys taunting a girl in their class that is overweight.  They were calling her “fat girl” and she was in tears.  The boys were punished for their behavior by the teacher, but the girl’s self-esteem was already affected by those hurtful words.  As an overweight adult myself, I know how embarrassing it can be when you are singled out because of your weight; it must be so much worse as a kid that is trying to just “fit in”.

What are the causes of this recent trend in children?  Kids’ daily environments – their schools, childcare facilities, churches, and their local communities influence the healthfulness of their diets.   There is direct marketing to children of food items, misleading marketing claims about healthiness of food made to parents, access to and affordability of healthy foods in the school and local community, increased consumption of soda and juice by kids (the leading source of added sugar among children is sugar-sweetened drinks) and less exercise in the daily life of kids.

What are some things we can do as parents and more globally as a society to combat it?  Providing all children with healthy food environments is key to reaching the public health goals of reducing childhood obesity and improving nutrition.  So we should:

  • Reduce the amount of marketing that kids are exposed to.  This is not going to be done voluntarily by companies.  It is only going to be achieved through
    regulations similar to those that keep cigarette and hard liquor ads off TV.  Yes, I am a political liberal, but do you really think that any of the companies advertising soda, fitness drinks, candy, potato chips, pizza and burgers to kids are going to stop on their own because they really care about kids?
  • Reduce kid’s screen time.  There is a correlation between the amount of time kids spend watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web, etc. and being overweight.  Yes, having a statistician husband, I know that correlation does not equal causation, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that kids sitting in front of a TV are not getting as much physical activity as those outside playing.  Also, from a health perspective, it is not a wise thing for a kid to have a TV in his or her bedroom.
  • Build physical activity into everyday routines. Back when I was a kid, it was common for kids to walk or bike to school. When we got home from school we would head off on our own and play outside with other kids all over the neighborhood.  Now, most children are driven to school, whether by a parent or on a school bus. For some kids school is too far away and parents do have justifiable safety concerns about kids walking and biking on their own or playing outside unsupervised.  So, parents have to find ways of adding activity to their kid’s day.  Believe me, I know this is hard to do with working busy parents, but it has to be a priority.  A family walk or bike ride several times a week is a great way to give everyone in the family some exercise and also spend some time together. If the weather is bad, take a page out of the older generation’s
    handbook and walk around the mall.  🙂
  • Ensure that the school breakfast and lunch programs reduce their reliance on processed foods and increase the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables available to kids.  I posted recently about the lunch offerings in our local school cafeteria run by Sodexo.  To see lots more examples of what kids are really being served, head to the Fed Up with School Lunch blog .  We as a society have to start caring enough to spend more money on school food. Whenever I see criticism of school menus online, there is always a vocal contingent that claims it is elitist to care about food quality when there are hungry kids whose only food all day may be what they eat at school.  To them I say: If that is their only food,
    then it REALLY needs to be healthy food heavy on the fresh fruits and veggies,
    not processed chicken nuggets, white bread and processed cheese sandwiches, rice krispy treats, and chocolate milk. As one blogger recently called it “Carnival Food”.  In the long run, I believe that giving less fortunate kids a good nutritional start in life will benefit us all through reduced medical and other costs in the future.  Also, well-fed kids think better and get more out of school.  So, they will be a greater asset to our society.
  • Eat meals together as a family. Parents have tremendous influence on children’s food behaviors. Eating meals together as a family has many positive effects on children, including the development of healthy eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight. Also, foods prepared at home are likely to be more nutritious than foods prepared away from home.

I hope I have not offended anyone.  As someone who has struggled with her own  weight for years, my hope is this is something that our kids would not have to deal with.  And it is up to us to do our job as “their village” to help them.  So, what are your thoughts on childhood obesity and what do you think we can do to help our kids?

–Stacey

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