Exploring and Encouraging a Healthy Life Marked with Joy

Archive for the ‘Delicious Joy’ Category

Joyful 2018!

I am starting the blog again.  May you all have the best year, this year, that you have ever had!  Full of Joy, Health, and Enlightenment.

An other-worldly Savannah snowstorm in Savannah, GA.  A harbinger of great things to come!

Okra! Okra! Gimme Mo Okra!


Okra is BY FAR my favorite summer vegetable.  I grew up in north Georgia having to take a knife out to the garden nearly every evening, wearing a long-sleeved shirt in the summer heat, and cut the star-shaped veggie off its itchy stalks.  But, oh my goodness!  The taste!  After my fried okra plateful, and then the gumbo, I was life-long-hooked.

Okra:  Herbaceous, hairy, annual plant of the mallow family (Malvaceae). It is native to the tropics of the Eastern Hemisphere and is widely cultivated or for its edible fruit. The leaves are heart-shaped and three- to five-lobed; the flowers are yellow with a crimson centre. The fruit or pod, hairy at the base, is a tapering, 10-angled capsule, 10–25 cm (4–10 inches) in length (except in the dwarf varieties), that contains numerous oval, dark-coloured seeds. It may be prepared like asparagus, sauteed, or pickled, and it is also an ingredient in various stews and in the gumbos of the southern United States; the large amount of mucilage (gelatinous substance) it contains makes it useful as a thickener for broths and soups. In some countries the seeds are used as a substitute for coffee. The leaves and immature fruit long have been popular in the East for use in poultices to relieve pain.



— Encyclopedia Britannica  (Well, not the pictures.)


I LOVE chopping okra–the smell, the texture, the soul involved.

Just finished chopping this mess:



And my gumbo from the other night:




Just look at a few of the Health Benefits of MOKRA (my okra):

  • The pods are among the very low calorie vegetables. They provide just 30 calories per 100 g, besides containing no saturated fats or cholesterol. Nonetheless, they are rich sources of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins; often recommended by nutritionists in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • The pods are one of the rich sources of mucilage substance that help in smooth peristalsis of digested food through the gut and ease constipation condition.
  • The pods contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene, xanthin and lutein. It is one of the vegetables with highest levels of these anti-oxidants. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • Fresh pods are the good source of folates; provide about 22% of RDA per 100 g. Consumption of foods rich in folates, especially during the pre-conception period helps decrease the incidence of neural tube defects in the offspring.
  • The gumbo pods are also an excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-C, providing about 36% of daily-recommended levels. Research suggests that consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop immunity against infectious agents, reduce episodes of cold and cough and protect the body from harmful free radicals.
  • The veggies are rich in B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. The pods also contain good amounts of vitamin K.  Vitamin K is a co-factor for blood clotting enzymes and is required for strengthening of bones.
  • The pods are an also good source of many important minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and magnesium.




Good Saturday Evening to All!  Eat MOKRA!

Neal’s Ridiculously Simple Okra Gumbo:

One medium onion, a few cloves of garlic, some okra, a few vine-ripe tomatoes (emphasis: vine ripe)

Sautee your chopped onion in a tad of olive oil.  Add the chopped tomatoes and either a couple cups of vegetable broth (I make mine when I’m boiling corn or other vegs–don’t throw that nectar away!) or water.  Simmer a few minutes.  Then add the sliced-pretty okra.  But not too long.  You don’t want it all mushy.  10 mins is great.  Don’t add much salt-you want to taste the okra!




My Friday Night BeeMeading

Alternate post title #1:  To Mead or Not to Mead

Alternate post title #2:  I’m So Meady

I’m flabbergasted when the occasional glass-half-empty-er complains that there’s not much to do in Savannah.  There’s a swarming beehive of activity seven days (and nights) a week around here!  Take last night, for example.  I walked down Broughton Street to the Savannah Bee Company …


… one of the coolest shops on Savannah’s “main street.”  They were having a Mead Tasting Event at our city’s only mead bar.


Now, I don’t know about you, faithful blog followers, but I didn’t really possess much mead knowledge before last night.  I thought I remembered something from world lit about Beowulf helping the king of the Danes, whose mead hall was under attack by bad monster Grendel.  Remember?  After Beowulf kills him, Grendel’s mama plays tit for tat by attacking said mead hall but is also defeated.  The lesson I got from that story: Do NOT mess with mead halls.  Ever.



So I was on my Absolute Best Behavior when I walked through the honeycombed front doors.



Pushing our way through the crowd, we met Michael and Bernice Fairbrother (how hip is that name?), owners of Moonlight Meadery of Londonderry, New Hampshire, who were on hand to pour and explain.  Watch this so-cool short video about Michael and Bernice.


According to the Moonlight Meadery website, “Mead is a wine made from honey, water and yeast. The sweetness ranges from dry to sweet, it can be still, petillant (ever so lightly carbonated), or sparkling.  It’s the oldest fermented beverage, but the least known.”

Here’s Michael:




And here I am buddying up with Michael (and standing sort of behind him in case a huge evil monster is about to storm the mead hall).




And here’s delightful Bernice hard at work pouring perfectly:






And here’s the third character in the night’s sweet narrative, beautiful Danielle Hicks, the Mead Bar Manager of the Savannah Bee Company.





But hold on just a second!  Stop the presses!  What’s that on the right in the photo above?!

I looked, starting to shake visibly.


Terror began to grip my heart.  Even though I pasted on a false, meady smile for the press.


Because I just KNEW that Danielle was innocently cradling Grendel’s descendent, come back to seek revenge–in Savannah, Georgia of all places!  I had to get outta that blame mead hall!  What was I thinking coming in the first place?!

I ask you … is this the face of pure evil or not?




Okay maybe not, AND I hadn’t yet tasted the last of the evening’s meads, Kurt’s Apple Pie Mead …


… so I hung around for a while.  And lived.

What a great time with Michael, Bernice and Danielle.


But the evening was far from over.  Danielle asked if we liked music, and still trembling a bit, I uttered “Sure!” and she gave the invitation to be her guests at the get-in-by-member-key-only House of Mata Hari near the river on Factor’s Row.  Come to find out, Danielle was the featured singer!  Check out her website at daniellehicks.net and take a listen.

Oh my gosh, what fun was had by all!  And for five dollars.


So let’s Meet for Mead one of these evenings!


Other than the fabulous Savannah Bee Company, here’s a list of other Savannah spots where you can find Michael’s mead.  Get your mead list.

Related posts you might enjoy:

2013 Savannah Irish and Cherokee Indian/Native American Book and Bee Festival

Bee Well, Bee Happy

September Oaks One

September Oaks Two

Saturday Salad Joy

It may be well past summer, but I’m still solidly salading away.  Here’s today’s Saturday Salad Creation:

Mixed greens, sauerkraut, carrots and fire-roasted corn.




Tomato Joy

To me, the perfect picture of summer happiness is this …



… vine-ripened tomatoes.  The color, the smell, the taste and the memories of tomato summers gone by.

The above beauties went into my okra-tomato gumbo.


Come on over!

Pot Pie Smiles

One of my earliest joyful memories as a kid finds me meandering off, on warm summer mornings, to the community playground near my house in Cochran Field, near Macon, Georgia.  My best friend Billy and I would play until our mothers brought us chicken pot pies and sweet tea.  Sitting at the weathered, wooden picnic tables, we would  gobble down our pot pies in their little aluminum containers (which we repurposed as treasure collectors).

I have always loved the creamy texture, the flaky crusts, the green peas and carrots, and the homey, Mama-ish warmth of chicken pot pies (or turkey pot pies but NOT cheesy or veggie pot pies).  Of course, they were FROZEN SOLID forty-five minutes before I had all those lovey feelings as a child.  And back then, I didn’t realize that our mothers were watching The Price Is Right or Queen for a Day instead of preparing fresh, homemade lunches for us boys.

So after buying organic vegetables from the local farm-to-table community market (doesn’t that make me sound health-oriented and grounded yet hip and on-target?), I decided to make a homemade chicken pot pie.  HOMEMADE

First of all, do you have ANY clue how long it takes to chop carrots, celery, peppers and potatoes?  Boil the corn and then scrape it off the cob?  Grate the rosemary?  Roll out the dough?  (Okay, okay, all I did was roll it out of the carton, but still.)

But, oh my goodness, what fun!  I may become a famous TV chef or something!











Swanson’s may do it faster, but not better!

Repost — September Oaks: A Midsummer Afternoon at a South Carolina Lowcountry Vineyard

It seems that some of the pictures from yesterday’s vineyard posting did not show up!  Uh oh.  So being the tech-savvy blogger that I am, I’m reposting them all just for you, faithful blogosphere residents.  Thanks. 

Yesterday afternoon I ventured off the too-beaten trail, heading away from hometown Savannah across the Talmadge Memorial Bridge on US 17 into the South Carolina Low Country.  My destination: September Oaks Vineyards, a small but incredibly beautiful boutique winery hidden in the midst of towering, ancient live oak trees, just outside Ridgeland, SC.  September Oaks welcomes visitors along a magical shaded drive, reminiscent of an antebellum plantation approach.  I’m 99% sure that the Spanish moss tentacles waved a Southern welcome especially for me as I drove onto the property.  (And I hadn’t even tasted any wine yet.)

Before meeting a soul, I did a little exploration of the grounds.

The muscadine vines looked in excellent health, grapes drooping heavily and bountifully in the July heat.

I was transported back …

… quite a few years (don’t ask!) to my North Georgia upbringing in Ball Ground near the foothills of the Appalachian Trail, and my father, “Tub,” making muscadine jelly from the grapes we picked along area streams.  I closed my eyes, and Dad stood before me in our little blue-curtained kitchen as he measured grapes, sugar and Sure Gel to create the heavenly treat.  I blinked and there was my mom, “Neever,” pulling hot golden buttermilk biscuits from the oven.  My biscuit, halved and steaming, centered on green Corelle.  The butter melting and glistening.  The minutes-new, still warm jelly spread.  Little Neal smiling in edible joy.

Okay, for goodness sake, let’s get back to the winery tour!  I thought I rested secure in my world famous blogger stature until I stood next to this tree.  It cut me down to size.

Finally I saw the sign to the wine tasting, so started to mosey over that way.

Got sidetracked.

Find Neal:

The rustically beautiful tasting room.

And here’s Nikki, the wine tasting hostess/teacher.  (She’s also an English teacher, so a kindred spirit.)

I know next to nothing about wine, so the experience was fascinating.  According to their website, September Oak’s “goal is to create  unique and high quality wines, specializing in wines made from muscadine grapes (vitis rotundifolia). We’ll also be developing a variety of wines from different vinefera grapes as well as blending the merlot and muscadine grapes” (SOV Website).  The tasting included seven wines: a Chardonnay, SOV Family White (made from the muscadine grapes you saw earlier, and whose aroma reminded me of my dad’s muscadine jelly), White Merlot, Kiwi Gold (yes, with locally grown kiwi), Crescent Moon, SOV Lenoir (“a dry red that brings history home with the Lenior grape that originated in the Low Country in the 1700’s”), and SOV Family Red.  Some of these wines have already won prizes.  Congrats!

[Do you KNOW that at a wine tasting you actually DRINK the wine?!  Glass after glass.  Like SEVEN glasses.  Isn’t wine alcoholic?]

Here’s another wine-taster, Damon from Hilton Head.  (I asked him for a recommendation for a great HH restaurant, and he immediately said, “The Sage Room, on the south end.  Tell them I sent you.”  So I plan to, soon.  I’ll keep you posted.)  Damon knew SO MUCH about wine that I felt like one of the Kardashians trying to talk to Einstein.

I mean, he asked questions about grape growth patterns and parent vines and bouquets.  The foremost, burning question on my mind was, “Yall think I shoud buy this?  It’s so cool!”

It was my lucky day …

… because after the tasting, I ventured behind these doors (Wizard of Oz-ishly) and met the September Oaks owner Grady Woods (cool and appropriate last name, don’t you think?) and his polite son Kent, as they were working.

Grady showed us some of the equipment and explained about plans for expansion of the winery.

I stood behind a barrel and made the announcement that maybe I would just start up a winery/vineyard.  (As some of you know, I have frustratingly abandoned my desire to be a tugboat operator.)  I thought that perhaps I could call my winery something like NealNowReallyEnJoysWineTastings.  But I got no respect at all from Nikki and Damon:

But I got even by confiscating a big ole barrel of wine.  “I gotta load this by myself?!”

What a great Low Country afternoon.  I will definitely go back one of these days.  You go with me!

Now which way is Savannah?

See you next time.

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