Exploring and Encouraging a Healthy Life Marked with Joy

Posts tagged ‘Food’

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!




Sunday Night Salad

I try to eat light and healthy on Sunday evenings (unless someone persuasively offers me heavy and fat/sugary). Tonight, for instance, I made a fire-roasted-corn-topped salad.



Spring mix and baby spinach.  Red bell pepper.  Onions.  Fire-roasted corn (I buy it frozen at Whole Foods, saute for a few minutes in one teaspoon of butter and a little water, then chill it for a couple of minutes in the freezer.)  Sliced raw unsalted almonds.  A few shakes of dried oregano and freshly ground black pepper.

So good!


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!

Eating, Dancing and Supporting a Wonderful Cause

Last night, as a VIP, I attended Savor the Flavor of Savannah–a delicious local food tasting event benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association of Coastal Georgia and hosted by the beautiful and talented Deborah Hargroves of Dancing Stars of Georgia.

(Okay, okay, EVERYBODY who bought a ticket possessed VIP status there.  But I was the only person with a vest.)

Savor the Flavor was held at the beautiful and historic Victory Drive home of Dale and Pamela Karacostas.

Deborah is a local dance enthusiast, who recently told Savannah Now, “I do all kinds of dancing: salsa, merengue, Argentine tango and ballroom.”  (Read the entire article at  http://savannahnow.com/accent/2011-04-24/savannah-high-teacher-deborah-hargroves-loves-dance.)  The idea for raising funds for Alzheimer’s began when … wait, just listen to Deborah explain the event:

I wish I had not eaten for about a week before coming because an incredible smorgasbord of Savannah-area cuisine met me at every turn once I entered the house.

(Oh my gosh, this chocolate mousse!  It made me think I was SO VIP.)

Restaurants and businesses providing speciality dishes included Sisters of the New South, Blue Turtle Bistro, Spanky’s Southside, Toucan Cafe, Sweet Potatoes, Bayou Cafe, Rancho Allegre, Southern Graces Bistro, Leopold’s Ice Cream, Basil’s, Circa, Brighter Day, Harris Baking Company, Rum Runners Bakery and Meinhardt Vineyards.

Here I am with vivacious matriarch Beulah Harper Nettles–she’s the mother of both Deborah and Pamela.  And by the way, this event was held in their childhood home.  (Remind me to tell you the story sometime of my childhood home, The Wizard of Oz and hiding under my bed for four hours.)

Even though she is obviously a genteel Southern lady, Ms. Beluah told me to make good use of her picture, that she might be little and have a few years on her, but she was wiry and could easily take me on.  (I want to stay on her good side.)

Walking into yet another beautifully decorated and food-laden room (and at this point paying no attention to people, only aromas, textures and colors of all things edible), I nearly ran into my pastor’s wife, Cheri Hester:

Followed quickly by Pastor Billy:

(I’m so glad my conduct at that moment displayed no outwardly reprobate tendencies.)

I finally made it out back (and my ultimate destination) to a porch where Leopold’s had set up shop.  Here are ice cream specialists Murphy McDonald and Kenneth Carr.

A little later I had the opportunity to thank owners Stratton and Mary Leopold for their support of such a deserving cause.  What a gracious couple.

Care for a chocolate?

I soon found myself sitting alone, dazed and confused, having passed beyond the sugar high to the sugar low.  I don’t know where I am, or even who I am.

Some of the very cool artwork which was part of the silent auction (although I did hear some people talking, I have to say):

Storyteller extraordinaire Dottie Kluttz (I will be sharing a post of Dottie telling one of her stories soon):

Below is Sandy Ligneel, Deborah’s childhood friend since the eighth grade!  (Remind me to tell you sometime my eighth grade story when I got a dart stuck in my scalp.)

Some other Savor the Flavor VIP’s (without vests and apparently with better self control than I have.  I never saw a SINGLE one of them sitting on a couch gorged to the hilt, with food stains all over their clothes):

Deborah’s friend and motivator for the fundraiser, Dot Wallace:

Teresa Coleman:

Manchester, England’s Jacqueline Lordnum and Rafael Davo:

For some reason, I’ve always wanted a staircase like this:

What a really, really fun and worthwhile evening.  So after deciding they would probably say no if I asked if I could take this cool, hip nic-nac home …

… I said goodnight.

But it’s not too late to make a donation to Deborah’s dancing efforts on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association.  You can contact her at dhargroves@gmail.com.  Let’s all join in this “dance” to fight this debilitating condition.

Deborah’s Website: http://sites.google.com/site/deborahhargroves/

The Alzheimer’s Association – Georgia Chapter Website:  http://www.alz.org/georgia/

Dancing Stars of Georgia Page:  http://www.alz.org/georgia/in_my_community_58613.asp

Sign the petition for a strong national Alzheimer’s plan:  http://www.alz.org/

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