I am certainly not known as a health food guru. Most of my recipes start or end with butter. I don’t wear butter as a badge of culinary honor but surely it can’t be bad for you in moderation. I have always believed the mantra “Fat is Flavor”. My husband and I can share a ribeye steak with ease. He eats the leaner inner section and I eat the outer portions that are laced with threads of juicy flavorful fat. I firmly believe in seasoning southern vegetables with rendered bacon grease, strips of salt cured ham, or smoked ham hocks, but I am not opposed to ditching the fat for healthier options like smoked turkey wings, vegetable stock, onions, olive oil, and garlic.
As we mature, we are faced with the age-old question; how do I live a long healthy life? There are many acceptable answers to this question but certainly a key part of the answer is fueling our bodies with simple, wholesome foods. I am always on a quest to find healthier versions of old favorites. I create meals for my family based on memorable foodie experiences, recipes compiled from cookbooks and magazines, outstanding menu items, and experimenting with new ingredients.
I am not well-versed in the vegan preparation of food but I did welcome the challenge when a former bride requested vegan dishes for her wedding. The bride’s mother was a native of Jenkins County and the wedding reception was hosted at their family farm near Birdsville. The bride had many out-of-town guests and wanted to accommodate their vegan lifestyle. We prepared a fun” breakfast for supper” style menu that included vegan pancakes. We prepared the pancakes tableside using vintage waffle irons. Jams, jellies, syrups, compound butters, and other assorted toppings allowed each guest to top their pancakes with the condiments of their choice. I can think of many other healthy options I enjoy for breakfast: egg white and spinach omelets, veggie frittatas, and oatmeal with seasonal fruit.
One of my favorite lunch spots in Statesboro is Sugar Magnolia Bakery and Café. A hidden gem located within the downtown district, Sugar Mag, as my friends and I refer to our preferred brunch/lunch spot, offers a seasonal menu featuring fresh salads, artisanal pizzas, pastas, and freshly baked specialties. I love meeting with my girl gang and catching up over charcuterie and their signature Magnolia Lemonade cocktail. My go-to lunch order is the delicious quinoa bowl loaded with fresh veggies, feta, and chimichurri sauce. I add grilled shrimp and I can’t think of a better light lunch. After my first quinoa bowl from Sugar Mag I had to create my own version. My family and I love Mexican food. I had a blast fashioning a recipe for a healthy quinoa bowl loaded with Southwestern flavor!
Dessert is not often synonymous with health food. My husband’s favorite food is peanut butter. Johnny has a discerning palate that only tolerates Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter. He swears he has passed a blind fold peanut butter identification test. He wakes in the middle of the night, usually around 3:00 a.m. for his “midnight snack”. He and our English Cocker Spaniel, Reb can be heard rummaging around the kitchen in search of Nutter Butter cookies. I set out to find a recipe for a better version of their favorite treat.
Cooking Light is a great source for lighter fare. I often take inspiration from the pages of colorful dishes. The magazine takes a sensible approach to offering healthy recipes that focus on fresh ingredients and is not fixated on completely eliminating carbs, fats, or sugars. The recipes are often simple and filled with easy-to-find ingredients. This is key for me since I usually shop for dinner ingredients at my small-town grocery and products can be limited. Pinterest and the internet are also great resources for fun new recipes. Another culinary challenge is to order fresh ingredients from your local farmers market and create new dishes with what you have “on-hand”.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour and baking powder in bowl and mix well. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until combined. Refrigerate dough for at least for 30 minutes. Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Spray hands with nonstick spray. Dough is sticky! Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet. Make an indention in the center of each ball with your thumb. Spoon a small amount of natural chunky peanut butter into the indention in the center of each cookie. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.