Marion Sansing of Starkville chops watermelon radish for a salad featuring leftover black-eyed peas. Reducing food waste is one of Sansing's 10 basic suggestions for the new year. She will present "Reviving Traditional Food Preservation Methods" at the Homestead Education Center in Starkville Sunday, Jan. 8 at 2:30 p.m. To register go to thehomesteadcenter.com/calendar. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
The finished product: "It tastes like a summer salad," Marion Sansing says. "Very welcome after all this heavy holiday eating." Her ingredients include millet, black-eyed peas, watermelon radish, red onion, parsley, lime juice, olive oil, and seasonings.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
Sansing used leftover black-eyed peas in these brownies which also include gluten-free flour, eggs, sugar, coconut oil, cocoa and chocolate chips.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Saff
Marion Sansing harvests shiitake mushrooms at her Starkville home.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
January 4, 2017 10:40:37 AM
Not long after our pecan pies and Christmas chocolates have been dispensed, thoughts turn to how we're going to do better in 2017. Once again, January dangles the promise -- at least the opportunity -- of a new you. Somehow we're going to get it together this time, eat better, eat smarter, eat healthier. Often, however, our game plan is too vague (sometimes even too ambitious) to harvest lasting success.
Marion Sansing of Starkville steps in with advice on 10 positive steps for the new year. Sansing is a former executive director of the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi and currently serves as leader of the Starkville Real Foods Group. She frequently gives talks and demos on traditional kitchen practices; the next will be Sunday, Jan. 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Homestead Education Center in Starkville. To register go to thehomesteadcenter.com/calendar
"Judging by the top food trends of the last few years, it appears that more and more are recognizing the relation between personal health and eating habits," says the food enthusiast. Even medical professionals are more inclined to recommend nutrition over pharmaceuticals for some conditions. After a month of holiday favorites, comfort foods, ample couch time and more sugar than usual, most of us are ready to take better care of ourselves.
"Unfortunately, with information overload and too many conflicting health claims, we lose track and our focus and make inferior choices, if any," Sansing says. "These 10 basic steps will hopefully clear your mind and guide you to better eating and better health."
It is not just about what you eat, but also about the quality of that food. Produce that has been harvested unripe several weeks ago has lost much of its nutrition along the way. Food grown by a local farmer was most likely harvested the day before. Meat, eggs and milk grown in unnatural conditions will be less wholesome that pasture-raised products. Foods in season are more alimental, or nourishing, and less expensive.
Don't know what's in season? Check out this list: snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide. Educate yourself which fruits and vegetables are treated heaviest with chemicals and know which hold relatively few pesticides. Here is a handy guide you can keep in your wallet: ewg.org/foodnews/guide.php.
Choose your battles
Most of us can't afford optimal nourishment time-wise and financially. So pick one staple you eat most of the time -- for example, rice. Now, do your research. Find out which rice has the most health benefits, which brand is highly rated, what is the most nutritious way to prepare rice, what is the best way to store it, how long does it keep and whatever else you can learn.
You might want to order it in bulk, or even share your order with friends who probably appreciate all the groundwork you have done. Once you are comfortable with this, you can move on to your next commonly used ingredient.
Reduce food waste
When you spend more on higher quality foods, make good use of all the parts. Save vegetable scraps for broth (anything in the onion family, carrot, celery, parsley, mushrooms, tomato, nothing from the cabbage family) and meat scraps and bones for stock. Ferment, pickle or dry leftover produce. Tougher parts of a vegetable or wilted vegetables can be made into soup. Just think, or google what you can do with something before throwing it out.
Keep a well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer for an on-the-spot meal. Here are some suggestions.
Pantry: Onions, garlic, potatoes, pasta, grits, rolled oats, rice, dried legumes, dried fruit, flour, canned tomatoes, olive oil, spices, nut butter, balsamic vinegar, canned fish;
Fridge: Eggs, butter, carrots, a piece of Parmesan, soy sauce, nuts;
Freezer: Stocks and broths, bacon, sausage, shrimp, spinach.
Know what you are eating; think about ingredients and their origins, not about the calories. Think about why you are eating; are you stressed out or are you hungry? Take time to enjoy your meal without too many distractions. Eat slowly. Ask yourself what the meal is providing for your well-being.
Prior proper planning
Yes, preparing food takes time. It is a choice you can make. Nourishing our bodies is a basic need, like sleep and shelter. For some reason we like to deprive ourselves of the first two.
Plan for leftovers. Spend a day cooking and freezing components of recipes, create a master recipe list (stock your pantry accordingly,) check what is on sale, in season, in your fridge.
Make one thing yourself
Pick one processed food that you buy regularly and experiment with making it yourself. I would suggest salad dressings; they are overpriced, have a ton of unknown ingredients and don't taste that good.
Homemade dressings are easy to make, keep well in the fridge, and you are in control of the quality of the ingredients. Once you have mastered that, move on to something else, maybe granola.
You are you
We are all a little different. Don't force yourself into something that does not sit with you, just because it worked for someone else (certain diets, times to eat, etc.). Listen to your body and find out what you need. When are you usually hungry, when do you run out of energy, which foods make you feel bad, which foods elevate your heart rate? What are you craving and why?
Embrace plant proteins
We eat too much meat, which is not only hard on our bodies but also hard on the environment. Dietitians recommend about 60g of proteins per day per person. The average American eats 112g per day. A great, high source of complete proteins are dry legumes and grains combined; think rice and beans. Remember the Meatless Monday campaign? A great idea -- it just never got much traction around the South. Plant proteins are sustainable, less expensive and nutritious.
Master the continuous kitchen
This ties back into the planning segment. If you can arrange your meals where parts of one meal make the start of another meal, you have a good part of your prep work done. Let's make the Sunday roasted chicken, or chickens if you have a larger family (it's just as much/little work to cook one or three), with a side of baked sweet potatoes the example.
When you are done eating your delicious dinner, you can prep the leftovers for future meals. Take the rest of the meat off the bones and save for dumplings, quesadillas, salad, chili, pot pie, a sandwich ... yes, the list goes on.
Put the carcass and drippings in a slow cooker with a garlic glove, a bay leaf, a little salt and a tablespoon of vinegar and cover with water. If you are missing an ingredient, don't worry, just leave it out, as long as it is not the chicken carcass. Turn it on low and let it go overnight. Strain everything through a fine strainer the next day. You can keep this delicious stock for a few days in the fridge or you can freeze it. It tastes so much better than the store-bought stuff, and it only cost you pennies. This stock can be the base of many things -- risotto, stew, soup, grits, mashed potatoes.
If you have any skin left over, save it, and crisp it up one night to go on top of salad, like bacon crumbles. Extra roasted sweet potatoes can be cubed and put in a salad, or mashed and put in oatmeal with pumpkin pie spice, used in baking, cooked in a hash. I think you get the idea.
Hungry yet? Ready to head into the kitchen?
BLACK-EYED PEA BROWNIES
1 cup cooked black-eyed peas drained, at room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup gluten-free flour (or white flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut oil melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
(Source: Marion Sansing)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.