I've learned to love Southern cuisine and Soul Food since moving to Oklahoma over 30 years ago. But DH, who grew up in Alabama, and I are now on a heart healthy diet! This means we monitor salt (I'm using only a little sea salt now and then but really watching the use of seasonings that contain tons of salt). We avoid processed food, fast food, trans and hydrogenated fats, and anything with cholesterol. We've upped our fresh, organic, local veggies and fruits intake, have switched to whole grains, and have adjusted our cooking ingredients and recipes accordingly. We don't use any commercial seasoning salts but often make our own salt-free versions, adding red pepper flakes and other herbs and spices together to get a low salt seasoning version.
Some Southern food I love, some I still haven't developed a taste for, but it's all merged with what I grew up eating.
I had never cooked or eaten any of the following growing up, but now I love them all and feel good about eating them:
Greens (any kind, with olive oil, turkey sausage or turkey bacon, onions, hot sauce. Fresh if tasty that way, cooked if not. I add them to soups as well.)
Peas and beans (try them with turkey sausage or turkey bacon, onion, carrots, tomatoes, hot pepper, and garlic!)
Biscuits (now made with unbleached flour and some added wheat germ, but without the artery clogging wallpaper paste gravy!)
Fried chicken (although baked is what we mostly eat now, DH misses it so we strip off the skin and oven fry it occasionally!)
Cornbread (DH grew up eating the flat, cold water variety, but has learned to like my sweeter version, risen like cake and made with whole grain cornmeal, added wheat germ, and Egg Beaters instead of regular eggs.)
Mac n cheese (now making it with whole wheat pasta and low or no fat cheeses and fat free or low fat cream cheese to make it creamy!)
BBQ (have slowed way down on the salt, upped the herbs, and often slow cook in a vinegar and/or tomato based sauce after grilling or broiling to lose the fat first)
Rice (we only eat brown rice and sometimes mix it with wild rice for an even nuttier flavor)
Green bean casserole (try browning fresh mushrooms and onions first and cooking off a little wine at the end. Steam the green beans. Then make a white sauce out of olive oil or Smart Start butter/olive oil mixed, whole wheat flour, the water from steaming the green beans, and reduced or no fat milk. Add in a little thyme and fresh ground pepper along the way. No more nasty canned soup and much tastier!)
We don't fry anymore, but we do grill, broil, bake, and stew. We use more vinegar and herbs and eat mostly fish and chicken now. Red meat is only cooked once in a blue moon. Some shellfish has good cholesterol, so is allowed, which is great! Sadly, we don't do pies and cakes hardly at all anymore, but when we do, we have only one piece and savor every bite.
A "bad food meal" once every week or two sure helps curb our longing for all the salt, fat, and so on that we used to love and aren't supposed to have anymore. One thing we can have, and have made a ritual of, is a glass of red wine with dinner every evening!
Our taste buds have adjusted over time and the food tastes much fresher and has more layers of flavor. And pot likker, made with less salt and bad fat, is still great with heart healthy cornbread!
I can no longer make my Greek spinach pie with spinach because my husband now has developed gout. I use collard greens instead, and it is just as good as the original recipe. Nice to know I didn't have to give up one of my healthy pleasures.