Healthy Versions of Southern Classics.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making all sorts of adventurous vegetarian food for the farm staff – things like millet, quinoa, and seitan.  The purpose of my internship is to help educate both the staff and the CSA members, on how to create healthy yet delicious farm to table food.  Since the farm guys have all been such good sports about my “hippie food”, this week I decided to give them a break.  Instead of introducing something new, I decided to do a twist on something old – southern classics. 

I started by once again unleashing my inner baker.  We have a plethora of blueberries on the farm right now, and when I saw this recipe for blueberry cornbread, I knew it would be perfect for my staff lunch. 

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The recipe only called for one cup of blueberries, but I decided that since I had more, I might as well use them.

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Poured the batter into a baking dish and slid it into the oven for 30 minutes…

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The final result – amazing blueberry cornbread madness!

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I didn’t really think about it at the time, but the addition of the extra blueberries increased the moisture content of the cornbread, making these really dense and almost cake-like. 

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Even though they were thick and doughy, they were absolutely delicious. 

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They kind of reminded me of blueberry pancakes in a square shape!

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The next attempt at a healthified southern classic was this Un-fried Green Tomatoes with Fresh Tomato Gravy recipe.  I was particularly nervous about making this because I’ve never actually had fried green tomatoes, so I wasn’t sure how the final product was supposed to taste.  I started by slicing a bunch of big green tomatoes…

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And then prepared them using my handy breading station.  I dipped each slice in fat-free milk, and then coated them in a mixture of flour and cornmeal, with a pinch each of salt and sugar.  The key to getting them crispy was putting them directly onto a HOT sheet pan, that had been pre-heated in the oven. 

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These baked in the oven for 35 minutes total, and I flipped them once after 20 minutes.  The final product – crispy and crunchy on the outside, and sweet and tangy tomato on the inside. 

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Served with a tomato-mushroom “gravy” that was made by simply simmering mushrooms and tomatoes together over low heat for a long time, extracting a ton of flavor. 

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We put a little spoonful of the gravy on top of each bite of tomato – the perfect combination of flavors!

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Like I said, I had never had fried green tomatoes, so I wasn’t sure if these turned out well or not.  The minute they hit the table the farm staff absolutely freaked out.  Every last tomato was devoured, and no one believed me that there was no oil or frying!

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A huge success that I know they will ask me to make again.  I wish I had made more – they disappeared so quickly!

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I’m going to make these again for me and Casey for dinner one night next week.  I am trying to embrace my southern surroundings!  :)

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Onto my next southern dish – my first time making OKRA.  To be honest, I was really scared.  There was a lot of talk of slime prior to cooking these, and I did my best to make the okra appealing despite the somewhat slimy texture.  This okra started off PINK, and turned green when I cooked it – so weird!  Is that normal?

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Final dish – simple sauté of yellow squash and okra tossed with salt, pepper, and a little feta cheese. 

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I only used a little bit of feta, which was a tasty and subtle addition to the dish. 

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Next time I am going to try baking the okra to see if I can avoid the slime!

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Last but certainly not least – I made two frittata dishes!  These were actually the stars of the lunch spread, and I’m not sure why I didn’t end up with more pictures of them.

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The first was a mushroom and pepper frittata topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, and hunks of baby Swiss cheese.  I can’t even explain to you how good this was. 

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Cheese literally oooooozing out of the crevices of each piece.  This was also the first time I’ve eaten an egg in over 6 months.  We’ve decided to re-introduce eggs into our diet, but only in small amounts and only from sources we have researched.  It all comes down to knowing where your food comes from.  The first bite felt kind of weird, but the rest were absolutely delicious.  :)

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Frittata #2 was filled with fingerling potatoes, zucchini, and onions – another great combination.  I added a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to this egg mixture, which gave it a really nice flavor. 

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I would say my healthy southern spread was my most successful lunch to date.  There was not a single piece of food left on the table when we all got up to go back to work!

After I cleaned up the lunch dishes and the pool house, I busted out of work early to hit the road to Indianapolis.  I am currently blogging in the car, headed toward Lexington, Kentucky!  Rather than try to do the almost 11 hour drive in one shot, we’re stopping a few hours out so that we don’t have another super late night drive.  I am too old to drive into the wee hours of the morning!

See you in Kentucky!  :)