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Back to our Roots

Katy G. Wilkens | Nov 1, 2017, 12:22 p.m.

I just love old recipes those written before the microwave, before the food processor, before the electric mixer, maybe even before the refrigerator!

Old recipes rely on fresh ingredients, often simply prepared, to let the flavor and beauty of the food shine through. They are from a time when people grew most of what they ate, or knew the person who did.

There is something especially satisfying in making an old family recipe. Cooking from scratch can be a healthy way to get back to your roots. Many recipes handed down in families are also a lot lower in salt than similar foods you might buy packaged or ready-made.

Our parents ate about half the salt in their day than we do. Our grandparents ate a third of that. They may have eaten more saturated fat, but they exercised hard each day. Sugar and sweets were a special treat. Desserts were simple, like bread pudding or fruit, and gingerbread was a treat reserved for holidays.

Suggestions for making family recipes healthier are simple. When a recipe calls for salt, leave it out and use fresh herbs. That’s what your great grandmother would have done. When a recipe calls for salted or fatty meats, use smoked turkey. If lard is called for, use butter. In baking, you can use 7/8 cup of oil or 1 cup of applesauce in place of 1 cup of butter. If you need buttermilk, use a cup of nonfat milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar added. Instead of self-rising flour, use 1 cup flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder.

Here is my grandmother’s Southern Spoonbread recipe, to start you on your journey back to your roots. Nana received the recipe from her new mother-in-law when she was a young bride in 1918, as her husband of three months went off to World War I. She fixed it for years for Sunday morning brunch. Every time I make it, I think of her, in a strange place, being welcomed by her new family.

Find old recipes you love, tweak them a little if needed, and get back to your roots! There is nothing like fresh foods, simply prepared, from a time when people worked hard and enjoyed the fruits of their labors.

Nana’s Southern Spoonbread

Note: When the recipe says to use beaters, it means the old-fashioned egg beaters that you turn with a crank. If you don’t have those, a wire whisk or regular mixer works fine.

1 ½ cups water

1 cup cornmeal

1 ¼ cups nonfat milk

2 large eggs (separated)

2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat egg yolks. Add milk. Boil water and sugar in sauce pan. Add cornmeal. Let cook 5 minutes. While cooking, beat egg whites with beaters. Add cornmeal mixture to milk/yolk mixture and blend until smooth. Fold into egg whites. Pour into ungreased 9x9” square baking dish, 9” round cake pan, or 9” soufflé dish or casserole, allowing space to rise half an inch. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of honey and a tossed green salad. Serves six.

Nutrition Information (serving size ¾ cup)

Calories: 157

Carbohydrates: 28 g

Fat: 2 g

Sodium: 50 mg

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2014 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]

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