Dinner, Like Mom Used to Make

Posted on January 11, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

My mom grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains with six brothers and sisters. Her father died before she was a teenager, leaving her mother with no income to feed a large family. Meat was a rare and precious commodity in their home – they mostly ate meals made from their garden harvest. When they had meat, they made it last for as many meals as possible.

When I grew up, my mom knew how to cook these types of meals. At least once a week, she would cook one of her Southern make-ends meet dinners; and we loved them for the taste. Now that I have my own family I realize the true value of those meals – for their nutritional value as well as their pocketbook friendliness.

There are a couple of dishes my family requests frequently. When you take into account that they are or can be entirely made of vegetables, you begin to realize the health benefits from these meals.

My favorite dinner was green beans. Yes, a big pot of fresh green beans, slowly simmered and cooked down for hours. To truly appreciate this meal, you’ve got to taste it. Fresh, cooked down green beans are extraordinary – there is absolutely no comparison to canned green beans. For additional flavor, just add a couple pieces of bacon, a ham bone left over from another meal, or chopped onion. On the side, we have hot cornbread (which is so much healthier and flavorful than white bread). This is a true southern depression era meal. Sometimes, we’ll turn the cornbread into Mexican cornbread by adding cream corn and chopped peppers into the batter. The prep time for the meal is minimal, the fat content is low, and the nutritional value is high.

Another family favorite that makes a ham go further is a pot of pinto or northern beans cooked with a ham bone. I always use a bag of dried beans – they are much cheaper, their nutritional content is higher because they haven’t been processed, and they don’t taste canned. Also, the economic waste from the bag is insignificant compared to the jars of cooked beans you can buy. I add onions, diced carrots, and celery for a great bean soup. Once again, this meal goes well with fresh baked cornbread.

These are meals which can be easily thrown in the crock pot or slow cooker in the morning, and all you have to do at night is mix and bake the cornbread. When I think about how cheaply my mom’s family ate due to necessity and the amount of prepared foods people now buy at the grocery store, I realize the high costs of convenience. Yet, most people don’t realize that these inexpensive dishes take no more prep time than a box of Hamburger Helper. Better yet, they are loaded with natural nutrients and fiber, and eliminate red meat, fat, and the sodium and salt which gives packaged food its flavor.

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