Limpin' Susan and Tangled Stacey
I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted. Life sometimes has a tendency to get in the way of the creative things I’d like to do.
Such was the case over the holidays and the beginning of this year.
From late November until early January, Remy, Rory and I were in Louisiana with our Nola family. While it was a gift to be able to spend so much time with them, the circumstances were a little crazy.
Haven was at the end of her pregnancy with the adorable baby Kaius, Sommer had to undergo major surgery followed by two months of painful recovery, Laura was still having major morning sickness with her pregnancy, and let’s not forget the pandemic.
Thankfully both the birth and the surgery went well. Although Laura is not 100%, she is feeling better little by little. Our family breathed a collective sigh of relief, and we have gradually gotten back to the business of day-to-day living.
Day-to-day living with us usually includes laughter. We are fortunate not only to enjoy the gift of each other, but we share the ability to laugh at ourselves, too. Such was the case during a recent evening, when I received a four way conference call from Sommer.
“My mom has a story she has to tell you,” Sommer said in a serious voice. “We need to get Laura on the phone, too.”
Oh, no, I thought. What’s wrong now? A million worries ran through my mind as Stacey looped Laura into the call.
“So I’m sitting on Sommer’s sofa,” Stacey says, “holding Kaius in my lap. He was asleep and Austin (age 6) was running around playing with the radio controlled car he just got as a late Christmas present.”
“Listen to this, Me-Maw-Maw,” Austin says. (Me-Maw-Maw is the name Stacey’s grandkids call her.) “Do you hear the wheels? They are going vroom, vroom, vroom.”
“Uh huh,” I said.
“No. Me-Maw-Maw. You really need to listen to this.” At this point Austin holds the car up to my ear and presses the control “Vroom, vroom, vroom.”
“As the wheels spun, my hair got caught up in them. Austin’s eyes got as big as saucers, and the car was now stuck to my head. I can’t move because the baby is sleeping in my lap. No one else is in the room so I tell Austin to go get his dad. He looks straight at me and says, ‘No.’
“This would only happen to my mom,” Sommer interjects.
We all crack up.
“I’m serious,” Stacey says to Austin. “Go get your dad.”
Stacey says because Austin’s face is so horrified, and he is walking like he’s on death row from fear, she almost starts crying. My hair must be tangled really bad, she thinks. They are going to have to cut the car out of my hair.
Austin disappears into his parents’ room, and comes back a minute later.
“He said no,” Austin tells Stacey.
“I’m really freaking out now,” Stacey says. “I yelled for Chris to come, and he finally walks into the room and stops dead in his tracks.
“What the hell?” He looks at the car in Stacey’s hair and shakes his head. Walking over to Stacey, he leans down and untangles it.
“Don’t do that again,” he says to Austin, and walks away.
We are all laughing like lunatics at a silly incident that shouldn’t have been so funny.
Yet there it was. Stacey, in sharing her self-deprecating sense of humor, had brought us back to neutral. For the first time in months, we were laughing together again.
Whoever first said laughter is the best medicine, couldn’t be more correct. Laughter, according to helpguide.org, strengthens your immune system, diminishes pain, boosts your mood and helps protect the body from the damages of stress.
Pretty amazing, right?
When times are tough and I’m physically and emotionally drained, I wish I could simply conjure laughter like an item on a menu.
Finding a funny movie or reading a humorous book can help, but nothing beats laughing with the people you care about.
No matter what the cause, there are times when we find ourselves tired or exhausted, sad or maybe depressed. Finding the will or the way to bring us back to normalcy can be difficult or seem downright impossible.
And while I agree that laughter is the best medicine, I also believe in arming yourself with every weapon available in the battle against the blahs.
To that end I offer you a much maligned member of the vegetable kingdom: Ablemoschus esculentus.
A vegetable of many names, it is called lady’s finger, bhindi, bendaki, guibeiro, Kacang bendi, gombo, and where I grew up, okra.
An integral part of New Orleans’ gumbos, many people dislike okra because it can have a slimy texture known as mucilage.
Okay, I get it. Most of us aren’t fond of slimy food.
But if okra is prepared correctly, slime becomes a non-issue. And sometimes, as in the case of gumbo, the mucilage works as a much needed thickener.
While okra thickens gumbos, it thankfully won’t thicken your waist. With a scant 33 calories a cup, okra offers an abundance of reasons to incorporate it into your diet.
Though it may not make you laugh, okra is a natural antidepressant. The seeds contain flavonoids and polyphenols, which are antioxidants that promote glycogen storage in the liver. Because glycogen is a fuel reserve, the more of it you possess, the longer it will take you to get tired. Additionally, flavonoids contain mood elevating properties.
Tested in mice, consumption of okra seeds performed as well as an FDA drug prescribed for depression. Not too shabby.
Then there are the benefits okra provides in stabilizing blood sugar, promoting cholesterol degradation, preventing hunger, staving off neurodegenerative disorders and, are you ready for this, the polysaccharides in okra are believed to open the arteries in a way that is comparable to Viagra.
There are so many cool and fascinating benefits to okra (not to mention ancient history), that if you have the time, I urge you to check out some of the resources I’ve listed below.
As amazing as okras benefits are, however, they mean nothing if you can’t find a way to make them an enjoyable part of your diet.
Besides being an integral part of gumbo, Southerners enjoy okra fried, pickled, stewed and in soups.
When making gumbo, I prefer to use cut, frozen okra. I simmer it in a saute pan in a little oil before adding to my gumbo, which takes away the sliminess.
Recently, though, I came across some fresh okra at my local farmers market. I decided to forgo making any of the usual suspects, and tried my hand at Limpin’ Susan.
Have you guys heard of Hoppin’ John? Hoppin’ John is the delicious dish of black eyed peas and greens that is an important New Year’s dish in the South.
Although the origins of Limpin’ Susan aren’t completely clear, it’s said that she was the wife of Hoppin’ John.
Like Hoppin’ John, Limpin’ Susan is a rice based dish. Often made with bacon or shrimp, my version below is vegan.
In trying to reduce my family’s intake of meat without sacrificing flavor, I’ve been experimenting with different foods and condiments. My recent obsession in that arena is furikake.
Furikake is a savory Japanese seasoning blend made for rice. Nori, sesame seeds, kelp and MSG are sometimes present, as can be dried pieces of egg, fish and other ingredients. Be sure to read the label before you buy if you are vegan, or have allergies.
This dish, however, is delicious with or without Furikake sprinkled on top. Not only did Sam love it, but Remy did as well. That’s a huge win, considering Remy despises anything that is remotely healthy.
After the Limpin’ Susan recipe, I’m also including one that may sound strange.
It is for a chocolate strawberry smoothie that has the texture of a Wendy’s Frosty, but includes an entire cup of okra. Normally, I’m not a fan of smoothies, but this is a version I enjoy.
I’m not opposed to omitting the fact that it contains okra when serving it to my family, either. In my opinion, any way I can get vegetables into them is a win.
2 tablespoons butter (vegan or regular)
1 chopped onion
1 cup chopped orange and yellow bell peppers
2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 cups rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups water
2 cups sliced okra
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
Furikake, if desired.
Melt butter over medium-high in a medium sized pot. Add the onions and bell peppers. Saute until the vegetables are translucent.
Add the garlic. Stir for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the rice and stir for another minute or two.
Stir in the tomato paste.
Add the water, okra, salt, pepper and paprika. Give it a stir. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat.
When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium.
Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Fluff with a fork, adjust seasoning and top with furikake, if desired.
Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish.
*Any color bell pepper may be substituted. I just love the flavors of yellow and orange.
*Add some sliced jalapeno or serrano peppers for a little heat.
This recipe has a texture similar to a Wendy’s Frosty, but with way fewer calories and an abundance of health benefits. It’s a great way to sneak something healthy into the people you love. I won’t tell there’s okra in it if you won’t. (The sugar sprinkled on top of the shake in the picture is Remy's doing.)
Chocolate Strawberry Frostie
1 cup frozen okra
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon cocoa
3 large strawberries
Sweetener to taste (I use 2.5 teaspoons of Truvia)
1 cup ice
Blend okra and almond milk on high in the blender until the okra is fully broken down. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth and frosty.
Serve in a chilled glass with a straw.
Makes one large smoothie or two small ones.
*You may need to play around with this until you get it to your liking. Make sure the okra is completely broken down, and consider adding more sweetner, chocolate chips, almond milk (or milk of choice) or strawberries if desired.
*Although the chocolate/strawberry combination is my favorite, I’ve also substituted 2 teaspoons espresso powder for the berries for a mocha chocolate flavor.
*Another version is to eliminate the strawberries and add two tablespoons of white chocolate or regular chocolate chips.