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HUNGRY? HERE’S HOW TO SERVE UP HEALTHIER VERSIONS OF TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN CUISINE AT HOME

BY JEFF STEVENSON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LESLIE JEAN-BART


Soul food has a rep of being heavy on the lard and ham hocks. And you know that fried fare can put on weight and cause a host of health problems if you eat it regularly. But, mmmm, you know it’s good!

Fortunately, you don’t have to stop eating good to eat healthier. We dropped by Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food on Lenox Avenue in Harlem for a cooking lesson, specifically a makeover for a fried catfish dish that you can prepare at home.

“We made over a lot of our recipes about 10 years ago to reduce fat and sodium,” says Tren’ness Woods-Black, 36, Sylvia’s granddaughter and one of the many family members involved in the day-to-day of the 46-year-old Harlem restaurant landmark.

“We saw younger generations asking for healthier food, but we didn’t want soul food to get lost. We’re an institution. We felt it was our responsibility to be proactive for this community by updating our recipes.”

Sylvia’s switched olive oil for lard, added smoked turkey instead of bacon fat in the greens and got rid of trans-fat oils long before it was mandated. “The food doesn’t taste any different, but it’s a lot healthier,” says Woods-Black. “My grandmother says about making good soul food, ‘It’s all in the temperature, you can’t second-guess yourself and you have to love what you’re cooking.”

Add those ingredients to the ones on the opposite page, and cook up Sylvia’s Sassy Catfish for your family. This recipe delivers 22 percent fewer calories and 53 percent less carbohydrates when compared with a traditional fried catfish recipe.

Calvin Jenkins, or C.J., as he’s affectionately known in Sylvia’s kitchen, takes you through the step-by-step.



Sylvia’s Sassy Catfish
Makes 4 Servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes

What you’ll need:
2 stalks celery, cut julienne-style
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 cup Splenda No-Calorie Sweetener, granular
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup Sylvia’s Hot Sauce or other hot sauce
1/2 cup water
4 catfish fillets (4 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon Sylvia’s Secret Seasoning or other salt-free herb seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

What to do:
1. Cut your celery, onion, bell pepper and lemons and put them in a bowl.
2. Combine the Splenda, tomato puree, hot sauce, water, and sliced vegetable mixture in a large saucepan.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Sprinkle fillets evenly with salt, pepper and Sylvia’s Secret Seasoning or herb seasoning.
5. Place the fillets in hot olive oil in a large skillet and sauté over medium heat for at least 2 minutes on each side. “The catfish has a lot of moisture in it, so I like to sauté it a little bit longer,” says C.J.
6. Pour the sauce over the fish in the skillet and simmer for an additional 2 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork. “I add a little more hot sauce now and some paprika to make sure my veins stay open,” he says.
7. Ladle onto a serving platter and serve immediately. Serve with collard greens, black-eyed peas, cow peas and rice or Sylvia’s Southern Stir-Fry Veggies.
Serving Size: 1/4 recipe

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 300; Total fat: 16 grams; Saturated fat: 3 grams; Sodium: 900 mg; Total carbohydrates: 20 grams; Dietary fiber: 2 grams; Protein: 19 grams

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Southern Stir-Fry Veggies
Makes 8 Servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

What you’ll need:
1 pound collard greens
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup Splenda No-Calorie Sweetener, granular
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

What to do:
1. Remove and discard stems from greens. Tear leaves into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
2. Bring water to a boil in a large Dutch oven; add greens and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or wok at medium-high for 2 minutes. Add cabbage and carrots; stir-fry 2 minutes.
Add collard greens, Splenda, salt and pepper; stir-fry 2 additional minutes. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until greens are tender.
Serving Size: 1/8 recipe

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 100; Total fat: 7 grams; Saturated fat: 1 gram; Sodium: 320 mg; Total carbohydrates: 9 grams; Dietary fiber: 4 grams; Protein: 2 grams. This recipe boasts a 19 percent reduction in calories,46 percent reduction in carbohydrates and 78 percent reduction in sugars when compared with a traditional recipe.


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Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Makes 12 Servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 50 to 60 minutes

What you’ll need:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups Splenda No-Calorie Sweetener, granular
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle walnuts in pan; set aside.
2. Combine flour, Splenda, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl; set aside.
3. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until creamy. Add sweet potato, buttermilk and extracts, beating until blended. Add flour mixture in thirds, beating until batter is smooth after each addition.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until yellow disappears. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack. Remove from pan nut-side up.

Serving Size: 1 slice
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 300; Total fat: 15 grams; Saturated fat: 8 grams; Sodium: 230 mg; Total carbohydrates: 33 grams; Protein: 7 grams. Compared with a traditional recipe, this version reduces calories and carbohydrates by 48 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

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