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Kwanzaa: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind...
A New Definition of Soul Food

By Gowri Koneswaran




Black Bean Chili

Braised Collards
Or Kale


Couscous Confetti Salad

Curried Lentil Soup

Ginger Peachy Bread Pudding

Shepherd's Pie

Yam Pie

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Seven Principals of Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor at the California State University, Long Beach, California.

On each day of Kwanzaa, a family member lights a candle, then discusses one of the following seven principles. These principles, along with Karenga’s elucidation of them in 1965, are:

1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

2. Kujichagulia (Self-determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.

3. Ujima (Collective Work And Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together, and to make our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our problems and to solve them together.

4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in whatever way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and in the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

The next-to-last day of the holiday, December 31, is marked by a lavish feast, the Kwanzaa Karamu, which, in keeping with the theme of black unity, may draw on the cuisines of the Caribbean, Africa, South America . . . wherever Africans were taken.

In addition to food, the Karamu is an opportunity for a confetti storm of cultural expression: dance and music, readings, and remembrances.

Source: Kwanzaa, An African-American Celebration of Culture And Dining, 1991 by Eric V. Copage.

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Return To Index

     From December 26 to January 1, many African Americans and others of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, a cultural holiday whose Swahili name translates as “first fruits of the harvest.” While this is a time to congregate and reflect upon the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles, it is invariably a time to feast.

     In contrast to traditional holiday cuisine, however, food served during Kwanzaa need not force you into end-of-the-year pounds and sky-high cholesterol levels. Centering around cultural reflection, Kwanzaa is also a time to contemplate the benefits healthy eating can have on the body and mind. Why not encourage your loved ones to honor their well-being while they pay respect to the accomplishments and culture of Africans and African Americans? After all, to make strides in our communities, we should first embrace positive changes in our bodies.

     The following recipes are tasty and quick. They incorporate a range of ingredients and a delicious mixture of flavors, so your guests may not notice all the missing fat and cholesterol. And if they do, they’ll probably thank you for the gift of a healthy body, peaceful mind, and soul-preserving food.

Source: Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine,

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Ed. Note: The following recipes are by Jennifer Raymond, from Eat Right, Live Longer and Food For Life, by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., and Healthy Eating For Life (To Prevent And Treat Diabetes), by Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine with Patricia Bertron, R.D.  To order any of the titles, go to and click on the Resources section.

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This simple soup is made in a single pot and blends two North African staples—lentils and couscous. Serve it with cooked greens and fresh bread.

1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
8 cups water
1/2 cup couscous or white basmati rice
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/ 8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

     Bring the lentils, onion, celery, garlic, cumin seed, and water to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 50 minutes.

     Stir in the couscous or rice, chopped tomatoes, curry powder, and pepper. Continue cooking until the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Makes 10 Servings.

Per (1-Cup) Serving: 122 Cal; Trace of Fat; 23 g Carb;
264 mg Sodium; 7 g Protein; 4 g Fiber. Exchanges: 1-1/2 Starch; 1 Lean Meat.

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Couscous is pasta from northern Africa that cooks almost instantly and makes a beautiful and flavorful salad. Whole wheat couscous is sold in natural food stores and some supermarkets.

1-1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 cups boiling water
3 or 4 green onions, finely chopped, including tops
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 carrot, grated
1 to 2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dried apricots
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

     In a large bowl, combine couscous and boiling water. Stir to mix, then cover and let stand until all the water has been absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

     Add onions, bell pepper, carrot, cabbage, parsley, and raisins.

     In a small bowl mix lemon juice, vinegar, oil, curry powder, and salt. Add to salad and toss to mix. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes approximately 8 Servings.

Sodium Alert! This recipe is not suitable for those on low salt meal plans.

Per (1-Cup) Serving: 152 Cal; 2 g Total Fat; 30 g Carb; 412 mg Sodium; 4 g Protein; 2 g Fiber. Exchanges: 1 Starch;
1 Fruit.

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This cornbread is quick and easy to prepare and
contains no eggs, cholesterol, or added fat.

1-1/2 cups soymilk
1-1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons low-sodium baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

     Preheat the oven to 425 F.

     Combine the soymilk and vinegar and set aside. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the soy milk mixture and mix until just blended. Spread evenly in a 9” x 9” baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a nonstick spray and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 8 Servings.

Per (3-x 3-inch slice): 124 Cal; <1 g Total Fat; 26 g Carb;
180 mg Sodium; 3 g Protein. Exchanges: 2 Starch.

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(Ed Note: You can use dried or canned beans for this
recipe but using canned beans will make the recipe
unsuitable for those on low sodium meal plans).

2 cups dried black beans OR 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
6-1/2 cups water (if using dried beans)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped green onion

If you are using dried beans: Wash beans and place in a large pan or bowl with 4 to 6 cups water. Soak overnight. Pour off soaking water and place in a kettle with 6 cups fresh water. Add cilantro, as desired, then bring to a simmer, and cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

If you are using canned beans: Empty beans and liquid into a saucepan and simmer with cilantro, if you wish to use it.

     In a small, dry skillet, heat the herbs and toast until fragrant. (Be careful not to inhale the fumes; the cayenne can be very irritating.)

     In a larger skillet, braise the onion in 1/2 cup water for 2 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper, garlic, and herbs and cook until the onion is soft. Add to the beans when they are tender, along with the tomatoes. Simmer 30 minutes or longer if time allows (the flavor improves with longer cooking.) Add salt to taste.

     Serve in individual bowls, topped with chopped green onion. Makes 6 to 8 Servings.

Per Serving (with dried beans): 261 Cal; 1 g Total Fat; 48 g Carb; 363 mg Sodium; 16 g Protein. Exchanges: 3 Starch; 2 Lean Meat.

Per Serving (with canned beans): 108 Cal; 1 g Total Fat; 19 g Carb; 627 mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Starch; 1 Lean Meat.

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This is a hearty and satisfying vegetable stew with
a top “crust” of fluffy mashed potatoes.

4 large russet potatoes, diced
1/2 to 1 cup soymilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
2 onions, chopped
1 large bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 pound (about 2 cups) mushrooms, sliced
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

     Dice the potatoes and steam them until tender. Mash, adding enough soy milk to make them smooth and spreadable. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

     In a large pot, heat the water or stock and cook the onions for 3 minutes. Add the pepper, carrots, and celery and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, then cover the pan and cook an additional 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, paprika, pepper, and soy sauce, then cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes.

     Preheat the oven to 350 F.

     Put the vegetables into a 9” x 13” baking dish and spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Makes 10 Servings.

Per (1-1/2-Cup) Serving: 217 Cal; <1/2 g Total Fat; 47 g Carb; 257 mg Sodium; 6 g Protein. Exchanges: 2 Starch; 3 Veg.

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Collard greens and kale are rich sources of calcium and beta-carotene as well as other minerals and vitamins. One of the tastiest--and easiest-- ways to prepare them is with a bit of soy sauce and plenty of garlic. Try to purchase young tender greens as these have the best flavor and texture.

1 bunch (6 to 8 cups chopped) collard greens or kale
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup water

     Wash greens, remove stems, then cut leaves into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

     Combine olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and the water in a large pot or skillet. Cook over high heat about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-high, add chopped greens, and toss to mix. Cover and cook, stirring often, until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. Makes 3 (1-cup) Servings.

Per (1-Cup) Serving: 106 Cal; 2 g Total Fat; 18 g Carb; 132 mg Sodium; 6 g Fiber; 6 g Protein. Exchanges: 1 Starch; 3 Veg.

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Chunks of golden peaches dress up this traditional dessert.

1 (28-ounce) can sliced peaches, packed in juice
1 Tbsp cornstarch
6 cups whole grain bread cubes (about 8 slices)
3/4 cups fortified soy milk or rice milk
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
vegetable cooking spray

     Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9- x 9-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray; set aside.

     Drain liquid from peaches into a large mixing bowl. Add cornstarch. Stir to dissolve any lumps, then add bread cubes, milk, apple juice concentrate, raisins, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Mix well.

     Chop peaches and stir into bread mixture. Spread in prepared baking dish. Bake 35 minutes in preheated oven. Serve warm or cooled. Makes 9 Servings.

Per Serving: 193 Cal; 2 g Total Fat; 43 g Carb; 197 mg Sodium; 4 g Protein; 3 g Fiber. Exchanges: 2 Starch; 1 Fruit.

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Similar in flavor to pumpkin pie, this tasty dessert
is a rich source of beta-carotene.

2 medium yams
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups soymilk
1 Fat-Free Pie Crust (recipe follows)

     Peel the yams and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Steam in a covered pot over boiling water until tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Mash, leaving some chunks. You should have about 2 cups.

     Preheat the oven to 350 F.

     In a mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, spices, and salt, then stir in the soymilk and mashed yams. Pour into the pre-baked fat-free crust or an unbaked 9” or 10” standard pie crust and bake for 35 minutes. Cool before cutting. Makes 8 Servings.

(Makes one 9” crust)

1 cup Grape Nuts cereal (nuggets)
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate (undiluted)

     Preheat the oven to 350 F.

     Mix together the Grape Nuts and apple juice concentrate. Pat into a thin layer on the bottom and sides of a 9” pie pan. Don’t worry if there are some gaps. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool before filling.

Per (2-inch Slice)Serving with Fat-Free Pie Crust: 158 Cal; 1/2 g Total Fat; 36 g Carb; 152 mg Sodium; 3 g Protein. Exchanges: 2 Starch.

Per (2-inch Slice) Serving with Conventional Crust: 261 Cal; 8 g Total Fat; 42 g Carb; 155 mg Sodium; 4 g Protein. Exchanges: 3 Starch; 2 Fat.

Per (2-inch Slice) Serving Fat-Free Crust Only: 68 Cal; Trace of Fat; 15 g Carb; 97 mg Sodium; 2 g Protein. Exchanges: 1 Starch.

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