Wednesday, November 26, 2008


On the drive home from preschool, my 3 year old daughter handed my husband her latest art project: "Look, Dad, it's a cornucopia!" The brown construction paper horn was adorned with several kinds of fruits and vegetables she had carefully colored and glued onto it. Daddy had just started telling her how nice it was, but she could contain herself no more and excitedly burst forth: "Dad! A cornucopia is a horn-shaped basket that the Indians weaved and they used it to carry lots and lots of vegetables and fruits." She took a breath and continued in a more knowing tone. "The Indians didn't have those big old Wal Mart bags to carry their groceries in , Daddy." My poor husband nearly drove off the road. Tears of mirth ran down our faces and we both shook with silent laughter. After a few minutes we had recovered enough to reassure her that she was absolutely correct.

The next day she and I were hanging her cornucopia up on the kitchen door. "Mommy," she said wistfully, "I wish everybody had cornucopia baskets to carry their groceries. I don't like Wal Mart bags." I agreed wholeheartedly, and my thoughts drifted to sustainability. Many times a day, everything within me yearns to go back to a simpler time and way of life. I'm sure the Indians had a basket more practically-shaped than a cornucopia for carrying food from the fields to storage, but they first had to weave that basket. It would have been a masterful piece of functional art that endured for years. The convenience of that basket would have been appreciated all the more by its user for the labor and creativity that went into its making.

To me, living simply and frugally does not equal drab misery. It is an opportunity to express my creativity in all aspects of life--an exercise resulting in beautiful, unique objects that grant many years of aesthetic pleasure and personal satisfaction in the course of service. This thought makes me smile almost as widely as my daughter's innocent humor.

Not three days ago I was feeling overwhelmed and pressured by the demands of the world. After having a good cry and venting some frustration, I still didn't feel entirely better. After this conversation with my daughter, however, all seems to have fallen back into place for me. Just because my home and my life are assaulted by a barrage of demands doesn't necessarily mean that those demands are relevant, or that they have a place in my realm. I can simply and painlessly say "no" to so many of them, freeing myself to be mindfully, creatively, joyfully present in the here and now to meet those that are appropriate and relevant.

And a little child shall lead them...

Stress has been replaced with gratitude, and there is much for which I am thankful. With every silent "thank you" I breathe toward the heavens, life glows brighter and richer and more precious.

"Every time we say "thank you", we experience

nothing less than heaven on earth"

~Sarah ban Breathnach

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sweet Potato Pie

The closest most folks Up North and Out West get to a sweet potato is candied yams at Thanksgiving, and that's a shame. The yam is actually no relation. It is also harder, drier, and woodier-tasting, so it's always served up slathered in butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. Yuck.

The sweet potato is actually a dietary hero in disguise, among the most nutritious vegetables you could eat. It is low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is also an awesome source of dietary fiber. One cup of sweet potato that was baked in its skin is full of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, has almost twice the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A, 65 percent of the recommended amount of Vitamin C, and half the daily requirement of Manganese. It is a rich source of B Vitamins, which help the body to combat stress. In particular, it is a good source of Folic Acid, which is important not only for infant development in utero but for many critical processes in the body. It is a good source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, contains all nine of the essential amino acids, and is powerfully anti-inflammatory. Who knew?

The sweet potato has a low glycemic index. Although it contains natural sugars, they digest slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar so you feel satisfied longer. When you feel full, you eat less and eat less often. What could be healthier than that? Sweet potatoes grown in the South taste many times sweeter than their Northern counterparts. It's no wonder they abound by the truckload around here.

Sweet potato pie is as quintessentially Deep South as grits, turnip greens, and sweet tea. Most recipes are loaded with butter, sugar and Karo syrup and result in a custard consistency. Tasty, but not healthy.

In my quest to eat locally grown and produced food year-round, I recently found myself with a large bag of sweet potatoes acquired for a bargain, so I set about creating a healthier version of sweet 'tater pie that lets its natural sweetness truly shine. This pie is more of a dinner veggie than a dessert--which is probably sacreligious in country cookin', bless my little heart. I also drink unsweet tea, so I guess I'll never be truly Southern, but at least I do my grits up proper and slow-cook 'em!

Rosie's Sweet 'Tater Pie
(makes two 9" pies)


1 recipe of your favorite pie crust yielding two 9" crusts OR 2 ready made refrigerated pie crusts

4 medium OR 3 large sweet potatoes

1 15 oz can of Eagle fat-free condensed milk
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup organic turbinado sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon


-Wash and prick skins of sweet potatoes and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 75 - 90 minutes. They should be thoroughly soft and the juices bubbling through the holes you pricked in the skins should be somewhat caramelized. Allow them to cool to room temperature, peel, and scrape the orange flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork until they are the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes.

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Place pie crusts into the bottom of two 9" deep dish pie pans, and crimp the edges however you like.

-Put on some music, preferably Alabama's "Song of the South". It doesn't help the pie turn out better, but it's fun to sing along.

- To the mashed sweet potatoes add the beaten eggs and one third of the condensed milk. Blend on low speed with a hand mixer. Add the sugar, and blend. Continue adding the condensed milk a little at a time, beating on low. Add spices and continue beating. Increase speed and whip the mixture until it is thoroughly blended and there are no lumps.

- Divide the sweet potato mixture evenly into both pie pans and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. When a sharp knife or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, the pies are done.

- Allow pies to cool and continue setting for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

- Keeps well in the refrigerator and may also be served cold.

Enjoy, y'all!

How do seasons change here? Let me count the ways...

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. I love endless banks of gorgeous colored leaves; they seem to be celebrating the past year's achievements before letting go to make room for new growth. I love the crisp, cool mornings and evenings. I love the sound my feet make shuffling through carpets of dried leaves, and the musty smell that rises every time I take a step. I love the hint of smoke that rises on the air...a spicy middle note of the ambrosia to my senses that is autumn.

I do miss Northern autumns. In South Mississippi's warm, Gulf Coast climate the seasons are not so clearly delineated. Folks around here are wont to describe spring or fall as "raggedy". Autumn is not the glorious display of color that it is in other parts of the country. Although puncutated by an occasional flaming orange maple or brilliant red crepe myrtle, the piney woods stay green. How then, you might ask, do we mark the season without the changing of the colors?

You know it's fall when...

10. You actually don't run the A/C for a whole week.
9. An occasional punch of fall color pops out and startles you on a drive through the piney woods.
8. The love bugs are finally GONE!
7. Pine straw gets stuck in your flip flops when you walk.
6. There are only 2 vehicles in line at the ice machine.
5. Winter clothes appear in the store: t-shirts and shorts in darker colors.
4. The morning dew doesn't burn off the grass until at least 7 am.
3. Turnips and sweet 'taters replace watermelons in the back of pickup trucks on the side of the road.
2. You get pelted with acorns from a live oak while soaking up the sunshine.
1. It's so frigid outside in the morning that you really have to bundle up on your way into work, so you dig a sweatshirt out of winter storage.

*Stay tuned for "Signs of Winter in the Deep South: Are the Fire Ants Hibernating YET??"