“Good Food,” 17′ x 12′ watercolor and acrylic.

The #GoodFoodSeries finished last month in conjunction with National Culinary Arts Month! Here’s the finalized painting. 🙂 All write-ups on the majority of the food items can be read here. Life happened and the bottom row of food items didn’t get individual blog posts sharing their health benefits along with a recipe from a Black chef, but I encourage you to take the initiative and find out more about these (along with other foods) for yourself!

Hoping you learned some things along the way. I know I did in the process of working on this.

With love,


#GoodFoodSeries – Green Beans

“Green Beans,” watercolor.

The common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris, is the ancestor that has given us green beans, kidney beans, and other bean varieties. Thousands of years ago, the common bean originated in what is now known as Central/South America. It spread across this region thanks to Indigenous people, and later C.Columbus spread it to Europe for trading during his “exploration” (re: study to prepare for conquest). This was a great crop to cultivate across the globe though since it can grow in a variety of climates.

Amongst the common bean–green beans in particular, they come in a variety of colors and types. Here’s what The Spruce Eats has to say about the varieties:

Hero Images / Getty Images

Green beans, string beans, wax beans, and snap beans are all, essentially, the same thing. Little differences, mainly in color and shape, separate one type from another.

[The types are as follows:]

  1. Green Beans (aka String Beans or Snap Beans)
  2. Haricots Verts (aka French Green Beans or Filet Beans)
  3. Long Beans
  4. Purple String Beans
  5. Romano Beans (aka Italian Green Beans or Flat Beans)
  6. Wax Beans [1]

Green Beans Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Green beans also offer many nutritional benefits to its consumers. They are considered a superfood because it supports cardiovascular health (thanks to its high fiber, folate, and mineral content). Also loaded with antioxidants, green beans are an aid to the immune system.

Get your bean fix asap! And remember: fresh green beans are always the best option. There’s added prep time with these since they’re not coming out of a frozen bag or can, but totally worth it when you can take the time to do it. And if you ask me, they taste better too. Check your local grocery store in the fresh produce section for loose green beans and bag ’em up to take home for an amazing dish.

Speaking of amazing dishes, check out this one that’s also featured in the cookbook Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family,” by mother-and-daughter pair Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams. What a neat way to honor the history of soul cuisine in a healthy manner. In the book, and also featured in Southern Living Mag is a recipe for Fiery Green Beans, credited to a Black Nashville, TN chef who inspired the authors to share this recipe with the world. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your green bean experience, get the recipe here.

Photo: Penny de los Santos

[1] “Guide to Beans from Green to Purple to Varieties,” The Spruce Eats.

#GoodFoodSeries – Papaya

“Papaya,” watercolor.

This tropical fruit originated in the Americas, specifically the South/Central region. Spanish conquistadors are the reason it was spread and cultivated in other tropical climates around the globe.

In the papaya’s reproduction stage, the flowering plants they come from are apart of the LGBTQIA+ community. “Plants are dioecious or hermaphroditic, with cultivars producing only female or bisexual (hermaphroditic) flowers preferred in cultivation… [and] since bisexual plants produce the most desirable fruit and are self-pollinating, they are preferred over female or male plants.[1]

Now in terms of the actual fruit, it has some special characteristics that make it a hit or miss amongst those who attempt to eat it. For some, like me, papaya smells and tastes bad. For others, it’s quite the contrary. It’s due to the enzyme papain. Papain has a “pungent, somewhat offensive” smell and “unpleasant” taste.[2]” Papain resembles the digestive enzymes humans have in their stomachs already and some people are very sensitive to it. Apparently the trick to making it smell and taste better is lime juice! It’s uncertain whether or not I’m willing to try that just to eat it.

There are two main types of papayas: Mexican and Hawaiian. From those types many varieties descend. Hawaiian varieties are what you’ll most commonly find in US grocery stores.

Papaya Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The nutritional benefits are also aplenty with this fruit. Its enzymes support the digestive system, its antioxidants ward of cancers and Alzheimer’s, and its high Vitamin C content support immune system health.

Ghanaian foodie and cinematographer Nino shows you how to make Stew with Pawpaw (Papaya). He refers to it as the Husband Keeper” as “no man will cheat on you after eating something like this.” Check out the video below.

[1] “Papaya – Carica papaya,” Mark’s Fruit Crops.

[2] “Think Papaya Smells Awful? There’s A Trick to Make It Taste Better,” Cooking Light.

#GoodFoodSeries – Banana

“Banana,” watercolor.

Time to show the cousin of the plantain some love! The banana. Did you know that it’s considered a “high herb” that’s also related to ginger?! The banana plant’s stem is a succulent rather than wooden so that’s why it’s not really a fruit. Originally, the banana peel would have allowed it to be considered a fruit since it houses the seeds of the plant, but due to commercial farming a lot of banana plants’ seeds are so tiny it causes the plants to be sterile, negating its fruit property[1].

Here’s a recap of the banana’s origins from The Plantain post:

The banana plant has many varieties. Its origins have been traced to Southeast Asia (~500 B.C.) and was introduced to African countries via traders. From there its reach spread to Europe and then to the Caribbean via Portuguese Franciscan monk, Friar Tomàs de Berlanga [2].

More than 1000 varieties of bananas exist today that have been divided into ~50 groups. The most common and commercially produced one is the Cavendish banana (see my painting above). Other types you might find in markets or internationally (like the apple banana, lady’s finger banana, red bananas, cooking bananas *these are really similar to plantain,* etc.).

Banana Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Bananas have many nutritional benefits as well. Here’s a little of what Live Science has to say about the herb:

Depression and mood
Bananas can be helpful in overcoming depression “due to high levels of tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin, the mood-elevating brain neurotransmitter,” Flores said. Plus, vitamin B6 can help you sleep well, and magnesium helps to relax muscles. Additionally, the tryptophan in bananas is well known for its sleep-inducing properties.

Digestion and weight loss
Bananas are high in fiber, which can help keep you regular. One banana can provide nearly 10 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Vitamin B6 can also help protect against Type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss, according to Flores. In general, bananas are a great weight loss food because they taste sweet and are filling, which helps curb cravings.

Bananas are particularly high in resistant starch, a form of dietary fiber in which researchers have recently become interested. A 2017 review published in Nutrition Bulletin found that the resistant starch in bananas may support gut health and control blood sugar. Resistant starch increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which are necessary to gut health[3].

Lastly, I couldn’t not get to this portion of the post and put a recipe for a banana dish that wasn’t banana pudding! It’s my personal favorite dessert ever. This version is caramelized and done by Chef Millie Peartree of Millie Peartree Fish Fry & Soul Food in the Bronx, NY. Check out how to make Caramelized Banana Pudding here or in the video below.

[1] “8 Things You Didn’t Know About Bananas,” PBS News Hour. M., Andrew. R., Carey.

[2] “Banana (Musa sp.),” School of Integrative Biology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

[3] “Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts,” Live Science. S., Jessie.

#GoodFoodSeries – Plantain

“Plantain,” watercolor.

The banana plant has many varieties. Its origins have been traced to Southeast Asia (~500 B.C.) and was introduced to African countries via traders. From there its reach spread to Europe and then to the Caribbean via Portuguese Franciscan monk, Friar Tomàs de Berlanga [1].

Ripe Plantain Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

One variety of the banana is the plantain. Not to be confused with its “cousin,” the plantain is in a league of its own in terms of versatility. Plantains are usually larger than bananas with thicker skin, containing more starch and less sugar and water. And because they are edible (when cooked) during all stages of its maturation, they are enjoyed like vegetables and fruit. Here’s a breakdown of the stages:

PLATANO VERDE (Green Plantain)
When green, plantain is firm, very starchy, and has a texture and aroma that resembles the potato.

PLATANO PINTÓN (Half-Ripe Plantain)
At this point, the plantain is reaching ripeness, although not quite there yet and therefore still starchy. Its mostly yellow, may have brown spots, and its flesh remains firm.

PLATANO MADURO (Ripe Plantain)
When the plantain’s skin is dark yellow-brown, the ends are black and it feels soft to the touch when you squeeze it, it has ripened. This is when it will taste sweet and gives off a banana-like aroma.

PLATANO NEGRO (Blackened Plantain)
Here, the plantain’s skin is black, soft and tacky. Although it may look bad on the outside it’s still edible on the inside and has just reached the perfect stage for desserts.

Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. Caribjournal / Caribbean Journal Staff.

Let’s presume you’ve experienced the plantain in many forms, but have you ever had it like this? A fancy way to enjoy plantain: as a Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. The recipe (here) is provided by Chef Nigel Spence, owner and Executive Chef of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Unfortunately, the restaurant underwent safety measures to reopen during the pandemic, did so, and then was destroyed by a major fire. Chef Nigel is asking for community support by way of gift cards that can be redeemed when the restaurant reopens. They can be purchased here.

[1] “Banana (Musa sp.),” School of Integrative Biology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

#GoodFoodSeries – Cranberries

“Cranberries,” watercolor.

The cranberry is a fruit that’s native to the Americas (it’s one of the few fruits that is too). Indigenous peoples’ resourcefulness led them to use it in a myriad of ways hundreds of years ago. Here’s what the American Phytopathological Society says about it:

Although the native Americans did not cultivate it, they gathered berries and used them in pemmican, a mixture of dried meat or fish and berries that was pounded into a pulp, shaped into a cake and dried in the sun. They were the first to make it into a sweetened sauce using maple sugar. The berries were also eaten raw. Cranberries were used as a poultice for wounds and when it was mixed with cornmeal it was an excellent cure for blood poisoning. The juice was used as a dye to brighten the colors of their blankets and rugs [1].

Cranberries Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Cranberries have been dubbed a “superfood” due to them being nutrient-rich. They offer a good amount of vitamins and they are high in antioxidants, which ward off cancers. They are also beneficial for urinary tract health because of the proanthocyanidins compound that prevents harmful bacteria from clinging to the bladder[2].

In popular American customs, cranberries are associated with Thanksgiving and have been a consistent hit its sauce form for dinners on the national holiday.

But it doesn’t only have to be consumed the fourth week of November either! Check out this twist on a brunch favorite by Chef Camerron Dangerfield of Atlanta, GA: Cranberry Chicken & Waffles (plus an Apple Cider Mimosa) below.

[1] “Cranberries: The Most Intriguing Native North American Fruit,” American Phytopathological Society.

[2] “What are Proanthocyanidins (PACs)?,” The Cranberry Institute.

#GoodFoodSeries – Corn


“Corn,” watercolor.

I love this vegetable/grain (and also the band). Corn. Maize. This ancient food has been around for over 10,000 years. It was originally cultivated by Indigenous peoples in the Americas. And surprise, surprise… that popular colonizer and Indigenous terrorist C. Columbus (among others like him) had a hand in expanding the grain to Europe.

Corn’s expansion across land masses have resulted in varieties and corn of different classifications (i.e. popcorn, dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, sweet corn [1]). The classifications determine the actual texture and colors of the kernels.

Corn Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Corn is loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and also plant compounds that support eye health. On the flip side, it is also a starch that can cause blood sugar to go up due to natural sugars levels. The fiber amount can counteract the starch amounts so as not to do much bodily harm, but be mindful. And be careful: you’d think with this ancient food lasting so long there’d be no need to mess with it, but in the name of profit and maintaining pest resistance, corn has become a largely genetically modified food in this day-and-age.

From corn chips, to cornmeal, to cornflour, to grits, to cornbread, to corn on the cob, among so much more, the options are grand regarding corn and corn-based dishes. Today’s meal is presented to you by ‘Soul Fusion” Chef Danielle Saunders who makes Mixed Kale/Collard Chicken Caesar Salad with CORNBREAD CROUTONS! Check it out. Be blessed.

[1] “Corn | History, Cultivation, Uses, & Description,” Brittanica.

#GoodFoodSeries – Garlic

“Garlic,” watercolor.

Garlic has been revered as an offering fit for the gods and despised as a substance suitable only to be fed to hogs. For over 5,000 years garlic has been used as food, medicine, an aphrodisiac, money, and magic potions.

Garlic warded off the evil eye, was hung over doors to protect medieval occupants from evil, gave strength and courage to Greek athletes and warriors, protected maidens and pregnant ladies from evil nymphs, and was rubbed on door frames to keep out blood thirsty vampires. Garlic clove pendants hung around the neck protected you from the sharp horns of a bull, warded off local witches, kept away the black plague, and even prevented others from passing you (or your horse) in a race.[1]

Garlic is resilient and long-standing; a pungent member of the lily family that deserves respect! Garlic is one of those staples that always stays in your kitchen. I personally keep a jar of minced garlic in the fridge as well as a fresh bulb on the counter. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

Because of garlic’s wondrous flavor and medicinal value, there has been controversy surrounding where it originates from. I guess different regions of the world want bragging rights. Several different sources say it originated in Central Asia though.

Garlic varieties. the accidental smallholder.

Throughout its journey across the world, dozens of varieties and types are currently cultivated. From Bogatyr to Unadilla, from hardneck to softneck, your garlic options are aplenty. The variations will give you subtle flavor differences and color differences.

Regardless which type of garlic you come across or cultivate, you’re pretty much guaranteed medicinal benefits from this glorious bulb. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, helps regulate cholesterol, purifies the blood, fights off colds, etc [2].

Garlic Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The Nutrition Facts are according to one clove. There’s actually about 4.47kCal in one, but I’m assuming that since that count is so low it doesn’t register. -shrug-

And for my favorite portion of these posts: the recipes! This one’s a savory brunch dish from Chef Courtnee Futch. Chef Courtnee uses fresh garlic in her Moroccan Spiced Meatballs & Buttermilk Parm Grits. I was sold by every word in the title of this dish. Check out the video below on how to make.

[1]”Origin and History of Garlic,” Grey Duck Garlic.

[2]”7 Surprising Health Benefits of Garlic,” NDTV Food.

#GoodFoodSeries – Tomatoes

“Tomatoes,” watercolor.

Tomati. Tomatl. Tumatle. Tomatas. ToMAYto. ToMAHto. In prehistoric times, the Indigenous peoples of the Andes (Peru, Bolivia area) were the first to discover this fruit and therefore name it. The present-day names for it in English and Spanish remain similar to the original.

Interestingly enough, people didn’t start consuming it until the 1800s because it was originally thought to be poisonous. Evidently, the aroma from the leaves and stems of tomatoes caused people to believe they were not suitable for consumption [1].

Now, people across the globe enjoy over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes. Tomatoes have are now used in countless ways. Sliced and consumed raw on burgers and sandwiches; diced and consumed in salads; diced and/or blended for salsas and pico de gallo; blanched and converted into purees, sauces, and pastes; etc. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Tomato Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

Tomatoes are a good source of Potassium and Vitamin C, however as with many things be wary of the amount you consume at one time. The acidity levels can cause heartburn or acid reflux as it counteracts with the acidity levels in the stomach.

Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Pearl Jones. Epicurious.

Chef Kwame Onwuachi of Washington, D.C. shares a savory recipe for Market Suya (Nigerian Skewers) that uses a tomato soubise. Check it out here.

[1] “The Tomato Had to Go Abroad to Make Good,” Texas A&M Horticulture

#GoodFoodSeries – Onion

“Onion,” watercolor.

“Banish (the onion) from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and the dinner to despair.” – Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, columnist

The onion is a staple in many dishes of many cultures and offers tremendous flavor to whatever it comes into contact with. From sweet onions to white, red, yellow, green, leek and shallot ones, the flavor possibilities are virtually endless.

Onion Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

There is conflicting research regarding where this tear-inducing vegetable originated. Some say central Asia, others say the Middle East (Iran/western Pakistan). Regardless, onions have been used medicinally and even for mummification practices over 5000 years ago. Onions were found in the body cavities of mummies and seen as a representation of eternal life due to the seemingly infinite nesting of circles in its anatomy [1].

Onions, also referred to as “Nature’s Ninja,” contains many nutrients essential to building immunity, warding off diseases and cancers. It is also a source of prebiotics–essential for a healthy gut.

Today’s meal is courtesy of award-winning Chef Jernard Wells, also known as the The Chef of Love,  who will show you how to prepare Shallow Fried Catfish with Vidalia Onions and Hot Water Cornbread. He hosts New Soul Kitchen on CleoTV. Check out a clip from the show on how to prepare the meal below:


[1] “Onion History,” National Onion Association.