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Soul Food for the Health Nut

For many, soul food is rightfully associated with family, tradition, and warm memories of home. While the deep and delicious flavors taste great, some of the quintessential soul food dishes like fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and greens have reputations for being less-than-healthy. Fortunately, if you take away the traditional preparation with excess salt, fat, and sugar and you’re left with a relatively healthy diet. If you love soul food but want to lower your risk for heart disease, try implementing the following variations to your favorite soul food dishes.

Vegetables Are King

Vegetables are the cornerstone of any nutritious meal. When it comes to soul food there are numerous options like cabbage, collard greens, peas, beans, okra, sweet potatoes, and more to fill up on instead of more of the higher calorie choices. Cover your plate with veggies for incredible nutrition and to naturally lower the total calories in the meal.  

Skip the Deep Fryer

Instead of traditional batter, cover your fish in crushed nuts then bake it for a delectable crisp. As an alternative to deep-frying your chicken, marinate it in citrus to create incredible flavor. Pan-seared chicken with lemon and rosemary or orange and thyme can be just as flavorful as your typical fried chicken. 

Substitute a spicy okra and tomato stew instead of the standard fried okra side dish. You can also lighten up macaroni and cheese and get an almost undetectable boost by adding pureed butternut squash or cauliflower to the mix. 

Minimize the Meat

Ham hocks, chitlins, and chicken are ubiquitous in soul food recipes. For a healthier overall meal, incorporate substantially smaller meat portions. These small pieces of meat can go a long way in flavoring. You can also use these morsels to flavor greens or other foods traditionally made with a smoky flavor.

Fruit for Dessert

It may sound sacrilegious but if you really want to heighten the nutritious value of your soul food experience, skip the double-crusted cobblers and pies for dessert. Instead, try baked peaches or blueberries with maple syrup and cinnamon topped with oats and nuts. Add sliced strawberries or bananas for extra flavor.


Sometimes you may feel inclined to go full-bore and eat the fried chicken and slathered ham. That’s okay too! There’s no reason to completely abolish the foods you enjoy the most. The key is to employ moderation and balance to your choices so you can enhance your health. Soul food is made with love, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad for your heart. Has this blog piqued your appetite? Visit Mama Sheila’s House of Soul for the best in soul food today!

3 Iconic Desserts from the South

The southern region of the country is well known for its rich culture and history, but its claim to fame may be the rich home-cooked foods that originated there. Classic southern baking typically calls for some type of fruit and the generous use of butter, sugar, and warm spices. These iconic southern desserts may not tie into your diet, but they are unquestionably comforting and delicious.

Sweet Potato Pie

Since the early colonial days, sweet potato pie has been a staple southern dessert. In some parts of the south, sweet potato pie is served during the holiday season in place of pumpkin pie due to their similarity in taste and texture. This might also be because the best tasting sweet potatoes grow in the late months of the year. To make this pie you will need sweet potatoes, butter, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a few other essential ingredients. Many southern bakers swear by using lard as a secret ingredient for creating the flakiest pie crusts.

Peach Cobbler

A cobbler is a fruit based dish which is baked under a crust made of batter, biscuit, or dumpling. Cobbler in the south is typically made deep dish style and with peaches. This is probably because the south is famous for their juicy peaches, which thrive there during the humid summer months. Peach cobbler is relatively easy to make and is created using ripe peaches, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and other yummy ingredients. You won’t have to wait long to dive into this dessert because peach cobbler is meant to be eaten while it’s still warm.

Banana Pudding

Banana pudding is a sweet layered dessert that has been around since the late 1800’s. It typically consists of layers of sweet vanilla custard, cookies, and slices of fresh bananas. According to many southern cooks, a simple wooden spoon is essential in determining the perfect consistency for custards. Coat the spoon with the mixture and run your finger across the back of it. If you’re left with a clean trail and a very thin film underneath, then it’s ready to go. Finish it off with a dash of whipped cream or top it with fresh meringue for the ultimate experience.


Southern baking is a labor of love. Baking tends to be especially tough because of the precise process that must be followed for proper results. When you want authentic southern soul food and want it now, head over to Mama Sheila’s House of Soul. To learn more about the history of soul food see this article.

Common Myths About Soul Food

When it comes to soul food, there is nothing quite as delicious or unique that can compare. The different blend of ingredients and the care that has gone into every single recipe combined to create a dance of flavors in your mouth. Despite all of the amazing facts about soul food that could be listed endlessly, however, there are a few less flattering myths that have become a common perception about the traditional cuisine which deserve to be debunked. Keep reading if you want to find out common misconceptions about soul food that don’t deserve a second thought.

Soul Food is the same as Southern Food:

All too often, when people talk about soul food they frequently mix it up with traditional southern food, when the truth is they couldn’t be more different. Soul food is based on the classic dishes made hundreds of years ago, with recipes passed down through generations. Where standard southern food is more fried chicken, pies and cobblers among other dishes, soul food contains much more variety both in types of meat and the amount of vegetables used. Traditional soul food can feature anything from chicken to chitlins, oxtails and seasoned pork along with a variety of vegetables that often make up a bulk of the dish.

Chicken & Waffles Started in Harlem:

There is a very famous rumor that chicken and waffles, which has become a staple of the soul food variety, started in Harlem, NY back in the 1920’s. The rumor was that people leaving jazz clubs at 2AM would be hungry, but it was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast, they’d be unsure what to eat. However, while this is a very fun story and is true that the dish gained a lot of popularity in that area, chicken and waffles has actually been around since the 1700’s. Originally coming over to America through the tradition of German immigrants, it became a staple in what is now known as the Pennsylvania Deutsch community. Regardless of how the dish started, there is a fairly good chance we all equally appreciate just how amazing it is.

Chitlins Started as Unwanted Food/Leftovers:

Where chicken and waffles is one of the most notable soul food dishes around, chitlins is probably one of the less understood. While a majority of people that have grown up with the traditional food would have no confusion at all about the dish, those that may be just dipping their toes into the soul food dining world might need a bit of education. Chitlins are basically the intestines of a few different animals, seasoned in a specific way and served with traditional soul food sides. The consensus on this specific meal is that you either love it or you hate it, which is understandable. The notion that chitlins were made from leftover scraps, however is just not true. Originally starting in France and other parts of Europe, chitlins (or chitterlings according to Europeans) were actually a delicacy, only after the Emancipation in the United States did chitterlings lose their prestige and become relegated to a more obscure place on the soul food palette.

Soul Food is Unhealthy:

A lot of people correlate a classic plate of soul food with an unhealthy meal that will need to be worked off at the gym the next day, but that is not the case. When it comes to traditional soul food dishes, they can actually be surprisingly healthy. Originally, the more high calorie ingredients like sugar and buttermilk were less available, which means the meals would be prepared using simpler ingredients and flavors would mostly come from the meat. With a combination of spices, natural fats from the meat and the many vegetables, a plate of soul food is actually very healthy if done right.


Soul food is truly one of a kind when it comes to both the flavor and the experience it offers. There is no other traditional food quite like it and now that these pesky myths have been put in their place, the team over at Mama Sheila’s House of Soul hope you will swing by our traditional restaurant for your next meal!

The History behind Soul Food Ingredients

As one of the most popular and illustrious cuisines of the South, recipes for soul food have been passed down through the centuries. From the cultural roots of the Deep South, soul food started with the story of many African American slaves relying on small food portions to survive. They had to come up with a creative way to make food last and taste good at the same time, which is where many soul food recipes originate. In this blog, we’re going to discuss a few key soul food ingredients and talk about each of their historical and cultural backgrounds!


During the early 1600s, slave traders took several crops native to Africa and made limited portions of food on the slave ships in order to keep the slaves alive. Once in the Americas, enslaved Africans grew these crops on the plantations as food sources to help keep their energy up during the long days of hard labor. Since there was so many types of rice crops being grown, it became a staple for many dishes, including jambalaya and Jollof (a popular traditional dish in many West African countries). Rice still continues to be a foundation for soul food dishes today!


Okra made its debut in the Americas around the 18th century, where its origins can be traced back to Ethiopia. Coming across the seas on trade ships, okra was used as a soup thickener, a substitute for coffee, and even as a material to make rope. This green and slimy vegetable is now used as an ingredient in African soups and stews like gumbo. Many people in the Deep South also serve it deep fried.


When slaves were brought over from Europe, they were tasked with the important job of preserving pork with fine salts. Curing the meat allowed the product to stay fresh during long trips overseas. If there was leftover meat, slave owners would give them the cheapest cuts of pork, such as the feet and intestines. To give these parts more flavor, the African people started adding seasonings like hot red peppers and vinegar. Today, Southern barbeque meals still use these flavorings as a base for sauces and rubs.


The cultural history of soul food comes from a generation of people who persisted over generations. What has now evolved into the soul food you know today, can better be appreciated with the ingredients and seasonings in each dish. To order an authentic soul food meal, visit Mama Sheila’s House of Soul. We serve up some of the best soul food in town, so come on by today!

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