Food for the soul: Collard greens

February 25, 2021 Providence Body & Mind Team

At Providence in Southern California, the Black Caregiver Resource Group (BCRG) and Diversity & Inclusion Council in Southern California (SoCal D&I) is one way we’re supporting diversity and inclusion efforts, empowering people to get involved when it comes to social issues and health disparities. BCRG helps drive racial equity at Providence by amplifying the voice of Black caregivers and empowering them throughout their careers.

We strive to create a local forum to support our Black caregivers at any point in their career – building a pipeline of Black Caregivers who possess the skills and cultural formation to take the next step in leading the organization. In addition, the SoCal D&I is committed to take action in helping those who are vulnerable.

At Providence our commitment is to drive change, to encourage unity, and foster a world of love, decreasing fear and empowering the voice for social issues and health disparities to finally be reconciled, once and for all.

The humble beginnings of soul food

This month is Black History Month—an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in the United States history. With that in mind, we’re shining a light on soul food.

But first — what is soul food, exactly?

It originated with foods that were given to enslaved West Africans on southern plantations during the American colonial period. Now closely associated with cuisine of the American South, soul food is something that the Black community holds close to its heart ­- like the feeling of going to grandma’s house on Sunday after church. The smell of these classic dishes brings families together around the table, creating unity within the home.

History of Collard Greens

Collard Greens have long been held dear in the food-loving southern heart. African American cooks deserve the lead credit for the diffusion of collards across the South. So, the collard, would become a major one in the American South because of African culinary, methods of cooking and nutritional wisdom.

To help you bring a little soul food to your tables, Providence chefs Joy Cantrell and Luis Castro have created some healthier alternatives to one of the most beloved dishes — Collard Greens.

Southern Collard Greens


1-pound hickory smoked bacon, chopped 

2 medium-size sweet red onions, finely chopped

1 Pound Smoked ham, finely chopped

½ Cup garlic, finely chopped

½ Gallon chicken broth (8 cups)

4 pounds, Collard greens, washed and trimmed

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

¼ cup liquid smoke (optional) * If you like a smokier collard green


  1. Cook bacon in a stockpot (soup pot) until crispy, Add Onion and sauté for 5 minutes until onion is transparent

2. Add Ham and Garlic to the mixture, sauté for 3 minutes

3. Stir in broth, and all other ingredients (except collard greens)

4. Bring to a low simmer, add the collard greens, reduce heat

5. Cook on low for 1 ½ hours or until tender

Note: You can use Ham hocks instead of diced ham, 1 ham hock equals ½ cup diced ham.

Nutritional value (based on 8-10 servings):

260 Calories  572 mg of sodium 9 g Protein 8 g Fat 12 g Carbs


Vegan Collard Greens


2 pounds Collard greens, washed and trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons vegan butter

1 medium-size sweet red onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped finely

2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cups Vegetable stock – low sodium

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon pepper

*Salt to taste

Garnish – 4 Roma tomatoes, diced


  1. Mix all ingredients together (except Collard Greens)
  2. Bring to a low simmer
  3. Stir in collard greens
  4. Reduce heat and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat, drain liquid as desired.
  6. Garnish with chopped Roma tomatoes

Note:  You can reduce cooking time if you use frozen collard greens.

Nutritional value (based on 6 -8 servings):

122 Calories 303 mg of sodium  4 g Protein 7 g Fat 14 g Carbs

Good smells and good songs

As slavery settled into the entrenched “peculiar institution” in the South, slaves used music to ease the drudgery of their lives, and sometimes to send messages. Christianization brought the onset of spirituals, and gospel music is still very important to the Black community today.

Music played a central role in the Black civil rights struggles of the 20th century; it was often associated with political activism. Communities often gathered to share food, fully immersed with culture and tradition, where lyrics brought to light many of the individual and collective struggles and hopes. Music and musicians have been instrumental in raising awareness for equity and justice.

The music featured below are sounds and rhythms you might hear today in Black families’ homes. These songs, paired with good soul food, can often remind us of the importance to embrace various generations and traditions, and to stay connected to the truth generations have gone through. Food and music evoke memories for many of us.

We suggest listening to songs by:

•           Diana Ross

•           Al Green

•           Sam Cooke

•           The Temptations

•           Smokey Robinson

•           Aretha Franklin

•           Gladys Knight & Pip’s

Join us in creating some of your own special memories by creating one of these recipes. Share your finished dishes with us! #Providence #FoodiesForTheSoul

Meet the chefs

Joy Cantrell is an executive chef and food production manager at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank. Prior to joining Providence 15 years ago, Joy was the director of operations for the catering division at Warner Music Group and has also owned her own catering company. Joy is also on the culinary board of directors at Los Angeles Mission College and is a Providence Mission Spirit awardee. Fun Fact: Joy was born at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank.

Luis Castro is a cook at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center Burbank, who will be celebrating his 12th year work anniversary in July. Luis oversees the Meals to Go program in addition to managing catering at Providence. Luis attributes his passion for cooking to his father who’s an executive chef at a reputable hospital.




About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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