Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year- Black Eyed Peas

I have yet to meet a Southerner who doesn't like love bacon.
Then again, I never met a Northerner who doesn't love it either...

This, however,  isn't about bacon, or Southerners or Northerners for that matter.
Well, actually that's exactly what this is about. More specifically this bacon-loving Northerner cum Southerner.

As 2010 winds down I can't help but think of Ferris Bueller and his poignant observation, 'Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it'.
So right you are Mr Bueller.

The past two years have held amazing (pretzle) twists and (hairpin) turns. I went from living a cozy life in New England, surrounded by good friends and family, with 3 boys to living in the heart of the South, detached,  with an additional two.

I felt scared.
I felt lonely.
I felt powerful to change.

This past year, in particular,  holds within its fist an incredible transformation. Like finding a long forgotten, favorite, well worn, ear marked dusty old book tucked away on a shelf,  I have rediscovered a passion which has ignited in me a curiosity to look at life as a series of small details; little treasures waiting to be found.

I have taken the time to realize that seemingly mundane tasks like cooking dinner is not mundane at all.
But in actuality, a celebration of life, food and family.
All of which I am generously blessed with.

The South has many traditions steeped in food and my favorite is New Year's Day. A customary meal consists of black eyed peas which swell when cooked and so symbolize prosperity, collard greens- money, and pork because pigs, when foraging, root forward and so in that same direction must we follow. 
Plus Southerners LOVE bacon (did I mention that already?)
Interestingly, there is a similar tradition in the Jewish faith...sans pork...I'm assuming.

And so I offer up this Northern girl's interpretation of a classic Southern New Year's Day dish: Black Eyed Peas.
True Southerners enjoy this with chopped red onion and spicy vinegar.
My husband, N, won't kiss me if I eat that.
So I omitted it.

Black Eyed Peas

black eyed peas*
chicken stock

Cook up some bacon and drain the excess fat. In the remaining fat flavor saute chopped onion, carrots, peppers and celery until soft. Add drained beans and cover with stock. Simmer until beans are soft. If you haven't eaten all the bacon by this point, crumble some on top.

*i have become a huge legume lover and have found the BEST way to prepare them is by boiling them for 1 minute, then allowing them to sit in the hot water for about an hour. The trick is to generously salt the water. The beans will take in the salt at this point. Salt brings out flavor. If you try to do this later you'll never get them salty enough.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vegetable Soup with White Beans & Black Eyed Peas

 Soup.Soup. SoupSoupSoup.

This made me so happy. 
The babies scarfed it down.
The others managed to wrangle it by their imaginary gag reflex once they realized it would make them...ehm,  musical...

I just wish I had made more

Vegetable Soup with White Beans & Black Eyed Peas

beef stock
white beans (dried)*
black eyed peas (dried)*

Saute coarsely chopped onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms until soft. Add beef stock & tomato until just covered. Puree to desired consistency. Salt (soups taste sooooo much better when salted correctly. Add some, then add some more until it tastes right)** Toss in beans and peas. Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Zucchini cooks super fast so that goes in for 10 minutes at the end.
Soup is ready when done.
* I like dried beans, but they are like little stone so...
   Pro tip #1: if you are organized: soak dried beans overnight.
   Pro tip #2: if you are NOT- boil dried beans for 1 minute then let sit for 1 hour.
   Go with canned if that makes you happy.
**whenever I oversalt a soup, I just add more water. Now you know.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tiny Post: Salad Hodgepodge

When I'm hungry I like to throw a bunch of stuff into a bowl...

drizzle on some olive oil and balsamic vinegar...

salt and pepper to taste...

Here's what went into this  mess masterpiece:
spring mix

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pots & Pans

 I received  a pot in the mail.

 It is big.

 It is beautiful.

 It's probably what the army mess halls use.

Let's dance!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup

All I'm wanting these days is soup.
One that is rich and hearty; meal by itself.

One I can start in the morning, and leave on the stove all day.
One that uses ingredients I am not wholly comfortable with.
One that will possibly last until the next day....but not necessarily.

One I can enjoy with a glass of wine, a juicebox or a shot of tequila.

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup 
*adapted from Gourmet

Butternut squash (peeled & cubed)
olive oil & soy butter
minced ginger
curry powder
red lentils
chicken stock

Saute the squash, celery, onion, and carrot in olive oil and soy butter until soft (about 15 minutes)
Add ginger & curry (I don't give amounts here because I didn't measure taste is personal). Toss in lentils and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & cover until lentils are done.

I leave this on the stove all day with some crusty french bread and grab a nibble every time I walk by.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chili for the Alabama Cold

When I first moved here I thought it was easy to tell who was a native and who had migrated from cooler climates. When the temperature dipped below 50, locals would break out their gortex.  I would surreptitiously roll my eyes and continued on in T-shirts and flip-flops. Of course, before we left New Jersey, I thought Alabama shared the same coordinates as Miami...

But the more time I spend here the colder it seems to get.
It was really cold today.
Not New England cold like I used to be used to
No, I mean Alabama cold.

Definition:  Although it reads 45 degrees on the thermometer which your Northern brain interprets as 'not cold', because water hasn't frozen and you're not chipping away at the ice on your windshield,  your body is screaming at you to hike up the thermostat and put a on a sweater already!

It now seems my Southern migration has reset my inner thermostat and I find myself, with chilled fingers tapping at the keyboard, in a turtleneck and warm cozy sweater.
But I'm still wearing flip-flops


1 lb ground meat (I like ground sirloin)
dried red beans
1 onion, minced
1 chopped pepper
packet of chili seasoning
tomato sauce
chili powder

I first soak the beans in water. Then brown the ground meat, add onion and pepper. Once that looks good and toasty I add the drain beans and the packet of chili seasoning. {Just an aside:I have yet to find one that is really good..if you have any recommendations please let me know} and tomato sauce, cayenne and chili powder as you like it. {My kids won't touch this so I go crazy here}
Turn up the heat until it starts to bubble, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for a while...30 minutes? 3 hours? Whatever. It gets better over time. I usually add some water if it looks too thick or smells like it's burning.
Top it off with a sprinkling of chopped cashews, grab some crusty french bread and dig in.
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