Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black-Eyed Peas for the New Year

Baby Eating Black-Eyed Peas 

 I would not consider starting a new year without eating some black-eyed peas for luck and so far, I have been a very lucky person.  

In the South, we also eat greens; in my family, we traditionally eat collards. The greens are for wealth and I feel extremely rich.

By luck and wealth, I don't mean I have won any lotteries or live in a mansion. Far from it. 

We live in a very modest home, which is warm and cozy. It is filled with books, laughter, harmony, family and friendship, doggie love, delicious and healthful food, peace, and gratitude. I feel perfectly content and extremely grateful.

Here are a few black-eyed pea recipes for consideration. Myself, I am taking a different direction this year. I'm going to make Curried Black-Eyed Peas (Lobia Tariwaala) and Saag Paneer---black-eyed peas and greens from another culture. I will be posting these recipes next weekend for my ongoing Curry-Palooza project.  

Crock Pot Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Hoppin' John

Texas Caviar


Friday, December 23, 2011

Ginger Oatmeal Lace Cookies

These Oatmeal Lace Cookies are very delicate, tender, and crisp. The batter is a cinch to make on the stove top rather than the mixer, and they keep well for several days in an airtight container.  The crystallized ginger gives an unexpected, pleasant bite. 

If you love oatmeal cookies and are a fan of ginger, this is a cookie for you!

Ginger Oatmeal Lace Cookies
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. finely minced crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Let cool a bit and add oats, flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla. Stir well to combine, then add the eggs. Mix thoroughly and stir in the minced ginger.

Drop 1 Tbsp. of batter at a time on the parchment, leaving at least 3 inches between cookies. Flatten batter into a circle with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking, until just golden brown. Cool on pans for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove cookies from pan with a thin spatula and let cool completely on wire racks. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Fashioned Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Almost every recipe I see for Sweet Potato Pie calls for the addition of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg--the pumpkin pie spices. As a girl growing up in Alabama, I don't remember my Grandmother's and my Aunties' Sweet Potato Pies tasting like my Mother's pumpkin pie (and she makes the best).

Aunt Ruby made the best Sweet Potato Pie. She also made the best ice tea, which she made with loose tea then strained into a pitcher. Hers was the perfectly sweetened tea, not too sweet, just right. And she served it over crushed ice.

I remember her sweet potato pie simply tasting like sweet, buttery, vanilla scented sweet potatoes. Delicious!

Her recipe calls for the addition of light Karo syrup. Karo syrup is an old-fashioned corn syrup, used to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystalization of sugar, and enhance flavor. It is not to be confused with the high fructose corn syrup of today, though still widely available in grocery stores.

Aunt Ruby's Sweet Potato Pie
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
2 eggs, beaten
1 can evaporated milk
3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
Nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, brown sugar and syrup together. Add eggs and stir. Add sweet potatoes and mix well. Stir in the milk, vanilla and salt, making sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pie shell and bake 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Dust top with freshly grated nutmeg if desired.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cornbread Dressing with Fresh and Dried Fruit

I had to report for Jury Duty this morning but was dismissed early. I could have gone into work, but decided to blow it off. (Shh! Don't tell the boss!)  I had already prepared, workwise, to have the day off. I made sure my office was in order and that I was prepared for Monday. And besides,  I don't like to walk into an office that is already humming. I like being the first one in. 

Each morning, I arrive early, open the gate, unlock the doors, turn off the alarm, turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, make the coffee.  I put my lunch in the fridge, turn on my computer, check my email, and prepare for my work day. All while it is still and quiet. By the time my co-workers begin to arrive, I am well into the day.

Today, I decided to come home and give my blog some love! I miss my blog and my blog friends. I never dreamed my job would take so much of my energy.  Three evenings, after work, I go to the gym. Every night I cook dinner so we can enjoy delicious and healthful meals each day. I take my lunch to work every day. All these things are very important to me.

After dinner, and after the kitchen is packed away for the night, I sit down in front of my computer, in my very comfortable office chair, with the intention of blogging . . . and promptly fall asleep. 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

We had, for varying reasons, a very quiet Thanksgiving. I did not bake a turkey, but rather a ham. And I fashioned my menu much like a brunch. Among other things, I made a Cheese Grits Souffle, Angel Biscuits,
Tomato Gravy, and an old fashion Sweet Potato Pie. 

I did not make my usual Southern family favorite dressing. Instead I made this recipe from the November, 2006 edition of Bon Appetit. I have made this recipe a few times before, usually for New Year's.  It is very moist and flavorful and I think it goes especially well with ham.

Cornbread Dressing with Fresh and Dried Fruit
Buttery cornbread (recipe below)
1/2 cup butter
4 cups chopped onions
4 cups chopped, unpeeled apples
2 cups chopped celery with leaves
24 pitted prunes, diced
12 dried apricot halves, diced
1 Tbsp. sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 cup chicken broth

Cut the cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Spread onto a sheet pan and bake in a 250 degree oven, to dry out some, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Melt butter, in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and onions and saute about 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Scrape the vegetables into a large bowl. Add prunes, apricots, sage, salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the cornbread cubes and toss until evenly combined.

Pour mixture into a well buttered 13x9 inch baking dish; pour broth evenly over. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake until heated through and the top begins to form a crust, about 40 minutes.

Buttery Cornbread
1 1/3 cups coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
9 Tbsp. melted butter
2 eggs, beaten

Place all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and blend together thoroughly, but don't over mix. Pour into a well buttered 9x5x3-inch loaf pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn bread out onto a rack until completely cooled. 

Delicious the next day topped with an egg.