Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Hoppin’ John

Hello, everyone! As we approach the end of another year, many cultures around the world begin their preparations for carrying out traditions that will ensure good luck, good health, and prosperity in the new year (at the very least, they can’t hurt). Food always—pretty much without exception—plays a part in these rituals.

Soba Noodles

In Japan, for example, it is customary to eat soba noodles during the New Year’s celebration to ensure a long life, symbolized by the long noodles. In Spain, 12 grapes are eaten at midnight on New Year’s Eve—one for each month of the year—and it is hoped that the grapes are sweet, which is considered a harbinger of a sweet year ahead. In Austria and Germany, they eat little marzipan pigs, which are considered good luck. In the Philippines, they make a lot of noise on New Year’s Eve, banging pots and pans, to ward off evil spirits. In Greece, they smash a pomegranate at the front door to spill the seeds, symbolically spreading wealth.

In many countries, legumes are popular for New Year’s because they swell when cooked, symbolizing increased financial prosperity. Lentils are used in Italy and Brazil because they are round like coins. In the United States, black-eyed peas are popular (the musical group and the legume) and Hoppin’ John, which features that particular legume, is a staple New Year’s dish in the South.

Recipes for Hoppin’ John first began appearing in cookbooks in the 1840s, but the origins are a little murky, and possibly a little unfortunate. Black-eyed peas are native to West Africa, and it’s believed that they were brought over by slave traders as part of their cargo. Naturally, the crops were planted in the South, and became an important commodity. Some believe that eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s is actually a carryover of a 1500-year-old tradition of consuming them by Sephardic Jews on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The beans themselves represent coins, and there’s one version of this tradition that calls for hiding an actual coin in the Hoppin’ John—bringing the finder good luck—as well as filling a bowl with beans and coins and leaving it on the table for some benevolent spirit in exchange for granting good fortune.

But why is it called Hoppin’ John? There are several stories. One says that there was an old man who hobbled around and sold peas on the streets of Charleston, and the dish was named after him. Another says that children would hop around the dinner table, eagerly anticipating the serving of this dish. A more likely story is that it comes from a French term, pois pigeons, meaning pigeon peas, which are a big part of Caribbean culture.

Hoppin’ John is traditionally made with pork and served with rice. In many countries, pork, for some reason, is considered lucky to eat on New Year’s (marzipan is not the only kind of pig that Austrians and Germans eat for New Year’s). Rice flourished in the hot, steamy South (it was dubbed at one point Carolina Gold). Bring all three of these elements together, you’ve got one lucky dish. Also, Hoppin’ John is often served together with collard greens, because it represents money. Cornbread, too, is considered lucky because of its “golden” color (you get the idea).

I’ve made different versions of Hoppin’ John, with and without greens, with and without meat, with rice and with other grains… This is probably the simplest version I’ve cooked. The nice thing about it is that you can make it ahead of time and freeze it, then defrost it in time for New Year’s Day. By the way, unlike other dried beans, black-eyed peas do not need to be pre-soaked. You can, if you want to cut down cooking time, do a quick-soak method by bringing the peas to a boil in a pot of water, letting them boil for 2 minutes, then letting them sit in the water for an hour off heat. But, frankly, if you’re going to do all of that, you’re not really saving any time, unless you want to do this the day before. In my opinion, not worth it. Just let the Hoppin’ John cook for an hour, and it’s a done deal.  

Whatever traditions you have for New Year’s—or whether you have any at all—I’m wishing you all a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year. I wish for peace and tranquility, honor and compassion, and above all, respect for all living beings.

Hoppin’ John

Makes 6 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste

6 cups vegetable broth
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
2 large celery ribs, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes, liquid reserved
3 cups dried black-eyed peas
1 or 2 dried bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme or rosemary (or both), optional

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and sauté over medium-high heat until soft and translucent.Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Drop in the tomato paste and stir it in until it’s well blended, then let it cook for a minute or two, until the bottom of the pot starts to brown.Pour in a little bit of the broth to deglaze the pot and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Let this cook until the liquid has evaporated.Add the bell pepper, carrot, celery, and ½ teaspoon of the salt and sauté until all the vegetables have softened but are still firm.Pour the liquid from the tomatoes into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1 cup. Add this to the pot. Pour in the broth, and add the beans, bay leaves, remaining salt, and black pepper. Mix well.Bring this to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, about 1 hour, or until the beans are tender but not mushy. If the pot dries out before the beans are cooked, add more water or broth and stir it in. Stir in the parsley and other herbs and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or pepper, if you like.

Remove the bay leaves and serve with rice or cornbread, or on its own.

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Roasted Squash and Purple Potatoes with Baby Bok Choy

Roasting is my favorite way to cook almost any vegetable, but it’s definitely the way to go with root vegetables and squashes. Because it’s so easy, this is the perfect dish to serve at any weeknight meal. But because it’s easily doubled or tripled, it’s ideal for the Thanksgiving table, or for any special autumn or winter meal. Enjoy.

Roasted Squash and Purple Potatoes with Baby Bok Choy

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

6-7 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups cubed butternut or other winter squash
2 cups cubed purple potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
1 small onion, sliced
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher salt
½ pound baby bok choy
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice 1 garlic clove and set aside. Smash the rest with the flat side of a knife blade (hit your palm CAREFULLY down on the blade).Combine the squash, potatoes, onions, and smashed garlic in a medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and 2 teaspoons of the salt and mix well. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until the vegetables are tender and golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir halfway through.Meanwhile, make the bok choy. Slice off the root end and separate the leaves. Soak the leaves in a bowl of cool water for about 10 minutes. Remove the bok choy and rinse them.Heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet. Add the sliced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bok choy and remaining salt and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue cooking over medium heat until tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.Place the bok choy neatly on a platter. Spoon the squash and potatoes over the bok choy. Serve hot.


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Winter Eggnog Pancakes

So, the holidays have come and gone. You’ve shopped until you dropped, partied hardy, and eaten every holiday goodie there was.

Now you’re settling back into a regular routine again. The decorations have come down (maybe), you’ve made your resolutions (possibly), and you’re starting to eat normal and/or healthy food again (hopefully). You open up your refrigerator and find that container of eggnog that never got finished is still there, with still enough eggnog in it that makes you feel bad about throwing it away.

You don’t have to.

There are many ways to use up leftover eggnog, but one of the simplest is pancakes. Eggnog pancakes are kind of like buttermilk pancakes, but they’re richer and more complex.

Okay, so pancakes don’t have to be complex. But it’s really, really great if they’re tasty and satisfying. Made with eggnog, they are.

So, if you’re like me and hate to throw out even a scrap of food, try this recipe with that leftover eggnog. It’s a great post-holiday treat.

Enjoy!

Winter Eggnog Pancakes

Makes 16 pancakes.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon maple or coconut palm sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1½ cups eggnog
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggnog, egg, and melted butter. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix gently just until blended.Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place several mounds of the batter, a scant ¼ cup each, into the pan about an inch apart. Spread the batter out just a little to ensure even cooking (the eggnog makes the batter thick and it may not spread on its own).Let them cook until bubbles form on top and the bottoms have browned, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and continue to cook until the bottoms have browned and there’s no wet batter on the sides, about another 1 to 2 minutes.Serve with real maple syrup, fruit, jam, or whatever toppings you like.

 

 


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Ah, The Cranberry Sauce

Still looking at the bowl of leftover cranberry sauce in the fridge? The nice img_0020thing about cranberry sauce is that it has a pretty long shelf life (the sugar acts as a preservative). But the question is always, what do I do with it all?

Well, I’m here to help. Once again, here is my list of 12 things to do with leftover cranberry sauce.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of it into chicken or tuna salad.
  2. Make a salad dressing. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a homemade vinaigrette.
  3. Use it as a sauce for meats, vegetables, fish, and (my favorite) vegetarian “chicken” patties.
  4. Mix about ½ cup to 1 cup of it into cheesecake before placing it in the oven. (Just swirl it in; don’t overmix.)
  5. Dollop some on top of slices of pound or angel cake.
  6. Stir about 1 cup of it into a big pot of chili.
  7. Make ketchup out of it—add it to a traditional homemade ketchup recipe.
  8. Turn it into salsa by adding some minced jalapeno or some chili powder and cumin to it, or a chutney by adding other dried or fresh fruits, such as raisins, chopped dates, or chopped apple.
  9. Use it as jam for toast, muffins, or bagels.
  10. Mix about ¼ cup into muffin batter (these will be the best cranberry muffins ever!).
  11. Use it as an ingredient in homemade ice cream.
  12. Add it to a breakfast bread.img_5650

This recipe is a healthy loaf (which many people appreciate after Thanksgiving), using whole wheat flour and flax seeds. You can have a healthy post-Thanksgiving breakfast or snack while still enjoying holiday flavors. You don’t need a lot of sugar, either, because there are sweeteners already in the sauce. As for the flax seeds, use a clean coffee grinder to grind it until you get a coarse powder. Enjoy!

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Cranberry Sauce-Walnut Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
2 tablespoons sugar or maple crystals
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
½ cup cranberry sauce
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that parchment sticks out of the sides (or grease it very well).

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, flax seeds, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.img_5633In a small bowl, mix together eggs and buttermilk.img_5634Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened.img_5635Stir in the walnuts. Swirl in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—you just want it to run through the batter.img_5638Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake until lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the toothpick is okay.

Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.

If you have any cranberry sauce left, dollop a spoonful on each slice.img_5654

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Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist

cranberry enhancedA few years ago, I introduced a recipe for Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist. I think using sorghum syrup is a great way to enjoy traditional dishes without using white cane sugar.

In my cranberry sauce, it also adds a different dimension to the flavor. And it’s still one of my favorite cranberry sauce recipes.

So, below is a reprint of my original post from 2013. I hope you like it. Have a fun, safe, and peaceful Thanksgiving.

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Pumpkins, Ghoulies, and Ravioli, Oh My

Photo: pikabu.ru

Photo: pikabu.ru

Hi, fellow foodies. We are in full pumpkin swing and candy is popping up all over the place! If you haven’t already, start stocking up because those trick-or-treaters will be knocking on your door in about a week. And you don’t want your house toilet papered, do you?

For any of you having ghoulish gatherings and sinister soirees, there are lots of horrific recipes out there that will make your guests scream…or at least look twice at what they’re eating and drinking. There are recipes out there for every type of ghoulish treat, from cute ghosts and witches to truly horrifying zombies and body parts.

Photo: HalfBaked Harvest.com

Photo: HalfBaked Harvest.com

If you’re going to be doing any pumpkin carving, don’t throw away all that fabulous flesh and those beautiful seeds! To me, throwing out all that stuff is an abomination. You can prepare the flesh and use it in recipes, the same as you would canned pumpkin. Never done it before? I’ll tell you how.

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Cranberry Bread

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Do you still have cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving? I’ll bet many of you do. Maybe it’s a stray can hanging out in the pantry, or it’s a cup or so in the fridge that you haven’t been able to bring yourself to throw out. That’s okay—cranberry sauce lasts a long time in the refrigerator, but at this point, use it or lose it.

There are many things you can do with leftover cranberry sauce, but making a loaf is one of my favorites. (This is a wheat-free version, but it has spelt flour, so if you have—or are making it for someone with—Celiac disease, this isn’t the right recipe for you. It also contains soy flour, so if you’re avoiding soy, again, this isn’t right for you.)

This is not overly sweet, so it makes a nice breakfast loaf, toasted with some butter or jam. But it’s got enough sweetness and crunch from the walnuts (if you want to use them) that it makes a great snack with an extra dollop of cranberry sauce.Pilcrow & Dagger Cover

I’m happy to say that another version of this loaf (not gluten free) appears in the holiday issue of the literary magazine Pilcrow & Dagger, along with my recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. Check out a sneak preview HERE. And if you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can do so HERE.

So, rescue that leftover cranberry sauce and make this tasty loaf and enjoy.

I hope you all had a wonderful, joyful holiday season, and may 2016 bring happiness and success, whatever that means for you.

Cranberry Bread

Makes 1 (8 x 4) loaf.

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup soy flour
¾ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup rice flour
½ cup sugar or maple crystals
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan (or line is with parchment paper).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.IMG_5633In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, and ¼ cup water.IMG_5634Mix this into the flour mixture just until all dry ingredients are moistened. If it seems dry, add a bit more water.IMG_5635

IMG_5636Stir in the walnuts, if you’re using them, then stir in the cranberry sauce, but don’t mix it in completely—just run it through.IMG_5639Spoon the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out fairly clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Some moist cranberry on the knife is okay.

If the loaf starts getting very dark or starts burn around the edges but the loaf isn’t done, cover it with a piece of foil and continue baking.IMG_5645Set pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto the rack. Serve warm or cool completely.IMG_5646

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