Friday, December 31, 2010

Collard Greens-Black-Eyed Peas-Country Ham-Cornbread

HAPPY 2011!

Our family traditions spill directly into the New Year. I'm just now realizing how comforting a lifetime of traditions can be. They are the glue for our widespread family. Even when circumstances keep us apart geographically, we know the drill. Some traditions are our own, some we share because of our Southern Heritage, and some we have picked up from new family and friends. No matter whether they're old or new, our traditions, along with lots of love, hold our family together.

For many, the New Year signals a rededication to healthy eating and living. We don't restrict our health consciousness to January. You can do that anytime of year—any day is good.

But we do begin the New Year with a traditional meal of collard greens, black eyes peas and ham, signifying money, luck and good health. I personally can't imagine not having this meal on January 1st. I've changed it up a little, with Collard Greens and Ham Soup garnished by my version of Hoppin' John: black eyed peas combined with chow-chow. Add cornbread, cooked in my grandmother's old black cast iron skillet, and you have our traditional New Year's Day meal. It's OK if you don't eat it on January 1st. As long as you consume during the month of January, you're giving yourself the chance for a year filled with prosperity, luck and good health.

Happy 2011!

New Year's Collard Greens and Country Ham Soup with Black Eyed Pea Chowchow

Having the 'pot likker (vitamin rich broth from cooking greens)' in the soup is a little like 'having your cake and eating it, too'. The pot likker was my grandmother's favorite part of a pot of greens.

1 T canola oil

1 sweet onion, diced

~10 oz. Country Ham trimmings (more lean than fat)

1 lb. Trimmed Winter Collard Greens (center stem removed, rolled and cut into strips)

One teaspoon tabasco, or more to taste

6 cups water

Salt to taste

1 tsp. Black pepper

pinch of Sugar

2 cups cooked white rice

2 cups cooked black eyed pea chowchow* for garnish

Add canola oil to large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions with ham until onions are soft and translucent. Add collards, stirring to coat and wilt down. Add tabasco, water, salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover pot with lid slightly ajar, and cook for about 2 hours.

Check seasoning, add cooked rice and serve with Black Eyed Pea Chowchow and cornbread.

*Black Eyed Pea Chowchow

1 tsp. Canola oil

2 strips bacon, diced

One-half sweet onion, diced

2 cups frozen black eyed peas

One and one-half cups water

1 tsp. Salt

One-half cup chowchow

Add canola oil to medium sized pot over medium heat. Add diced pieces of bacon and cook until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced onion, and continue to cook until onions are soft and translucent. Now, add the black eyed peas and stir to coat with bacon drippings, then add water and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover with lid ajar to simmer and cook until peas are tender, about 40 minutes.

Drain peas, onion and bacon (you can add the remaining cooking liquid to your Collard and Ham Soup.)

Combine pea mixture with chowchow and serve as a garnish to soup.


(The buttermilk makes this a nice, moist cornbread.)

3 cups self-rising stone ground corn meal (ie House Autry Self-Rising Cornmeal)

1 T sugar

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 T canola oil

2 cups buttermilk

3 T butter for pan

Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Add butter to 10 inch iron skillet and preheat in oven.

Stir cornmeal, sugar and salt together. Beat eggs and oil and add to cornmeal. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to mix well. Pour into hot skillet and bake for about 25 minutes, until top is beginning to brown.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Only a few days left 'til Christmas—but don't panic. I have good tips for all things 'Christmas' including gifts!

I've learned that the world won't stop turning if I don't finish everything on my Holiday To Do List. No one even notices. It seems that we're all trying to do too much, so I'm asking myself more often, 'what really matters today?'. That's Tip #1. Ask yourself, and then listen quietly for the answer.

I remember the year we made all our tree ornaments. That's all we could afford, and they mattered. The homemade ornament year was followed by several years of homemade gifts. When I spot one of those hand crafted treasures, and some are still hanging around, it takes me back to a much simpler time. Then came a string of Santa Claus years when the absolute thrill of believing was most important, even if it meant driving half way across the state to make it happen. I loved those years, and I'm told they'll come around again.

A bunch of years have passed since the Santa Clause era, and I'm ashamed to admit I can't really say what mattered from one year to the next. We were busy. We did it all, but I don't remember much about what 'it all' was. Here's Tip #2: Try not to let that happen to you. Whatever you're doing this year, whatever matters most to you, take the time to acknowledge it, and really enjoy the moment!

Tip #3: a Pecan Bar from Martha Stewart that can replace pecan pie in a snap, or be wrapped for a lovely gift.

Tip #4: David Libovitz Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix—quick, easy and delicious as a party snack or for a gift that will be appreciated by everyone.

Tip #5: Artichoke Spread—again, serve it yourself, or put it in jelly jars and share with your friends and neighbors (must be refrigerated).

Have a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy each precious moment!

Pecan Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, December 2004

Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour


Makes 24


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, lightly beaten


3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecans

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil. In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg; pulse just until a dough forms.

Transfer dough to prepared pan; with floured fingers and an offset spatula, press firmly into bottom and 3/4 inch up sides. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Prick bottom of dough; bake until lightly golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool while preparing filling.

Make the filling: In a large saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, until smooth; continue boiling, without stirring, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cream and salt; mix in pecans.

Assemble and bake: Spoon hot filling evenly over crust, using spoon to arrange and press in nuts so they fit snugly (create as flat a surface as possible).

Bake until bubbling and amber-colored, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Using foil, lift cake from pan; peel off foil. With a sharp knife, trim edges (if desired). Cut into 6 even strips; cut each strip crosswise into 4 even strips to make 24 bars.

Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

2 cups (200 gr) mixed raw nuts (untoasted); any combination of cashews, whole almonds, peanuts, pecan halves, and hazelnuts

1 tablespoon (15 gr) unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons (45 gr) dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or another red pepper)

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt

2 cups (100 gr) small pretzel twists

1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.

3. Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated. Then mix in the salt and pretzels, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated.

4. Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool. (12 min. was plenty for mine)

Once cool, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Artichoke Spread

2 cups packed artichoke hearts, drained

zest of half a lemon

1 T fresh lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoons sea salt

2 generous tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (or curly if that's all you can find)

1 cup toasted pecan pieces (you can substitute almonds or pinenuts)

One and one-half cups shredded parmesan cheese

4 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a food processor, pulse artichokes, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic clove, salt and parsley until combined and artichokes are coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spoon. Add pecans, and pulse just until chopped. Scrape down again. Add parmesan cheese and olive oil, and pulse several more times to combine. Add more olive oil if needed.

Store in refrigerator for two weeks, or freeze in freezer containers.

Use as spread with crackers or crostini, or you can add to hot pasta as a sauce.