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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Zesty New Year Black Eye Peas

I know it's not New Year's yet, but since this recipe calls for an overnight bean soak, I thought I'd toss it together for you to try out this weekend.

As many of you may know, in the South serving black eye peas for New Year's is a long-standing tradition.  It's supposed to bring you luck, and prosperity, and they're usually served alongside a heapin' helpin' of collard greens (that symbolize money, i.e. folded bills).

So to start you off right in 2012, here's a hearty bean casserole I think you might like.  It's a variation of a dish I found in one of my lowfat cookbooks (who's looking out for you at the end of this holiday season?) and figured it would be tasty and filling.  Besides, who can't use an extra boost of luck now and then.

Zesty Black Eye Peas

2 cups black eye peas, soaked overnight
1 tbsp veggie oil
1 lg onion, chopped
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp honey
2 cups veggie stock
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 small orange, for peel and juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish (optional)


Soak the peas in cold water overnight.  Put in about 2x as much water as there are beans (because trust me those puppies will soak that liquid up).


Rinse the peas and place in a saucepan.  Cover the peas with water and bring them to a rapid boil, then let them boil for about 10-12 minutes.

Drain the peas and put them in an ovenproof casserole or covered dish.

Heat the oil in a deep pan and then saute the onion for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.

Add in the tomato paste, soy sauce, molasses, and honey.

Pour the veggie stock over the mixture and bring to a boil.

Whisk in the mustard, rosemary, thyme, sage, and black pepper.

Then pour the stock mixture over the peas in the casserole dish (or in this case bean pot).  Add a bay leaf to the mix.

Pare off three strips of orange rind.  Add the rind and a bay leaf to the beans in the dish.

Cover and cook in oven at 300 degrees for 55-60 minutes. 

Remove dish from oven.  Mix juice from the orange with the cornstarch to make a paste then stir into the bean mixture.

Add in the pepper pieces.

Then cover and put back in the oven for another 55-60 minutes until the sauce is thick and the peas are tender.  Remove and discard the orange peels and bay leaf.

Garnish with the parsley and serve up with your favorite crusty bread.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday celebration!  You'll have to forgive me, but I thought I would take advantage of the fact that everyone will be busy today with family and friends and take the rest of day off from kitchen duty to enjoy Christmas.

I was a busy little kitchen mouse this morning since Guinea Pig Dad had put in a request for the becoming-a-tradition Eggs Benedict that I made with some roast potatoes on the side for Christmas breakfast.  I also whipped another batch of Eggnog Bread Pudding for morning dessert so the house smells wonderful and holidayish.

I found some cool vintage cookbooks under the tree this morning that I am dying to peruse so that I can bring you some fun new recipes. I'll be back on Wednesday with new information or goodies to try.

In January I'll be working again on more health-inspired recipes to help in that never-ending battle between belly and post-holiday fluff.  And if there are any recipes you'd like me to try and/or feature, please let me know!  I would love to hear your suggestions or find out what you'd like to see posted.  Just send me a message at and I'll see what I can do to help out.

So, will be back Wednesday, but until then I hope you all have a fabulous food-filled holiday celebration!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Here's a tasty brew to help warm you up on those cold winter nights, that are happening somewhere, just not here in North Carolina.  It's a traditional Swedish Christmas drink that I used to hear about all the time when I was in college.  The grandmother of my Swedish-descended roommates used to make it every year when they went home for the holidays.  This is not a recipe for the feint-of-heart or teetotalers in the crowd, but for the rest of us...sheer bliss.


2-1/4 cups port
2-1/4 cups red wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 cinnamon stick, broken into smaller pieces
6 whole cloves
1/2 orange peel
1 tsp ground cardamon (or 6 cardamon pods)
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (optional)
1 cup brandy

In a medium pot, combine port, red wine, water and sugar over low heat.

Cut a large double-thick square of cheesecloth.  Put the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and cardamon in the center.

this is what I mean by "small" piece

Wrap into a ball (or tie with string).  Beat the ball with a mallet.  Bruising the spices help release their flavors as it steeps.

Put spice ball in the wine mix and add in raisins and almonds (if you'd like) and simmer just below boiling for 20-25 minutes.  I set my burner between 4-5 on the dial to get it just below boiling.

Once the mixture has simmered, remove the spice ball, add in the brandy, and strain out the raisins and almonds (if you put them in) and serve.  Toasty warm belly goodness on its way.


Since you can't really get cardamon pods in your regular grocery store, I used ground cardamon.  To keep the spice from getting loose and scumming the surface of the mixture, I cut another small double-thick piece of cheesecloth. I put the spice in the middle and then cigarette-rolled it and put the rolled bundle in the middle of the spice pack.  That way the spice would still get steeped, but would be hard-pressed to escape.

I included the raisins and almonds because that's what the majority of the traditional recipes called for.  You won't compromise the flavor by omitting them.  I set mine aside to use as an adult garnish on my next bowl of Irish oatmeal...num.

I apologize for the miniscule font on the post (if it comes out looking miniscule on your screen too).  I cut and pasted something in a different font and it's screwed up something and I'm too tired and computer-illiterate to try and figure it out tonight.  Sunday's post should be back to font normal. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eggnog Bread Pudding with Cinnamon Bourbon Sauce

So here's a little something different to try with your seasonal favorite beverage.  It's not for the weak of heart, so be prepared to enjoy the sugar coma that follows indulging in this treat.

Eggnog Bread Pudding

2 cups eggnog, room temp
4 eggs, room temp
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) butter, melted
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 loaf French bread, cut into cubes

With a whisk, mix the all but the bread in a bowl.  It's important to make sure the eggnog and eggs are at room temp so that they won't curdle when you add the melted butter.

In a lightly greased pan (I used a 7x10" baking dish), lay out the French bread cubes.

Pour the eggnog mixture over the cubes.  Use a spoon to press the bread into the mixture so that it is all dampened with the mixture.

Bake in a preheated over at 350 degrees for 55 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cinnamon Bourbon Sauce

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, not packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp bourbon

Cream together the butter and sugar until mostly smooth.

Add in the vanilla, egg, and cinnamon until well blended.

Heat the mixture on the stove over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.  It will start to liquify as the sugars melt.

Mix in the bourbon and continue to cook until mixture thickens slightly (won't get really thick).

Remove from heat and allow to sit for a few minutes, will get a bit thicker but it is still going to be more runny than not.

Drizzle (or pour) over individual servings of the bread pudding.


At about 30 minutes into the cooking process you will be assailed with the wafting aroma of baking eggnog so just be warned, 25 minutes of drooling ahead.

The bread pudding will be puffy when you pull it out of the oven, but don't be surprised when it settles as it cools.  It will still be fluffy and very moist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Like peppermint, eggnog is another seasonal favorite that conjures images of snowy days, roaring fires, and toasty warm belly happiness. These days you can find nogs to suit everyone’s taste – classic eggy non-boozed eggnog, pre-boozed eggy eggnog, soy eggnog, lowfat eggnog, and even egg-free eggnog (yeah, there are recipes out there, trust me). You can find vegan and dairy-free eggnogs in specialty stores.

Though there are many schools of thought on how eggnog got its name, the one thing all schools agree on is that the beverage seems to have originated in England. “Nog” was the nickname given to a small wooden mug in England that was used to serve alcohol in and since the drink was made with eggs, thus....

The drink was basically a creamy blend or “posset” of eggs, sugar, hot milk, and alcohol.  Possets had been used for centuries as a warming beverage and were made by mixing hot milk with hot beer or sherry and adding in a bit of sugar with some spices.  This made it a nice nightcap on cold evenings in the yore days of pre-centralized heating as well as a soothing beverage for sickies and invalids.

Due to a lack of refrigeration and their then-high cost, dairy products and eggs were primarily consumed by the upper classes because they were much less available to the lower classes. For those who could afford these luxury items, they mixed the drink using sherry, brandy or Madeira (also high-end luxury items) to create their tasty warming brew.

Eggnog made its way over to the Colonies during the 18th century and became very popular. In America, plentiful farms and general access to eggs and dairy products made it possible for all classes to enjoy the beverage. The biggest change to the mix was that instead of incorporating the high-end boozy mixers which were heavily taxed in those days, eggnog was blended with the more readily acquired and affordable rum c/o the Triangle Trade.  Domestic whiskey and bourbon eventually became popular alternatives for even the rum.

Beginning in the 1960s, eggnog began to be served cold and without alcohol (crazy talk!) which was the most defining change from its original eggnoggy form. These days, "traditional" eggnog is a concoction of eggs, cream and sugar with vanilla and spices added in. The use of cream in lieu of milk helps create a thicker, richer beverage (and yes, more fattening too, but oh so delicious).

In any case, with a dash of nutmeg on top (and a shot of goodness on the bottom), hot or cold, eggnog will warm both your body and soul on a blustery winter night.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ginger Glazed Carrots

Here's a nice little side dish to go with your holiday meals this season.

Ginger Glazed Carrots

8-16 oz. carrots, peeled
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
parsley flakes, for garnish

I used a bag of steamable carrots for this recipe.  You can use regular carrots and either steam them or saute them with some butter.  You basically want them edible before glazing.

In a pan over medium heat, whisk together the butter, honey, lemon juice, ginger and nutmeg.

Add in the prepared carrots and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring to make sure they are well-coated.

Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

The carrots will have a subtley zingy flavor that will go nicely with chicken or beef.


You can substitute orange juice for lemon juice.  Ginger-orange is also a tasty combo with carrots.

If you wanted to roast your carrots, that would be another way to add a layer of sweetness to the dish.  They can be roasted and then mixed with the glaze before serving.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good and Good for You -- Ginger

Another favorite holiday spice of mine is ginger. Who doesn’t associate Christmas with cute little gingerbread cookies or a nice fragrant loaf of gingerbread (sprinkled with powdered sugar…YUM!)?


Ginger is sold fresh, dried, grated, ground, and crystallized and is used with both savory and sweet dishes.

Ginger is believed to have originated in India. The Persians traders brought ginger out of India and introduced it to the world outside. Though it was a popular spice in India, the Greeks and Romans didn’t really take to it as quickly.

As with many spices, it had a more prominent start as a medicinal tool before moving to the culinary realm. Because ginger facilitates in digestion it was used to create “nutritional” dishes and eventually became a mainstay spice in medieval cookery.

Ginger was/is considered to have aphoristic qualities (which is hard to imagine as you crunch away on a innocent little gingerbread man…or woman…hmmm) and was consumed often with the purpose of enhancing fertility and aiding in population growth.

Crystallized ginger (ginger preserved in sugar) was considered a delicacy, ginger preserved in syrup as well.

During the Renaissance ginger use dropped in France and other southern European countries because strong flavors were no longer in favor but its use in the Northern Europe (U.K., Germany, Scandinavia) was continued not only in sweet dishes, but savory as well. Ginger ale (soda) and ginger beer (fermented) were heavy consumed, as well as ginger wine during the winter holidays.

Ginger was/is also a key ingredient in production of chutney; that delicious fruit and spice mixture made to accompany savory meats and curries.

Ginger is still considered to having healthful uses.

* It helps quench thirst.
* It aids in digestion.
* It’s effective as a means of subduing motion sickness and nausea (without the accompanying drowsiness).
* One of the main compounds found in ginger (gingerois) is believed to have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

So while you enjoy your spicy ginger goodies this holiday season, think of the good things you are doing for your body in the process.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Peppermint Cake

Okay, so this is more like an assembly guide than an actual recipe.  This is my quick-n-dirty peppermint cake because (insert whisper here) I used a box cake mix and pre-made icing.  Yeah, I did...but I enhanced it and made it all pretty-like so try it before you judge.  If you are so inclined to start from scratch, then it will be all the more superb for your efforts, but if you're a busy gal (or guy) like me, this is a "quick" way to make something special to, say, celebrate your dad's birthday one day late. (Happy Birthday GP Dad!)

Peppermint Cake

2 8" layers chocolate cake
2 16 oz. containers white icing
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops red food coloring
Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

Whip up your favorite chocolate cake recipe, make two 8" cakes.  Allow to cool to room temp.

When you are ready to assemble, brush any excess crumbs off one of the cakes and lay it down on a cake dish or plate.

In a small bowl, mix 2/3 of 1 can of icing with 2 drops of food coloring and 1/4 tsp peppermint extract.

Spread the peppermint icing on the first layer.

Brush any excess crumbs off the second cake and lay on top of the iced first layer.

With the remaining icing from the open container, create a crumb coat.  This is basically a thin layer of icing that captures all the remaining crumbs from the cake.

Put the crumb-coated cake in the fridge (or out on the back porch if its cold and there's no room in your fridge) for about 10-15 minutes to allow the icing to set.

Once the crumb coat is set, use the second container and generously Betty Crocker your cake...this is where you put large dollops of icing on it and swirl-swish the icing on to create the Betty Crocker iced cake look. :)

To finish the cake, sprinkle a layer of Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips around the edge of the cake and lightly sprinkle some on top for good measure.

Serve up with your favorite (peppermint!) ice cream and enjoy the oohs and aahs of your friends and guests (and birthday boys).