Turkey Sliders

Turkey Burgers with Cucumber Radish
We’ve been plugging away in the Palmer house, keeping ourselves alive and enjoying our lady babies. It’s shocking how little time I have to do extra things like take pictures of the food we eat so that I can write about it. I’m doing good most days to just get things on the table before someone needs a nap or a diaper change or to be held, all of which are pretty difficult while cooking or taking photographs. I say this to excuse myself for not writing for a month and to tell you that not everything is perfect all the time and I can’t and am not even trying to keep all the balls in the air that I used to. Looking back, having just one kid was a dadgum BREEZE. In fact, that’s when I started this blog – when Olive was just seven months old! My days are filled with super baby joy and crazy games of pretend and doing lots of laundry (Eleanor is a super spitter-upper) and cooking and reading endless Olivia books and knitting and sometimes working on my “real” job of editing photographs. It’s a whirlwind and I know that it will slow down soon and these babies won’t need me every five minutes.  But in the meantime, the meals coming out of here are going to be pretty basic, pretty tasty and pretty easy.

If you are in the stage of life where a little person is needing YOU every five minutes, you’ll appreciate this recipe.  It was mega easy. Super tasty. Didn’t miss the beef, AND it is covered in SriRancha.  That’s right, Sriracha sauce and ranch dressing.  Sriracha mixed with most things is wonderful, but mayo or ranch is especially awesome.  I topped them with super crunchy cucumber slices and icicle radish (hadn’t ever tried those before – they were a fun supermarket find and we loved them!) Try these tonight – you won’t be sorry!

Turkey Burgers

Turkey Sliders

1 lb ground turkey
1 shallot, diced (about 1/4 cup – you can use any kind of onion)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Slider hamburger buns

Toppings:
1/2 a cucumber, sliced thin
Any kind of radish, sliced
Slices of American cheese (although you could use any, but I like the traditional taste of American and how it melts)
Sriracha sauce and Ranch dressing, mixed.  Use a ratio of 3 parts Ranch to one part Sriracha

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper and cheese until well mixed.  Form into about 1/4 cup size patties and cook in a skillet until a thermometer inserted reads at least 160F. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you should invest in one, and if you don’t want to invest in one, I would guess I cooked these for about 10 minutes per side on a medium-level heated cast iron skillet.

Turn on your oven’s broiler to high and place patties on a serving plate and top with slices of cheese (I used a quarter of a slice on each) and melt under the broiler.  Serve with generous amounts of SriRancha, cucumber and radish.

 

Double Dark Chocolate Waffles

Double Dark Chocolate Waffles
The chocolate cravings have gone overboard.  I really blame it in all seriousness on pregnancy.  When I’m not pregnant, chocolate is good and fine, about on par with every other sweet. Not pregnant,  I don’t think about it outside of seeing it, I don’t dream up ways of using it to its maximum potential in breakfast foods, and I don’t think that it’s “needed” to get from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. successfully.  When pregnant…well, all those things suddenly become priorities.  Like on Labor Day, I got up and looked up a basic buttermilk waffle recipe and then thought of the maximum way I could choco-fy it.  And I did.  Yes, I’ve had a similar waffle recipe on this blog before, BUT it wasn’t as good.  These waffles are fluffier, less dense, and the chocolate chips remain melty like a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie during your entire breakfast.  So.  I’m not sorry for seeming repetitive.  If you’re pregnant, I’ll understand if I get a thank-you note in the mail later this week.
Double Chocolate Buttermilk Waffles
I topped these in three different ways and they were all good: melted butter and powdered sugar – easy, and the most cookie-like experience.  Butter with maple syrup: most waffle-like experience, but I’ve always felt that syrup on a chocolate anything is too much.  Turns out, it’s not.  And three: fresh raspberries all over the suckers.  Chocolate dipped fruit, anyone?  They were all good.  Dress it up, dress it down, this will be your new craving.

Double Chocolate Waffles
Double Dark Chocolate Waffles
makes about 12 Belgian-style waffles

2 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Heat your waffle iron.  In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk until fully incorporated.  In a smaller bowl, whip up the wet ingredients.  Gently whisk the wet into the dry until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Cook waffles to the waffle-iron’s suggested time (mine has a handy little light that goes off when they’re done) and keep in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest to keep them nice and warm and crisp on the outside.  Serve with powdered sugar and melted butter, or whatever.  It really doesn’t matter – it’s all good.

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters

Zucchini Basil Soup
I’m happy to have resurrected this soup!  Matt and I made it a long time ago when we were still doing the 800 sq ft apartment thing and then again when a friend of ours invited her dad over and we needed to fix low sodium, low fat recipes since he had recently had heart surgery.   Matt’s father also has heart troubles, so it’s always refreshing to find healthy recipes to share that taste as decadent as a full-fat option.  This soup is so perfect for the coming zucchini-overload we all will have soon (as it’s the only vegetable that seems to have no trouble in our awful climate) and basil, the herb that’s also hard to kill.  It’s got all the depth of flavor of a soup that has been slowly cooked with butter and cream only – it has neither!  It isn’t even made with stock – just water!  So the sodium is only what you add for taste.  I bet in one batch, I added a little over a teaspoon of salt.  And it serves six!  Can you tell I’m excited about this soup?!
zucchini basil soup and stuffing fritters
One other merit of soups from a mother of a toddler’s perspective, is that they are a perfect way to get more variety of vegetables and flavors into our newly opinionated children.  Olive has eaten zucchini, pesto, fresh basil from the garden, etc, before, but suddenly, she’s on a suspicious, won’t-try-anything-green bender.  Drives me batty because I KNOW she would like most things if she’d just try them.  Sound familiar?  What does NOT work is forcing, tricking, cajoling, pleading, prodding or manipulating your kids to eat.  They can smell your tricks a mile away and they’ve come prepared with an iron will.  This is pretty natural and resistance is futile.  But soups.  Olive has willingly eaten this soup twice in the past 4 days.  It’s green!  It’s got darker green chunks in it!  Why will she try it?  My guess is texture.  No chunks – pureed and easy to sip from a cup so she has full control.  When Olive doesn’t want to try something, I ask her to just smell it.  If she smells it, 99% of the time she’ll try a bite.  And I’ve learned to be happy with One Happy Bite, as much as it flies against my need to control the situation.

So.  If you have a child who is resisting new textures/colors/flavors, try soups.  I know it seems like a regression back to the baby food days, but if that’s what it takes to keep the flavors and colors changing on your child’s plate, I say it’s worth it.  Children get used to variety if variety is the norm.

Without further babbling, here’s the recipe!  Also, I paired the soup with a not-so-saintly fritter made from leftover Stove Top Stuffing.  No kidding.  They were FABULOUS as a little crispy soup-companion!  I topped them with herbed goat cheese and they tasted downright fancy.  Happy Meatless Monday!

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters
Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters*

serves 4-6

2 lbs zucchini, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups of water
1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a 3-4 quart stock pot until the onion starts to soften.  Add chopped zucchini and about a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.  Cover with the water and let it come to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Add the basil and puree in two batches in a blender (watch out blending hot liquids and make sure it has a vent or you’ve got your hand firmly on that lid!) or, blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender, which is what I do.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with fritters, toast, or as a starter for your three-course fancy-schmancy dinner! 🙂

*taken from Epicurious.com

Stuffing Fritters
Stove-Top Stuffing Fritters

2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
olive oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the stuffing, water and egg and if the mixture won’t come together after a bit of stirring, add a little more water until you can form the stuffing into small patties.  I used a medium sized cookie scoop and it worked well.  Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or any vegetable oil) over medium-high heat and fry the fritters about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep the cooked fritters in a 250 degree oven until the rest are done and you’re ready to serve.  This will keep them crispy and warm!

 

Life Happens – Fire Up the Grill

image_1
The past few weeks have been a game of “just make it through this day.”  My grandpa was very ill and had cancer surgery, then spent the next two weeks rapidly going downhill till his body finally gave up the fight last Friday.  We were in and out of the ICU waiting room for a couple weeks, then there all day Friday, then I went to my hometown of Portales, NM for a couple days this week for the funeral, then Matt left for two and half days on a business trip.  In the midst of those three weeks, Olive was sick for two of them, I was sick for one week, we had crazy awful dirt storms and everything around the house just started taking a back seat to our little survival game.  In hindsight, it went about as well as it could and my family grew closer than ever before.  Needless to say, I didn’t blog much and while I really don’t want to neglect my regular posts, sometimes life just takes over.

image_2
So last Saturday, the day after my grandpa passed away and we were in the short calm of the storm, we decided to have a “normal” dinner at home and thought it sounded super relaxing to just grill almost every part of the meal and eat outside.
image
Matt made a pot of BBQ baked beans from Rancho Gordo (we are part of a Bean of the Month club.  No joke) And they were smoky and full of good texture and went perfectly with all the grilled components of the meal.  We grilled a sirloin tri-tip steak and made a really unique green chili and tomato salsa with worchestershire sauce for the salt and it was perfect with the BBQ flavors and our grilled bread.  Yes, grilled bread – it was awesome.  Kind of a hillbilly bruschetta, if you will.

photo 3

 

photo 4

photo 5
 I’d highly recommend this grilled bread.   We took a loaf of sourdough bread, cut it in half, spread vegetable oil and kosher salt on the cut sides and let it grill till crispy.  THEN we mixed a clove of smashed garlic in with a half stick of butter and seasoned it with salt and spread that on slices of the grilled bread.  I swear to you, you will never want another bread for an outdoor BBQ as long as you live!

This whole meal was so therapeutic.  The weather was good, we all sat outside and enjoyed the smell of the grill, the breeze was actually gentle instead of tornado-like, and even the kid was transfixed by her surroundings long enough to just SIT and eat.  I think everyone needs to take a break from time to time.  A break from all the performing we find ourselves doing.  I feel like I perform with my photography, with this blog, with just about everything that is broadcast on social media.  And maybe in times where we find it very hard to STOP performing for everyone, life throws us an unavoidable circumstance that forces us to simplify and slow down.  Only God could restore my energy at a time like this.  Only God could bring families closer out of death.  And only God would design food to be so comforting and satisfying that one meal would have the ability to inflate my entire family’s sails just a little bit more than before the meal began.

There will be a steadier stream of posts coming, now.  I THINK most of the drama is at a standstill for now.  Thank you for being patient!

 

24 Frames – Family Meal Segment!

I’m so PROUD of this I could burst.  A special thanks to my long time friend, Paul Hunton and my new friend Daniel Ballard, who both shot and edited this small film!  Please enjoy and go like their page on Facebook and tune in every week at 9 p.m. Saturday nights on PBS after Austin City Limits!

And here’s a link to the recipe that was featured on the show!

Happy Birthday, Family Meal Blog!

one year

I posted my first recipe on this day last year.  It was about a fruity oatmeal “cobbler” I’d make for Olive when I was in the thick of making baby food in huge batches each week.  That’s really what started this blog – well, it’s what propelled it.  I began my journey with cooking when I was about 10 years old and I would cook lunches every day for my family during the summer.  My mom worked and my dad and brothers worked outside in dad’s woodworking shop all day and I was in the house doing the laundry, cleaning and cooking.  Mom had taught me the basics; how to boil water for pasta, how to brown meat, how to not burn the house down, and from there I began enjoying putting a meal together for my family.  I really didn’t care about food until I was married and Matt and I became obsessed with chef culture and technique and the origins of recipes and how to do something from scratch.  Then, I really didn’t pursue cooking until we had Olive. And by pursue I mean, cook every single meal, every single day of the week except for Saturdays.  I started to feel like my biggest source of joy and peace was found in the kitchen.  I feel more confident there than I do anywhere else.  Cooking, for the most part, makes sense to me, and it makes people happy and heals sickness and just generally brings people closer together.

In the past year, I’ve posted 132 times, I’ve had one recipe pinned over a thousand times on Pinterest and I even got to shoot a little segment on a local access show called 24 Frames, which I am dying to share with everyone once it becomes available online.  When I started this blog, I gave myself the goal of posting a couple times a week for one year and I am happy to have met that goal!  I plan on continuing and I’m happy no matter what happens.  If everyone stops caring about this blog tomorrow, I will carry on because I love cooking, I’m cooking every day, anyway, so why not photograph and document it, and I love having a history of recipes from my family to look back on.  This coming year holds many new adventures, as well, and I’m looking forward to them as they develop!

Thank you for the fun ride, for making me feel super special and a special thank you to my friend, Katrina, who said over one year ago, “Um, why aren’t you writing a food blog, already?”  Love you, Katrina.  🙂

Tilapia with Tomatoes, Butter Beans and Sweet Peppers

tilapia with tomato sauce and butter beans

This was dinner on Monday night.  Olive’s plate looked no different than ours, except I compartmentalized things so she could easily grab them.  She ate one piece of tomato, one bean and all her fish.  She tried and spit out one olive.  We also gave her a cracker and after she ate half, she declared herself “all done.”  That’s it!  We didn’t ask her to eat more, we didn’t get upset that she wouldn’t try any more beans, although I know she loves beans and would like them.  I wanted to but I didn’t.  It’s a hard resolution but we have vowed to stop messing with Olive during meal times.  I have resolved to respect her more and trust her to eat what she needs at the mealtimes provided.  She only has one snack a day, between lunch and dinner, as we usually don’t eat dinner until 7 or 7:30, and so for the most part, she is hungry at meals and will eat.  Lately, because she’s not growing as rapidly as she did around a year-18 months, she doesn’t have a big appetite.  She is fine after a few bites and will declare herself finished, sometimes way before I believe she’s had enough.  But what do I know?  And how exactly do I know how hungry she is when she is probably a tenth the size of me?  I have seen that when she knows she’s not going to be messed with, she acts more controlled, more independent, and she is more focused on her meal.  On the contrary, when she feels watched, observed (it’s hard not to look at a kid while they’re eating), she immediately starts acting out.  She drops things and bangs her spoon on the table and tries to get out of her chair, and if I’m honest, it’s probably because she doesn’t want to eat with someone who stares at her every move and intimidates her to take “one more bite.”  Would you want to eat with one person like that, much less two?!
So we’ve vowed to stop.  Before Matt and all Olive’s stuffed animals as witnesses, we both said we would simply present dinner, encourage her to try new things, and then back OFF.  I firmly believe that if we trust our children to eat well and make good decisions, they will, eventually.  It’s that eventually that I know so many of us parents struggle with.  We want our kids to eat like we do, right now.  And so we often fall back on what we know they’ll like (insert fried or bland food here). We don’t realize that good eating is a learned skill, just like anything else.  It takes time.  It takes a few meals of “I don’t like it” and a few times of eating two bites and declaring “all done.”  But we must stick to it and not abandon ship at the first sign of resistance.  Here are a few rules around eating that we adhere to, nearly every day:

1. Eat only at meal times and one snack a day (Olive is 22 months old, by the way, and I’ve been doing this since she she was about 15 months old.  I do let her have milk between meals, but about an hour before a meal, I cut her off and give her only water if she’s thirsty.)
2. Variety is offered, along with something she recognizes.
3. I serve the new thing to her first, and we all eat a little bit of it together as a “first course,” if you will, because what kid is going to eat Brussels sprouts when there’s chicken on the table?
4. After the new food is presented and at least tried (she doesn’t have to eat much of it, just a taste), then I bring out the rest of the food, I put a little bit of each thing on her plate, explain what everything is, and then back off.
5. No distractions during meals – no toys (well sometimes the stuffed animals eat with us, but they’re not used as a distraction from the food), no toys, a.k.a. iPhones for me and Matt, no answering texts or calls.  This helps.  It really does.  Because as soon as Olive spots a phone, she wants it, or suddenly becomes dissatisfied with her sitting-down-and-not-playing-instead situation.  We try to engage her in our conversation, as well as encourage her not to shout during ours 🙂 It’s a growing and a learning process and more often than not, it does NOT go perfectly, but I think it’s the consistency that is the key.
6. If there’s dessert, you don’t have to do anything special to get it.  Not even eat all your vegetables.  You simply have to wait for everyone to finish.  So, if Olive eats just a bit of dinner, but not much, and I have already planned on serving a dessert, I do NOT tell her she needs to eat more before she can have it.  She can have it if she stays at the table.  If she wants to get down, she can, but if she wants dessert, she must come back, sit down and be civilized to get it. Dessert must not be contingent on her being a “good girl” or eating her “bad broccoli.”  If I could banish one crippling habit in the world, it would be our habit of calling foods “good” or “bad” and rewarding or punishing ourselves accordingly.
7. We eat together.  She doesn’t start first just because she’s hungry.  She waits.  And then we all sit down together.  This teaches respect, patience, and a realization that she’s not the only one that needs consideration.

So before you declare yourself or your kids a failed attempt before even trying, let me remind you that Olive very often doesn’t like what I serve.  She very often will only eat one of four things presented. Sometimes she shocks me and eats EVERYTHING, including the stinky cheese.  But this is rare, and yet I let it be a glimpse and a proof that she likes food, she just doesn’t always want a lot of it.

This meal was from Jamie Oliver’s, Jamie Magazine Recipe Yearbook (on news stands now!).  It’s so full of great recipes and I can’t wait to try more.  We loved the flavors and it was a refreshing way to serve the same ol’ fish and beans 🙂

tilapia with tomatoes, olives and butter beans

Tilapia with Tomatoes, Butter Beans and Sweet Peppers*
serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 orange or red bell pepper, diced and seeded
2-4 sweet pickled red peppers (I got mine at the olive bar at our grocery store)
1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted olives
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-15 oz. can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
4 white fish fillets (sole, tilapia, swai)

For the sauce, heat half the oil in a medium pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the peppers and fry for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and olives and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add the beans and dill and heat for about a minute.  Set mixture aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and cook the fish about 2-3 minutes per side, until a nice golden brown is on each side.  Season with salt and pepper and arrange fillets over the tomato/bean mixture and serve with extra dill and a side of bread – dinner is served!

*adapted from Jamie Magazine Recipe Yearbook

Happy New Year’s Resolutions and a Bowl of Hoppin’ John

Good Luck Peas
New Year’s resolutions are notorious for being too lofty and often unmet.  I’ve resolved to make my resolutions more about matters of the heart this year, rather than focusing on one particular flaw that needs improving.  Because as I’ve learned the hard way over the past few months, external flaws or bad habits are results of a ruined heart.  They are results of being far away from the Creator and instead, closer to the creation.  So instead of losing weight or being more organized or improving my correspondence with friends, or whatever needs improvement, I will instead put these resolutions on my list for 2014, and like the scriptures promise, “all these things will be added to you.”

1. Work for Christ instead of approval of men
2. Speak less frequently and listen more
3. Seek the Kingdom first thing in the morning through prayer, quiet time or reading
4. Look to the needs of others first
5. Treat Matt, Olive and everyone I come in contact with, like Christ would if He were me.

That should keep me quite busy this year.  I know for certain that  a year lived in this way will yield joy, whether good or bad things happen to me externally.  I think I’ll type these out and review them daily.  So many good things fall under these simple rules.  Preparing and serving good food could technically fall under resolutions 1, 4 and 5.  Today, I had the joy of keeping a tradition running in my family and preparing a huge pot of black eyed peas for us to have for lunch, lest we miss out on a year of good luck. Of course I don’t believe in superstition or luck, but I do believe in traditions and I look forward to them and I especially look forward to them if they are served with ham hocks and buttered corn bread.

Growing up, my Mammaw would bring us fresh frozen black eyed peas from her garden and we’d have them buttered with chopped, sweet onions.  Nothing fancy, just your obligatory New Years peas!  A few years ago I made a pot of dried beans with lots of bacon and chicken stock and it was pretty life-changing and so I have stuck to the same recipe, more or less, every year since.

Today, I give you my recipe for New Years black eyed peas, or Hoppin’ John, or whatever else you want to call it.  In true Family Meal style, Matt and I both contributed to this recipe.  I got the beans going, Matt made the cornbread, and Olive kept us entertained with things she found out in the yard as we took down Christmas decor.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day – it’s the only January 1, 2014 you’ll ever get,  so by all means, live it well!

Hoppin' John

New Years Day – Hoppin’ John

16oz bag of dried beans (if you use fresh, you’ll get to skip the first step)
1 sweet, medium white onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups hot stock – I used beef stock, but chicken or vegetable would work fine, too.
1 large ham hock, or about 8 ounces chopped bacon or ham

1 recipe of really great skillet cornbread

In a large bowl, submerge the peas in water by at least 2 inches and let sit over night or at least 6 hours.

Drain the beans and set aside, picking through to remove any bad ones.  In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil and let it start to bubble.  Add in the chopped vegetables and stir for about 10 minutes until they all begin to soften. Add in the black eyed peas and ham hock and stock and bring to a full boil.

Reduce heat and bring it down to an active simmer and let it cook on the stove, uncovered, for about 3 hours, until the beans are tender.  If you’re using fresh, you’ll probably only need to let it cook for 2, but just check occasionally for doneness.

Serve over cornbread with plenty of dashes of hot sauce and ring in the new year right!

Creamy White Bean Soup

White Bean and Celery Cream Soup

 

So these days, I’m either making soups, roasting something, caramelizing something, or melting chocolate.  Tis’ the season, right?  I found another gem in Homemade Winter of an incredibly filling, rich soup loaded with protein, fiber and veggies.  As a pureed soup, Olive had no problem drinking it from her little soup cup, and as I’ve said before, I think soups are THE easiest and most efficient way for toddlers to try a myriad of vegetables, flavors and colors.  And how easy they are to convert to “baby food”!  Back when I was making baby food, I would make a batch of vegetable soup, and after pureeing it, I could fill nearly a dozen jars.  Try buying a dozen jars of baby food in the store vs. a butternut squash and some chicken stock.  The price difference says it all!

Olive has been very into “sauce!” lately, no matter what it is.  She covets it, even though she doesn’t like any of it except “tomato sauce” (ketchup).  Any time we have Srirracha or Tapatio or mustard – whatever – she wants it.  So we give her tastes of anything she requests.  She usually raises her eyebrows and fusses a bit, especially if it’s spicy, but hey, that’s how she learns!  This soup has a smoky chili oil drizzled on top, and I thought it was a genius addition.   I didn’t have any celeriac, and it was one of those super cold days where I didn’t want to run out to the store for one ingredient, so I used the celery I had in my fridge, and I thought it worked great.

More, yes, MORE post from Homemade Winter to come.  It’s so perfect for this season, it’s unbelievable.  Enjoy this soup!

Creamy White Bean Soup* – START THIS SOUP A DAY AHEAD
makes a lot

1 1/2 cups dried white beans
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, washed well and finely chopped
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
2 tsp  minced fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp dried
salt and ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
drizzle of chili oil – I bought mine at an Asian Mart, but I think you could find it in the Asian section of any grocery store

Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stock pot and add the leeks and celery.  Saute, stirring constantly, until the leeks are soft.  Add the garlic, stir for a bit, and then add the broth.

Drain the beans and add them to the saucepan.  Add the rosemary and season with salt and pepper.  Slowly bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer over low heat with the lid partway on for 2 hours.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in several batches in a regular blender (why on earth haven’t you bought an immersion, yet?!)  Stir in the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.  Serve hot with a drizzle of chili oil or Srirracha would be great, too!

*Homemade Winter adaptation