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!

Summer Corn Chowder – perfect for a rainy day

Corn Chowder and Cornbread

I hope you’re getting rain.  We got a little bit last night and it’s threatening to rain, today.  The clouds are hanging low and the wind is a cool 65 and I feel for a minute that it could be late September instead of the middle of July.  I live for cold weather and I’m still a little perplexed by why I live here, in the desert.  I grew up around here – maybe that’s it.  We long for things unfamiliar or for the relief we feel on the rare occasions we get a break from our usual reality.  I hear people in Seattle long for the beach.  I bet they don’t long for the desert, though!

Another comforting thing about food is the ability to transport myself into a feeling or a mood simply by the dish I prepare.  Caprese salad makes me long for summer nights, spice cakes make me wish for Christmas, chocolate chip cookies make me think of home.  A warm bowl of chowder with a thick slice of cornbread and a cold slab of butter puts me in the mood for a cloudy day and cooler temps.  So, in the middle of the heat of the summer, on this cooler week with cloudy days and threatening rain, let’s make a memory with a warm bowl of corn chowder and pray the rain stays a while.

Summer Corn Chowder and the Perfect Cornbread*
serves 6

4 teaspoons bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery,cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
3 ears yellow corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Place bacon in small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

Add onions, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to stockpot; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes.

Add corn, potatoes, and chile; cook until potatoes are tender, 10-20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Add half-and-half, and simmer until soup is hot. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and garnish with the reserved crisp bacon pieces.

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Cornbread

 

We only make one cornbread recipe, anymore.  The New Best Recipe is a wonderful encyclopedia of how to make every recipe basically, perfect.  We love this book and it never steers us wrong.  It’s quite bulky, but all the recipes are tested extensively and done in a myriad of ways, and they give a background as to why the recipes work.  It’s very trust-worthy and a definite go-to in times of need of a solid recipe!  Their Golden Northern Cornbread is our go-to cornbread recipe.  It’s light, fluffy, moist and slightly sweet.  Holds together beautifully to be a base for your bowl of soup, or just on the side with some cold butter.

The Best Golden Cornbread
makes 9 servings

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch square baking pan with butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.

Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk.  Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined.  Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan (we actually love to use our cast-iron skillet for this recipe). Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, 10 minutes.  Cut and serve warm!