Friday, December 26, 2008

What's in that..Friday

New Year's Eve is Wednesday night and we'll celebrate around the world the end of 2008 while ushering in 2009. Of course, we'll all be celebrating in different ways, but it all comes down to the same purpose..hoping for good luck, better fortunes of the physical and financial sort, peace & prosperity - however you phrase it, regardless of your claims to superstition, resolutions, looking back or looking forward, who doesn't want a fresh clean slate on which to start a new year?

From a UK site we get this:

Good Luck

Traditionally, it was thought that people could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year.

For that reason, it has become common for people to celebrate the first few minutes of New Year in the company of family and friends. Parties often last into the middle of the night.

It was believed that the first visitor on New Year's Day (hence the ceremony of 'First Footing' when a visitor brings coal to warm the house) would bring either good luck or bad luck the rest of the year and with odds like that they really couldn't lose.

It was thought to be particularly lucky if that visitor happened to be a tall dark-haired man.

Traditional New Year foods are also thought to bring luck. Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes "coming full circle," completing a year's cycle.

For that reason, the eternally entertaining Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune - and apparently the calories don't count!

Don't be getting all excited here thinking I've lost my mind and will be posting donuts as a good healthy & inexpensive meal because that is not going to happen. Just the idea of eating a donut on New Year's Eve at midnight makes me feel a little nauseous (that might be because I sold Krispy Kreme donuts in sixth grade and my gluttony has left a residual glazed taste in my mouth).

Nope, instead we're going to go with a good ol' US southern tradition of black eyed peas (the peas, which of course are really beans, are symbolic of coin) and something green (to represent paper money). And because it's a southern thing, cornbread.

There are, as usual, many ways to make black eyed peas. Some may be healthier than this one, but it IS for New Year's Eve so tradition has to come in here somewhere! And while I think that those with aspirations of 'champagne wishes and caviar dreams' may try real hard to dress up the humble black eyed pea...I'm not much for dressing up food for the sake of something different.

So here is my take on black eyed peas (this is with a crock pot...using dried peas. You can use canned or frozen - yes, they have frozen black eyed peas - or use dried and do it on the stove, but this way works for me; less propane, easier clean up)

Green note: Because it's New Year's Eve and this is good luck food, greens are part of the deal and good for you too. To get them in the mix and add some color to your peas, in the last hour of cooking the peas, put in the greens of your choice, spinach, collord greens, kale. These can be fresh, frozen or canned, because the southern way is to cook them a long time (and that will be long enough, no matter what style you use). If you use fresh, wash them well, dirt loves to hide in fresh greens!

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 (or more) large onion
  • 2 - 4 small ham hocks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 full teaspoon garlic powder, or use 1 medium head garlic, minced (I love garlic and am accused of overdoing it by some, and just enough by fellow garlic fiends, so adjust accordingly)
  • One bay leaf (remove at end of cooking)
  • good pinch of salt (keep a box of kosher salt near the stove, you'll know what a pinch means)
  • One package/one bunch/2 large cans greens of your choice.
Soak peas overnight, rinse well and take out any that look 'wrong'. Rinse until water runs clear.
Mince onion & garlic (needn't be small, it gets pretty much turned to pure flavor by the time this is done) and saute in a tiny bit of oil or butter. I usually take some of the fatty skin from one of the ham hocks and saute it first to get some seasoned fat to saute the onions in. Once the onion is slightly softened (and that good smell is going up your nose), toss it in the crock pot.

Place peas, ham hock, pepper, garlic, bay leaf and salt in the crock pot. Pour in 3 (or 4) cups water. Cover and cook on medium for 7 to 9 hours (don't forget to add the greens at the end!). Serves 6 to 8...but if you stretch it with rice and some hearty cornbread, it can go farther.

One thing I do at the end: if too much fat seems to be floating around the top, put the whole crock into the freezer for about 15 - 20 minutes. The fat will harden up a bit and can be easily skimmed off. Return it to the cooking element on high until it gets back to heat. If you've been imbibing a bit too much, do NOT do this step, the crock is heavy! Best to just mix it all in and enjoy a few extra calories than break your crock...not a good luck move at all.

And one more thing about black eyed peas (really)...according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the peas, are low in fat and sodium and contain no cholesterol. They are high in potassium, iron, and fiber and a half cup serving counts as one ounce of lean meat from the food pyramid. Of course we sort of negate that no fat thing with the ham hocks, but if that's as naughty as you get on New Year's Eve, you're probably going to be okay.

So let's make some rice to go with it. Since I just had a big thing on rice a Friday post ago, I'll let you do the research. HOPEFULLY you kept some of those turkey carcasses to make broth with! Because rice is always better made with broth. Period.

We'll move on to cornbread. This is a great article about cornbread, with some really good tips, like sprinkling corn meal in the bottom of the pan before pouring in the batter, to make the top extra crispy. It also mentions the good old southern way of making cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I'm a big fan of cast iron, but that's another post.

This is pretty much the way I make it, though this exact recipe I've taken from an 'about' site. Same as anything else, there's lots of ways to make cornbread. I like simple. The only thing I add sometimes is - remember those fat from the ham hock used to saute the onions and garlic? Instead of tossing it into the crock pot, saute them even more until they are really crispy, let them cool and crumble them into your cornbread batter. And, as you'll see in the about article, that's a WHOLE lotta sugar in this recipe. I'd use maybe a good pinch of sugar, if any at all...your choice.


  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, for skillet
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • melted butter for brushing top


Preheat oven to 425°. Put oil or shortening in a 10-inch iron skillet and place in the oven to preheat while making batter.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and sugar, if using.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and butter. Combine with dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Batter will be like a thick pancake batter.

Carefully, with heavy oven mitts, lift skillet out and turn to coat all of the inside surface with oil. Pour in batter and return to oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until browned. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

OR!!! You could go all healthy, make a black eyed pea salad with a light dressing, a crispy fresh spinach salad, and cornbread with no sugar. Whatever blows your New Year's horn, fits your budget and your intended waist size!

Buen provecho, y'all!


  1. What time will you be serving? :))

  2. Hey, I'll be eating down in the there anywhere ELSE to eat on New Year's Eve? Not in my world (well, unless someone hands me a plate of lechon on my way down there...)

  3. I brought the black eyed peas. I've got a ham bone left over from Christmas. Can you help me source some greens? PLEASE?

  4. The veggie guy will be here Wednesday! He's been bringing fresh spinach and a couple of other greens. If that's cutting it too fine, let me know, I'll see if I can find a secret stash somewhere...