black-eyed peas with kale, dijon mustard & thoughts on traditions


My mother was raised in Texas, and her parents were from Oklahoma and Louisiana, so  in keeping Southern traditions every New Years dinner my mother served black-eyed peas and ham. Black-eyed peas in the South are traditionally eaten at the start of the year to bring good luck in wealth; adding greens doubles down on wealth (and nutrients too.) I’ve adapted this recipe to include fresh kale (collard greens are the classic Southern side), and also some heat from the lemon drop pepper and texture from the fresh celery.

Throughout my childhood each holiday included food traditions– some which I enjoyed (especially the boxes of Van Duyn’s dark chocolates each December when we put up the Christmas tree!) and some not so much (the gamey lamb with sugary green mint jelly at Easter.)  Beneath this New Year’s tradition though the messaging I remember learning from my young mother includes “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” and “There’s never enough.” She was widowed at a very young age which fairly shook her confidence when she had two small children and no career plans other than being a wife and at-home mother. Yet we certainly never went hungry or lacked for anything we needed.

As an adult I’ve reflected on what I learned from my mother’s actions and words, incuding how food traditions are “baked in” to most of our lives, how we celebrate with food and alcohol, and soothe ourselves and others with food and alcohol “treats”. I think about how our core values are messaged through our choices of what and how we eat, both intentionally through holiday rituals and unintentionally in our daily routines.

I want to keep what’s good from my life experiences, and discard what is not supportive of my living mindfully, well, and feeling good in the years to come. So I’ve retained my mother’s black-eyed peas New Years good luck in wealth tradition– I’ve taken her recipe, and made it mine by deleting the ham, deleting the fear of loss and not having enough. I’ve added kale and hot pepper, self-reliance with a career to support myself and my daughter, also study of nutrition and exercise for physical well being, and thus confidence. Here’s to a healthy and wealthy, purposeful and productive, and happy New Year for all!

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas, well rinsed
  • 1 T plus 1 t whole-grain or Dijon mustard
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 hot pepper, diced (I used hot lemon drop)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped into thin ribbons
  • scant 1/4 c olive oil
  • scant 1/8 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed juice with pulp
  • scant 1/2 t sea salt
  • fresh ground green or black pepper to taste

instructions:
Carefully inspect dried black eyed peas, discard any stones or misfits, then rinse well. Place dried peas in a large pot, cover with water and let soak to soften for 4-8  hours or overnight. Rinse well. Cover generously with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft but not mushy, about 30 min-1 hour. Drain. Rinse to cool and drain again.

Place the chopped kale in a large bowl, drizzle with a little of the olive oil and salt, then massage until just softened. Add in the diced vegetables. Stir together well, then add the drained cooked black-eyed peas and mix those in gently. Whisk together the remaining olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.  This can be made a day or even two ahead– refrigerated in a covered casserole dish, the flavors will meld. Serve hot over rice as Hoppin’ John, a traditional black-eyed pea dish, enhanced with veggies.

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cauliflower quinoa salad with caraway & pomegranate seeds, fresh cranberries


I wanted to think of a novel vegetarian and gluten free seasonal side dish that’s easy to make ahead, serve warm or at room temp, and yummy as leftovers, that complements a traditional turkey Thanksgiving dinner…  This is my take for this year’s sharing. I made extra quinoa as it’s great with a little left over turkey to turn a simple green salad into a delicious dinner salad. Or the basis for a yummy breakfast with fresh cranberries, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, and ground flax seed.

My thoughts turn to my childhood Thanksgiving dinners– my favorite dishes were my great grandmother’s fresh cranberry sauce simmered on the stovetop, my grandmother’s mashed sweet potatoes topped  with oven browned marshmallows, my Aunt’s perfectly browned scalloped potatoes with lots of onions and cheese, my uncle’s fresh pressed apple cider, then his apple sauce made from apple trees he planted on his farm. Oh my, goodness! although now of course I know marshmallows are not truly food.  My original family has died or scattered far apart, both figuratively and literally. I especially miss my daughter this year in a different time zone, both prepping in the kitchen with her and taking a long trail dog walk together as food cooks. Yet I’m happy to have a chosen family to join, my partner and his original and extended family. Several in my daughter’s generation of this tribe are now vegan and/or gluten free; the majority of this gathering are not. Traditions run strong here too– one daughter insists to another only her dad knows the proper amount of milk and butter to use to turn the hand mashed potatoes into their favorite dish, and a grandmother’s dark cherry jello with pear, apple, and pineapple chunks hidden inside the wiggly mass elicits a huge smile from a happy college athlete granddaughter. Of course jello is not real food either, but that is not relevant to these two this night. Bon appetite!

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ingredients:

  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 ripe pomegranate, seeded
  • 1 cup or so fresh cranberries
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 t caraway seed
  • 1/2 t sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 T fresh lemon juice

instructions:

I use two pots to cook the quinoa separately as the red quinoa likes to simmer for several minutes longer than the white quinoa. Rinse each of the quinoas very well, then cover each in 2 cups fresh water. Add a dash of salt to each pot, bring just to boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered until water is just absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, about 18-20 minutes for the white and 22-25 minutes for the red. Remove from heat, fluff with fork and allow to rest uncovered as you chop veggies. Then using a large bowl, stir together your desired mix of white and red quinoa. Saute diced shallots in 2 T olive oil in a large frying pan until lightly browned and just starting to caramelize, then add to mixing bowl. Using same frying pan and a pat of organic butter if you dont have vegans joining in the meal, add caraway seed and stir for a minute, then add garlic to saute briefly, then chopped cauliflower. Stir for 2 minutes or so to lightly brown the cauliflower and coat in the spices, then add a couple T fresh water, salt and black pepper; reduce heat and cover to simmer for 2 minutes. Lastly add fresh cranberries to steam too for about 2 minutes until cauliflower and cranberries are just softening. Add to mixing bowl together with pomegranate seeds, and dress with a couple T of fresh lemon juice. Cover with foil when warming in oven. Stores well for two days refrigerated in an airtight Tupperware container.

yellow squash and kale salad with figs, pumpkin seeds, ginger & lime


Indian Summer hot days and quickly cooling evenings, plentiful summer squash and ripe figs were my inspiration for this turn of season main dish salad. Bright yellow and deep green, the sweet figs and tart lime, the crunch of the seeds– yum! This is a full and satisfying healthy meal, with good protein from the tempeh and pumpkin seeds, lots of vitamin C, A, and K from the yellow peppers and kale, minerals potassium and calcium from the figs, magnesium and zinc from the seeds.

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ingredients:

  • 12 oz tempeh, cubed
  • 1-2 medium yellow crooked neck squash, coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • about 6 black mission figs, thinly sliced and halved
  • 1/2 cup raw or dry roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 inch fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 lime, juice and pulp
  • black pepper to taste

instructions:

Pour 2 T olive oil into skillet and heat over medium flame. Stir black mustard seeds until they begin to pop, then add cubed tempeh and saute until lightly browned. Set the tempeh aside in a casserole dish with lid. Add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet and saute the coarsely chopped yellow squash and minced ginger root for 3 minutes or so, then add the chopped yellow pepper, a splash of white wine or water, reduce the heat and simmer covered for 2 minutes until squash and yellow peppers are bright and softened, but not mushy. Add this to the tempeh.

Cut the thick stems from the kale, then cut the leaves lengthwise in half, roll and slice into thin ribbons. Place kale in large bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a scant 1/8 t salt, then massage the kale with your hands for about 3 minutes to soften it.

Mix the tempeh with squash and yellow peppers into the softened kale, adding in your chopped red onion and pumpkin seeds. Lastly gently add the sliced figs. Dress with juice and pulp of lime. Refrigerate in covered casserole dish. Serve chilled or warmed.

quinoa tempeh salad with plums, Serrano, mint, lime & pistachios


An extended heat wave wears away my energy in so many ways, including my desire to cook other than minimalist stovetop prep early in the morning. I find I have less appetite beyond munching on veggies and cool berries, yet know I still need to get good protein. I’ve been enjoying  wonderful nectarines recently for breakfast with plain yogurt, a handful of fresh blueberries and chopped walnuts. Seeing beautiful plums at the market made me think it was time for this quinoa salad with plums, cooling mint and fresh lime, and quinoa, tempeh and pistachios that make it a protein powerhouse while still being light. Served over a bed of fresh lettuce from the garden, it’s a full nutrient, light yet satisfying meal. This salad will be best when made with a variety of plum that is firm and tart to sweet-tart, rather than super sweet and juicy.

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 package tempeh, cubed and sauted in 2 T olive oil
  • 4 large dark plums, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small bunch green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6-8 fresh mint leaves, diced
  • 1/2 Serrano pepper, minced
  • 1 lime, juice and pulp
  • 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, as garnish immediately before serving.

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instructions:

Rinse quinoa very well. Bring 2 cups of fresh water with a pinch of salt and quinoa just to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 18 minutes until all fluid absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with fork, allow to cool uncovered. Saute chopped tempeh in 2T olive oil, then transfer to casserole dish with airtight lid. Chop all remaining ingredients, then stir all together with cooked and cooled quinoa. Dress with juice and pulp of lime. If desired, press or finely mince 2-3 slices of fresh ginger root, add to scant 1/8 cup olive oil with a bit of fresh ground pepper for dressing. Refrigerate in air tight container. Serve garnished with pistachios, or another good alternative for garnish would be crumbled feta or roquefort cheese.

yellow squash, snap peas, peppers and mint quinoa salad


Hot and Hotter: our ten day forecast shows high’s in the 90’s or 100’s, two of those days expected to be record breaking at 107F. That’s too hot for me! With an overnight low of 70F, the house and I don’t have a chance to cool off much. Early morning is clearly the time for me to get my food prep done, also walk my dogs, and water the garden.

Early yesterday morning I harvested from the garden too, before the excessive heat took its toll: lettuce and broccoli, yellow crooked neck squash, snap peas, basil and mint. One blessing of the heat is that my tomatoes and hot peppers will ripen so I can start to enjoy those too! For today and tomorrow, I’ll make some light cool and cooling meals from the garden– complemented with cooling hot peppers, mint and lemon. Ahhh…

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ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1-2 medium yellow crooked neck squash, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 cups sugar snap peas
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped thinly
  • 2-3 shallots, diced
  • 1/2 medium Serrano pepper, diced
  • 1 t fresh ginger root, diced
  • 4-6 medium mint fresh leaves, diced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • walnuts or feta cheese

instructions:

Rinse quinoa well, cover with a generous cup of fresh water and dash of salt, bring to boil then simmer covered over low heat about 18 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Saute chopped shallots in 1-2 T butter or olive oil for 2-3 minutes until just starts to lightly brown, then transfer to casserole dish with airtight lid. Using same pan, saute chopped yellow squash for 3-4 minutes, then add the diced ginger root and Serrano pepper with a couple tablespoons white wine (I used an open bottle of Pinot Grigio), cover and simmer until the squash softens a bit, but is not mushy, about 2 minutes. Remove squash to casserole dish. Turn the heat up a little and saute the chopped yellow pepper for about 2 minutes, just until it brightens. Add to casserole dish, mix all together well, and dress with juice and pulp of lemon. Refrigerate. I served this chilled over a bed of lettuce, topped with walnuts and sheep feta, with a cool glass of Pinot Grigio for dinner, then with fresh mint infused water for lunch the next day.

 

potato salad with peas, leek, yellow pepper & aged clover gouda


I picked up some beautiful baby yellow potatoes at the market, and thought about making a potato salad on a cool wet day. No, not a gloppy mayonnaise heavy, summer potluck dish to be passed over. I wanted to make a dish that would be a full lunch or dinner by itself, something bright and satisfying. I already had a cup of spring peas to be put to use too, and I picked up a leek and yellow pepper. I knew I had all I’d need and want when I spotted some aged clover gouda cheese. Now we’re talking easy comfort food!

ingredients:

  • 1 cup spring green peas
  • 8-10 baby yellow potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/8 t sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • mixed greens
  • gouda cheese

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instructions:

Saute leek in a couple tablespoons olive oil ’til just beginning to brown, then transfer to casserole dish with lid. Using same pan, saute chopped potatoes for 3-4 minutes until just starting to brown, then add several tablespoons of white wine, reduce heat and simmer covered for 3-4 minutes until just softened. Stir well, add chopped yellow pepper and another splash of white wine if needed, cover and simmer for 2 mintues until yellow peppers are bright and beginning to soften. Mix in sauted leek and cooked peas, salt and pepper, stir all together well. This will store in an airtight caserole dish for a day or two, and is good served either warm or chilled. Serve over mixed greens– I chose some slightly peppery mizuna with its flowers from my garden, along with baby spinach and arugua– dressed with a spash of balsalmic vinegar and topped with grated gouda. Ummm

 

lentil salad with zucchini, shallots, currents, mint, & lemon


A little like my raised vegetable beds– for a long time too wet to plant, then baked by the sun– with our weather forecast continuing to shift from hot-and-sunny back to cold-and-wet, I find myself not at my best. I’m tired, and simply not feeling robust. I want something warm and nurturing, yet also light, and bright in flavor without being spicy hot. My raised bed zucchini and yellow squash, my tomatoes and hot pepper starts are finally settling into the season and beginning to grow well; thankfully my herb garden and especially the mint is thriving! So I took my cues from them for this meal… with good protein with the lentils and quinoa, lots of vitamin C with the yellow pepper and lemon, also lots of fiber, folate and B vitamins with the lentils and greens, plus a lovely mix of flavors with earthy and sweet notes.

ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup french lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup currents, soaked in white wine then drained
  • 12 spearmint leaves, diced
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • fresh ground green and black pepper

instructions:

Place currents in a small bowl or glass, and cover with white wine– I used a Pinot Grigio with hints of green apple that I had open already. I ended up soaking them overnight as my evening plans changed… and fortunately did not finish off the bottle that night, as the Pinot Grigio proved to be a perfect complement for this meal.

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Cull through then rinse the lentils, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. Cook until soft but not mushy, draining any remaining fluid. Let rest without lid ’til cooled. Rinse quinoa well, then cover with a generous cup of fresh water, add a dash of salt, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 18-20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork, let cool uncovered. While lentils and quinoa cook separately, saute the shallots, garlic, and zucchini in a couple tablespoons olive oil for about 3 minutes, until shallots are just barely beginning to brown and zucchini is bright. Transfer to casserole dish with lid. Next saute the yellow peppers for 2 minutes, until bright and just barely softening. Transfer to casserole dish. Mix lentils and quinoa together well, then mix in cooked veggies and diced herbs. Season with fresh ground pepper, dress with juice and pulp of lemon. This will store in air tight container in fridge for a day or two. I served this warm over mixed greens including some peppery arugula and earthy spinach, with a glass of cold Pinot Grigio.