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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yellow split pea dal with garden hot peppers and rainbow chard


An Indian Summer cool morning then bright sunny hot day with a breeze, ahhhh. “Another trip around the sun”. The changing season and the ripe peppers and chard in my garden told me it was time to revisit making spicy yellow split pea dal– I started in my garden and moved to my kitchen sink.

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Then I looked for a prior recipe post with this as a lead in:

“One of the many great things about yellow split pea dal is that dried split peas don’t require soaking before cooking, and they cook in 30 minutes, a much shorter time required than for dried beans. They’re high in protein and dietary fiber, satisfying and healthy; I did the math and calculated this recipe has 310 calories per cup served over a cup of rainbow chard. I made a large pot of the dal, and served it on a bed of rainbow chard leaves cut into ribbons topped with 1/4 cup of Bhutanese Red Rice for an easy “one bowl” meal. Leftovers taste great, and it freezes well.”

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Then I considered, how would I like to make this today? I tweaked the spices and used coconut milk given how hot and dry the weather has been– following is my revised recipe today.

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  •  large jewel yam, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red Nardello pepper, diced (these are sweeter savory)
  • 1 small Lemon Drop hot pepper, diced with seeds
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 in fresh ginger root, minced
  • 3/4 t cardamom
  • 3/4 t coriander
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t salt, black pepper to taste
  • 1 6oz can Thai coconut milk
  • 1 lemon, juice and pulp
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard

instructions:

Cull through then rinse split peas well, cover with 4 cups fresh water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer covered for about 25 minutes, until quite soft. Drain then set aside.

Cut thick stems out of rainbow chard. Chop the stems and set aside. Cut the chard leaves into thin ribbons and set aside.

In a large soup pot with 1-2 T olive oil over medium heat, add the mustard seeds and allow them to heat up til they just start to pop. Add onions, garlic, and all spices, and stir until onions just begin to turn translucent. Add the chopped yam, stir to coat well with spices, add severak tablespoons of water, reduce heat and cover to simmer until softened, about 4 minutes. Add coconut milk, yellow pepper, celery, and chopped chard stems, cover and simmer another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. When split peas are soft, drain their water into a measuring cup to use later. Add split peas to large pot of spiced vegetables, stir to mix all together well, then add the cooking fluid from the split peas to obtain your desired consistency of dal. Serve over rainbow chard ribbons, dress with fresh squeezed lemon. Serve in a bowl with Bhutanese red rice for a more substantial meal.

chilled garden gazpacho soup with spicy lemon drop peppers


Well I’ve got bowls of fresh picked tomatoes, zucchini, and now also several new-to-my-garden varieties of hot peppers ripe and ready to harvest. And it’s still too hot to cook. Well then, I haven’t had a wonderful bowl of gazpacho since I took a trip to Tulum, Mexico many years ago. Looking at my favorite old cookbooks from my young adulthood and early vegetarian cooking years– Moosewood cookbooks by Molly Katzen, The Good Herb by Judith Hurley, The Greens Cook Book– also a quick look online, I found unappealing gazpacho recipes that rely on V-8 or tomato juice. Not for me. I wanted most of my gazpacho ingredients to be fresh from my own vegetable and herb gardens.

I decided to get out the blender, begin coarse chopping and dicing, creating my own recipe as I chopped. The result was delicious, every bite as wonderful as my happy memories of a meal shared in a Mexican ecological paradise. What follows is all the ingredients and an approximation of their quantities– I didn’t measure much as I worked. This made 4-6 satisfying dinner sized servings.

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ingredients:

  • about 6-8 cups mixed variety of ripe red tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups), 2/3 coarsely chopped and 1/3 diced
  • 1 cucumber (about 1 1/2 cups), 1/2 coarsely chopped and 1/2 diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow Lemon Drop pepper, including seeds, diced
  • 4-6 leaves fresh basil, diced
  • about 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • about 3/4 c water, from carafe with mint kept chilled in the fridge
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1/4 t sea salt, black pepper to taste
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish

instructions:

Using a large cutting board and a blender, coarsely chop tomatoes and place in blender until it’s about half full, and puree til smooth with a half cup of the mint infused water. Transfer to large soup pot. Again fill blender with coarsely chopped tomatoes, the minced garlic, diced basil, diced hot pepper, the olive oil and rice wine vinegar. Pulse until you achieve your desired consistency: some like gazpacho silky smooth, but I like mine with some texture. Transfer to soup pot. Again fill blender with coarsely chopped tomatoes, about 2/3 of your coarsely chopped zucchini and about 1/3 of your coarsely chopped cucumbers, and the lime juice, and pulse to your desired consistency. If necessary, add either some of your previously pureed soup or a little more mint water to have enough fluid initially to allow you to achieve your desired texture. Add to soup pot. Also add to soup pot your minced red onion and celery, the reserved diced zucchini and cucumber, a little sea salt and black pepper, also more lime juice if desired. Chill for at least half a day before tasting and fine tuning the seasonings. Serve chilled with plenty of cilantro garnish.

 

chilled zucchini soup with lemon, thyme and fresh dill


What to do when the heat wave wears on and on, and the garden is full of big delicious ripened bounty? I’ve been steadfast about watering daily– even when I really wasn’t eager to be out in the heat anymore– and I’ve lost little to the crazy heat. I made several loaves of buckwheat zucchini bread during brief cooler cloudy day breaks, also cold dinner salads with just-picked zucchini, cucumber, mint, and the first of my ripened tomatoes and hot peppers. But I’ve got LOTS of zucchini… and now a flavorful and satisfying chilled zucchini soup recipe to enjoy.

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ingredients:

  • 1 medium large leek, chopped
  • 2 medium red potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 6 c coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium Serrano pepper, diced, with seeds
  • 1 t caraway seeds
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh lemon thyme
  • 5-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • l lemon, juice and pulp
  • scant 1/2 t sea salt, fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • several T fresh dill, chopped, for garnish

instructions:

Discard thick and dark green ends of leek. Coarsely chop zucchini by slicing in half lengthwise, perhaps in quarters if large, then chop into 1/4 inch slices. Chop tender leek and saute over medium heat in 2 T butter, adding caraway seeds to toast. Add 2 T olive oil, the red potato and minced garlic, stir for 2-3 minutes until red potato just begins to brown. Add diced Serrano, a couple T water, reduce heat and cover with lid; steam until potatoes are just beginning to soften. Add grated carrot, chopped celery and zucchini, spices except dill, and a splash of white wine, continue to steam covered for about 5-8 minutes until potatoes and zucchini are pleasingly softened but not mushy. Remove from heat and allow to cool some before pureeing in half full blender. Add freshly squeezed lemon, salt and ground pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Garnish with plenty of fresh chopped dill, perhaps a dollop of plain European style yogurt. I served this on a hot night with Triscuit rye crackers and a fresh salad with walnuts, feta and fresh tomatoes.

chilled carrot ginger & sunflower seed coconut balls for your sweet tooth


Yesterday I saw a facebook post from a friend out for a cool treat– an awesome looking seriously chocolate mousse-like cake with an icy adult beverage topped with whipped cream. Oh my, taste bud envy! Mindful of the impact of a super cold and sugary ice cream treat on the gut, I reflected on what would be a healthier option to satisfy my sweet tooth as this heat wave wears on and on…  and remembered this recipe. Ginger, coconut and lemon tropical cool sweetness! I’ll make this again, and keep looking for new treat options…  Here’s that recipe as originally posted:

Dinner and dessert at my friend Sharon’s house led to my discovery of the Living Candida Free cookbook by Ricki Heller, PhD, RHN…. and thus to this, my first attempt making my own modified version of her Carrot Balls recipe. Yum! My guests and I devoured these fast, and I think even my hardcore chocolate loving, non-vegan, non-gluten free, unabashedly desert centered sister would like these. A lot.

ingredients:

  • 3/4t fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 1 c raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t cardamon
  • 2 t ground flaxseeds
  • 2 T coconut for balls, plus additional 6-8 T coconut for rolling balls in.
  • 1 T plus 1t lemon zest
  • 3 t lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 t blackstrap molasses
  • 1 t water, as necessary or skip the water and increase the lemon juice
  • 6-7 T fresh finely grated carrot

instructions:

Using a food processor, finely chop fresh ginger root, then add sunflower seeds, spices, ground flaxseeds, and coconut. Process until medium fine. Then add finely grated lemon zest, lemon juice, and molasses until it just comes together as dough– it will be rather heavy. Add carrot and pulse to mix evenly. Don’t be frightened by its dense texture! Form into small balls, then roll each ball in a small bowl of the additional coconut to coat well. Refrigerate in an airtight Tupperware type container until firm and chilled. Makes 18-20 balls, with 2-4 balls being a perfect dessert serving.

My guests and I all thought these were a great dessert. I think they’d be wonderful too for a light breakfast snack if I need a little energy before going to an early morning yoga class.

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.