New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas & Collards

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I have this weird habit of writing down quotes from books or famous people or random not famous people and then sticking them up on walls, to the refrigerator, my computer at work, inside of books, and anywhere else that I can stick tape to. I believe in the power of words, and I like to read and re-read the things that have touched me. So instead of sharing my accomplishments from 2013 or my resolutions for 2014, I’m going to share some of the notes that I scribbled to myself this year.

“Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands–this is not optional–my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
-Jimmy Carter

“I will not forget you, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”
-Isaiah 49:15-16

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world”
-Mahatma Ghandi

On colored Christmas lights:
“It’s fun. It’s festive. It says go ahead, have too many cups of spiked hot chocolate and wear that Santa hat, we’re all friends here.”
-Jezebel.com

“Just remember, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”
-It’s a Wonderful Life

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“There are friends who pretend to be friends, and then there are friends who stick closer than a brother.”
-Proverbs 18:24 (I have a Bible that my grandmother’s best friend gave to her, and on the inside cover, she wrote “To Sue, Love Connie. Proverbs 18:24”)

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
-Albus Dumbledore

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, via Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly

“If you are careful,’ Garp wrote, ‘if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.”
-John Irving, The World According to Garp

“May you grow up to be righteous/
May you grow up to be true/
May you always know the truth/
And see the lights surrounding you/
May you always be courageous/
Stand upright and be strong/
May you stay forever young”
-Bob Dylan, Forever Young

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “Well, if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
-Kurt Vonnegut

“She stood in the storm, and when it did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.”
-Elizabeth Edwards

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Now, go out to the store and buy some collards and black-eyed peas so that you can eat them on New Year’s Day. It’s good luck!

Here’s a recipe (of sorts)
2 bunches collards
Dry or fresh black-eyed peas
Some kind of fatty pork product (I use bacon because it doesn’t gross me out.)
1 medium onion, diced
2 32-oz boxes of chicken or vegetable broth (or one recipe of  “Homemade” Stock)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cooked brown rice enough for everyone

If your beans are dry, soak them tonight so that they’re ready tomorrow morning. If they’re fresh, don’t do anything!

To prep the collards, wash, wash, wash them (they’re gritty), remove the ribs in the middle of each leaf, and tear them into 1-2 inch pieces.

In 2 large, heavy bottomed pots, brown the bacon or other porky-product (fatback, etc.) If you have a ham hock, skip this step and just put it in with the broth later. When the bacon is browned in the first pot, add the collards and 1 box of broth. Add more water to cover the leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2-3 hours. Taste the liquid after about a half hour and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain to serve.

In the second pot, add the diced onion and sautee until translucent. Add the black-eyed peas, broth and water as needed. Bring to a boil, season to taste, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the beans are soft.

Serve black-eyed peas and collards over rice and with chow-chow if you have any. The folded collard leaves are supposed to look like money!

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Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and meaningful 2014!

“Homemade” Stock

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It’s back to business time. Resolutions time. There’s New Year’s to think about, and then come January and February. In order to make them a little easier, I like to spend the coldest months of the year with big pots of good smelling things simmering on the stove, winter root vegetables roasting in a hot oven, and big sweaters tucked under an apron.

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In order to make the most of the soups, melty greens, and sauces of the season, I like to cheat a little. Everyone knows that homemade stock and broth would really be the best, but who has time for all that? I’m notorious for stashing vegetable ends, chicken carcasses, and pan drippings in the freezer for future stocks; I’m not as good at actually making them. (Side note: check OUT the fancy new knife that Jason gave me for Christmas–it’s great, right!?)

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This is the solution! It’s easier and faster than making a stock from scratch, but you get all of the same delicious depth and control of salt content as you would with a homemade stock. The key is the boxed or canned broth that you start with. I like Kitchen Basics Unsalted Vegetable or Chicken stock for this, but really any unsalted or low-sodium broth or stock will be fine.

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To the boxed broth, I add dry white wine, carrots, onion, celery, canned tomatoes, garlic, a few whole cloves, bay leaves, basil,  kosher salt & pepper. After simmering for a half hour or so, you’ll have a stock that’s as close to homemade as you could hope for.

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“Homemade” Stock*:
{Print Recipe}

2 32-ounce boxes either chicken or vegetable broth, preferably unsalted or low sodium
1/2 cup dry white wine (cheap sauvignon blanc) fun fact: did you know that mason jars have milliliter measurements on them? A cup is about 250 ml, so use that as a guide. This is for rough measuring–never bake this way.
1 whole carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped, including leaves
2 small to medium onions, roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 canned whole tomatoes
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, broken
1 teaspoon dry basil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl and let cool. Store in a jar in the refrigerator or the freezer, and use as normal.

The stock will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and the freezer for several months. Enjoy!

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* The images in this post are for a single-batch (1/2 of everything), but I think that it’s always worth it to double this one.

Holiday Recap

I kind of skipped Christmas here. Is that bad? I think sometimes it’s better to just do the thing rather than try to do it while also capturing it. This year, I just did Christmas. Jason and I only had a few days off, and we spent them with Jason’s family and mine. We opened presents, watched Christmas Vacation, ate way too much of everything, drank good beers, and spent time with the people that we care about. I’ve gathered a weird collection of pictures that I think actually capture it all pretty well.

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It all started with a wildly successful Friendsgiving for 25 people.
Processed with VSCOcam with t2 presetI wrote what seems like a million Christmas cards for work.
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetThen it was real Thanksgiving, and I cooked with my Mom at her house.
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetPost-Thanksgiving nap.
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetScarf Beagle
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWe brought some oysters back from the beach.
Processed with VSCOcam with x5 presetRight before Christmas, Mona fell through the railings off the third floor porch at my mom’s house, landed in a palm tree, then fell from there to the ground. Other than a cut on her head, she was totally fine, which further proves that she’s actually going to outlive us all.
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetChristmas lights!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetShopping for a holiday cocktail dress…wearing Christmas socks
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetJason got some new digs, too!
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetThen we went to Alabama for our good friends Elisa & Wil’s engagement party.
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetBaking cookies
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetPresents wrapped and ready
Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetPersimmons!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetCinnamon Raisin Swirl bread
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetWinter sunset!
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetBaking Habitat cookies for coworkers…
Processed with VSCOcam with f1 presetAnd marshmallows for friends & family. (There are peppermint)
Processed with VSCOcam with t3 presetAnd these were plain pink ones.
Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetMerry Christmas, and Happy New Year!