New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas & Collards

unnamed

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

unnamed

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!

unnamed

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

“Homemade” Stock

photo 1

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.

onion

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!?)

photo 5

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.

photo 4

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.

bottle

“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!

maters

* 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.

Fall-Inspired Veggie Burgers

DSC_2129As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I’m feeling the need to clean out the fridge and freezer and fill them with things that are actually useful. Gone are the frost bitten cubes of mango that I kept trying to make into popsicles this summer, along with the weird sample bottle of coconut flavored rum that I keep pretending I’m ever going to drink. I’ve replaced those things with cranberry sauce, homemade nut butters, frozen pie crusts, breakfast burritos, jars of sweet potato soup, and veggie burgers. I’m perfectly prepared for the fact that there will be days when I need to grab a frozen burrito for breakfast, a jar of frozen soup for lunch, and come home to defrosted veggie burgers for dinner. The good news? Even though eating a full day of meals from the freezer seems like a terrible idea, I’ll actually be getting some vegetables in.

DSC_2106Weirdly, these veggie burgers start with with onion, brussels sprouts, and apples. Later, they’re combined with cooked quinoa, chickpeas, an egg, and some spices, all of which give them a really nice, not too apple-y sweet flavor. It’s the sort of veggie burger that you know is not a real burger, but makes an interesting and delicious substitute.

DSC_2120I have to confess: as a meat eater, a veggie burger really has to be something special. I like veggie burgers that are made with beans and veggies rather than soy and obviously not with mushrooms (ew). I love black bean burgers, but not so much on a bun. I like them best with an egg on top. If I’m going to eat a veggie burger on a bun as if it’s a real burger, it has to be good–and texture has a lot to do with that. All these ingredients are pulsed in a food processor, then shaped into patties and pan fried. They’re soft and warm on the inside, and crispy on the outside. They’re bun-worthy. (Although also delicious with an egg on top for breakfast.)

DSC_2122The most important thing to remember is that you’ll need plenty of cheese, because… well, because everything is better with plenty of cheese. I used havarti with dill and it was just perfect. (Thanks, TJs!)

Here’s the recipe:
{Print Recipe}

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

1 small onion, diced
1 small apple, chopped
1/2 pound brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced in half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked quinoa
(I used the red kind)
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Havarti cheese for serving

In a skillet, sautée the onion, apple, and brussels sprouts in some olive oil. When everything is soft, pour the balsamic vinegar in and stir to combine. Let sizzle for another couple of minutes.

DSC_2113

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sautéed mixture, chickpeas, cooked quinoa, eggs, and smoked paprika. Pulse until everything is chopped up, but don’t let it get puréed.

Scrape the mixture out into a bowl and fold in the flour to combine. At this point, the mixture will be pretty wet. If you feel like it’s too wet, add a little more flour. When you can, try to scoop some out and form it into a patty. It will be sticky and might not really hold together very well. I actually formed the patties and put them directly into the pan with some hot oil. By the time the bottom is crunchy, you can flip the burgers and let the other side get crisp. When they’re done, they hold together just fine.

Serve on a toasted bun with melted Havarti. If you’re feeling feisty, slice the remaining sprouts thin and toss them with some oil, vinegar, and grainy mustard for a simple slaw.

To freeze the patties, let them cool and then pack them into bags in single layer. Label and freeze for emergency dinners.

DSC_2126

 

 

 

 

Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

DSC_2031Creamy, fall-flavored soup is like a warm, sweater-y hug, isn’t it? For this soup, curry, sweet potatoes, carrots, and shallots are all that you need. It won’t take more than an hour to make, and just goes hand-in-hand with warm socks and friends. We had this soup for dinner tonight, right before carving pumpkins and drinking hot cider.

DSC_2035For the first time this year, we have the heat on tonight. I’m snuggled under a blanket with warm socks and leggings on–it’s supposed to get down into the low 40s tonight, and I kind of love it. I usually look forward to the weather turning cold–it means that Thanksgiving is close–but this year, it seems like it’s all happened just too fast. I feel like summer slipped by, and suddenly it’s nearly November and I don’t know why.

DSC_2044This soup is sort of like a remedy to that. It undeniable that fall is upon us, but with curried sweet potatoes and carrots, it’s okay. Because its creaminess comes from the pureed vegetables, the soup is totally vegan (minus the yogurt topping) and packed with veggie goodness–pretty well completely guilt-free.

Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup
{Print Recipe}

Soup:

3 large sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes

2 shallots, sliced

1 pound carrots, cut into ½ inch chunks

6 cups vegetable broth (use good quality broth, and be sure it’s low sodium)

2-4 teaspoons curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

Serve with pistachios, croutons,** and a swirl of Greek yogurt and olive oil

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat some canola, grapeseed or olive oil until shimmering. Cook the shallots until transparent and fragrant. Pour the cubed sweet potatoes and carrots into the pot along with the curry, salt, and pepper. Toss everything around, the pour in the vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

If you have an immersion blender, use that to purée the soup while still in the pot. If not, use a blender to purée the soup in batches. Return it to the pot and check the seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in bowls with homemade croutons, pistachios, Greek yogurt and olive oil.

**To make homemade croutons, cut a loaf of fresh or slightly stale bread into cubes (½ inch square), toss them with olive oil (and some grated parmesan!), then bake them at 350 degrees F for around 20 minutes or until crispy.

This soup freezes excellently; I usually put it into pint-sized mason jars and freeze them. It’s easy to grab one from the freezer and heat it up in the microwave at lunchtime. It’ll be as creamy the second time around!

DSC_2039

 

 

 

Quick Pickled Veggie Slaw

DSC_1575I have to confess: I’ve been doing that thing where I’m paralyzed by the blank screen with the blinking cursor. I’ve been trying to find my voice here for a long time, and I really just want it to be true to me. Some days that means I’m going to tell stupid jokes and talk about the weather. On other days, I might tell a story that might be sort of personal, and I’m just as likely to just talk about what it means to cream butter and sugar. I look at other food blogs, and there are some that have these stunning photographs and the author always has something profound and lyrical to say. There are others that just talk food–logistics of how to make a recipe work, step-by-step photos. And there are others still that lean heavily on stories of their cute babies.

DSC_1572

I think I belong somewhere in the middle of all that. Sometimes I have a good cooking tip. Other times, I have a relevant embarrassing story about spilling things in the grocery store, or setting a small fire in the oven. I hope that those things aren’t in competition with each other.

I do know a thing or two about cranking out ambitious cooking projects. If you’re looking for a new cookie to try, or a nice hostess gift for the holidays, you can find something like that here. There are also some pretty solid reset recipes available to get you back on track when you’ve had only cookies for breakfast for a couple of weeks. (There will probably also be a collection of pictures of Jason’s face, just for fun.) I’m glad that y’all are here, reading along, and I hope you like it!

DSC_1595

Today, this is not an ambitious project. It’s super easy, but really impressive. It’s the sort of thing that people see in your fridge and say, “What is this?!” When it’s unexpectedly on a sandwich, they’ll say, “These peppers are so good, what’s on them?”

We’re just talking about thinly sliced peppers, leeks, and carrots. You could also use cucumbers, red onions, sugar snap peas, fennel–any crisp vegetable that might be good with a light pickle-y flavor. The brine is a basic vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard seed situation. This is an ideal way to grab any late-summer, early fall veggies you might have and keep them for a little longer.

For the brine:
(adapted from Food in Jars)

1 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
(you can use all yellow if you can’t find black)
1 cup cold water

Before you make the brine, julianne all of your vegetables and pack them into a jar (about a pint and a half). Put everything into a pot, bring it to a boil  and stir until all the salt and sugar are dissolved. Set aside and let cool. When room temperature, pour it over the vegetables. Close up the jar and keep it in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. The slaw will last 3-4 weeks total.

DSC_1597

Kale & Brussels Sprout Soba Noodle Salad

DSC_0438Are y’all ready for some real talk? If not, just skip on down to the recipe. Are you still here? The real truth is this: I have no idea what I’m doing at all almost all of the time. At work, in the kitchen, on this blog, behind a camera, in my friendships and relationships. All the time. Mostly, I just make it up as I go along. But then sometimes, there are days that make me forget how to keep pretending. I’ll see another blog (or ten) that are better than anything I’m ever going to come up with. Or maybe I totally flub something at work and I worry that everyone can tell that I’m just guessing. I’ll read something that is so honest and good that I just know I’ll never be able to write anything like it. And after a while, that kind of down-on-myself stuff can really get to me. And before I know it, I’ve become afraid to press the “Publish” button on my blog. And then one thing after another just piles on top: I lost my camera cord, I can’t remember to buy new shampoo, and I keep oversleeping accidentally. Next thing I know, I have missed three weeks of blog posts, and then that feels too hard to overcome. I’ll get into a fight with Jason about exactly nothing and then miss my favorite yoga class, and then suddenly I feel like I’m drowning. Like everything is too much and all the things that I dream for myself are impossible. Continue reading

Blue Corn Muffins with Honey Butter

DSC_0131Growing up, my mom made corn muffins and my dad made cornbread. There is so totally absolutely a difference–cornbread is not sweet, it pretty dry, and you make it in a cast iron skillet. Corn muffins, however, are a little sweet, more moist, and can have actual corn kernels in them. I love both cornbread and corn muffins. They both serve their own purposes, and I appreciate both for their own qualities. These corn muffins, made with blue cornmeal, are soft on one hand, crunchy on the other. They have a little bit of sweetness from the corn and a tiny bit of sugar. They’re breakfast or dinner. And the honey butter, oh my God. Honey and butter belong together. It’s a match made in heaven. Continue reading

Tortilla Soup

DSC_0586A few months ago, Jason and I went out for dinner at the Mexican place here in Carrboro. It’s sort of a hole in the wall (hole in the strip mall?) and we had never been, so we gave it a try. I was planning to order some kind of standard Mexican restaurant combo plate, but saw tortilla soup on the menu. Now, to explain my decision, I have to say that there is a Mexican restaurant in Wilmington that has tortilla soup that is to. die. for. It’s cheap, cheesy, a little spicy, a perfect for weeknight dinner. It comes with chunks of avocado and it’s always exactly the right thing. Always. Admittedly, I chose it with high expectations from the little place in Carrboro that I have no previous experience with. I didn’t know how disappointing it could be.  Continue reading

Roasted Beet Pesto

DSC_0417

We have totally talked about the color of beets before, yes? Are you done with that conversation? Okay, good. Me either. Check out that color! It’s like everything you ever wanted from a nail polish. Or lipstick. Or a pair of skinny jeans. (Maybe that last one is just me?) I’m on a newly found mission to incorporate beet-magenta into my life in new and interesting ways. I think that this beet pesto is a good place to start. Continue reading

Christmas & A Swiss Chard Pear Tart

DSC_0082Doesn’t Christmas happen really fast? I feel like I’m slowly getting ready for it all through November, and then after Thanksgiving I keep telling myself that I have a bunch of time before Christmas, but that’s never true. I ended up–like always–scrambling in the last couple of weeks to get gifts for everyone, and most of my homemade gift ideas went totally down the tubes. The things that I did manage to make are done hastily and I certainly did not to take pictures of it while I did it. You’ll have to believe me that I made a lovely marmalade, Irish cream, and vanilla. Just take my word for it, will you? I did have a chance to make brunch on Christmas day, and the tart that I made was so good, I remade a few mini-tarts today with the sole purpose of taking pictures…and then eating them for dinner. But, before we talk tart crust and custard, here’s a peek at my Christmas.
DSC_0182

We went out oystering and made friends with a pelican.
DSC_0125Palaki the dog is terrified of me, but only if he’s inside. When we’re outside, he can deal.
DSC_0181My Dad and Uncle Dickie
DSC_0186After about an hour, we had a bushel and a peck of oysters.
DSC_0200These are their excited faces–just before opening presents!
DSC_0202I think my dad has a future in glove modeling, don’t you?
DSC_0205More gift modeling
DSC_0198Coffee and beer at breakfast.
DSC_0092My Mom and I make sugar cookies every year, and it’s always a little messy.
DSC_0104We made stars and trees.
DSC_0231Speaking of my Mom, here she is with Mona.
DSC_0245We had Prosecco cocktails on Christmas morning…

DSC_0217...And Emily wore everything she opened.
DSC_0212
Santa brought lots of books and an ice cream maker!
DSC_0229
Mona got a bone and a blanket. She also helped everyone else open their gifts.
DSC_0077Okay, okay, back to this tart. I made it on Christmas morning, so I promise it’s deceptively easy. It’s just a simple butter crust, and you don’t have to roll it out, it’s just a press-in situation. You can even make the crusts ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them.

Here’s the recipe for the crust: (makes 4 mini tarts, 1 nine-inch round tart, or 1 14 inch rectangular tart)

1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
pinch of salt
4-5 Tablespoons of ice cold water

Whisk the flour and salt together, then cut the butter into the flour mixture using either a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. It should look like course meal when you’re done; none of the pieces should be larger than a pea.

Pour the water into the mixture and using a fork, gently incorporate the liquid. When you can pick up a handful of dough and it holds together when squeezed, it’s done. If it doesn’t hold together, add more water. Do not overmix.

Dump the course dough into the pan and gently press it into the bottom and against the sides. Smooth the edges with your finger.

If you’re planning to keep the tarts for a while, place them in the refrigerator or freezer, well wrapped, at this point. If you’re going to make them now, You should still chill them for a few minutes while you prepare the filling.

For the filling: (recipe adapted from http://www.cannellevanille.com)

1 medium leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped Swiss chard, (remove tough ribs but use the tender ones)
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 ounce  Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 medium Bartlett or Bosc pear, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a pan over medium-high heat, sautee the garlic and leeks in olive oil until fragrant. Then add the swiss chard, wine, a pinch of salt and pepper, cover and let the greens wilt. It should take about 8 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the milk, eggs, coconut milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg, half of the Gruyère, and the Parmesan.

Take the tart shells out of the refrigerator, poke holes in the bottom, and bake just the shell for about 10 minutes. Press any bubbles down when you take them out of the oven.

In the par-baked shells, make a layer on the bottom with the sauteed greens, then arrange the sliced pears on top of the greens, then pour the milk mixture over everything, stopping when the shells are nearly full. Top with the remaining Gruyère.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool, pop off the tart pan’s sides, and enjoy warm!
DSC_0085