New Year's Dinner


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Whether or not you're superstitious (I'm not), the New Year's Dinner is a fun tradition.  I look forward to it every year.  Last year I decided to make Ree Drummond's Hoppin' John as a sort of spin on my family's classic meal.  

Closeup of the beans, with the bell peppers.  So good- we may have spooned it over quinoa.
Just in case you're not sure about the New Year's Meal superstition, the idea is that certain foods- black eyed peas, greens, and pork- represent luck and prosperity in the new year.  

The collard story in three pictures
Huge bunch in the pan...

Cooks down very small!
I'm not sure what my New Year's meal prep says about me, except that I'm a huge klutz, but I shattered glass into my New Year's meal and had to redo it all again a day or so later.  I was so upset. Fortunately, I'm here to tell you that the shattered glass wasn't some symbol of the failure and disaster to come this year.  It's been a good year.  

We served our hoppin' john with sauteed collard greens, a baked sweet potato, and cornbread.  It was a country feast.

from The Pioneer Woman aka Ree Drummond

4 Tablespoons Butter
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
4 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Diced
2 stalks Celery, Diced
4 cups Soaked Black-eyed Peas
5 cups Chicken Broth
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Cayenne Pepper To Taste
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for at least 6 hours.  Drain the peas from the water.

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery and stir. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in soaked beans, then add chicken broth, salt & pepper, and cayenne to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover the pot for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, check the liquid level; if it's too soupy, cook with the lid off for another 15 minutes or so. If it's too thick, splash in a little more broth.  Stir in vinegar, then taste for seasonings. Add more spice if needed.

You can serve it over rice, with greens and cornbread, or eat it as is.

  • I cook dried beans and peas a lot.  I like their flavor and texture better than canned beans.  To cook from dried, follow the same plan in the pinto bean post- sort and rinse the dried beans, cover them with a couple inches of water in a large bowl and let them soak overnight.  Below is a picture of a good way to sort:
    Spread the beans/peas out on a large baking sheet.  It makes it easy to see rocks or bad beans

Chocolate Sugar Cookies


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What do you think of when you think of a Christmas cookie?  I'll tell you what comes to my mind, and maybe some of our thoughts are the same, or maybe they'd be completely different:
  • Sugar cookies, rolled out, punched into shapes like bells, trees, stars, mittens, reindeer, and decorated with frosting or sprinkles
  • Gingerbread men and houses
  • Fruitcake Cookies (I can't believe I've never given the recipe- will try to fix that soon!)
  • Those store-bought slice and bake sugar cookies that are dyed in the middle to look like a Christmas tree or Santa's hat
  • Those small, pre-made butter cookies that have red or green sprinkles and sometimes look like a wreath

Despite all the people who love chocolate, and I am one of them, Christmas is not chocolate's big day.  These cookies, though, just may be its ticket in.  They were originally labeled "chocolate sugar cookies" and Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen changed their name to brownie roll out cookies because she felt the name suited it better.  

These cookies have a solid chocolate taste and have the dense texture of a brownie.  I know!  Deb (I write that like we're on a first name basis or something) thinks they'd be ideal for an ice cream sandwich, and I don't doubt that, but I could see these getting some decorating love and replacing the regular sugar cookie or even gingerbread at Christmas.

Either way, the cookies are tasty, and the dough can be frozen for later use.  They're addictive, so beware!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out cookie dough on floured counter. Cut into desired shapes, brushing extra deposits of flour off the top. (It does disappear once baked, though, so don’t overly fret if they go into the oven looking white.) Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its


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This recipe was shared with me several years ago by my good friend and former co-worker, Cindy.  Thank you Cindy!  She brought them to a party and I think I could have eaten the whole container.  There's just something about the way the cheesiness of the crackers combines with the dill and ranch dressing mix that really creates a memorable, crave-worthy taste.  Disclaimer: don't eat on a date!

Anyway, if you need something to make for a party, these are perfect.  They're easy and fairly quick (30 mins total time) to make, the recipe makes a lot, and they're very transportable and can be made ahead of time, oh and almost everyone finds them irresistible.

Ranch Dill Cheez-its

2 boxes Cheez-its or other cheese crackers
1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil
1 TB. dill
1 package ranch dressing mix

Preheat your oven to 200.  Pour your cheese crackers into a roasting pan or divided between two 9x13 pans.  Combine the ranch and the dill and sprinkle evenly over the crackers.  Mix to combine and distribute.  Pour the oil evenly over the crackers and also stir/mix to combine.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Take the crackers out and stir them around and bake 10 minutes more.

Pinterest Find: Pumpkin Molasses Cookies


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I took these cookies to a Christmas party over the weekend, and they were a surprising hit.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy them, so that's a win.  I wasn't sure how they would be received since they're a cakey cookie.  In fact, I bet they'd make killer whoopie pies.


The dough uses a lot of pumpkin and not a lot of other fats or a ton of sugar, so I'd bet (hope) they would fall on the healthier side of the spectrum, but regardless, they are a nicely spiced cookie for the fall or holiday seasons.

I tried to show in this picture that the dough is more like a batter.  Even after having it in the freezer a couple hours, it was soft and sticky.  I would definitely recommend freezing rather than refrigerating the dough to make it just a little easier to work with.  Once you roll it in sugar, though, the stickiness goes away and you have these little gems below:

Pop them in the oven and they expand like crazy.  If you hate cookie edges running into each other, I'd recommend baking 6-9 per sheet. 

Overall, though, these are tasty little cookies.  They are very soft baked and nicely spiced, with a good pumpkin flavor as well.  After they're all gone, I thought about the whoopie pie/sandwich cookie idea.  Oh, well.  I guess I'll just have to start another batch!

from My Baking Addiction Blog

2 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 Tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling                                

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and pepper.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin puree and beat for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. If flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, mix the last of the dry ingredients by hand to avoid over beating. You will have a very soft dough.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The dough is sticky, so the longer time it can chill the easier it is to work with.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one packet of dough at a time, divide it into 12 pieces, and roll each piece into a ball. Roll the balls in the sugar and use a the bottom of a glass to press down on the cookies until they are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to cookie sheets. Do not over crowd.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes, or until the top feels set to the touch. Remove baking sheets from the oven. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack.  Repeat with second batch of dough.

Meatless Mondays: Spicy Stir-fried Cauliflower


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Happy December!  Did you have a good Thanksgiving?  So, today's recipe is a nice, lighter and vegetably offering that will likely stand in stark contrast to everything else you've been eating.  I saw it a while ago on Pioneer Woman's website and since I've had this 1 or 2 year long love for cauliflower, I decided to try it a couple weeks ago.  It's a keeper!

Since the cauliflower stands up well to heat, it still retains a nice bite to it that sort of mimics the texture of meat.  Not that you will fool your tastebuds, but it's a nice texture and flavor.  I really believe the secret to vegetarian or vegan dishes, though, is not to sub in a vegetable for meat and expect the same result.  You will 100% of the time be disappointed if you're expecting the flavor of chicken, shrimp, or beef, and you're eating cauliflower or beans or whatever.  The secret is instead to prepare the vegetable in such a way that it is the star and not a stand-in.  This dish does a really good job of doing just that.  The cauliflower has a good amount of fiber, so it's filling, and when paired with a grain, such as quinoa or rice, it's a good meal in and of itself.

Being a stir fry, this is a quick and easy to prepare dish, so you can have this meal in about 15 minutes, not counting the time it takes you to cook your grain.

Spicy Stir-Fried Cauliflower
from the Pioneer Woman

serves 2

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tb. soy sauce
1 lime, juiced (or about 1-2 Tb Rice Vinegar)
2-3 green onions, sliced thin
1 Tb. Sriracha or hot sauce

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil, then the cauliflower and garlic. Stir the cauliflower around the pan, allowing it to get very brown in some areas. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn heat to low. Add soy sauce, squeeze in the juice of the lime, and add most of the sliced green onion, reserving the rest for serving. Stir and allow to cook for 1 minute, then squeeze the hot sauce over the cauliflower. Stir until the hot sauce has been incorporated. Add a little more hot sauce if you want a deeper color and flavor.
Serve hot in a bowl. Sprinkle extra sliced green onions on top, and serve with a lime wedge.

For a more filling meal, serve with 1 cup quinoa or rice.