Monthly Archives

December 2010

New Year’s Rockin Black Eyed Peas. The Recipe.

December 30, 2010
This is a total repost, but I’ve had some requests…so here goes.

I wouldn’t say we’re traditional, but we firmly believe that some traditions are sacred. Case in point: the New Year’s peas. So if you cook nothing else this year, you only have a few hours left to cook these. It’s silly simple.

The Peas Stand Alone
Black Eyed Peas
Cooked bacon
Worcestershire sauce
Red wine

Soak 2 cups of Black Eyed Peas overnight in H20. (Or buy them pre-soaked from Whole Foods or whatever). Rinse off and put in large pot. Stir in at least 6 cups of H20, 1 cup diced/lean cooked ham (or bacon) (or bacon + bacon drippings, if you’re feeling really crazy), 1 chopped onion, 1-3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce (and/or a very generous glub of red wine!), 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper. Cover, simmer for 2 hrs.

Then eat them for good luck, for goodness sake!


I’m dying to try this recipe for Spicy Collards and Black-Eyed-Pea Soup from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

I have a garden full of collards, and I’m not afraid to use them.

(Also, I plan to be spending a lot of time on her site next year.)

Spicy Collards and Black-eyed Pea Soup

2 onions, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup diced green bell pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water
1 pound collard greens, tough stems removed and greens chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme (divided)
1 teaspoon oregano (divided)
1 16-ounce can tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred)
2 cups water (or vegetable broth)
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper — (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 -2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon double strength tomato paste (or 2 tbsp. regular)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Spray a pressure cooker or large pot with a light coating of olive oil or non-stick spray. (If your pot is non-stick, just add a little water instead.) Heat it and add the onions. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 3 more minutes.

Add the black-eyed peas, water, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.

Cooking: If using a pressure cooker, seal the cooker and cook for 10 minutes after it reaches high pressure; use a quick-release method to bring down the pressure. If cooking in a regular pot, cook until peas are tender, about 45-55 minutes.

Once the peas are tender, add all remaining ingredients and cook for at least 25 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Serve with brown rice with additional hot sauce. (Garnishing with fresh oregano is optional.) (Photo credit: FatFree Vegan Kitchen)

DIY Wreath #2 (Great Kid Project)

December 23, 2010

So the second wreath we did is my favorite. In fact, I might keep it up all year long.

It all started as an oh-my-we’ve-run-out-of-things-to-do kid project. It kept us occupied for a few hours. And Harry rocked this one out.

First, we went to Hobby Lobby. That took a while.

We purchased these items.

Yes, I finally bought a gun.

The hoops are sewing hoop things. They were $1.50 each.

Then we painted some of the circles red and orange (especially the circles with letters on them).

While we let those dry, Harry arranged all the circles on the hoops.

This kept him interested and occupied  for a surprisingly longish time.

In fact, despite the fact that I realized we didn’t have enough circles to make two wreaths, I went ahead and asked him to arrange both hoops. He didn’t mind. I did about 18 other things while this happened.

Then, when he went to sleep later that night, I rearranged the circles a bit and hot-glued them together.

I warned him that this would happen. He decidedly didn’t care. I believe this is partly because he is five, and partly because he’s generally apathetic about anything that doesn’t involve some gaming sport or contest. Because we weren’t racing, the outcome was irrelevant to him.

But I think the outcome was swell.

So I tied a blue ribbon around it and hung it on the wall.

I think I’ll keep it.

Christmas Winter Solstice Feast Menu

December 23, 2010
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I mentioned the other day that I read up a bit on Winter Solstice and if it had many associated traditions. Sadly, they’re pretty bleak. Like the bleak midwinter they honor. So I thought I’d do a few and invent some more for a traditional (Holiday dinner dress rehearsal) Christmas Winter Solstice Feast for some friends. And it went sorta like this.

Winter Solstice Pumpkin Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and super chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 can (1 pound) pumpkin or 2 cups fresh (peeled/cubed)
Lots of fingerling potatos, sliced thinish
5 cups vegetable broth
2-3 teaspoons of dry sherry
1/2 cup half-and-half or soy cream (optional)
Sea Salt

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for about five minutes, until softened. Add in the chopped carrots and celery and stir in the spices. Lower the heat and gently cook for about ten minutes, being careful not to over-brown the onions. Add in the pumpkin, potato, and vegetable broth, and stir. Add in the dry sherry, stir, cover, and bring to a slow simmer, cooking the soup for about twenty-five to thirty-five minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat. Carefully ladle the soup into a blender or food processor. Cover and purée the soup until it is smooth and creamy. Return the purée to the soup pot and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Stir in the half-and-half, if desired, and blend until smooth. Yum.

I served this with the:

Yuletide Yule Wreath

(See it here)

and the

Salad from the Thanksgiving Dinner

(Which is here. Only I used pecans instead of walnuts because I had them.)

And then

Peppered Guinness Roast Beast with Parsnips and Figs

One 3-4 LB Beef Rump or Round Roast

3 Tbsp coarse ground black pepper

3 Tbsp garlic salt

2-3 cups Guinness

1 Bay Leaf

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups cut carrots

2 cups cut parsnips

2 cups fingerling potatoes sliced

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

3 handfuls of mission figs

This is a crock-pot meal…which means you need to get it going first thing in the morning, but then you’re basically done and your house will smell fab all day.

Grab a crock pot. Rinse roast and pat dry. Mix pepper and garlic salt, rub onto all sides of roast. Place roast on bottom of crock pot. Pile every other item on the list on top of the roast. Lid the crock pot and set it for 8 or 10 hours. Done.

Feeds 2 Celtic warriors or 8 normal people.

And finally

Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce

2 cups molasses
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Lemon Sauce Icing
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Cream together the molasses, butter, and sugar. Sift all dry ingredients together and mix into creamed mixture alternately with milk. Beat well. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 baking pan in preheated 300 degree oven for about an hour.

Lemon Sauce Icing: Mix cornstarch, salt and sugar. Stir in water slowly. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Add other ingredients. Stir until well blended. Spread on gingerbread.

Overall, everything was super well received. And I think it all turned out quite nicely too…especially for a dry run. Outside of the Yule Wreath, which was the most complicated item (and even it was way easier than it looks), the whole meal was pretty darn easy to do. You can make the soup ahead of time and warm it. The salad is a breeze. The roast cooks itself. And the gingerbread was quick too. In fact, I didn’t start making it until right before we started eating (Nigella style, yo) so it would be warm from the oven. It worked. And everyone was stuffed and happy at the end of the night. Mission accomplished.

And Yes, We Can Shower!

December 23, 2010
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A shower with lots and lots of tile!

Floor-to-ceiling tile.

And it is rad! Mainly, because we can shower. Hooray for hygiene!

And the project is done, for now.

I’ll post the final bathroom results when it’s final.

Expect something around February.

A Yule Wreath

December 22, 2010
1 22-04-24

For some reason, I was really interested in Winter Solstice this year. Maybe it’s because of that George Winston song (Listen to it! It will make you happy.) Maybe it was the Lunar Eclipse. But for whatever reason, I started reading a lot about its ancient origins, and I wanted to incorporate some part of it into our Christmas celebration.

I thought we’d start with a Yule Wreath.

I found this recipe from Cookie Baker Lynn. And then I found an adapted version from Natashya. So I went with it, even though I was completely intimidated. You see, I’ve never made bread before. Or anything close to bread. And this is bread, stuffed with stuff, and made pretty. Complicated. Scary. But actually, not hard at all. And the end result is super impressive. Want to impress someone (mainly yourself) this Holiday?…then do this.

Yule Wreath

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 deg. F)
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, margarine, egg, cardamom, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

2-Turn dough onto lightly floured surface: knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

3-Prepare Salmon Filling

Savoury Salmon Filling

Olive oil

1/2 lb. smoked salmon fillet, chopped into half inch pieces

1 medium onion, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 head kale or chard, chopped (I used Kale!)

4 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces

2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

1 red pepper, chopped

In a saute pan, heat up some olive oil and onions. Cook on medium until soft and beginning to colour. Add garlic, cook one more minute and add kale. Stir and let wilt down. Add cream cheese and butter and stir until combined. Add red peppers and salmon, let heat through together, remove from heat and let cool to almost room temperature.

Use as filling for Yule Wreath

4- Punch down the dough. Roll into rectangle, 15 x 9-inches, on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling to within 1/4-inch of the edges. Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down, shape into ring on lightly greased cookie sheet. Pinch ends together.

5- With scissors or kitchen shears, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals.

Turn each section on it’s side (90 degree turn), to show off the pretty swirled filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until double, about 40 to 50 minutes.

6- Heat oven to 350 deg. F. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (If it browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

I loved making this recipe. It felt so 1960s, 1970s. And it looks super impressive in the end…the photos don’t do it justice.

So if you’re interested at all, you should try it. It’s easier than you would think. And you will feel rad when it’s done.

It’s Beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

December 17, 2010

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Everywhere I go.

Take a look in the five-and-ten,
Glistening once again.

With candy canes and silver lanes aglow

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Toys in ev’ry store

But the prettiest sight to see
is the holly that will be
On your own front door

DIY Wreath #1 (of Many)

December 17, 2010

Okay, so I’m into making wreaths right now. I have no idea why. I think it has something to do with the love-hate thing I have going on with the hot glue gun. I can’t really talk about it. Ahem.

This wreath is a little bit Whoville, but I had all these extra Christmas balls because I purchased too many from the Target dollar bins (Oh, Target! You’ll be the death of me).

So. I grabbed this project by the balls. Ha. I mean, I grabbed a bunch of balls for the project. And one of those wreath base things from Hobby Lobby. And some hot glue. And a gun. And I was ready to go.

Then I started watching It’s a Wonderful Life and started gluing things. Is that how you spell gluing? I have no idea. But I just sorta glued balls wherever it looked like they should go.

And then I took photos of it (I love that you can see me in the reflection of the reflection of the reflection of these balls!)

And then I was done.


Easy. All before George Bailey lost his mind and started yelling at everyone.

I think it’s a wonderful wreath.

Inexpensive Christmas Hack

December 17, 2010

In years past, I’ve always put up fresh garland around the house because I love how it smells…and it reminds me of London, where fresh Christmas decor rules the day. There’s one problem with this, fresh garland is pretty expensive. In fact, I couldn’t find it anywhere for any price anywhere near what I was willing to pay. So. I had an idea.

There are six, dollar stores within a mile of my house (yes, you read that right), so I went to one and purchased two strands of already-lit cheapy ugly garland.

Then I went to the Christmas tree place where we bought our trees and paid them two dollars for a bunch of scrap tree branches that they were tossing away.

Then I used butcher twine to tie the real branches to the cheap, lit garland. And embellished it with ornaments that we already had and stockings, and etc.

It turned out really well. My house smells amazing. And the whole project cost less than $5. Not bad for two doorways of “fresh” garland.

Take that, London.

The Easiest Cookies Ever. So Easy, They Aren’t Even Cookies. (But They Are Excellent.)

December 9, 2010
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My lovely SIL had a holiday cookie party last week…you know the kind, where you bring 8 dozen of one kind of cookie, and go home with 12 dozen of all kinds of cookies (don’t ask me about that math, that’s just always how it works out). So, forwhateverreason, I had sillyhigh ambitions to make dozens and dozens of chocolate peppermint whoopie pies because a.) they are pretty, and b.) Roxanna Sarmiento from Everyday Treats sent me this rad, so-easy-to-make whoopie pie mix. It was going to be awesome. And then, life happened. I’m not sure what happened exactly, because I just can’t remember, but in the end, I didn’t have time to make 15 dozen whoopie pies, no matter how easy they were or how cute I wanted them to be. So. I punted. Or I Hail Mary-ed. Or I did some kind of thing they say in sports when they mean: I did something awesome.

I remembered this easy hack recipe I read about in a magazine at my MIL’s house over Thanksgiving. I’m 85% sure it was from a Semi-Homemade publication, and it was genius.

You need three items.

Pretzels. Rolos. And Pecans.

(I like yogurt pretzels. And toasted + salted pecans.)

You take the pretzels and lay them out on a cookie sheet.

Then you place the Rolos (unwrap them, duh) on the pretzels.

Then you bake them at 300 for 2 minutes (no more) to melt the Rolos.

Then you smush pecans into them.

Then you cool them.

Then you are done.

True story. I made 15 dozen of these bad boys in an hour and a half…while I was on a conference call.

(Sorry giant company, I really was into the conversation.)

Plus, they are so good. Really, really so good. You won’t be disappointed. So, make them. And then everyone will know you are a genius.

Good talk.


December 7, 2010
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The bathroom progress is progressing. And I’m hoping to shower by 2011. It could happen.