Superstitions….

When I was a kid, my grandmother insisted that everyone eat Pork, Collard Greens & Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day Dinner.  There were no excuses allowed.  Not even the fact that I don’t like the taste/texture of cooked collard greens.  Hate may be a strong word, but sadly, it applies here.  I juice collard greens all the time because I know it’s nutrient dense, but if it’s cooked, I will pass any day but New Year’s Day (begrudgingly of course). Although I should say, soup is my only reasonable exception to the no cooked collards rule  so I usually do New Year’s Day Soup if I’m making dinner, but since I had limited time this year I went with the family’s easy fall back: The Big Salad.  Since we prefer salads that are a mix of hot and cold ingredients, I figured I could still say I “cooked” New Year’s Day dinner.

So, I set up three pots on the stove and went to work.  Of course you can make the parts days ahead and assemble at will like a salad bar so don’t let the big list fool you into believing this salad is a lot of work:

New Year’s Day Good Luck Salad

 New Years Day Salad

Pot 1: Saute Pan: Pork (Smoked Sausage):

  • 1-pound smoked pork sausage
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (raw if you can find it)

Slice 1-pound smoked pork sausage in 3/4-inch to 1-inch slices and set aside. Set a saute pan over medium heat.  The saute pan is ready when you can drop a few drops of water into the pan and the water forms a ball that skates over the surface of the pan.  Add  the sliced sausage to the pan and move the sausage around the pan for about a minute.  (You’re just trying to get some of the oil out of the sausage.  You know it’s right when there’s a bit of a sheen on the sausage.) You can walk away from the sausage now, but every minute or so, check on the sausage and move it around the pan so all sides get browned.  You want it to start browning, but not turn black and get some fond (browned bits) sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When the bottom surface of the pot is covered with fond, Add 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Toss the sausage in the browned bits so they are coated and leave the sausage and vinegar to cook together until all the vinegar is evaporated and it’s a bit sticky and bubbling in the pan.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 2: 2-quart Sauce Pan: Black Eyed Peas:

  • 3 cups black eyed peas
  • 1 spanish onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning herbs
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup stock (turkey/chicken/vegetable)

I used about 3 cups of black eyed peas that I cooked from dried peas and froze a while ago.  Some supermarkets have fresh black eyed peas in the vegetable section, but canned black eyed peas would work equally well here.  Set sauce pan over medium heat.  When water droplets curl into balls and skate over the top of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and minced spanish onion.  Move the onions around the pan with a wood spoon or spatula.   Add  (If you are using canned peas then only use 2 tsp of salt) 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbsp, italian seasoning herbs, 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika .  When onions are translucent, add 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree.  When garlic is fragrant (about a minute), add the beans.  Toss to coat with the onion-garlic mixture.  Then add 1 cup turkey/chicken/vegetable stock. Use a wood spoon or spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Cook on medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the beans from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 3: 1-quart Sauce Pan: Brown Rice:

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4-1/2 cups water or stock

Used my usual Brown Rice recipe, but added 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika to the oil.

 

 

Big Bowl on the counter: Kale & Collard Greens (Raw):

  • 1 large head kale, cleaned & dry
  • 1 large head collard greens, cleaned & dry
  • olive oil

When I say “large head of kale” I mean you should have about a gallon of kale and collard greens when you’re done.  If you have a salad spinner, it should be filled to the brim.  Cut the stems off the kale and collard greens then cut the leaves to your desired size.  Save the stems for juicing.  I like them about 1/8-inch wide and 1-1/2 to 2-inches long, but this part is up to you.  You’re going to “massage” the olive oil into the kale/collard mix.  Really squeeze and toss the kale/collards as though you are trying to get water into a sponge.  When you are done all of the kale should be coated in a THIN sheen of oil.  I would say about a tablespoon per quart of greens so adjust up or down depending on how much you are going to eat.

 

The Salad Bowl…

OK…. so here’s where it gets kind of creative…. The salad can be all or some of the following ingredients adjusted to your taste/preferences.  Most of them I picked in order to stand up to the taste of kale/collards.  If you prefer really flavorful salads (ex. Spicy Chicken, Teriyaki Salmon, etc.), try using massaged kale/collards sometimes since they can provide an interesting contrast that’s a nice change from just lettuce.

  • Smoked Sausage (Pork, Chicken Apple, Beef)
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Massaged Kale/Collards
  • Hot Brown Rice
  • Minced Red Pepper
  • Minced Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Minced Shallots
  • MInced Hot Chili Peppers (jalapenos, serranos, long hots)
  • Corn Kernels (Steamed or Roasted)
  • Cucumbers (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Fresh Tomatoes (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Avocado (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Lemon/Lime Juice (or Salad Dressing of Choice)

Give this salad version a try when you’re absolutely tired of eating the same salad every day.  Since the Kale is more resilient than lettuce you can pack a couple lunches days ahead.  Just do hot stuff in one container and cold stuff in another.  I promise if you can finish the salad you’ll be stuffed!

The Reorg

So, The Hubs’ grad school schedule this semester of three nights a week, plus some weekends has been depriving me of those now precious commodities… time and energy.  The Kid has simultaneously developed a severe objection to seeing me sit down.  So, I figured I had to get creative.   I started with running laps around the basement with him.  Then, I just got used to the idea that I don’t get to sit down.  On nights when he didn’t want to do laps I started reorganizing.  The Kid is usually willing to help carry things from one place to another and has no problem going up and down the stairs a million times so it seemed like a good idea.  I made the mistake of believing that the kid would eventually get tired and let me sit down, but it didn’t happen so I ended up reorganizing just about the entire house.  Every night, The Hubs would just come home from work or class and just shake his head as I reorganized something else.  The good news is that I’ve found tons of stuff that we aren’t using and will be able to donate it all just in time for the holidays (tons of baby stuff — seriously, how does someone so small go through so many clothes and need so much STUFF?!).  The bad news, is now I’m so close to reorganizing everything that I can’t stop.

This weekend, I reorganized the pantry.  My pantry serves three purposes: It holds most of my room temp food supply (the freezer is just another story), Holds all my platters and party supplies and lastly, it is where I start the seeds for most of the plants that my mom and I grow in our gardens each year.  So, the pantry has always had a lot going on.  The Hubs used to hate the pantry.  I would send him down to the pantry to grab… anything and eventually he’d give up after repeated trips up and down the stairs and just call me with the camera on his phone to figure out where to look.  Poor Hubs!  The Pantry reorg didn’t take nearly as much time as I thought it would and I found everything I swore I had and almost purchased over again.  Thanks to the reorg, I found my:

 

  • yogurt maker (I had an idea that making yogurt with organic milk would be cheaper than buying it)
  • bread dough container (I became a fan of the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes book and used to make bread, then just lost the time)
  • All my canning jars (I really need to bite the bullet and start canning this summer)
  • more than 25 boxes of pasta (don’t ask, if I had a coupon and it was a great price then I got pasta) … oh and this is after I gave boxes away to the food drive
  • the package of farro, I swore I had somewhere
  • …and so much more
Well now I guess I have to do something with all that wonderful stuff I “found.”
I came home energized for some crazy reason today and pulled off a masterful feat.  I juiced, made kale chips (dangerously addictive by the way), made my Curry Chicken and gravy and served it with the brown rice, beans & corn that the kid loves.  (The Hubs and I loaded the hot rice on the salad of course.)  I butterflied the other whole chicken and added garlic, lemon peel, cracked black pepper, salt & olive oil to the freezer bag so it can marinate while thawing.  I somehow had the presence of mind to clear out the vegetable drawer to make a stock with the remaining chicken bones.  And all this was preceded by me grinding wheat berries and rye into flour to set up the bread dough to rise for 2 hours when I got home according to the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes book!  There’s just something about a clear pantry that makes me want to really get going in the kitchen!
Every year around this time, the pantry has to undergo an overhaul (although I think I got the formula right this year) so I can get ready to start the seedlings for the next year’s garden.  In about a month, my mom and I will be studiously hovered over trays of seed starting systems trying to decide what we are planting this year and what we didn’t like from last year.  I know we are going to plant too much, but i never care.  Now that I have tons of space available, I’m going to have to sit down with my collection of seeds (It turns out that I have more than 600 [and still counting] flower, herb. vegetable or fruit seed packets) so since my greenhouse plans have been delayed, I might as well get started with the seeds so the plants are ready to go into the greenhouse whenever it materializes.  Apparently putting up a greenhouse isn’t a simple feat, but I have every confidence that the Hubs will be able to pull it off as an early Valentines/Mother’s Day/(isn’t there another holiday early next year) gift.  (Hint Hint, Hubs)


We’re Juicing it Tonight

Parenting takes more time and energy than it looks.  So, some of the healthy habits that were easy pre-parenthood take place at odd hours now.  Yesterday, while The Hubs was in class, I went to the produce place.  I got there 10 minutes before they closed and studiously ignored all the hard glares I got from the people working there who just wanted the day to end and go home.  I sympathized, but I needed fruit & veggies so we both dealt with it (at least that’s how I tell it) as I raced through and picked out what I wanted.  As usual, I bought more veggies that 2.5 appetites could handle in a week and headed home.  The Hubs came in from class wiped out and exhausted after a long day.  And as luck would have it, I couldn’t have fit any more veggies in the fridge if there was a crowbar option available with my brand of refrigerator.  So, I did what I usually do when there’s more veggies than room: I juiced.  For the record I am talking about extracting juice from whole fruits and vegetables.  I made the mistake once of looking up “juicing” on the internet and it unfortunately took me a minute to realize why all the search results had to do with power lifting.  Apparently I should have been searching for “juicing for health”.

My parents have been juicing since the days of the Juiceman Jr. which I think came out in the 90s.  The Juiceman Jr. was their first of many juicers.  The Juiceman Jr.  juice was less like juice and more like a meal.  If you’ve looked at the sales descriptions of juicers now that talk about fine mesh extractors, foam removers and horsepower in the motor, it’s because they are trying to get the juice to look like juice.  It didn’t always.  My parents bought several models and brands through the years including Vita-Mix which I  LOVE as a kitchen machine (It’s so more than just a blender), but I don’t think what it makes is as useful as juice from a juice extracting machine since you have to add water and ice to the Vitamix.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s diluted juice.  Great as a smoothie though!  Juice Extracting Machines have come a long way from the Juiceman Jr.  Long story short, after trying way too many machines I’ve settled on the machine by the other Infomercial King: Jack LaLanne.  It’s easy to clean (most important factor), easy to use, doesn’t require a lot of pre-chopping and makes good smooth juice.  It can’t juice bananas or avocado so save those for the smoothies, but it does a great job with just about everything else.

If you’re going to juice, start out small then build your way up.  When I married The Hubs and came home with a juicer, I asked him if he wanted juice (I think he thought I meant store-bought apple juice) and  he said, “Sure!”  S0 ,I made him my usual juice with any and every fruit/vegetable in the kitchen.  I should have started out easy on him, but he likes a challenge so I handed him a glass.  It tasted awful.  To his credit, he wolfed it down and handed me the glass and we didn’t talk about it for a week and then I handed him another glass.  If you’re going to get into juicing, start out with mostly fruit so you get in the habit, then start adding veggies and eventually you can do a 3:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit.  Carrot-apple is a good starting point.  There are recipes that come with the juicers, but if you see one with an onion.  Don’t try it.  Friends of ours tried it and hate may be way to kind of a word to describe their reaction.  Try to vary your juice ingredients as much as possible.  When you get in the habit,  start adding more greens and green vegetables until eventually you can drink a 16-ounce glass of the green juice.  You can juice for taste, but eventually you may want to juice for health.

So, last night around 11pm, the hubs and I had had our juice.  I juiced two big heads of kale, three apples, a pear, and three carrots which gave us a 16 ounce glass each.  The hubs and I have mastered chugging thanks to juice.  You’re supposed to drink it quickly after it’s made to take advantage of all the enzymes and nutrients from the fruits and veggies.  It’s not meant for slow sipping over time and when you get to the point where you’re juicing for health and not taste, there’s not much of a choice.  I’ve been juicing for so long that I don’t know if I actually feel better or it’s a Pavlovian response at this point but I slept perfectly and woke up feeling energized.  I have a bag of collards waiting at home and the hubs is going to get that juice post run on Saturday.  I’m sure he’s excited.