Good luck foods – some thoughts and recipes of the day

Well, our first big meal of 2015 is in the books…and it was pretty good.

Lucky foods cooking

Lucky foods cooking

Prepared today:

Hoppin’ John – southern dish traditionally made of black-eyed peas or cowpeas. Black-eyed peas are considered to be lucky and saved many a hungry resident of Civil War days. Beans are considered a humble food, simple. Dry beans, looking like coins and expanding with cooking, also are considered a symbol around the world of money and increasing wealth.

I found a highly rated recipe on Food Network from Emeril Lagasse, and I would concur with the ratings…


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock (I used some leftover smoked ham I found in the freezer)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf (I used two)
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves (I had fresh and used about 6 sprigs with the leaves pulled off)
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice. (I had no liquid evaporate. I used a potato masher and mashed some of the beans to make it creamier)

Next up, Sautéed Pork Tenderloin

The richness and fat of pork symbolize wealth and prosperity. The rooting and pushing forward behaviors of pigs also symbolizes progress.

I thawed some tenderloin medallions I had cut and vacuum sealed last month. I seasoned the medallions with salt, pepper, and a little garlic and onion powders. 1 tablespoon of butter was heated in a skillet and the medallions were browned (about 3-4 minutes a side) then removed/set aside, placed in the microwave to keep warm. To the skillet the following were added and mixed until heated through: 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. The sauce was poured over the medallions which were then garnished with fresh parsley.

Now for some Sautéed Collard Greens

For most, the folded, green leaves of veggies such as cabbage, kale, collards and such look like money. Greens are eaten across the world for hopes of financial well-being.

Fresh collards from the garden were cleaned, rolled then cut into ribbons. Some of the smoke ham was cubed. 1 medium onion was sliced. 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter was melted in a wok. The onions and ham were added and cooked for about a minute. The greens were added in stages and cooked to a wilt. A little salt and pepper were added to taste.

Finally, for sweet success, some Cornbread

Cakes of all kinds are served around the world on New Year’s Day and serve as symbols of sustenance, richness, and treasures. Cornbread’s golden color is a symbol of wealth (gold). For southern New Year’s cooks, an old saying sums it all up:

“Peas for pennies, greens for dollars, and cornbread for gold.”

I used another Food Network recipe for honey cornbread muffins:

Honey Cornbread Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Patrick and Gina Neely


1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin NOTE – I did not make muffins but put batter into a 9″x9″ cake pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. I added the batter to a greased 9×9 bake pan.

Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Then add a little pat of butter and enjoy!

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I finally attempted a version of a risotto last night. It was easy and tasty, though I would make a few changes for the next batch.



Here is the recipe I used as a foundation, my changes are noted in parenthesis and italics:

Easy Parmesan “Risotto”
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided (of course, I had no homemade stock. I used a natural chicken broth I had on hand.)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Asiago only because I am hoarding our delicious chunk of parmesan)
1/2 cup dry white wine (most of our wines are zingy but not dry, I have a photo of what I used)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt (this part I would change – I used 1 1/2 tsp, and it was too much. I’d decrease this amount to just 1 or even 1/2 depending upon the cheese. A good bit of salt came from the cheese.)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas (I used fresh broccoli broken down into tiny florets, diced onion and garlic. I put these fresh veggies in the reserved cup of broth and simmered so that they were steamed and soft by the time they were added to the rice)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I was just home from work. I used our convection bake setting).

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock (my broth was not simmering. Jeez, I jut got home from work! One cup was cold (from the fridge) and 3 cups were room temp – none of this temp difference seemed to matter) in a Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Cover and bake for 45 minutes (using the convection setting, I baked for just over 30 minutes…may be 35 minutes), until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente (my pot had a glass top, so I could see the liquid status). Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock (also had the steamed broccoli florets, onion and garlic), the Parmesan (asiago), wine, butter, salt (SERIOUSLY, cut the amount of salt you add to the recipe…this batch was a little too salty even though I used less than the recipe called for), and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas (clearly, did not use peas) and stir until heated through. Serve hot.

2010, Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?, All Rights Reserved

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So, I didn’t really have a nice, dry white wine. The reds we have are too full bodied. A friend, however, dropped off this lovely rose’ that surprised us by not being sweet but a little dry. I used this wine:



Clearly, used the wine for the recipe and beyond.

This risotto was easy, only demanded attention at the end, but was too salty. Use caution with that seasoning depending upon the cheese that you use. Adding fresh veggies to the reserved, simmering broth worked great to get the fresh veggies cooked (but not mushy) in time for addition to the main pot. All in all, a good recipe that I think could be adapted to other flavors.

Tonight’s dinner feature – the poblano pepper

I wonder now why I didn’t take a picture. Too busy I suppose, but it would be nice to show you what tonight’s dinner feature – the poblano pepper – looked like.

Until tonight, I had never eaten a poblano pepper before, so don’t ask me why I chose to grow them this year. I’ve been curious to know what they were like and finally got around to taking action.

The poblano is a pretty pepper…dark forest green, shiny and firm. From what I have read, this Mexican lovely has half the heat of a jalapeño though the intensity can vary. Apparently, the pepper ripens to a deep, near black red. When ripe, the heat is the most intense. A dried poblano takes the term ancho (wide) because the pepper flattens out (widely) and is heart shaped. My next foray will be in preservation. From what I have read, poblanos freeze well. As mentioned above, they commonly are dried. Finally, these peppers can be canned. I hope to try all 3 methods of preserving these beauties.

Now, for tonight’s dinner…I found a recipe online ( for stuffed poblano peppers to which I made some modifications (in parenthesis and italics). Jordan declared it a success. Here are the details:

Stuffed Poblano Peppers


  • 4 poblano peppers (I used 6, 2 large and 4 smaller sized peppers)
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice (or 4 cups of any cooked grain) (my favorite grain is short grain brown rice that I get from Annie Kay’s; I cook the rice in chicken broth in a rice cooker)
  • I browned some ground beef and ground pork (not in original recipe)
  • 1½ cups salsa (didn’t measure; salsa was medium heat)
  • 1 15 oz. can of black bean (didn’t drain)
  • 1½ cups frozen or canned corn kernels (small can of whole kernel corn; drained)
  • 3 green onions (optional) (chopped one red onion)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (didn’t measure)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (did’t have)
  • Cayenne to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Shredded cheese (we used a Mexican blend)
  • Chopped cilantro for serving (optional)
  1. Combine 1 cup uncooked rice with 2 cups water (2 cups rice and chicken broth – enough to cover – in rice cooker). Bring to a boil, then simmer according to package instructions. (Or, prepare the rice or grain ahead of time.)
  2. While the rice cooks, prepare the peppers: slice them in half and remove the seeds and ribs. Make sure to wear gloves!
  3. Place the peppers in a baking dish skin side up. Broil about 7 minutes, then flip the peppers and broil 7 minutes more.
  4. Chop the 3 green onions (of course the onion should be included and not option, just my opinion, again I used one red onion chopped), and drain (did not drain) and rinse the black beans.
  5. Brown the ground beef and pork; drain.
  6. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine (instead, to skillet with browned meat I added): beans, onions, 1½ cups salsa, 1½ cups corn, a bit of the shredded cheese, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder (nope), a couple dashes of cayenne. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the rice is finished, combine with the filling (in the skillet it went)
  7. Place the pepper halves skin side down in a baking dish, and spoon the filing into each half. Top with shredded cheese and broil until the cheese is melted, for about 1½ to 2 minutes.
  8. If desired (it was, I had a little cilantro that had not gone to seed and you betcha I picked it), garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with sour cream.
Alternative oven method: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Follow Steps 2, 4 and 5 above to prepare the peppers and filling. Then bake until the peppers are tender and browned, around 25 to 30 minutes.

Jam – my first experience making it

Mom and dad have some grape vines growing along their driveway on a fence that separates a part of the parking area from their neighbor’s yard. It was a spur of the minute location as the grapes needed to go SOMEWHERE during a backyard makeover. Those poor grape vines have been moved multiple times. One final move will be out here to the farm.

The good news is that the vines have survived their many moves, and this year, they actually seemed to like their temporary location. How so? Well, for the first time in MANY years there was a harvest.

So now what? Well, I was able to sell a few of these organically grown grapes at the Blacksburg market. The rest went towards jam.

Organic grape jam

Organic grape jam

Thanks to mom and Marge who helped with the process Sunday. The recipe came from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and involved separating the pulp from the skins (where the color eventually comes from), separating the seeds from the pulp (which was a pale green color), a little boiling and reduction, some recombining of pulp and skins with lemon juice and sugar, a little more boiling then canning. The result? A stunningly gorgeous concord grape jam which gelled nicely and has substance (i.e. I like having the skins added back to the pulp).

Taste testing

Taste testing

Who knew that grape jam (or a PB&J) could be so good? Now I wish we had more grapes to harvest…three pints just doesn’t seem like enough!

Have you ever made jam? What’s your favorite flavor?

Future fruits for us are pears and persimmons (October for both). Have any ideas what to do with these guys?