Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Black Eyed Pea Soup Recipe

Black Eyed Pea Soup
My husband is a special occasions cook. Although a weeknight dinner of chicken nuggets and fries can totally overwhelm him, a fully home cooked Thanksgiving feast including a succulent brined turkey and at least seven side dishes is something he has successfully accomplished for the past eight years. In addition to Turkey Day, he has perfected an incredible St. Patrick's Day meal that revolves around melt-in-your-mouth corned beef and home baked Irish Soda Bread. He has also been known to whip up a Christmas dinner complete with lamb chops, sautéed green beans,boiled red potatoes, and mint jelly. His holiday meals are elaborate and delicious!

Last year my husband added New Year's Day to his outstanding holiday food repertoire by making a pot of Black Eyed Pea Soup. Although he has attempted this traditional fare every year since we've been married, he didn't truly bring it up to his usual holiday food standard until we moved to Texas. Last year one of his co-workers, who is originally from Louisiana, shared her recipe with him. It is amazing! The flavor is robust and complex and the texture is hearty without being mushy. It is great the first day but gets even better the next day and also freezes well.

I am looking forward to welcoming in 2010 with a big bowl of my husband's steaming Black Eyed Soup. Happy New Year!

"I got a feelin' that this years gonna be a good year!"

Black Eyed Pea Soup Recipe

  • 4 cups of peas (black-eyed or other small pea, fresh, frozen, or dried. If you use dried, soak for an hour or more. If you use fresh, wash before using, drain and set aside for 20 minutes before cooking (this make the seed “wake-up”). )
  • 14-16 oz of chopped onion, carrot, and celery (Tammy recommends the frozen bags of “mire pois” mix). If you can’t find the mix, use 1 large onion, 3 large carrots, 3 stalks celery.
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup of diced Peppers (fresh, frozen, smoked, or roasted) (I have used a variety of these: sweet red or yellow bell, cayenne, poblano, cubanella, jalapeno, or any other of your favorites)
  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar (Tammy uses organic)
  • Approximately 2 cups Ham or Canadian bacon, chopped into bite size chunks (Tammy recommends the Central Market Natural smoked ham at HEB. It has no nitrates, no gelatin, no preservatives, no additives.) More or less depending on how meaty you want the soup.
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut or extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups water or chicken broth

  1. Saute: Sauté the veggies in oil on med to low heat. Salt and Pepper liberally. If it becomes dry before the onions are clear, add a tablespoon or two of water. You want it to get really soft and mushy.
  2. Brown: Once the veggies get soft, turn the heat up and stir occasionally. This will dry out the veggies and make it stick to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Deglaze: When the veggies start turning brown, then deglaze with apple cider vinegar.
  4. Stew: Once most of the vinegar cooks off, add 6-8 cups of water, the peas, and the meat. Ham/Canadian Bacon adds salt, but the peas absorb lots of salt, so add more salt and pepper at this stage. Add a bay leaf if you have one. One alternate cooking method would be to have the water, peas, and ham already cooking in another pot or a crock pot while the veggies are being cooked since that takes some time.
  5. Time: I usually cook it for several hours at a simmer, but this is a preference. Fresh or frozen peas are technically cooked after 20 minutes of boiling. Taste the pea to determine its doneness. Some people like them al dente. I like them almost mushy, but not quite. However, I usually eat it after 20-30 minutes and then keep cooking it. The longer you cook it, the more mushy the pea and the more thick and starchy the soup base. I took Tammy’s recommendation, and used the emersion blender on the entire pot. OMG…it was fantastic. Very hearty and filling.


This will make a pretty good sized pot of soup. It tastes good AWESOME left over and it freezes well too. It can also act as a thickening agent for other soup bases – just remember to blend it before adding to the other soup base ( I use an emersion blender.)

Optional accompaniments:
• Chopped cilantro
• Squeeze of lemon
• Fresh red onion slices
• Fresh tomatoes slices with a squeeze of lemon
• Good with roast chicken or turkey or even pork loin
• Rice (some like sticky white rice, I prefer a mix of wild rices)
• Cheese – beans and cheese together make a variety of good proteins. I prefer a sharp cheddar or even a smoked cheddar either with or before the soup.
• Corn bread

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Mock Thin Mints Recipe

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Mock Thin Mints
Do you have leftover candy canes that you can't convince anyone in the house to eat? Were you a little over zealous with your purchasing of chocolate chips and have bags of them stacked in your pantry? Are your kids teetering on the edge of boredom and need a fun structured activity to pass a little time until the next holiday gathering? Do you love Girl Scout cookies especially thin mints, but don't have access to them for a few more months? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then Holiday Mock Thin Mints is the recipe for you.

I first sampled these holiday delicacies a few weeks ago at a Christmas party. The dessert table was filled with cakes, cookies, pies, and a fabulous chocolate cheesecake so it was only as an afterthought that I perched one of these round chocolate treats on the edge of my already loaded plate. It was obvious that this dessert was bite-sized and festive, but what wasn't as apparent was that it possessed one of my favorite flavor combinations, salty and sweet with a hint of mint. Also, it reminded me of something that I couldn't immediately recall. As I was pondering just exactly what this treat tasted like, the lady next to me told me that she had made these cookies and that their flavor is similar to Girl Scout Thin Mints. She quickly spouted off the recipe and I made them the next day.

The recipe for Holiday Mock Thin Mints is easy and fun. The minty treats make a nice gift for teachers and friends and are a great way to clean out your post-holiday pantry. My younger kids joined in by crushing the candy canes (note to self: never hand an eight year old boy a wooden rolling pin and tell him to hit something as hard as he can, yikes!). My older children assisted by stirring the chocolate chips as they melted in the double boiler and then dipping the Ritz. Everyone enjoyed sprinkling each cookie with some crushed candy canes.

After saving a few for ourselves, we added the remainder of our Holiday Mock Thin Mints to our Christmas cookie plates that we delivered to neighbors. After tasting them, one of the boys on our street made a batch using white chocolate. He was thrilled to share them with us. We were all impressed with his creativity and want to try that next time. Enjoy the rest of your holiday and enjoy creating and sampling Holiday Mock Thin Mints.

Holiday Mock Thin Mints

33 Ritz crackers (about 1 sleeve)
1 bag Nestle's Chocolate and Mint Morsels (10 ounce) or
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels with a few drops of peppermint extract added or
another melting chocolate of your choice including white chocolate
1 cup of crushed candy canes

  1. Place candy canes in a heavy duty gallon-sized zip-lock bag. Bang lightly with a rolling pin until candy canes are fully crushed, but still slightly chunky.
  2. Melt the chocolate morsels (add peppermint extract if using).
  3. Dip ritz crackers in chocolate and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or a silpat liner.
  4. Sprinkle each coated cracker with crushed candy canes.
  5. Place in refrigerator until chocolate is hardened.
  6. Store in an air-tight container.
Note: Crushed Candy Canes are also yummy sprinkled on a cup of hot chocolate.

It's a holiday party!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Oreo Balls Recipe

Oreo Balls
I thought I had heard it all when it comes to Christmas treats. I knew about rolled cookies, bar cookies, barks, salty mixes, and fudge. I own nine cookbooks devoted just to holiday baking, I always purchase Martha Stewart's special December issues, and in my free time I clip festive recipes from newspapers and magazines. My Christmas cooking repertoire, however, was expanded last week when my co-worker brought in a plate mounded with oreo balls.

During our early morning staff gathering this co-worker said that her husband's loss was our gain and that she had just put some oreo balls in the staff kitchen (apparently her husband forgot to take them to his holiday work party and she had graciously agreed to bring them in to our workplace so they wouldn't go to waste. . . oh, the sacrifice). My first clue to the deliciousness of this confection was when the staff (all except me) awoke out of their early morning haze and broke into a cheer at the mere mention of oreo balls. My second clue was when I fixed myself a cup of coffee and tasted one. Heavenly! Not only were they delicious, but I immediately knew that their fun factor for making and wow factor for sharing must be high.

A few days after my first scrumptious encounter with oreo balls my four year old son and I made a batch for ourselves. He loved dropping the oreos into the food processor and pushing the pulse button until fine crumbs appeared. Then he was thrilled to roll the cream cheese and oreo crumb mixture into little balls. I did the dipping and decorating by myself this time although I plan on inviting my older kids to help me with that part on our next batch. My daughter took a plate of our oreo balls to her Bible study Christmas party and they were a hit. This recipe lends itself well to holiday gatherings because it makes lots of balls and because they are quite rich so one or maybe two are enough for each person.

Since first sampling these lovely little morsels, I've found out that lots of my Texas friends know about oreo balls, but I've yet to find a Marlylander that has heard of them. Are they a southern thing? I'm not sure, but wherever you live I recommend that you make and share these oreo balls this holiday season.

Oreo Balls

makes about 42 balls

1-8 ounce cream cheese, very soft
1 package (1 pound 2 ounce) oreos
3 cups melted white, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate (I used white and milk chocolate bark coating, but you could use chocolate chips or Baker's chocolate)

  1. Finely crush oreos (I used my food processor, but you could also put them in a zip-lock back and hit them with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer).
  2. Mix oreo crumbs with the softened cream cheese (use a wooden spoon or your hands) until fully combined.
  3. Roll mixture into small balls, about one tablespoon per ball. Place balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge for a few hours.
  4. Melt chocolate coating in a double boiler or the microwave. Using two forks dip chilled balls into chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Put back in the fridge for a few hours or until chocolate is hardened.
  5. If desired, drizzle a little contrasting chocolate on top of balls. I tinted some white chocolate red and put it in a small squeeze bottle for drizzling.