Monthly Archives: December 2008

Black-Eyed Peas


Black-eyed peas have long been a tradition for New Year’s in the South. They are supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. Some say that if you eat one pea for each day of the new year, you will ensure good fortune. (To me, that’s an awful lot of black-eyed peas.) I’ve also heard that since they swell when cooked, it represents getting more, or growth. And as for the ham or pork added? Apparently, the pig is thought to represent prosperity and wealth.

Lucky for me, we have a farmer’s market somewhat close to our home, and every year they sell local fresh black-eyed peas. (We also happen to live far enough in the country where down the street from us lives an elderly man who grows wonderful squash, okra, and black-eyed peas. Lucky us indeed!) Fresh black-eyed peas, in my opinion, are much more flavorful than dried. This year, I stashed some fresh peas away in the freezer when I had the opportunity to buy them.

And as for the pork? I was wondering what to do with my leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner! Problem solved…

This recipe uses those fresh peas. If you don’t have fresh, you can always buy dried – just soak them overnight, and let them simmer longer, about 2 hours or so. The rest of the recipe can remain the same. Also, if you don’t have a ham bone and leftover ham from Christmas, you can always use smoked ham hocks, pork jowl, or bacon.

Happy New Year!

1 T vegetable oil

1 c onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 c diced ham

1 lb fresh black-eyed peas

2 c chicken broth

Ham bone

Salt and pepper


Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno, sauté 4-5 minutes or until softened. Add diced ham, sauté for a minute or two more. Add black-eyed peas, chicken broth, and ham bone. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until beans are soft. Remove ham bone, taste, and add salt and pepper as necessary.



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Filed under Beans, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Side Dishes

New Year’s Foodie Resolutions

Foodie ResolutionsI don’t ordinarily make a lot of New Year’s Resolutions. But I’ve been thinking lately, about how I do have things I want to accomplish. So, rather than make “resolutions”, why don’t I just make goals for 2009, and strive to accomplish those goals? In the realm of cooking, I have many things I still want to learn to do, and some I would like to improve upon. The following is a list of “Foodie Resolutions” for 2009. Now that I’m sharing it with all of you, you’ll have to hold me accountable, okay? Also, what “Foodie Resolutions” do you have for 2009? Or any resolutions, for that matter? And do you have any thoughts, ideas, hints to help me along the way to accomplishing mine?

Alta’s Foodie Resolutions

-learn to bake bread and pizza crust

-expand knowledge of Indian cuisine

-understand my camera in order to improve food pictures

-learn to bake yummy gluten-free breads and desserts

-learn to make fresh pasta (gonna have to get a pasta machine for this one!)

-make excellent Mexican rice (I don’t like most of the stuff you get in Tex-Mex restaurants)

-learn to make authentic Mexican dishes, such as Pork Posole, Menudo, Barbacoa, etc.

-experiment with fruit in savory dishes

-cook more recipes from Grandma’s Recipe Box

-cook more recipes from the loads of cookbooks I own

-make paella (I even received a paella pan from my parents for my birthday…and have not yet made paella)

-make pickles

-make a soufflé (after all, I bought ramekins what, a year ago, just to make this)

-learn to make sushi

-improve my ability to make Southern Fried Chicken

-learn to make sausage


And last but not least….share my experiences attempting to accomplish these goals with you! Because after all, isn’t that half the fun?

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you all the best in 2009!


Filed under Goals


food-6231I’m sure a lot of people out there have a chili recipe. I’ve grown up in Texas, around here there are chili cook-offs held in just about every city from Laredo to Amarillo. And everyone has their own version. Some make “Texas Red”, which is never made with beans, some add coffee or chocolate, some add bell peppers, and up in Cincinnati, they serve it over spaghetti. (Which doesn’t seem like chili to me, but hey, who am I to judge?) Mine is somewhere close to a Texas Red…only I did break the rules. I added beans. Because, frankly, meat has gotten expensive. Personally, I enjoy the texture beans add to the dish…and they’re healthy, so why not?

Anyway, this has been a recipe that has been tweaked for years. It’s relatively hot, but not burn-the-pants-off-ya hot. And if you wish to make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free beer (such as Redbridge), or use additional chicken broth (or beef broth, even). (Note: Several of my family members are celiac, and the Redbridge, which is supposedly wheat and barley-free, has even caused issues. If this is an issue for you, please use broth instead of the beer.) And as for the dried chiles, feel free to substitute. Just be aware, if you substitute with a hotter chile, just use less. Or don’t…but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Enjoy this chili with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and diced onions.

8-9 dried guajillo peppers, stems and seeds removed

5-6 dried chipotle peppers, stems and seeds removed

3 lbs lean ground beef

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

3 T minced garlic

1 7 oz can green chiles

3 T chili powder, preferably New Mexico Hot (you can use mild if you want milder chili)

4 T ground cumin

2 t salt

2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 small can tomato paste

1 c chicken broth

2 c water

1 c beer

3 cans beans (kidney and/or white northern), with liquid

1 ½ T maple syrup, or to taste


Put the dried peppers in a small saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Put peppers and 1 c of the water into blender and blend until smooth. Set chili paste aside.


Brown ground beef in a large stockpot or saucepan over medium heat, stirring until crumbly; drain the excess drippings. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes more, until the onions are translucent.


Add the green chiles, regular chili powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper and mix well. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, to blend the flavors.


Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, ¾ c of the chili paste and 2 cups water. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Cook, covered for 1 hour.


Add beans with liquid, and add beer. Stir. Cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour, until of desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the amount of the chili paste and other seasonings as necessary. Add maple syrup and cook for 5-10 minutes more.

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Filed under Beef, Main Dishes, Soups

Molasses Crinkle Cookies

food-6121I love to bake cookies during the holidays. Unfortunately, with all of the other things the holidays require of us, I don’t get as much time as I’d like to devote to cookies. So, this year, I’ve scaled it back. Already made the peanut brittle, and this molasses cookie recipe was another that made the cut. These cookies are a deliciously thin but chewy bite of spiced goodness, and easy to make. I adapted the recipe from a Gourmet magazine recipe. Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)

About 1/3 cup sugar for tops of cookies

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt in a bowl until combined.

Beat together shortening, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add egg and molasses, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until combined.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll 1 heaping teaspoon of dough into a 1-inch ball with wet hands, then dip 1 end of ball in sanding sugar. Make more cookies in same manner, arranging them, sugared side up, 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes total, then cool on sheets 1 minute. Transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

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Filed under Baked goods

Split Pea Soup

food-06111I have loved split pea soup since I was a little girl. It’s pleasantly warming and comforting, perfect for cold winter days. Rather than the same old ham bone or bacon to flavor the soup, in this recipe I have attempted to keep the sodium and fat content low and opt for full-flavored spices. Madras curry powder is a spice you can find in the asian section of the grocery store, or in an asian or indian grocery store. Smoked paprika has only fairly recently made its way into the spice aisle of grocery stores, so you may or may not find it at your local grocery. If you have trouble finding either spice, you can always order them (and a bunch of other fun spices) at and


2 T olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

4 c vegetable broth

2 c water

1 ½ lbs dried split peas, rinsed, picked through, and soaked for a minimum of 4 hours

1 herb bouquet**

Salt and pepper

2 t smoked paprika

2 t madras curry powder

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Pinches of smoked paprika



**herb bouquet – 3 cloves garlic, peeled, 4-6 allspice berries, 2 bay leaves, 1 sprig thyme, 6-8 sprigs parsley, tied in cheesecloth. (this idea was adapted from Elise at, who adapted it from Julia Child’s “The Way To Cook.” Which is a great book, by the way. Thanks Elise!)


Heat a large stockpot to medium-high heat. Add olive oil, and swirl to coat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, and sauté until vegetables are soft and onions begin to look translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, water, peas, and the herb bouquet. (the liquid should just cover the peas. If more liquid is needed, add more water.) Bring to a boil and reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and skimming scum off of the top.

Discard herb bouquet, and puree soup until desired consistency. Add salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and curry powder. Add lemon juice and stir. Taste and adjust salt as necessary. Serve in bowls with pinches of smoked paprika and lemon zest sprinkled on top.

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Filed under Beans, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Soups, Vegetarian

Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle

food-057Peanut brittle is one of my favorite candies to enjoy at Christmas-time. It also happens to be a relatively simple treat to make. Only trouble is, I can’t keep from eating it as I’m making little “goodie” bags for family and friends! This recipe is adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe.

3 cups sugar

2 cups water

¾ c light corn syrup

¾ c dark corn syrup

½ t salt

4 cups raw Spanish peanuts

2 T unsalted butter

1 T baking soda

1 t vanilla extract


Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Stir first 4 ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, and boil without stirring until a candy thermometer reaches 260 degrees, about 40 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Mix in peanuts, salt, and butter and cook until thermometer reaches 295 degrees, stirring constantly, about 15 minutes. Add baking soda and vanilla and stir briskly. Immediately pour onto prepared baking sheets, dividing evenly. Spread brittle out as thinly as possible. Let stand until cold and hard. Break brittle into pieces. Store in airtight containers at room temperature.


Filed under Desserts, Gluten-Free