Hoppin’ John and Jalapeno Corn Muffins

It’s supposedly good luck to eat hoppin’ john on New Year’s day (in fact, the legend goes for the best luck, you should try to eat at least 365 black-eyed peas for good luck in the new year).  I had never heard of this tradition until last year, and this is the second year in a row that we’ve observed the practice. Hoppin’ john goes well with corn muffins, so I also tried out a jalapeno corn muffin recipe.

I used the hoppin’ john recipe from our latest Cooking Light magazine, with a few modifications:

Ingredients:
olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch of salt, to taste
3/4 tsp paprika (smoked is best)
1/2 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3/4-1 cup diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup brown rice

Instructions:
Rinse the black-eyed peas, cover with 6 cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour (if you ever need to know how much water and time you need to cook dried grains and beans, this is a helpful chart).

Rinse the brown rice and cover with 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer about 30 minutes (you don’t want the rice to be completely done, as you’ll be adding it to the hoppin’ john to finish cooking).

Heat a large pot over medium high heat, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot, and add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes and cooked black-eyed peas, along with the salt, paprika, thyme, black pepper, and ground red pepper and stir well. Drain any extra water off the cooking rice and add the rice to the black-eyed peas mixture and stir well.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the rice is done (up to 10 more minutes or so). Be sure to keep stirring to avoid burning the bottom of the pan, and feel free to add more liquid (water or more diced tomatoes) if needed.

Hoppin' John copyright Sarah Bhimani

I found the recipe for the jalapeno cornbread muffins here.  Overall, the recipe is a good one.  The muffins are best fresh with Earth Balance butter and honey. The ones we saved in the refrigerator got a tiny bit slimy, as gluten-free baked goods tend to do, but when we microwaved them, they still tasted great.  If you don’t like too much spice, omit the second jalapeno and don’t put any jalapeno slices on top.

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

Happy New Year!

Medlar Jelly

I’m always fascinated by fruits and vegetables that are less common nowadays than they used to be, such as quince, persimmons, and medlars.  I recently received a bag of medlars, close to when they are perfect for using – rotten.  Yep, you can’t use medlars until they are overripe, also known as “bletted.”  Medlars that have bletted have an interior that turns buttery and spreadable, much like apple butter, but with a strong yeasty taste.  I’m actually not a fan of the taste or the smell of ready to eat medlars, I discovered, but I found this article with a recipe for medlar jelly, so I figured I’d give it a try.

Medlars

I separated the medlars I had into two groups – one group that had already been bletted (already soft and squishy to the touch) and one group that needed to blet further.  For the second group, I laid them in a single layer on a plate and set them in our coldest window, as cold (but not refrigerator-cold) helps the ripening process.

Medlars Bletting

I tried my hand at following the above article’s jelly recipe, following all the steps: quartering medlars and boiling along with a chopped apple and lemon, then letting it strain through cheesecloth into a bowl overnight and boiling into jelly the next day.  However, while most of the articles I read said medlars should have just enough pectin to jell naturally (the apple helps increase the pectin), my first batch never jelled.  It did get thicker, to the consistency of syrup, so that’s how we’ll use the first batch – just like we’d use maple syrup.  The syrup is a beautiful rosy color and has a very mild, yet sweet taste (nothing like how raw medlars smell or taste, thankfully!).

Medlar Syrup

A week later, I tried again with the second batch of medlars.  I followed all the same steps, but this time I added Pomona’s Universal Pectin to the mix, following the directions/amounts in the box for quince jelly.  The liquid never really reached a jelling point as far as I could tell, yet once I had ladled it into jars and it was refrigerated, it jelled up.  Not as firm as I would have liked, but definitely jelly-like.  It was interesting to note that the second batch was less vibrant in color and more orangey, but I’m not sure why.

Medlar Jelly

I’m not sure why my medlar jelly wasn’t exactly successful.  Perhaps I needed more medlars in each batch, or perhaps they needed to be bletted further (some of the ones I included weren’t totally bletted all the way through).  Either way, I encourage you to experiment with these fruits and to see what you can come up with!

Biryani

One good aspect (of many) of working at a food co-op is that I’m surrounded by people who like food and have a great wealth of food recipe suggestions.  I can simply ask my co-workers for dinner suggestions when I’m drawing a blank.  Recently, my co-worker was coordinating a class on how to make Iraqi Biryani and shared the recipe with me.  It was a surprisingly hearty and satisfying meal.  The recipe my co-worker shared with me is here, but I made a few modifications. For some protein, we added ground turkey and instead of vermicelli pasta, we used half a bag of brown rice pasta which we had in our pantry.  I followed the recipe, and then after frying the almonds, raisins, and peas, I cooked the turkey in the already hot pan.  I cooked the brown rice pasta as I normally would (letting sit in hot water) and then added the already cooked pasta to the turkey along with the cooked almonds, raisins, and peas and continued with the recipe from there.  The great thing about this recipe is that it seems fairly flexible to what we may have on hand. We’ll definitely be making this again!

Biryani

Stuffed Delicata Squash

A few years back, I lived on a farm and in my free time, I tended to about 1/2 an acre of my own garden.  In that garden I grew squash.  Lots of squash.  Spaghetti, acorn, and delicata squash.  When fall rolled around, I had one heck of a mound of squash.  I was giving it out left and right. When I was invited to potlucks, I brought squash dishes.  It took my parents (who inherited the remaining squash when I moved west a few months later) a good 6 months or so to finish the rest of the squash.

After that period of time, I needed a break from squash. But I’m happy to say I’m back on the squash wagon! I’m easing into it slowly, first with spaghetti squash and now with delicata squash.  I made this dish tonight (using this recipe).  In modifications, I used 16 oz of turkey (so we’d have leftovers), but kept everything else pretty much the same.  And instead of the cheese listed in the recipe, I, of course, used dairy-free cheese.  A nice hearty meal for a cool evening!

Stuffed Delicata Squash

Kohlrabi Potato Soup

Now that I (Sarah, that is) have a bit more free time, I hope to add a bit more regularly to this blog and to spend a little more time practicing photography.  Here’s a great dish that Rabi recently made.  Now that our garden has wrapped up for the year, we are left with hardy and root vegetables, such as kohlrabi and potatoes.  Rabi found a recipe for Kohlrabi Potato Soup, and this is a great, tasty way to use kohlrabi, especially if you are sick of eating it raw or in stir-frys.  The original recipe can be found here, and the only difference that Rabi made was that he used our red potatoes from the garden and didn’t peel them.  Our version of the soup turned out much lighter in color, but we’re not sure why. I strongly suggest that you definitely make use of the toppings – they are a nice balance to the rooty soup.

Kohlrabi Potato Soup

Tofu Curry Scramble

There are not many things coming from our garden right now that are more beautiful than our Rainbow Chard.

Rainbow ChardIn addition to it being beautiful (and packed full of nutrients), it’s also very plentiful, leaving us stumped as to how to use it all.  Here’s our latest meal, Tofu Curry Scramble, adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 a large yellow onion, chopped
  • about 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • about 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • about 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • about 1/16 tsp cayenne
  • about 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • about 3 cups of chopped Rainbow Chard (or other dark, leafy green)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Drain tofu, wrap in a towel, and place a weight (I used our empty cast iron) on top to press out as much liquid as possible.  I let it sit under the weight for about 10 minutes or so.  Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a wok and add onion and garlic. Saute until onion softens, then stir in all the spices. Crumble all the tofu into the wok, then cover for about 5 minutes, checking it once to stir and scrap any browning bits off the bottom. Add the chard and fold into the tofu mixture until chard gets a bit wilty.  Add the salt and keep folding the mixture until well incorporated.  Enjoy!

Note: You could add more curry or other spices to bulk up the flavor a bit more.  You could also top it off with various condiments – Rabi put some sriracha sauce on it, which he said was pretty good.

Tofu Curry Scramble