day 31: end of the year, end of the challenge … blackeyed-pea soup

31 days … 30+ successes, 1 epic fail, a 50th blog post made and a challenge officially smashed to bits!

As I hunker down to enjoy my NYE (watching my dearest niece nap and awaiting my nephew’s arrival), I can’t think of any place or person I’d rather be. No lists of things I want to change this year. No lists of things to put into my routine. No lists of accomplishments to make by the end of 2014. This year I have one simple request over my blackeyed (lucky) peas … to be better.

Cheers!

Lucky blackeyed-pea soup with greens

Lucky blackeyed-pea soup with greens

What you’ll need:

  • Dried blackeyed-peas, soaked overnight in cold water, rinsed & drained
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 10 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, diced
  • ham pieces (I used leftover country ham from Christmas – thanks Granny)
  • 8 cups of chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • healthy dash of hot sauce (I used Frank’s here) + more for garnish
  • greens (collards, kale, mustard, arugula, or escarole – I used kale, as I had it on hand)
  • Italian parsley for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Sautee carrots, butternut squash, garlic & onions in olive oil until fragrant
  2. Add bay leaves, oregano, tomato sauce, and chicken stock. Bring to boil
  3. Add blackeyed-peas and reduce heat to simmer for 3 hours
  4. Add greens and allow to simmer an additional hour
  5. Top with a bit of hot sauce and parsley. Serve with hot water cornbread
  6. Enjoy!

day 30: much ado about cauliflower

I have my grocery list … I’ve had the talk with myself … “Nothing that’s not on the list, Shamille” … I enter the store … but there’s a SALE on cauliflower. 2 for $4 … what, what? I’ll take both. Every single time … this is the chat I have with myself and every time I loose the list game.

So since I’ve procured both of these ever-elusive sale cauliflower heads … I’ve had cauliflower with yogurt dip, cauliflower in curry, mashed cauliflower, cauliflower salad, cauliflower soup … What now? Roast it!

Roasted cauliflower with Parmesan + Paprika

Roasted cauliflower with Parmesan + Paprika

What you’ll need:

  • A head of cauliflower (or whatever you have on hand – don’t get suckered by the sale), chopped into florets
  • a healthy sprinkle of smoked paprika
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • kosher salt a generous coating
  • fresh ground black pepper … a generous bit
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on cookie sheet
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, & paprika
  4. Bake for 15 minutes and coat with parmesan
  5. Bake another 5 minutes
  6. Serve hot with whatever you like
  7. Enjoy!

day 29: stone ground mustard, homemade!

There is nothing like running out of a beloved condiment in the midst of making a masterpiece sandwich, when it’s blaring cold outside and you have lost all motivation to drive anywhere for any reason. Arrrgh! What on earth is one to do? The way I see it … you have one of 3 options. Option A) get over it and go to the store; B) do without; C) make your own damned mustard.

We’re going to explore option C. Now, I realize that this may simply be silly to some of you. But, you don’t understand the depths of creation behind this sandwich. I need my mustard and I need it NOW. Here goes!

Homemade stone ground mustard + a sandwich saver!

Homemade stone ground mustard + a sandwich saver!

What you’ll need:

  • 4 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 tbsp ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup water

What you’ll do:

  1. Using a mortar & pestle, grind the mustard seeds.
  2. Add ground mustard, vinegar, and salt
  3. Add water last
  4. Refrigerate and you’re all set to use (sandwich is saved)
  5. Enjoy!

*Special thanks to my sissy for the gift “One Good Dish” by David Tanis … the recipe was great, though I altered the recipe a smidge.

day 28: salad for lunch with haricot verts, avocado, tomato + hearts of palm

I don’t know about you, but I love a light lunch and I get bored with the typical salad. Who says salads have to be just a variety of lettuces and typical veggies on hand? No one, that’s who!

Earlier this month, I showed you how to make asparagus pop cold. Let’s take that same concept and put it to good use with french green beans. They’re hearty, healthy and pack a hefty punch of crunch. Add some creamy avocado, grape tomatoes and an everyday vinaigrette … sounds like lunch to me.

Easy, refreshing french green bean salad with hearts of palm

Easy, refreshing french green bean salad with hearts of palm

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of haricot verts, quick boiled in salted water and cooled in a salted ice-bath, then drained
  • 14 oz hearts of palm, sliced
  • a handful of grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 just ripened avocado diced
  • a handful of fresh thyme, picked, stemmed and rough chopped
  • 3 green onions, tops and bodies sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp quality apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 tbsp olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Combine haricot verts, hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and onions. Then set aside
  2. Make the dressing. Combine thyme, salt, pepper, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard
  3. Slowly whisk in olive oil until well combined
  4. Toss and top with avocado, salt & pepper
  5. Enjoy!

day 27: beer + fish + chips = bliss

I’ve always known that my stomach runs my life. I wake up with cravings and simply have to act on them. The failure to feed deploys the hungry version of me – the cranky, green hulk monster being kept at bay by snacks – yeah, that one.

I wish my cravings came in a complete thought … like, I’d like a BBQ sandwich with with spicy cole slaw (which sounds delish by the way). But, oh no, not me! I crave the sauce or condiments and try to figure out the rest … like, I’d like to devour something with sour cream on it. Makes no sense, but I’m used to it.

So, today when I woke up craving malt vinegar. I knew I had to break out the fish & chips and fast. Oh, and a beer (because I like it).

Pub worthy fish + chips

Pub worthy fish + chips

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb of white, meaty fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch strips
  • 2 bottled beers (one to batter and the other to drink)
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 russet potatoes, skin on, cut into wedges, soaked in water
  • canola oil for frying

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat oil to medium
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper
  3. Slowly add the beer to create a batter. Be sure there are no lumps left in the batter. Allow to rest in the fridge as we tend to the chips
  4. Pat the potatoes dry and place in the oil. When potatoes begin to soften and brown slightly. Remove form oil and allow to rest on a cooling rack (this single step with give those potatoes a heck of a crunch later on)
  5. Return potatoes to the fry to completion
  6. Meanwhile, batter up the cod strips and drop into the oil
  7. Once the batter begins to set, rotate! Remove when browned all around
  8. Serve with malt vinegar, lemon and tarter if you like (my recipe is below)

*For a quick and delicious tarter sauce combine 2 heaping tbsp quality mayonnaise, 1 tsp of grainy mustard, a dash of white wine vinegar, a pinch of salt & fresh ground pepper, sweet pickle relish and pulse in a food processor for a few moments.

day 26: my day, my way, birthday bliss in a bowl (blackberry cobbler)

The beautiful thing about birthdays is that you get to do whatever in the world you’d like to do and it’s the one day you really don’t have to compromise (unless you’re a twin), rationalize or explain. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like one hell of a day to celebrate and look forward to!

I don’t want to do anything really. I don’t want to blow out a candle or have a cake. I’m in no mood for a party. That’s OK! I do however have an absolutely, gut wrenching craving for a cobbler. It’s sassy, classic, Southern and a little sweet … sounds like the perfect celebratory “cake” for my big day.

You know you want a bite ... blackberries ... cobbler ... nom, nom, nom!

You know you want a bite … blackberries … cobbler … nom, nom, nom!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of fresh fruit, washed and prepared (I’m using blackberries, but you can literally do anything you’d like)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for a little luck on top
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sprinkle of fresh ground nutmeg
  • sprinkle of fresh ground cinnamon

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
  3. Add in milk, spices and vanilla extract to form a batter
  4. Melt butter in the shallow baking dish of your choice (I’m using my pie pan for easy scooping) in your preheated oven
  5. Pour batter into dish, followed by fruit
  6. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until batter is set
  8. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or a simply a spoon
  9. Enjoy!

day 25: snappy shaved brussel sprout salad + white balsamic lemon vinaigrette

I’m not big on trends in food … I like what I like and personally, I think it’s delicious all the time. Some foods have had the misfortune of encountering me ill-prepared, inexperienced or drenched in cheese. Brussel sprouts, for years, have fallen into such a scenario. Imagine my surprise when EVERYONE, and I do mean everyone suddenly starts touting the best shaved brussel sprout salad in town (ick)!

That being said, I’m not one to give up. To date, I’ve had 4 variations out on the town. Not that I’m not impressed or inspired. But, when you discover for the first time brussel spouts are not disgusting, I think it only fair to let their natural flavors shine. So to the kitchen I go!

Remember this … anything that someone has skillfully created in a restaurant, you can learn to do for yourself at home. Dining out is an opportunity to relax and enjoy the experience of the atmosphere AND the fare. Don’t you deserve that at home too?

Shave brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

Shaved brussel sprout salad in a snap + a versatile lemony white balsamic dressing

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. brussel sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves removed and sprouts shaved (use a mandolin or simply cut very carefully)
  • 1/2 a medium red onion, shaved or cut thinly
  • 1 cup of shaved pecorino cheese
  • 2 tbsp or juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp quality olive oil
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave nectar

What you’ll do:

  1. Toss sprouts, onion and cheese in your favorite gorgeous bowl and set aside
  2. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey until well combined
  3. Whisk in olive oil slowly and until emulsified
  4. Toss sprouts mixture with your dressing
  5. Enjoy!

*Undressed salad last for days in the fridge! Make a batch for the work week.

day 24: sugar, spice + everything nice, well bacon at least

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. Everything is better with bacon. So how on earth could one possibly perfect the already perfected?

You see, I think bacon is like a really wonderful makeup palette (gents, stay with me). A natural beauty with just the right combination of makeup can make you weak in the knees, by merely glancing in your general direction (you know it’s true).

So next time you want your Bloody Mary to truly shine or you’re thinking of a good ole’ fashioned BLT, do yourself a favor and dress it up a bit.

*Though the bacon was delicious and did receive a photo shoot, I found it to be best to simply show ingredients (you try shooting bacon – it’s hard)!

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

Dress up your bacon with a bit of sugar + spice

What you’ll need:

  • 12 pieces of thick sliced bacon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of course ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cayenne pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat to 350 degrees
  2. Layer cookie sheet with bacon (ungreased and in a single layer)
  3. Meanwhile combine the brown sugar, cayenne and pepper
  4. Cook for 12 minutes, then flip the bacon
  5. Coat with the mixture on the uncooked side and return to the oven
  6. Cook another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for a few minutes (if you don’t, you’ll burn your lips like I did).
  7. Enjoy!

day 23: scrambled eggs with ricotta + green onions

Scrambled eggs … pretty basic right? Allow me to share a few discoveries about the ever-so-simple scrambling of eggs … The first being, that if you’re done scrambling in less than 15 minutes, you’re not making them right. I know, it’s a harsh reality and I just learned this myself. It takes some getting used to and a bit of practice. But, I’m happy to assist.

Amazingly fluffy and delicious eggs are cooked on medium-low heat, with a generous amount of butter or olive oil, and they’re not whipped up with a table fork in the pan. Just remember that when you’re whipping up your next batch.

Everyday Scramble with ricotta & scallions

Everyday scramble with ricotta & scallions

What you’ll need:

  • 3 eggs (I used 2 egg whites and 1 with yolk)
  • 3 green onions, green tops only, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 generous spoonfuls of ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
  • crusty bread of your choice (for toast of course)
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

What you’ll do:

  1. Heat skillet to medium-low heat and allow half of the butter to melt
  2. Whip eggs, add a pinch of kosher salt and green onions
  3. Add eggs to skillet and allow to set a bit on one side, add the remaining butter
  4. Fold egg mixture gently with a rubber spatula (don’t over do it)
  5. When almost complete, gently fold in ricotta
  6. Pepper and serve
  7. Enjoy!

day 22: white beans for casey lou, who? (insert a grinch & a rhyme)

I’ve been quite the Grinch this holiday season thus far … completely devoid of all things shiny & red (except my lipstick, of course) & green. No pine or cinnamon taunting the air in my house. It’s been a bit drab. Now, I’m not saying I’m not a fortunate gal at all. Don’t misunderstand. I have a family that loves me. Friends that have evolved into family. Colleagues and acquaintances that have become friends. The cycle is endless.

I think sometimes (definitely not always, but literally sometimes) when we think we have nothing left to give … it’s truly the simple things that make Christmas … indeed what it is. It can be a simple smile, a thoughtful call, a kick in the ass or just being together doing nothing at all. Diary entry complete … time for comfort food!

In all seriousness, my dear friend & colleague mentioned her love of the Southern style white bean … so, in the spirit of the season, I’m sharing my no fuss recipe. How lucky is she?

*Yes, all previous rhymes were intentional & made perfect sense, I might add.

Traditional white beans + fresh herbs

Traditional white beans + fresh herbs

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. dried Great Northern beans
  • 1 smoke ham hock (for you folks who are unfamiliar, it’s by the country ham)
  • 1 lb. country ham seasoning pieces
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cloves peeled garlic
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • a slow cooker (crock pot)

What you’ll do:

  • Place ham hock in the bottom of the crock pot
  • Then pour in sorted and rinsed beans (pick out any gnarly looking ones and discard, then rinse)
  • Place ham pieces on top of beans
  • Cover all with fresh, cold water (about 2 1/2″ above the bean mixture level)
  • Throw in garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves
  • Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Check the beans at 5 for tenderness and seasoning.
  • Serve with hot skillet cornbread, fresh sliced onion, tomatoes & chow chow (really, whatever you please).
  • Enjoy!