Thursday, December 29, 2011

A new spin on Black Eyed Peas: Spicy Black Eyed Peas Salsa

Black Eyed Peas for Luck in the New Year 2012

We've always had black eyed peas for our New Years dinner, that and Cherries Jubilee.  I always thought it was for luck and money.  Well, I was right about the luck part anyway.  Turns out, that:

"The Tradition dates back tot he Civil War.  Black-eyed peas were considered animal food.  The peas were not worthy of General Sherman's Union troops. When Union soldiers raided the Confederates food supplies, legend says they took everything except the peas and salted pork.  The Confederates considered themselves lucky to be left with those meager supplies, and survived the winter.  Peas became symbolic of good luck and prosperity."

There are several more reasons people eat Black eyed peas on New Years, look for the link below if you want to find out more information.

One year, I waited too long and was unable to find a single can of black eyed peas.  I was not a happy girl, so I got a bag of them and proceeded to fix them like any other dried bean. Nice idea, except they tasted like cardboard.  Maybe that's even an insult to cardboard.  This year, I have found a recipe my sister sent to my Mom and me an unknown-amount-of-time-ago.  Guess what we are having for New Years this year?  Black eyed Peas made like this!

12/30/2011: Update.  I made this tonight and did not have canned tomatoes, I forgot we had used them for Christmas dinner.  I did have a jar of tomato/basil spaghetti sauce so I poured the whole jar in.  This recipe is really good, I got a lot of rave reviews at the New Year dinner tonight.  

Spicy Black Eyed Peas Salsa:

1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 1/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cans Garlic, basil tomatoes
6 Chopped Jalapenos (can omit if spicy is not for you)
1 tsp salt (optional)
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of allspice
1 TB Tabasco (give or take, or leave out)
3 chicken low sodium bullion cubes 

2 16oz cans black eyed peas drained and rinsed (rinse to get the excess salt & preservatives off)
1 tsp garlic powder or 3 minced cloves
2 TB flour (if Salsa is too runny)
1/2 cup water (if it's not runny enough. grin)

Saute the first 3 ingredients with a little oil until onions are transparent.
Combine tomatoes, and the next 8 ingredients and bring to a simmer
Add the onion mixture, stir simmer until mixture thickens (about 20-30 minutes)
Mixture should have a "sauce"
Add some water if it doesn't
Add the black eyed peas and garlic 
Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until peas are softened

Serve with Chips, corn chips or tortilla scoops

Picture taken from:
Black eyed peas history:
Household tips Examiner

Mississippi Kitchen: Cranberry-Orange Butter

Mississippi Kitchen: Cranberry-Orange Butter

I made a batch of this tonight to take to my friends New Year dinner.  I put it on the table with the deserts and later found it had been moved to the kitchen table where everyone was gathering.  My friend John asked me what it was, and exclaimed how delicious it is.  I told him it was Cranberry-Orange butter.  All eyes got very big, then lots of laughter amid explanations that they had been eating it with a spoon it was so good!  They did not realize it was butter.  It really is THAT good!  Thanks again for the recipe, "Lories Mississippi Kitchen."

Another winner of a recipe my sister found.  This sounds delish, and since I have cranberry, and butter, looks like I'm picking up Orange marmalade at the store tomorrow.  I am serious when I say, these food blogs are making me gain weight!  All these fantastic recipes! 

Link to Mississippi Kitchen

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dangelas Manjar with La Lechera or Sweetened Condensed milk

Delicious Sweet and Savory Treat

My little boys best friend, has an older sister, who is just a sweetheart.  Her name is Dangela and she is so good with Alex and Ben.  She's a lot of fun to hang around, and she has made a delicious treat which she brought me for Christmas.  My favorite things to receive on Christmas are always homemade.  This was a most special gift because Dangela had created it on her own.  I wanted to share this recipe because it is sweet and savory, a lovely combination. 

Dangela is from Chile, but has lived here since she was a little girl.  Her mother, Ana, is a fabulous cook and decorator.  So the apple didn't fall far from the tree where cooking is concerned.   The ingredient in the Manjar is La Lechera.  If you can't find La Lechera, you can use *sweetened condensed milk. 

Dangelas Manjar:
1 can *La Lechera
2 bags unsalted crackers (like Saltines)
Pour La Lechera into a bowl
Crush the crackers very well and add to the bowl
Stir to combine and then shape into balls
Put in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator

*If you don't have La Lechera, then use 1 can sweetened condensed milk,
Place unopened can in hot water and boil for 3-4 hours until it turns a caramel color.
Don't use the easy open can, use the can that you have to use a can opener for, or it will open itself and boil over causing a mess.

Sauteed Brussel sprouts with crispy bacon

Growing up my Mom made Brussel sprouts with a white cream sauce.  They were very good, but I don't know the recipe for those.  I don't think my little boy would enjoy them though, he doesn't like gravy or sauce that much.  Unless of course it's spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce.  I've tried a really good recipe for roasting Brussel sprouts and tried it a couple of times.  The only problem is, like broccoli, if the recipe is overcooked or burned then the smell is awful and hard to get out of the house.  I burned the Brussel sprouts and haven't been able to get past that awful stench.   I've had a carton of Brussel sprouts in the fridge with the intention of trying to roast them again, I just hadn't worked up the nerve yet.   My Mother-in-Law, Sharon, was here with Pop Pop for Christmas.  She is a fantastic cook who is not intimidated by any food.  She created this recipe, on the spot, and there weren't any Brussel sprouts left.  My son didn't like them, but what kid does?  The rest of the adults loved them. 

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Bacon:
I package of Brussel Sprouts
4 slices crispy thick cut bacon
1 can chicken stock
Fresh ground Pepper

Fry the bacon in a skillet until crispy
Take out the bacon and drain on a paper towel
Retain 2 tablespoons bacon grease
Wash the Brussel sprouts and cut off the bottom, peel off any soft wilted leaves then cut in half
Sautee the Brussel sprouts in the bacon grease and add pepper to taste
Once they are a little soft, add the chicken stock
Don't pour in the whole can, add a little at a time as the liquid is absorbed.
You don't want the sprouts soggy
We used about 1/4 of the can of chicken stock
Taste before you add salt, because bacon generally is salted and it might be too much salt if you add
Crumple bacon into the sprouts and serve warm 

Picture taken from:
At the end of the "10 things you only eat at Christmas Time" picture show, there is another article on "Christmas Leftovers".  The Turkey Curry looks delish!

Homemade Nutella Delicious Hazelnut and Chocolate delight!

Growing up as a child of a German mother, we received many treats from Germany from my Omi.  She would send us a box filled with candies, gum and gummy bears.  My brother, sister and I waited excitedly for this box to arrive, wrapped in brown paper and tied shut with white twine.  Once opened the heavenly aroma of German candies wafted out to spark an instant mouth watering experience.  Mom would hand us a few little candies to taste and then keep the rest to give as treats through out the next few months.  While I was in middle school, my Omi got very ill and my Mom took me with her to Germany to take care of Omi.  She recovered nicely, thank the Lord.  While we were there, I rode a bike into town every morning, to get our breakfast.  During the day I would explore on the bike and soon learned that when I went into a store, I was rewarded with a treat.  Soon my lunch consisted of a ride to Frau Nett's bakery to get some stale bread to feed the ducks with, and also a roll for myself.  Down the street I would be given a small bag of Gummy Bears or Mamba candy.  Around the corner and to the butchers, I would be given a piece of freshly cut deli meat.  On to the lake to eat my lunch while feeding the swans and ducks.  Then one day, I was given a Kinderschokolade (Kinder = children, Schokolade = Chocolate) by my Omi.  Oh my goodness, it was delicious.  Since it was made with milk and Hazelnut spread, my mom let me have it almost everyday.  It was delicious.  I remember this chocolate always, especially now that I have a child who has a sweet tooth, just like me! Once back in the states there would be no more until that Christmas box arrived with our bounty of sweets.
Now days, we can purchase a delicious Hazelnut spread called Nutella.  It is made with natural ingredients, but still needs to have some form of preservative to keep it from spoiling.  It's quite good but I have a hard time eating it because of the preservative factor.  Imagine how delighted I was to find a blogger who gave the recipe for HOMEMADE NUTELLA!!! Could it be? Only one way to find out, try it.  I did, and 2 batches later I am thrilled.  Csilla, The eccentric cook, has given me permission to re-post her recipe.  She is from Hungary and writes a lovely blog about cooking with recipes.  You really should look her up, I've included a link to her blog in this one.

The recipe is quite simple and well written, I did add some things that I thought would be helpful to know, as well as giving the conversions from Grams to Ounces.  I've used two of her pictures (how can one improve on a good thing and her pictures are very nice) as shown below.  The one at the top is a picture of my first batch of this fantastic stuff!!!

Homemade Nutella

200 g (7.05 oz) Hazelnuts
1 can condensed milk
255 g (9 oz) Chocolate-the darker the better
1/2 cup hot milk

Roast the Hazelnuts for 10-15 minutes either in the oven or in a dry pan on the stove top. I roasted them in a 325 oven, if you start to smell them, they are about to burn get them out quick!!!

If the nuts have the skin still on them, after you roast them, it will come off easily

Take the nuts out of the oven, or off the stove and let them cool down a little while

When they are no longer hot, (take off the skin) and put in the food processor and start processing them into Hazelnut butter

Depending on the size of your food processor, it could take a while.  If you have a large one (like I did) I put it on high and it only took a few minutes.  I would scrape around the sides and off the bottom from time to time just to make sure it all processed smoothly.

Your Hazelnut butter should look like this:

When you are finished with the Hazelnut butter, leave it in the processor and move on to melting the chocolate.

 Using a double boiler melt the chocolate.  If you don't have a double boiler, you could put water in a sauce pan and place a stainless steel bowl on top to melt the chocolate.

Once the chocolate has melted, pour in the condensed milk (it will get thick but don't worry)

Mix them together

Add the mixture to the Hazelnut butter and process until combined.

If the Nutella is too thick, as Csilla's and mine was, add the milk while processing to combine well.

You may also choose to leave the milk out if you would rather have a thicker spread.

Ta da, Ci si va

This recipe made 4 small Jelly Jars of Nutella.  Anyone who tasted it wanted to take a jar home.  I've made two batches and have only my original jar, and one extra all the others are gone. This is very easy but tastes like you've slaved in the kitchen all day.  You won't have to tell anyone any different.  Let them be impressed by your kitchen skills.  :)

Thank you to Csilla, The eccentric Cook for allowing me to share this with my readers.
Be sure to refrigerate this homemade Nutella since it has milk products in it.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fresh Picked Beauty: All-Natural Peppermint Kissed Lip Tint

Fresh Picked Beauty: All-Natural Peppermint Kissed Lip Tint

This recipe for All Natural Peppermint lip tint is shared by my sister Janine Washle.  You can visit her website for more interesting ideas and gift suggestions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handmade Cinnamon Broken Glass Christmas Candy

I enjoy watching the Cupcake and Cake wars on Food Network.  I find it fascinating when the chefs make their own candy and spin them into fabulous designs.  I may not be able to craft a candy cane, or fantastic flowers or spinning fairies with candy wings, but I can make some delicious cinnamon candy.  I got the recipe off a friend and co-worker who called it Rock Candy.  He would bring bags of it around Christmas and we would all go crazy for it.  He wrote the recipe on a torn piece of paper, that is much stained from years of use.  I suppose I'll print off a new one after I blog it to you all.

I do have some warnings to go with this candy, I learned the hard way.

Warning 1: Try as hard as you can not to have your face or any other body parts close to the hot sugar when you add the cinnamon oil.  A facial is nice, but having pure cinnamon oil infused into your open pores is miserable. It's much worse if it goes up your nose, much worse.  Trust me, I tried to stay away from it tonight and a little got on my face.  My cheek is a little hot, and my hand is red and tingling a bit.  I smell very nicely of cinnamon though.

Warning 2: Try to use a very deep pot, or make sure you have on a shirt you don't mind to ruin with the food color.  Once you drop the food coloring into the hot sugar, it will start sputtering and erupt like a volcano of red dye.

The past few years I used a wooden spoon and was so disappointed that my candy didn't have a nice cinnamon, well honestly, any cinnamon taste to it. This year I used a stainless steel spoon, and  my candy is so nice and Cinnamon flavored.

Ok, with the warnings out of the way, lets move on to the good part.  Making candy!  YUMMY.

Rock Candy or Broken Glass Candy

3 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup white corn syrup
1 cup water
1 small bottle of Cinnamon oil (find in Pharmacy or bulk food store)
Red Food Coloring
Candy thermometer
Sheet pan with sides
aluminum foil (optional)
Powdered sugar

Have the sheet pan prepared before you start boiling the sugar, also have the cinnamon oil bottle opened and close by as well as the bottle of food coloring.  Things move quickly once hard crack stage is reached, be prepared.

Mix sugar, corn syrup and water and bring to a boil
Stir constantly until thermometer reaches 300-310 degrees
Remove from heat
Immediately stir in cinnamon and food coloring
Pour into sheet pan that has been oiled (or place a piece of aluminum foil on sheet pan and butter it)
Let cool
Once cool take the handle of a butter knife, or case knife and crack the candy into pieces
Place in a bowl or zip lock baggy and Roll in powdered sugar

This recipe is very versatile, you can use any sort of flavored oil you like.  Peppermint, wintergreen, anise....likewise, you can use any color food coloring you like as well.

If you are making a Gingerbread house, you can pour the candy into pre-made little molds to make the window glass and "glue" it in with royal icing.  Place a light inside the house (single corded lights can be found at craft shops all around.  They have one socket for a Christmas light bulb) and you've made a magical gingerbread house for Christmas.

You can also form foil into a circle and pour the candy into it to make a lovely pond for skaters to skate upon in front of your gingerbread house or Christmas village.  Simply tint the candy blue instead of red, once cool dust lightly with powdered sugar to look like snow covered ice.  My Mom always did those things when she made our Gingerbread houses. She really is creative.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dance of the Sugar Plum candies!!

Often I've heard the song, "Twas the Night Before Christmas", with the lyrics;

"The children were nestled
All safe in their beds
While visions of sugarplums
Danced in their heads"

I love that old song, it always creates an image of Christmas magic with elves, candy, stars and Santa dancing in the dreams of sleeping children. I've often wondered what a sugar plum was and how delicious it must be, if the children dream of them the night before Christmas.
Children love cartoons, and I have not grown out of that love myself.  I do enjoy cartoons, and don't mind the least that my child wants to watch them all the time.  One of my favorite cartoons is "Max and Ruby", a story of a little boy bunny and his perfectionist sister.  In one episode, Ruby and her friend Louise are giving a "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies", ballet recital to Grandma and Max.  The refreshments include, you guessed it, sugar plums.  I was kind of disappointed to see that they were sugar coated plums.  What a bummer.
One day, while shopping in Whole Foods (my favorite grocery store ever), I saw a display of Christmas treats.  I noticed a box of sugar plums.  Now the moment of truth.  I turned the box around to read the ingredients, to my pleasant surprise, it was not a box of sugar coated plums.  Score.  I purchased them and went to the car to see if the sugar plums held up to the Christmas song hype.  They did and then some.  Now, I wasn't going to spend a ton of money buying these sugar plums, so I would have to learn to make them.  I searched the web for a recipe that was similar to the ones I had finally found.  There were many recipes, but the one I am posting, with a few minor changes, is the one that included all the ingredients I really liked.  
The base recipe is by Treva Bedinghaus, Guide.

I added a couple things which I will include under the original ingredients, and italicized. 


2 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1 bag semi-sweet chocolates
Whole cloves


Preheat oven to 400. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then finely chop.
Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (ginger, cardamon) in a medium mixing bowl.  Add almonds, apricots and dates and mix well.
Pinch off rounded teaspoon size pieces of mixture and roll into the shape of a plum and add a clove to the top as the stem.  (Rinse hands often, as mixture is very sticky.) Roll in sugar, then refrigerate in single layers between sheets of waxed paper in airtight containers for up to 1 month.  Their flavor improves after ripening for several days.

I actually rubbed my hands with a little butter and that helped keep the mixture from sticking.  Before I formed the sugar plums, I used a double boiler and melted the bag of semi-sweet chocolates.  Then as I formed the mixture into balls, I dropped in the melted chocolate and covered them.  I dropped the chocolate coated balls onto a lined cookie sheet and my little boy took a spoon and sprinkled (dumped....whichever you choose) colored sugar on the chocolate (purple would be ideal).  I didn't use the confectioners sugar. 
A few notes for those who can learn from my mistakes.  I, mistakenly, thought I could take a cup of dried apricots and when they were finely chopped by the food processor, that it would still be one cup. duh, not so.  As my Mom told me, it will vary, best is to finely chop and measure appropriately.  Same with the dates.  If I had chopped the dried fruits first, thereby getting the correct amount added to the mixture, it would have tasted better.  Don't get me wrong, they taste good, but a little too much nut flavor for my taste. 
My Mom also had a great idea, take a pitted prune (dried plum) and use a melon baller and scoop out the middle, then stuff the sugar plum mixture into the prune shell and THEN dip in chocolate.  Too much detail work for me.  I like short and sweet recipes, not complications....but, for those of you who don't mind I think it's a great idea.  Let me know how it turns out!!!

More lyrics: