Monday, December 28, 2009

Black-eyed Peas for Prosperity in the New Year!

Growing up my family ALWAYS ate black-eyed peas on New Year's day. For those of you not from the South, folk wisdom holds that eating black-eyed peas brings the eater luck (especially financially) in the coming year. My mom strictly enforced this tradition, and because I love beans and weird traditions, I've continued the practice in my home.

Despite my many years of black-eyed pea eating, I never knew the reason behind this tradition, so I turned to google. It seems this tradition, referenced in the Talmud, was brought to the Southern US by Sephardic Jews in the 1700s. The tradition expanded beyond the Jewish community shortly after the Civil War.

The peas are said to represent coins ($$$). They are often cooked with greens, which are said to represent dollars ($$$) and served with cornbread, which represents gold ($$$)! Given the current financial situation I think black-eyed peas are in tall order - they are also nutrient rich and quite affordable, so have some peas and have a Happy New Year!!!

Simple Tasty Black-eyed Peas:
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
1 Large yellow onion, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
4 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil (or some pork fat, this is more "traditional" in the South, though I'm guessing that part of the traditions didn't come from the Jewish emigres)
Water or broth

In a medium stockpot, saute the onions, pepper, and garlic in some olive oil (couple tablespoons) over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent. Drain the soaked peas, add them and the bay leaves to the pot, stir to combine with the onion mixture - cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add enough water or broth to cover the beans, cover pot and let beans simmer on low heat until the peas are very tender, about an hour and a half. Season with salt and pepper once beans are nearly done (adding the salt too soon is said to toughen the peas skins).

**If desired add some chopped collard greens after an hour.

Serve warm with cornbread. Hope this brings you luck, if nothing else it will make your tummy happy :).

P.S. At home the grocery stores always ran out of black-eyed peas around New Year's, probably not such a big deal everywhere, but you might want to get some soon if you want them for New Year's Day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Homemade Hummus

I love chickpeas - in salads, cooked in spiced Indian sauces, toasted like nuts, mashed and fried in falafel, and best of all pureed into a creamy hummus! I've made hummus at home many different ways. I've cooked my own chickpeas, even laboriously peeling the "skin" off each bean for an extra creamy texture. The recipe I'm sharing today uses canned beans, and I like it just as much as(maybe even more than!) the ones I've made from home cooked beans. If you have a food processor, this will come together in less than 5 minutes!

1 15oz. Can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
3 Garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced or pressed
2 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Place drained chickpeas in food processor, pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients. Process until thoroughly combined. With the processor running, slowly pour in some of the reserved chickpea liquid until the desired consistency is reached.

*Sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of chipotles (smoked jalapenos) in adobo sauce -these are canned, look for them near the Hispanic food in your grocery store. They add a nice smokey spicy flavor.

Serve with veggies and/or toasted pita! Yummy for your tummy :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Spinach Pies

On our trips to Chicago we always visit a Lebanese bakery. We buy a ton of thin whole wheat pita bread (it's only $1 a bag and it keeps great in the freezer). They also have a number of speciality baked goods, including spinach pies - a slightly sour mixture of onions and spinach enclosed in a thin pizza-like dough. Alfred loves their spinach pies, and I've been wanting to make him some. Now that the semester is finally over (yes!), I had the time to do it! As you may know I am avoiding wheat right now, so these are out for me (and they smell so good, ah the torture), but they are a special treat for my sweet husband this holiday season!

The dough takes a little time - mostly just waiting for it to rise, but all around these are quite easy to make.

Spinach Pies (Makes 24 pies, I halved the recipe):
11/2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
3/4 C. warm water
31/2 C. flour
1 t. salt
1/2 C. oil
1/2 C. milk (non-dairy for a vegan version)

2lbs. spinach, rinsed and chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 T. Olive Oil
2 T. Lemon juice
3 T. Sumac (this is a middle eastern spice that is both salty and sour, you can substitute with 1 T. salt and little extra lemon juice if you can't get any)
A little black pepper

Mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water let sit a few minutes. To the yeast mixture add the milk, oil, flour, and salt. Knead dough a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour.

Meanwhile combine all of the filling ingredients and let sit while the dough rises.

After an hour, divide the dough into 24 pieces. Use your hand to roll each piece into a ball, and then use a rolling pin to roll out each ball until it is quite thing, and about 8 inches in diameter. Place a heaping spoonful of the filling in the middle of each piece of rolled out dough, gather the edges of the dough on top of the filling and pinch to close (they are supposed to look like a triangle, but you could also just fold the dough over like a hand-pie).

Brush each pie with a little egg glaze (just a beaten egg), and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown! These taste great warm and cold, and they keep well for a few days in the fridge.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Almond Spice Cookies - Wheat and Sugar Free (if you want)!!!

As I posted a little while ago, I'm currently avoiding wheat and sugar/starch to clear up some tummy problems I've been having for the last few months. I've missed having fruit, but I've been enjoying lots of green veggies - collard greens, spinach, etc. I treat myself to carrot juice (Alfred convinced me to try it - it is really good), which seems like fruit juice because it is really sweet.

I've also experimented with baking a few different things to replace the baked goods we all know I love! Elana's pantry ( has been my go to source for wheat free recipes. I've altered a few of them by using stevia (the only sweetener allowed in the anti-candida diet), but I've used a little agave nectar too. Last week I won Elana's cookbook: The Gluten Free, Almond Flour Cookbook (, in a contest on the Sister's Project blog. I can't wait for it to get here!!! I highly recommend her sesame crackers (, and her flax seed focaccia( it is full of fiber and only requires a few ingredients.
Until January 11th Elana is also having a giveaway - you can get a signed copy of her book and a 5 pound bag of almond flour!!! I'm going to enter and you should too, for more info visit

One of my favorite recipes from her website is a sweet treat, the original recipe is for "ginger cookies" ( Her recipe produces a nice chewy cookie, but I can't use very much agave syrup and don't have yacon syrup, so I added an egg to make up for the liquid lost in omitting the syrups, and added some stevia for sweetness. I also added some spices other than ginger. The result is more like little cakes or muffin tops, very tasty little morsels! Because the base "flour" is almond flour/almond meal I call these Almond Spice Cookies. I purchase my almond meal at Trader Joe's, but there are many online vendors, and you can also make your own by grinding almonds to a fine powder in a food processor.

If you or a loved one needs (or wants) to avoid wheat (and sugar), these are a perfect holiday treat! By the way, my gluten-loving hubby enjoys these too!

Almond Spice Cookies:

11/4 C. Almond Meal/Flour
1/4 t. Sea Salt
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1 T. Ground Ginger
1/2 t. Ground Cinnamon
1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
1/4 C. Olive Oil
1 Egg, beaten
1 t. Vanilla Extract
2 T. Agave nectar (could sub honey)
4 Packets "Stevia in the Raw" (if you want to use sugar, substitute 1/4 cup granulated or brown sugar)

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the almond meal, salt, soda, and spices. In a separate bowl (or large liquid measuring cup) combine the oil, egg, vanilla, agave, and stevia. Combine the dry and liquid ingredients. Drop tablespoon sized mounds onto the lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

We've got our menorah and our tree lit up - so we are in full holiday spirit around here!