Friday, December 28, 2012

Black Eyed Peas & Cabbage: A New Year's Day Tradition

Many cultures have their own traditions and superstitions about the New Year.  My family is no exception.  We eat black eyed peas and cabbage every New Year's Day.  The black eyed peas represent health and the cabbage (green) represents wealth.  I have never missed out on this tradition.  Ever.  When my husband took me to New York to visit his family for Christmas and New Years, I searched every market till I found a can of black eyed peas.  Then I picked up some cole slaw from a deli.  It wasn't the tastiest meal, but I kept up tradition.  My Maw Maw Ida would've been proud.  She was very superstitious!  She even took the first leaf off the head of cabbage and nailed it up over her front door for good luck.  So, as you can see, the tradition has been ingrained.

Let me tell you something, cabbage was never my favorite thing to eat.  Especially smothered cabbage.  My Mama used to cook it all the time and boy did it stink!  Me and my brother could smell it from out in the yard.  Ugh!  However, as I've gotten older, I've found new ways to cook it and actually like it now.  It's even great just shredded on tacos or on top of a pulled pork sandwich.

Black eyed peas, on the other hand, are one of my favorites.  Especially when my Mama cooked them with the ham bone left over from Christmas dinner.  The sweetness of the ham with the earthiness of the peas...just so good!

Here are a few recipes you can make on New Years Day:

You've probably heard of stuffed cabbage.  It's ground beef and seasonings rolled up in cabbage leaves and baked in a tomato based sauce.  This recipe gives you all the flavors of stuffed cabbage without all the stuffing and rolling.  It just simmers together in a pot.  Easy!


1 lb ground beef
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp pepper
1 small head cabbage, shredded

Brown ground beef.  Drain.  Add onion and cook for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add stewed tomatoes & tomato paste and stir to break up.  Stir in water, parsley, salt, oregano, sugar & pepper.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Add half cabbage and cook, covered 5 minutes.  Add remaining cabbage and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

If you cook a ham for Christmas, save the bone.  Put it in a large freezer bag and freeze it.  Take it out a few days before New Years to thaw and use it to make your black eyed peas.  It gives them such a good flavor! If you don't have a ham bone you can buy ham steaks and dice them up or even use bacon.  Bacon will give the peas a smoky flavor, while ham gives them a salty sweetness.  Your call.


1 lb dried black eyed peas
ham bone (or bacon, or diced ham)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
cajun seasoning (or salt and pepper)
chicken broth (enough to cover the peas)

The night before you want to cook these, soak the peas in a big bowl of water.  The next day, drain and rinse them.  Put them in a slow cooker.  Add ham bone (or chopped bacon or ham), onion, garlic.  Add enough broth to just cover the peas.  If you add too much, they won't be creamy.  Season to taste with cajun seasoning.  Put on the lid and cook on high for about 4 hours.  Don't take off the lid or stir or anything during this time.  After 4 hours, remove lid and stir.  Smash some of the peas against the side of the slow cooker.  Then, stir.  Do this several times.  This will help the peas get creamy.  Put the lid back on and let cook for another hour.  Remove the ham bone.  Serve with rice, if desired.

So, try these recipes on New Year's Day.  I hope they bring you health and wealth for 2013 and beyond.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thin Mints!

Have you ever had Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies?  They are so good!  Chocolaty, minty, and crispy all at the same time!  Yum!  Well, today I am making a version of these that are so ridiculously simple to make that you won't believe it.  Partly because of the unexpected ingredient in the recipe.  But, trust me, they taste just like the Girl Scout cookies.  Chocolate and mint go so well together and are perfect flavors for a Christmas treat!  Another in the line up of goodies that make a great a gift (if you don't eat them all yourself).  You'll definitely want to give these a try.


1 12oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (odd ingredient, but so good!)
1 peppermint candy cane, crushed

Using a double boiler (or microwave) gently melt the chocolate.  Stir.  Blend in the peppermint extract.

 Dip crackers in melted chocolate, coating completely.  Gently shake off excess chocolate.

 Place on wax paper-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with crushed candy cane.

 Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set and firm.

See, I told you these were easy!  And you won't believe how much they taste like the original.  They make a wonderful gift.  I've packed these up in Christmas tins with pretty tissue paper and given them as gifts to my kids teachers.  They loved them!  If you need something to bring to a party, these are perfect.  You can make them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oreo Truffles!

Who among us does not enjoy a stack of Oreos with a glass of milk?  Unless you're a health nut (or a liar) you love Oreos.  I know, they are not the best thing in the world for you, but this series is about Christmas treats.  So treat yourself (and your friends & family) to this next recipe, made with an entire package of Oreos!

My daughter loves these.  She wanted to bring them to her class Christmas party yesterday, so she helped me make them.  Here's how we did it:


1 package Oreos, divided
1 (8oz) block cream cheese, softened
1 package white or chocolate almond bark (candy coating found in baking section at grocery store)

Take out 9 Oreos and finely crush them in a food processor; set aside.  You can use these as garnish on top of the truffles (We did not use these for garnish this time.  We wanted these to be little snowballs, so we used blue sugar instead)  Crush the remaining Oreos to fine crumbs.  Place the crumbs in a big bowl and add the softened cream cheese (make sure it's at room temperature or it will be too hard to mix!)  Mix until well blended.  Roll mixture into 1 inch balls (we used a small scoop to ensure they were all the same size)

After you've scooped them out, roll them with your hands so they will be pretty and round.  Then put them in the fridge to firm up.  Meanwhile, melt the almond bark according to the package directions.  You can do it in the microwave or a double-boiler.  We used the white almond bark.  Once it was melted, we put half in a separate bowl and tinted it green with food coloring.  Then we added about 1/4 tsp peppermint extract.  That way, half of our truffles would be mint flavored.

Once the balls have firmed up a little in the fridge, dip each in the melted coating.  Use a fork so the excess coating can drip off.

Using a toothpick, place the truffles onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Immediately sprinkle with reserved crumbs or sugar to garnish.  If you wait, the garnish won't stick because these start to firm up pretty quickly.

Once they are all dipped and garnished, refrigerate for about 1 hour to set.  Store leftovers in fridge.

The mint green truffles taste like Junior Mints candies!  Here's what they looked like:

A great way to package these for gifts is to put each into a mini cupcake liner.  Then wrap them up in a cellophane bag with a pretty bow.

So, there is the recipe for Oreo Truffles.  These are so rich and delicious!  They are perfect to put out for a party and make a great gift.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stained Glass Cookies

Next, in my series of Christmas treats is a really fun, really pretty project.  It may look difficult, but it's not.  I thought it would be hard, too, at first.  I've actually had this recipe for years and never attempted it because I figured it would be too much trouble.  But, something made me give it a try and I'm so glad I did.  It was easy and these cookies turn out beautiful!  Here's how I did it:

*Note:  you will need aluminum foil, cookie cutters - large and small sizes.


Sugar cookie dough (store-bought or use my recipe from the Christmas Cookie post)
Jolly Rancher candies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil.  Roll out the cookie dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out desired shapes.  Transfer to foil-lined cookie sheets.  Using a smaller cookie cutter, cut out centers of the cookies.  (you can bake the centers at another time and make mini cookies or re-roll them with the scraps of dough to make more cookies)
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden and almost cooked through.

Meanwhile, place like-colored Jolly Ranchers into small zip bags and crush them with a rolling pin or small pot.

Fill cutout centers of the cookies with the crushed candy.  Return the cookie sheet to the oven for 2 minutes or until the candies are melted and smooth.  Do not overbake or the candy will lose it's color.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

  Then, carefully peel the aluminum foil away from the cookies.

They turn out so pretty!  Perfect for Christmas!  You can see through them, just like stained glass.

So, don't be intimidated by these cookies like I was.  As you can see, they are so simple to make.  And wouldn't these be pretty all boxed up as a gift?  They'll think you're Martha Stewart when they see these!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mrs. Tommy Jo's Pound Cake

Growing up, my church would hold "Dinner on the Grounds" once a month.  I would get so excited for these church potlucks, not because of the cookies or brownies, like most kids.  No, I couldn't wait for Mrs. Tommy Jo's pound cake.  It was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted!  So buttery and wonderful that it made me wolf down the myriad of casseroles on my plate just so I could be first in line for dessert.  My Mama just recently revealed that she had gotten the recipe from Mrs. Tommy Jo, who is now an angel no-doubt making her heavenly pound cake for the Lord.  I baked one right away and sure enough, it brought back all those memories of church, friends and fellowship.  A perfect cake for Christmas!  So, I thought I'd share it in my month-long series of Christmas treats.  It's perfect for taking to a pot luck (obviously) and it makes a great gift.   Here's the recipe:


3 cups + 4 TBS plain flour
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
5 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Mix in vanilla.  Alternately add milk and flour mixture as follows:  Add 1 cup flour, mix.  Then 1/2 cup milk, mix.  Then 1 cup flour, mix.  Then 1/2 cup milk, mix.  Then, the last of the flour and mix well.  Grease a bundt pan.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Then turn it put onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

This cake turns out buttery and dense - it's the perfect cake!  You'll love it!  You can dust it with powdered sugar if you like, but I think it's great just as it is.

Pound cake is nostalgic and classic and traditional - just like Christmas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coconut Joy Bars

I've decided that all this month I am going to be blogging about Christmas treats!  What could be better?  Every post will be a delicious goody that you can make for your family, bring to a get-together, or give away as gifts.  I've already shown you how I make my sugar cookies.  Today I want to show you how I make a homemade version of a Mounds or Almond Joy in bar-form.  These are so rich and delicious!  I made them for Thanksgiving.  I needed to use some leftover coconut milk, because I made my Daddy his favorite Coconut Cream Pie and it only uses half a can.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and gave it a shot.  They were a hit!  Here's how I did it:

This recipe make an 8x8 square pan.  You can easily double the recipe and make it in a 9x13 pan.


1/2 a (14oz) bag of shredded coconut
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 TBS powdered sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/4 + 1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 TBS + 1/2 tsp cornstarch*
1/2 can coconut milk, stir it well first
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

*This may seem like a weird amount of cornstarch, but this is half of 1/3 cup.  So if you double the recipe, use 1/3 cup cornstarch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast 1/2 cup of the coconut until lightly golden on the edges, stirring often.  Be careful not to burn it!  Line a 8x8 square baking dish with foil (let the foil extend over the side a bit) and butter the foil.  In a food processor, finely grind the toasted coconut.  Add flour, powdered sugar, and a small pinch of salt.  Pulse to blend.  Add room temperature butter.  Pulse until blended.  With a spatula, spread dough in an even layer into prepared dish.  Bake 25 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Here's what the baked crust looks like:

While the crust is cooling:  In a medium-sized pot, whisk granulated sugar, cornstarch and a small pinch of salt.  Whisk in coconut milk until smooth.  Turn on the heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently.  Simmer for 2 minutes or until very thick, whisking the whole time.  Remove from heat and fold in the untoasted coconut.  Here's what it will look like:

Cool this slightly, then spread it over the cooled crust.  Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until almost completely melted.  Stir until smooth.  This does not take long.  Spread the melted chocolate over the coconut filling in the pan.

Chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.  Use the foil to lift out of the pan.  Cut into small bars.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.  Here's what the finished bars look like:

They taste like a Mound's bar!  Yum!

If you want to make them more like an Almond Joy bar you can make these variations:  Use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet and sprinkle some slivered almonds over the coconut filling before you spread on the chocolate.

So, there you have it.  Coconut Joy Bars are another sweet treat you can make this holiday season.