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Monday, January 2, 2017

Mediterranean Blackeye Pea Soup

In the Southern part of the U.S. it is traditional to eat black eye peas for New Years Day.  They are said to bring luck.  In lieu of cooking them with ham bone and seasoned with onions, tabasco sauce, etc.... I have opted to have them in a healthier soup.  It's southern, but southern Europe is the roots.  I ate this soup on so many cold rainy days as a child.  My mom added great northern beans and giant lima beans to the black eye peas.  She did not add cilantro or spinach, but I know she would have loved it.  For New Years Day, it's black eye peas as the only pea/bean.

2 8 oz cans of black eye peas (unseasoned) rinsed and drained. You can use fresh if time permits.
1 Medium onion (chopped)
3 carrots, cut in this slices
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped(you can use any color, I just like the yellow since I have red and orange vegetables)
1 or 2 medium russet potatoes (cut in bite size cubes)
2 celery stalks, cut in thin slices
1 small can tomato puree (about a cup)
1 can diced tomatoes. I like a lot of tomatoes, so I use about 2 cups)
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic or garlic powder or salt
water, chicken, or vegetable broth as needed (probably 3 cups or so) You can always add more.
salt and pepper to taste
fresh spinach
fresh cilantro
lemon zest and juice if desired
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion,, celery, bell pepper in one or two tablespoons olive oil until the tender.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover until potatoes and carrots are tender.  You can also do what my mom did and leave one potato cut in half.  After the soup is ready, mash the halved potato and return it to the pot.  I happen to love cilantro, so after the soup is ready, I serve it in a bowl and add the fresh cilantro to the bowl.  I also add fresh spinach leaves that have rolled and cut into shreds. The amount you use is personal taste.  I also grate lemon zest on the top and add slice black olives (not Kalamata for this recipe, but plain black olives).  This would be great with feta cheese and hard bread on the side.   The wonderful thing about this soup is that you can adjust it the way you like it. Don't like carrots or celery? That's fine.   Soup is all to taste anyway.  You could also add hot pepper flakes if you like a hotter soup.  If you change the peas to lentils and the potatoes to rice, you have another great soup! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pistachio Croissant

I have to visit some doctors a few times a year.  It is not close to home but about 25 miles away. (That's just a normal daily drive for many that live in my neighborhood). Of course today was raining so the excitement of being stuck in traffic was a little more burdensome than usual (zero traffic to work and only 11 miles away). After my visit today, I decided to go to Alons, one of my favorite bakeries.  Being a pastry and bread lover since childhood, this is the equivalence of getting lost in a candy store.  I'd rather have baked goods than candy.  The aroma wafting out of the door of the patio pulled me in like one of those floating cartoon characters when they are taken with something delightful.

Standing at the croissant-bagel-5 grain-multi grain-gluten-free-health nut-pound cake-baguette counter, I immediately knew my order.  No, I didn't even see what they had to offer, didn't look twice, but calmly spoke my order, "one pistachio croissant...please".  There was zero hesitation, absolutely none.  A man was quite amused at my decisiveness of my immediate choice and said that he had never had one.  I think he was some kind of corporate big-wig, food critic, reviewer, or someone of that nature because he was in a suit and said something about visiting the kitchen. After she told him that they would put him to work, I replied, "I'd love to work in the kitchen!" Unbeknownst to her, I was quite serious about at least visiting the kitchen, perhaps sitting on a stool and taking notes.  While paying for my "brunch", I saw the same gentleman holding a plate. I asked him if he was going to try the croissant to which he replied, "absolutely!".  Guess I CAN be a salesman sometimes.  I'm just that passionate about food.

Croissant in hand, I ventured over to the coffee counter, guided by aroma of fresh coffee. The largest coffee I can get in a mug is my usual order.  No paper cup for me!  I'm so glad they have the option of a "real" ceramic mug! I believe coffee tastes much better.  I'll have to ask my son (a chemist) if the waxy material in cups can effect the taste of the coffee.  I think it does.  Even the simplest of meals needs to be fully enjoyed so the croissant found a plate, albeit a plastic one, and real silverware.  Something about eating food out of a bag just doesn't do it justice.  I found a seat, grabbed my book, took a discreet photo (photography is a hobby), and that first sip of coffee perfection put a calm over my soul. Then, the scent of the first bite as I cut into the crispy layers of that pistachio croissant was heavenly! It had probably been since my last visit 6 months ago that I had one.

For years, I've been eating a healthy diet, with minimal processed foods. I can't remember the last time I had a packaged cookie as I usually make them myself (oatmeal, cranberry, walnut is a favorite). If I'm going to eat a pastry though, I want the best quality pastry and this is one of my favorites.  I will say though, that in years past, I could not have left the bakery without a huge bag of pastry, breads, honey, jams, etc.... I left empty handed today and felt a pang of sadness in my heart. It will just make it more special each time that I do visit.  I will say though that they do have very healthy selections of ready made lunch foods if one chooses to go the "healthy" route. I'll write about that next time.  Me, I allow myself to indulge in one of my life's favorite pleasures... pistachio or chocolate croissants. I could have had both plus a pain au raisin, but I didn't! So proud.   I will drive on weekends for pastry, so if you live near there, give me a call.


Ingredients I must have in my kitchen (It's a long list, but I try and have these items on hand)

  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Cheese
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Bread
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Greek Oregano
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Lemon ( At least 3 or 4 ALWAYS)
  • Peppers (Wax, Jalapeno, banana)
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Regular Olive Oil
  • Rice
  • Salad Ingredients
  • Sea Salt
  • Spanish Olives
  • White Balsamic Vinegar