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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Traditions

Tomorrow will be a new year! There are so many traditions that I think are fun. In the south, we have some eating traditions. Black eyed peas are for good luck and any kind of greens (spinach, turnip, or collard) will bring money in the new year. I'm not really superstitious, but I will eat these "just in case". It's the time for resolutions, which I no longer make. Well, I can't keep them but for a few weeks or so. I hope that by next New Year's Eve I will be able to say that it was "my best year ever!".

I am going to a party tonight where everyone brings something to eat. I always mull over in my head over these events as I never know what to make. I was going to make homemade domathes (Greek stuffed grape leaves), but a lot of people are afraid to try them. I think I'll save making them for a time when a lot of relatives will be present, or at least a few people that I know can eat them by the handful. I'm one of those people. I can sit and eat tons of them. I tried to think of something different, yet familiar enough that people would like. I have some canned beans in the house, so I decided to make a salsa. Being that tomorrow is New Years, I decided to use black eye peas too. I usually don't measure many ingredients when making salsa, but I did measure these.

1 16 oz can black eye peas (drained and rinsed)
1 25.11 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 of a large green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped Spanish olives (stuffed with pimentos)
2 green onions (sliced thinly)
8 Jalapeno slices, finely chopped
1 4 oz can green chilies (drained)

I put the above ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, I whisk the following ingredients:

Juice of one lime
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one clementine (you can use 1/4 cup fresh orange or pineapple juice too)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 cloves garlic minced

Combine the ingredients and mix with the beans. Chill until serving time. Let come to room temperature before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year! Let me know some of your New Year traditions. I've heard there is going to be a "running with the suitcase" at this party. It means more travel in your future (from Colombia).

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I like all kinds of squash. I think that the yellow crookneck squash is my favorite. It was really the only kind of squash we ate when I was young. Not many variations on the way that we cooked it. Even now, it's a comforting winter dish.

It's really one of those "no need to measure" recipes that anyone can do. Basically it's just a few ingredients: squash, onion, tomato, and if you like potatoes (yes, I LIKE). I try to purchase the smallest yellow squash available as they are more tender and the interior seeds are not tough at all.

I dice and saute a medium onion (preferably Vidalia since they are so sweet---and I'm from Georgia) in a pot. Probably two or three tablespoons of olive oil (I don't use extra virgin for this part). I saute at a low heat until the onions are tender. Salt and pepper can be added. Wash and slice the squash into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. For one onion, I would probably have 8 small squash. Add the squash to the pot and add 1 16 oz can tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes (15 oz). During the summer, I always add chopped summer tomatoes as the taste is so good. During the winter, I just use canned tomatoes. Add two large Russet (baking potatoes) that have been peeled and chopped into one inch pieces. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and tomato sauce, bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender. My mother used to take out some of the potatoes, mash them with a fork, and return them to the pot to have a thicker broth. It's a great dish to have on a cold winter evening. I sometimes put it in a soup bowl and eat it as a soup. You can also serve with a slotted spoon as a vegetable side dish.

Another way that I enjoy squash is the way my former mother in law used to cook it. They had a huge garden with many varieties of fresh vegetables. She would use the larger squash to make fried squash. I think that she would use a combination of vegetable oil and bacon grease in her cast iron skillet. The squash would be sliced into rings, dipped in cornmeal, and placed in the oil to fry. I think the heat was low as she would cover the squash to get it cooked through then, raise the heat, for the final crisping and browning of the squash.

On their land, they also grew zucchini. I will admit that I ate more than my fair share of zucchini bread. I liked it, but have not made any in years. I guess I ate more than my share during that time. When using zucchini, I like the small young ones. They can also be sliced into rings, coated with flour, and sauteed in a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil. After frying, they are delicious sprinkled with a balsamic and oil vinaigrette, then sprinkled with sea salt. It's a different twist on fried zucchini.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Varsity

Anyone who is a native of Atlanta, GA has been to the Varsity restaurant at least once in their lives. If not, WHY NOT? It's the world's largest drive in restaurant! Packed when there is a game at Georgia Tech, or any other events going on in the city. It's a fun place to visit just to watch the people. My favorite since childhood has been a chili steak with fries and a coke. With Atlanta being the home of Coca-Cola, I have always thought that the Varsity had the best cokes in town. Is it the crushed ice, the atmosphere of the place, or that coke just compliments a burger and fries?

The Varsity has it's own lingo from the welcome at the counter of "whatta ya have?" to ordering a "chili steak" (hamburger with chili) or a "P.C." (plain chocolate milk). They have a menu of lingo that is quite interesting and amusing. Why anyone would want a "P.C." when they have the best cokes in town is beyond me. We took our children there when they were young and sometimes I just have to have a Varsity meal. Luckily, there are several locations in the Atlanta area. There are several rooms for dining. Each room has a television on different stations. Watch a game, hear the news, etc..... Always a good way to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you. I don't think I've ever noticed if the "soaps" on the channels.

I know someone who used to live in Texas with family here in Atlanta. He would drive straight to the Varsity when he hit the city. If you are ever visiting the down town Atlanta area, you can ask practically anyone where the Varsity is located and you will get directions with a smile.

After all of this writing about the Varsity, I'll have to go soon. I just hope to go with someone who likes the onion rings as I have to have one or two with my meal.


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