Luck & Money Soup

luck_money soup

 

A new year is fast approaching and with every new year I’m reminded of my grandmother requiring us to eat peas (for luck in the new year) and greens (for money). She served her peas and greens as sides to a big country meal. Lately, I’ve been incorporating mine into a one-dish meal so I don’t start the new year off with a dinner loaded with butter, buttermilk, starchy creamed corn, fried pork chops, etc.

So as this day before New Year’s Eve draws to a close, I’m about to drag out my faithful Le Creuset covered dutch oven (mine’s not fancy, I bought it at the thrift store) and soak the peas overnight. If you don’t have time to soak the peas, use the trick I use at work. Bring water to a boil on the stove over high heat. Pour in the peas and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. Pour through a colander and rinse peas well. Then add back to the pot and proceed with the recipe. This works for any type of dried bean or pea but you may have to cook the dish a little longer than the recipe says to get your peas nice and tender.

  • 2 cups dry black eyed peas, picked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner, or 1 smoked ham hock (available in the meat department of any grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped fine
  • 1/2# ham, diced (I usually use leftover from Christmas if any is still left)
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar

If time allows, put rinsed peas in a stock pot and cover with water (allow about 2″ above the peas). Cover pot and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time, look at my hint above, or you can use canned peas.

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, heat canola oil to medium high temperature. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery, garlic and carrot and saute for 2-3 minutes more, until garlic is fragrant but not browned.

To the vegetables, add the peas, chicken broth, ham bone or hock, thyme, bay leaves, collards and the diced ham. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Once the peas are tender, remove the ham bone or hock and the bay leaves. Get any meat left on the bone or hock and return it to the pot of soup. With a large spoon, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot (I usually mash about 1/3 of them) and this will develop a creamy texture to your soup and thicken it slightly.

Just prior to serving, stir in the cider vinegar. Serve in bowls with a piece of cornbread. If desired, you can serve over cooked white rice for a more filling meal.

Serves about 8, or plenty for dinner with leftovers for lunch!

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Creamy Tomato-Basil Pasta with Chicken

I’ve been asked to offer more pasta dishes at the Chef’s Table in the cafe at work, so this week I’m making a rich and creamy tomato basil pasta with a small side salad dressed with my great grandmother’s simple Italian dressing. This is a one-dish dinner for those of you looking for something quick and easy to prepare after work.

  • 3 cups uncooked Penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato vinaigrette (in bottle on dressing aisle of grocery store, Kraft makes one, I prefer the Publix brand)
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken tenders
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth (from can)
  • 1 tsp each black pepper and garlic powder
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 4oz Neufchatel cheese, cubed (Philadelphia makes one that’s available near the cream cheese on the dairy aisle of the grocery store, comes in an 8oz block so you can make this recipe twice from one)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside in a large bowl (or I personally just put it back in the pot I cooked it in and use that in place of a bowl for easy cleanup).

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken tenders and cook 4-6 minutes or until thoroughly cooked through. Remove the tenders and dice them into bite-size chunks. Add the wine to the pan to “deglaze”, swirling around and scraping up any burnt bits that are on the bottom of the pan. Add the vinaigrette, spinach, grape tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken broth and the Neufchatel cheese in that order, then add the garlic powder and black pepper. Turn heat down to medium low and cook, stirring constantly, until a creamy thick sauce is produced (3-4 minutes). Add the diced chicken to the sauce and combine.

Pour the sauce/chicken mixture over the pasta and toss well to combine. Sprinkle each plate with the shredded Parmesan just prior to serving.

Serves 4

Simple Italian Vinaigrette:

This is how my great grandmother made a simple Italian vinaigrette to dress salads on a daily basis.

Put 1 clove of garlic in a coffee cup. Add 1/2 tsp salt and crush the garlic and salt together with the end of any kitchen tool that’s blunt enough to do so. Add the juice of 1 lemon and enough olive oil to incorporate.