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Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Little Bit Better in 2015

Dramatic new year's resolutions are not really my thing.  I find that starting a new chapter in life with some dramatic statement of what must be accomplished in the next 365 days, to have a negative effect on me. Something akin to asking a young child not to touch anything as you browse through the china department at Macy's.  The second you warn "Do not touch!", that small hand immediately reaches for the fragile, long stemmed wine goblet on the display table.  It usually takes just one close call in the china department, for you to make a little change in how you shop, thus ensuring a more pleasant experience in the future.  If only disastrous resolutions could be recognized and resolved so easily.

In recent years, I have chosen to not set one fantastic and most likely unattainable goal.  Rather,  I have taken on the mantra of "a little bit better".  This is a broad, yet realistic way to look at the road ahead.  We can all do a little bit better in everything we do.  How we eat. How we treat others. How we take care of our family.  The list is endless.  I go to bed each night reflecting on howI can be a little be better tomorrow and I now start each new year thinking how I can be a little bit better than I was last year.

A perfect example of one thing I did a little bit better in 2015 than I did in 2014, was how I prepared my pot of lucky black-eyed peas.  Anyone who has read my blog or tasted my food, knows that I focus on making great tasting food that is better for you.  But perhaps, you have also noticed that there are some things that I refuse to change, like my grandmother's chicken casserole or the fact that I will never be as happy with a bowl of whole wheat or veggie spaghetti in lieu of traditional pasta.  There are some things that you just can't mess with.  Another one of these things, I thought would never change, was my pot of lucky black-eyed peas.  I have been cooking my dried beans with a leftover ham bone or a ham hock or a smoked turkey wing.  This year,  I found myself with no leftover ham bone and I just could not bring myself to buy a ham hock or a turkey wing.  What I truly wanted was a meal that I could eat on all week, guilt free.   For this, I turned to a favorite kitchen staple, smoked paprika, in order to create a dish that is festive enough for New Year's day and nourishing enough for the rest of the week.

I hope you all will find a way to make 2015 a little bit better than 2014 and always remember to make every plate something to be passionate about.

Little Bit Better Black-eyed Peas:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeños, diced (remove ribs and seeds if you don't like it too spicy)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 16oz bag dried black-eyed peas
1 bottle Lager Beer (This can be substituted with an equal amount of water of stock)
2 quarts vegetable stock, divided

Step One:
Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions, peppers and smoked paprika.  Cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are softened, but not caramelized, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for another minute.

Step Two:
Next add beans, beer and 6 cups of stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for an hour over low heat.  After the first hour, check moisture in the pot.  If beans are looking dry and remaining stock as needed.  Beans will take about 2 hours to cook through.  Check pot periodically through out cooking time and stir occasionally to make sure beans to not stick to the bottom of the pot

Serve on top of brown rice, quinoa or any other grain of choice.

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