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McClellan: Black-eyed peas for new year luck

Dec. 27, 2017 at 4 a.m.


Well, it's all over but the shouting — oh wait, we still have New Year's celebrations and the Super Bowl.

In the calendar of my mind, the food holidays stretch from Halloween until Valentine's Day. And as you are well aware, each of these times of celebration starts within 30 minutes of the end of the last one.

For example, on midnight of Halloween, stores begin stocking for Thanksgiving and Christmas. By Dec. 26, Valentine's items, including candy, cards and 6-foot tall stuffed bears with a red ribbon and a heart, will be on the shelves. I understand the marketing, but I don't exactly like it. It seems like we are enjoying the moment less. All right, sermon over.

Now, let's talk about ways we can pack in a few more calories before the year is over.

I remember well the excitement of staying up to ring in the new year in in my young and foolish days (like two or three years ago). Now, our recliners, a cup of something hot to drink and maybe watching a celebration on TV are excitement enough.

However, old habits die hard, and I still believe in preparing a batch of black-eyed peas in some form or fashion to eat on New Year's Day. I really like various dips, relishes and salads made with these truly Southern legumes. I will not bore you once again about the history (as I have found in various references) of why we would not dare go through the 24 hours of New Year's Day without eating at least a tablespoon of black-eyed peas.

Instead, I am going to share a few ways to prepare this vegetable that are a little more interesting than just cooking them up with salt pork.

The first is a recipe from my long-time friend with whom I taught in Pasadena more than 50 years ago (sorry, Shirley to divulge this info). A lot has changed in both of our lives since those innocent days of our youth. All this time, though, Shirley has continued to provide me with wonderful recipes. This is what we are having for our first day of the year for lunch or dinner.

Shirley's Black-eyed Peas Delicious

3 cans (15 ounces each) black-eyed peas

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt and pepper

1/2 cup cooking oil

1 large bell pepper, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

1 bay leaf, crushed

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

Cook canned beans with 1 clove garlic (halved) and salt and pepper. Just before serving, heat oil in skillet, add 2 cloves mashed garlic, bell pepper, onion and bay leaf. Add vinegar and additional salt and pepper if desired. Pour vegetable mixture into peas. Blend and serve. Makes about 5-6 servings.

Shirley says that she always serves this with jalapeno cornbread.

One of my favorite jalapeno cornbread recipes is this one I threw together when I was in a hurry — as usual. I wrote down the recipe, so it is one I included in my third cookbook.

Mexican Mixed-up Cornbread

2 6-ounce packages cornbread mix (I use "corn kits" because they are not sweet)

1 1/2 cups cream-style corn

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sliced or chopped canned jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Mix cornbread mix, corn and eggs. Spread one-half of mixture in a 9 inch-by-13 inch greased pan. Top with peppers, and spread remaining mixture over the pepper layer. Top with cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 25-28 minutes. Makes 7-8 large servings.

Happy and Blessed New Year to you.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist and has written three self-published cookbooks. Her column appears in the News-Journal's Taste section each Wednesday. Write her at bayrm12@gmail.com or in care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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