Category Archives: Cooking

It’s Not Too Late …

… to start your New Year off right!

So, did January First with all the bells and whistles, dropping spheres and stunning pyrotechnics slip past you? Did the hours in the day shrink as the demands on your calendar went berserk?

Never fear. Fortunately, there is such a thing as a Legal Holiday – so you have options.

January 2nd is not only a legal holiday, but this year it is the one and only day when you can watch the Tournament of Roses Parade since it was decreed wayyy back in 1893 that no such parade would ever take place on a Sunday.

(It’s true – – https://www.pasadenaweekly.com/2016/12/29/never-on-sunday/  )

Well, if a parade the size of the Rose Parade can celebrate the new year a full 24 hours after the actual change – give or take a second – then who is to say that you can’t cook up those collards, ham hocks and blackeyed peas any day you choose this first week – or month –  of 2017?

Yup – that is this week’s recipe, and if I say so myself, it’s pretty good stuff! No, not as delicious as some of those bowls overflowing with steaming perfection from the kitchens of Southern cooks I have had the pleasure to share a table with, but pretty tasty in its own way.

And I have to warn you – I added some of this, and left out some of that as I went along. I know, I know. Sacrilege. Danger. Indigestion.

But truth be told, every cook, no matter from whence they hail, tweaks and messes about with perfectly wonderful traditions, if only for lack of proper ingredients, or because a lot of the fun of cooking comes from experimentation and luck. Lots of luck, sometimes.

Well, here you have it – this year’s recipe for starting the New Year off right – on whatever day you opt to mark the occasion!

Ham Hocks and Blackeyed Peas

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1 bag dried Blackeyed Peas

Water

Onion – 1 medium, chopped

Carrot – 1 or 2 depending upon size, sliced

Celery – 1 stalk, sliced

Salt, Pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other herbs/seasonings to taste

 

Boil about 3 quarts of water. Carefully inspect and rinse the blackeyed peas, being sure to remove any small pebbles or debris. Dump peas into a stock pot or large pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit in boiling/very hot water for 2+ hours to pre-soak. They can be soaked overnight, if more convenient.

Place smoked ham hock, jowl, shank (a good chunk of tasty pork-something), into a crockpot. Drain the blackeyed peas and dump into the crockpot, on top of the pork. Pour fresh water – boiling or tepid – into crockpot, enough to generously cover the contents. Add chopped and sliced veggies, stir once or twice.

Cook on Low for 8-10 hours, until blackeyed peas are cooked and the liquid is a lovely rust or brown color. Add seasonings late in the process after tasting the ‘pot likker’ to determine what it might need. Some ham hocks and jowls are so flavorful, you won’t need to add anything. Sometimes it just needs a little pinch of this or a handful of that.

While that’s cooking, you can make the

Collard Greens and Ham Hocks

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1 bunch – or more – Collard Greens, although any green will work. If you prefer turnip, beet, kale or spinach, that’s great. Just make sure they are green in keeping with the idea behind the tradition.

1 Ham Hock – again, feel free to use the pork item of your choice

Salt, Pepper, etc. – to taste

Water

 

The most time consuming part of this process is cleaning the collard greens, but it is also the most important part. I begin by pulling the leafy part of the greens from the stem. That stem can be woody, tough and bitter, so don’t bother with cleaning or cooking it. This is a good time to inspect the leaves for too many buggy bites, or wilted edges. Collards are pretty tasty even in the field, so look at the number of holes as a sign of good flavor!

After the leaves are ready, I use a large pot, fill it with fresh, cold water, shove all of the leaves into it and add a bunch of salt. Then I act as if I am washing socks – push, swirl, move, lift, shove, stir. After a few minutes of this, I dump the water, and repeat the rinsing – leaving out the salt – no less than three times, feeling for grit or sand with my fingers. If need be, I will rinse each good sized leaf individually.

Then – if I remember to do this step – slice or chop each leaf. The easiest way to do this is to simply layer the leaves one on top of another, roll them up, as if you were making a very green wrap, and slice the small end. As you can see in the photo above, I skipped the slicing part – or tearing or chopping, whatever you prefer – and cooked up big leaves. No matter – they tasted just fine!

Toss the slices into a stock pot, add the ham hock, jowl, whatever you’ve chosen as your pork delight, and pour in plenty of fresh, cool water. You will need a generous amount of water since those collards will float to the top of the pot, but will cook down into something amazing over the course of 6-8 hours.

Bring the concoction to a boil, and boil for about an hour, although I used so few collards, that I turned my pot down after 30 minutes or so. Most of this kind of cooking is by gut, by feel, so do what you think is right and you’ll be fine. Simmer the pot for as many hours as is necessary to turn the collards soft and the meat to fall off the ham bone. Stir it a few times during the process, but don’t baby it.

You can add salt, pepper, seasonings – even bacon grease or chopped crispy bacon to the pot.

When it’s finally done, serve the collards with the blackeyed peas and don’t forget the piping hot cornbread with lots of butter …

 

and the South Carolina strawberry and freshly made whipped cream tartlets for dessert!

 

 

Please visit Creatzart and DiscoveringHome to see some of the places the recipes on Sinclaire Monroe’s Kitchen come from or have been inspired by – and please consider participating in Jane’s Day of Service on February 28th this year.

Thank you for reading and following and sharing. I wish each of you a healthy, safe, and wonderful New Year.

Y is for Yellow Donuts

Some days are just doughnut days. Along with a big glass of cold milk or a hot cup of aromatic coffee, a fresh doughnut can make even a Monday morning feel … well, better.

But it isn’t always possible to get to the bakery before work, and those days-old prepackaged wonders at the convenience store only make the idea of a fresh-baked, still-warm pastry even more tempting.

So, here is an easy and quick substitute until a trip to a proper bakery can be arranged.

 

Yellow Donuts

1 box Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix (or any flavor you might like)

1 cup water or milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

  • Combine all ingredients and mix until combined, but do not over-beat.
  • Preheat mini doughnut maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Pour mixture into doughnut wells, and cook per instructions, or until golden brown. Using wooden tongs to remove the cooked doughnuts is very convenient.
  • Frost or generously dust with powdered sugar.

A note about cake-mix doughnuts: I did not know what to expect when I made this, my very first batch of cake-mix-doughnut-maker …rings. Well, these are not exactly the consistency of cake doughnuts, but they are not just ring-shaped cupcakes, either.

I was surprised to find that after 24 hours, the frosting, and/or the powdered sugar melds with the cake to create a much improved and fairly reasonable doughnut facsimile.

Because I discovered a brand new mini-doughnut maker at a thrift store for under $10.00, I was happy to give this recipe a try, but I don’t know that it would have been worth four times that much just to conduct this experiment that resulted in good, but not amazing, quasi-doughnuts.

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W is for Wiggle Jiggle Gelatin

A quick dessert, an unexpected ingredient, or a sneaky way to include veggies in any meal … available in a rainbow of flavors and colors … tah dah – it’s gelatin!

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Since 1682, this versatile ingredient has been used as a simple source of protein ideal for soldiers on the move. But within 200 years, patent-holders and cooks pushed that proverbial envelope and began mixing the granulated gelatin with fruit juices and syrups to make tasty jellies.

I am delighted to write about gelatin because I have two vintage cookbooks that elevate this wiggly-jiggly desert of my childhood to unexpected – and sometimes bizarre – culinary heights.

From the 1928 cookbook comes a sponge made with pineapple juice and rice. Other delicacies include a shrimp and orange salad, or the refreshing cucumber and Cayenne pepper salad.

Included near the end of the same cookbook are certain Rules that hold true even today; Metal molds chill more quickly than those made from other materials; placing the filled mold in a bowl brimming with crushed ice and salt speeds the jelling process considerably, and a rotary beater is necessary when whipping the dissolved gelatin.

Although undated, the ‘newer’ cookbook appears to be an early 1970s collection of recipes. Returning to gelatin’s roots as a basic protein, some of the recipes combine lemon, orange or cherry gelatin with ham, duck, bleu cheese, chicken or crab meat.

At first those might sound like unnatural pairings, but the flavors of ham and pineapple or turkey and maple are really quite good- even without the neon coloring.

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Whipped Blue – 1 small pkg blue gelatin dissolved into 3/4 cup boiling water, then whipped until doubled in bulk. Serve cold!

So, here are some handy ideas for easy gelatin desserts that have been inspired by 1928 cooks and 1970s kitchens. Have fun!

Creamy Delight

1 ( 3.4 package) Jello gelatin

3/4 cup boiling water

1 cup heavy cream

Stir the instant gelatin in the boiling water until completely dissolved. Cool in fridge until syrupy. Add the heavy cream, and whip until soft peaks form. Serve immediately or chill in fridge. As mixture chills, it will become more firm.

Seafoam Splurge

It tastes much better than it looks – really it does!

Mix equal parts Whipped Blue with Creamy Delight, while still soft.

Chill and serve … perhaps with gummy fish?

Festive Coconut

1 tablespoon brightly colored gelatin powder

1 1/3 cups coconut

1 clean jar

Combine powder and coconut in jar, shake vigorously until coconut is uniformly colored.

Happy Cake

1 pkg cake mix, flavors such as yellow or white are best

1 small pkg instant gelatin, any flavor

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350*

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Mix until smooth, but do not overbeat.

Pour into prepared tube pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center come out clean. Dust with powdered sugar, colored sugar or coconut.

V is for Veggies

One of my favorite dishes is veggies and rice … or veggies and cheese … or veggies and eggs … or just plain veggies.

Veggies Dinner CloseFor those of you for whom gardening is like breathing; walking outside and picking a clean dishpan full of onions, peppers, okra, corn and tomatoes is the first step in preparing any summertime meal.

Unfortunately, I am not a particularly successful gardener, but I have been spoiled by the bounty of – and learned many lessons from – gardens tended and loved by Aunt Betty, Isabelle and of course, Mona. SAM_1021

As I wash the radishes and slice the onions, I revisit those fragrant gardens of the women who guided me; who shared their quiet strength and immeasurable beauty through their actions; who loved me and taught me and rolled their eyes when I pulled up perfectly good plants, mistaking those oval leaves for mere weeds –again.

If you have a gardener’s soul, know that you are treasured by those of us who cannot grow a vegetable garden so lovely it becomes a wonderland of color and flavor and scent.

Thank you.

 

U is for Ugali

With a dash of cornmeal and a splash of water, you can enjoy the flavor of South Africa.

This simple recipe is known by many names depending up where you might be at mealtime, but in Kenya, ugali is the familiar name of this staple.

As you will learn from the following links, the cooked cornmeal is supposed to have a stiff, almost putty-like consistency:

http://allthingskenyan.com/countries/kenya/ugali-recipe

http://www.congocookbook.com/staple_dish_recipes/ugali.html

Unfortunately, I had far less cornmeal on hand than needed, so ended up with a porridge rather than a dough suitable for scooping some stew or picking up meat from a dish. I’ve opted to share my attempt with you anyway.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup cornmeal.

Stir constantly to avoid lumps. I used a whisk vigorously, but still had some lumps.

I spooned the thick porridge into bowls, knowing that it should have been much more dense and malleable when cooked.

Although I didn’t quite succeed at making ugali, I have learned about a basic food that might be new to me, but has been a part of countless meals for many generations.

I plan to try this recipe again and will share my (hopefully) much improved results with you then!

N is for Nutty Mashed Yum

The title isn’t very clear – it sounds like nut butter – which this is not.

It is a recipe for mashed potatoes, without any potatoes.

Clean, cut and cook until soft the florets from one head of cauliflower.

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Add a heaping tablespoon or two of partially ground cashews for creaminess.

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Add butter, plain yogurt, herbs and spices to taste.

Oh! And my husband just told me that he uses a little nutritional yeast in this dish, too!

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Serve a healthier dinner – and a delicious one, too!

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K is for Kelp …

… and other veggies from the sea!

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If you have never used various seaweeds in cooking, you might imagine something stinky or slimy. Not usually.

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Although we are not on a sodium-restrictive diet, we substitute granulated sea veggies (above) for salt in almost all of our cooking. It shakes out as a slightly coarse powder and tastes like salt, unless you use a lot of it – and then you’ll get a fishy flavor, but it really isn’t unpleasant.

 

And roasted nori is wonderful cut into thin strips and added to stews, salads, deviled eggs, sandwiches, or soups.

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I especially enjoy roasted seaweed plain, right out of the package – but that might be a culinary quirk of mine …

Anyway, this is the seaweed that is used in making sushi, but you can keep things simple and roll plain rice in a sheet of the roasted nori for a mineral-rich side dish.

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Have a good time inventing your own favorite dishes with delicious and healthy veggies from the sea!

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