Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-eyed Peas - Good Luck for the New Year!

It seems that every culture has some food that brings good luck for the New Year. In the African American tradition black-eyed peas bring good luck. I cannot swear by this, but a tradition is a tradition and do you really want to tempt fate?

Some African Americans eat black-eyed peas and rice or Hoppin’ John on New Year s Day. In my family black-eyed peas and cornbread was the way to go. Either way, both dishes are excellent sources of protein. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, black-eyed peas are high in iron, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and complex carbohydrates, which help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Although Southerners cook a wide variety of peas, it seems that Black-eyed peas reign supreme. It seems that everyone I talk to, whether Southerner or not, know about black-eyed peas. It is believed that black-eyed peas were brought to America by slaves. They were planted in the borders of fields by slaves, thus the name, field pea.

Cooking Black-eyed Peas
If you would like to prepare black-eyed peas by starting with the dried kind, here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Pick through the peas. Discard any rocks or other debris, discolored or broken peas.

2. Although not entirely necessary, beans and peas are generally soaked before cooking. It shortens the cooking time. For every cup of beans, use 3 cups of water for soaking.

3. Place peas in water, cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours or overnight. Drain the peas and cook as desired.

 4. One pound of beans or peas is about 2 cups. One pound of dry beans will yield about 5 to 6 cups of cooked peas.

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try your luck with. If you don’t get around to these on New Year’s Day, you’ve got 364 more chances. Good luck and best wishes for a prosperous new year.

Marinated Black-eyed Peas

Serves 8.

2 cans (15 ounces each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
¾ cup chopped bell peppers, your choice of colors
1 garlic clove
1 small onion, minced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 to 3 medium tomatoes


1. In a medium bowl, combine black-eyed peas, bell peppers, garlic, and onion.

2. In a small bowl combine vinegar, olive oil, and thyme. Add to vegetable mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

3. To serve, place tomatoes on individual plates. Spoon black-eyed peas onto tomatoes.

Hip Hoppin’ John

Serves 6 side dishes or 4 main dishes.

1 cup dried black eyed peas
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, optional
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes
1 small red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup long grained or converted white or brown rice

1. Pick through peas, discarding broken or discolored peas and any debris, such as rocks. Rinse and drain peas. Place in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups of water. Soak overnight. Drain peas and discard water.

2. In a Dutch oven, cover peas with 5 cups of water. Add bay leaf, thyme, salt (if using) and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer until tender, about 40 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic; cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, crushed pepper and bell pepper to peas. Stir to mix well. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Cooking the Rice.
Some people cook the rice with the peas and others cook it separately. If you plan to cook the rice separately, reduce the amount of water in the peas by about 2 cups.

Source: Low-fat Soul by Jonell Nash

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gifts from the Heart

For the past 12 days we have focused on good Christmas cookies that just happened to be healthy. We hope that you enjoyed them. We had a lot of fun making them. After all, they were cookies and cookies are supposed to be fun.

Now that you have a few too many cookies, why not share some of them with a coworker or neighbor. They make very nice hostess gifts. Try placing a few cookies in tins or on a pretty Christmas plate. If you are really feeling in the Christmas spirit, try adding hot cocoa mix or a container of tea or coffee.

From those of us working behind the scenes at Discover Foods, have a safe and healthy holiday season. We hope that you will come along with us next year as we continue our quest to learn more about food.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 12

Butterscotch Bars

1 cup packed brown sugar
5 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
2½ cups quick-cooking oats
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Cooking spray
¾ cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1¼ cups butterscotch morsels (about 8 ounces)
teaspoon salt
½ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl. Stir in vanilla and egg. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, ½ teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Add oat mixture to sugar mixture; stir with a fork until combined (mixture will be crumbly). Place 3 cups oat mixture into the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch pan coated with cooking spray; press into bottom of pan. Set aside.

3. Place sweetened condensed milk, butterscotch morsels, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until butterscotch morsels melt,, stirring every 20 seconds. Stir in walnuts. Scrape mixture into pan, spreading evenly over crust. Sprinkle evenly with remaining oat mixture, gently pressing into butterscotch mixture.

4. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Place pan on a cooling rack; run a knife around outside edge. Cool completely.

Yields 36 bars.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 11

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. In a large bowl, cream together peanut butter, butter, honey and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and continue beating until smooth.
3. Combine flours and baking powder. Stir into batter until blended. Roll into small balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper. If desired, flatten with a fork.
4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are slightly toasted at the edges.

Yields 36 cookies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 10

Peppermint Meringue Cookies

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies

1. Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites, vinegar and salt to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar while continuing to whip until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Fold in 2/3 of the crushed peppermint candies (reserve the rest for sprinkling on top of cookies).

3. Place meringue in a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Squeeze until the diameter of the cookies are 2 inches and place the cookies 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with remaining peppermint candy.

4. Bake for 90 minutes or until dry. Cool cookies on the baking sheet.

Yields 36 cookies.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 9

Pecan Butter Cookies

1¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar, divided
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
1½ teaspoons cinnamon

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

2. Cream butter, ½ cup sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Stir in pecans.

3. Divide dough in half. Using lightly floured hands, shape each into a 6-inch long log. Wrap each log in wax paper and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to to 350°F.

5. Unwrap dough and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Combine the remaining ¼ cup sugar and cinnamon on a shallow plate. Roll logs in the sugar mixture. Slice each log into 24 pieces, about ¼-inch thick. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 48 cookies.

Christmas Cookies - Day 8

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

¾ cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
⅓ cup almond toffee bits

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Stir in toffee bits.

4. Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart on 2 cookie sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for about 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans for 1 minute. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Yields 2 dozen cookies.

Christmas Cookies - Day 7

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

¾ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon espresso powder, optional
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅓ cup light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs
2¼ cups whole wheat flour
2⅔ cups (16 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted


1. In a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, stir in the sugar. Heat until the mixture is just beginning to bubble. Remove from burner or microwave, transfer to a medium bowl, and allow to cool to lukewarm.

2. Stir in vanilla, salt, baking soda, espresso powder (if using), baking powder, corn syrup, and vinegar. Add eggs, beating well after each addition, then the flour, stirring to combine, and finally mix in the chips. Cover the dough and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper.

4. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake two sheets at a time, reversing the pans midway through, until they are just beginning to brown around the edges, 12 to 13 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets, place on cooling rack.

Source: King Arthur Flour Company

Christmas Cookies - Day 6

1¾ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1Tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
3Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine one cup of sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and egg; beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Cover and chill for 10 minutes.

4. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk.

5. With moist hands, shape dough into 42 (1-inch) balls. Roll in sugar mixture. Place balls 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets coated with cooking spray. Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Yields 42 cookies.

Source: Cooking Light Magazine, April 2003

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 5

Citrus Kissed Honey Buttons
Citrus-Kissed Honey Buttons
1¾ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1. Whisk flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a small bowl.

2. With a mixer on medium, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add egg, honey, lemon and orange zests and lemon extract. Beat until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until combined. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Roll the dough into 36 balls, about 2 teaspoons. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

5. Bake until puffed and beginning to crack, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

Yields 3 dozen cookies.

Source: Eating Well Magazine, December 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 4

Triple Chocolate Cookies
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup cocoa, not Dutch processed
¼ teaspoon salt, optional
2 ounces dark chocolate
2 ounces milk chocolate
⅔ cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in vanilla.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the dark and milk chocolates and the pecans. Mix well. Drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool.

Yield 2 dozen cookies.

Source: Food Network, Ellie Krieger

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Cookies - Day 2

Molasses Spice Crackles
1 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 large egg white
¼ cup sugar

1. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Set aside.

2. Place butter and brown sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add molasses and mix to combine. Add egg white and continue beating.

3. Add flour mixture and mix until well blended, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Gently press mixture into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. With slightly moistened hands, shape dough into small balls. Place granulated sugar in a bowl. Roll in sugar. Place 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool on a wire rack.

Yields 40 cookies.

Source: Cooking Light, October, 1996.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies

It's Christmastime and I naturally think of baking. Of course baking involves my two favorite things - fat and sugar. And baking leads to one of my least favorite things - extra pounds. In order to accomplish one of my favorite things without one of my least favorite things, I thought I would come up with a few healthier options for cookies.
My first objective was to make a good cookie. Why? Because it's Christmas and no one should eat bad food at Christmas. Over the next eleven days, we will post one cookie recipe each day. I hope you enjoy them and have happy and healthy holiday season.

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies
1 cup all purpose flour
cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
cup dried tart cherries
¼ cup bittersweet chocolate
Cooking spray or parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

3. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture. Beat just until combined. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

4. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets coated with cooking spray or parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire racks.

Yields 30 cookies.

Source: Cooking Light Magazine, December 2005

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Variety in the American Diet

My dietitian friends always give me the same advice. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. According to MyPyramid, we need to consume 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. A recent study shows that only 6% of Americans consume the recommended amount of vegetables per day and 8% consume the recommended amount of fruits.
One solution for getting a variety of fruits and vegetables is to shop the farmers markets. During the early spring Midwestern farmers markets have rhubarb, asparagus, lettuce and spinach. As the season progresses, we get tomatoes, sweet corn, raspberries and summer squash. Markets in the Midwest normally end with winter squash, pumpkins, a second crop of lettuce, apples and pears. Talking about variety, farmers markets are loaded with variety.
The US has always had farmers markets, just not so many of them. According to the USDA, between 1994 and 2010, farmers markets increased from 1,755 to 6,132. People shop at farmer’s markets for a number of reasons. People want to support the local economy. They want to talk to the person who grew their food. Farmer’s markets also offer the chance to get varieties not normally found at the grocery store. Farmer’s markets were where I first saw Chioggia beets, watermelon radishes, Thai eggplants and zebra tomatoes. Vendors at farmer’s market generally choose varieties based on flavor, texture and other quality parameters.
I decided to take a stroll through one of the last farmer’s markets. Check out the video to see what I found.
Here are the recipes for the food we purchased.

Apple, Goat Cheese and Honey Tartlets
For the tartlets:
1 package (17.3 ounce) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten to blend
3.5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, such as Montrachet
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup honey

For the apples:

1 cup boiling water
¾ cup sugar
3 whole cloves
1 small piece of cinnamon
2 medium Granny smith apples (any tart, firm apple will work)
¼ cup dried cranberries

Apple Filling:
1. Combine boiling water, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar in a saucepan. Let this mixture come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes.
2. In the meantime, peel, core, and slice the apples into ¼ inch pieces. Add apples to the saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Apples will become translucent. During the last 5 minutes add the dried cranberries just to rehydrate them.

Forming the Tartlets:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Roll out each puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface into an 11 inch square. Using a 5 inch diameter cookie cutter (or bowl), cut out 4 circles from the pastry sheet.
3. Roll out the second puff pastry sheet the same way and cut out 4 more circles.
4. From these circles, take a 3 inch diameter cookie cutter and cut out smaller circles from the center of each one to make a ring.
5. Brush the outer 1 inch edges of the 5 inch rounds on a baking sheet with beaten egg; top each with the pastry ring.
6. Freeze for 30 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
8. Mix the cheese and lemon juice in a bowl. Spread mixture inside the frozen pastry rounds.
9. Meanwhile, drain apples and cranberries. Overlap the apple slices on top of the cheese (use about 3 tablespoons of apples).
10. Mix butter and honey together and brush over the pastry and apples.
11. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, about 30-35 minutes.

Fried Okra
Serves 4.

1 pound okra
½ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning (recipe follows)
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Cajun Seasoning:
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
2½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground red pepper, preferably cayenne
¾ teaspoon white pepper
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1. With a sharp knife, slice the okra into 1-inch slices. Place okra in a medium bowl. Pour in enough buttermilk to cover okra. Add about 1 teaspoon seasoning. Stir, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Place about 1 quart of oil in a large saucepan. Heat oil.
3. Drain okra. In a shallow dish combine flour, cornmeal and seasoning. Stir to combine. Coat okra completely with flour/cornmeal mixture. Fry the okra, in batches, in the hot oil until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove okra from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with additional Cajun seasoning or serve with hot sauce.

Thai Green Curry
For the rice:

1½ cup jasmine rice
1¾ cup water
For the curry:

2 Tablespoons of instant green curry paste
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water or vegetable stock
½ Chinese eggplant (about 8 in long) cut lengthwise and then crosswise into half-moon shapes**
7 to 8 pea-shaped Thai eggplants (makua puong)
½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled with tails left intact
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
Pinch of sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 stems of sweet Thai basil, leaves picked off
A handful of coriander stems, roughly chopped

1. Place rice in a small saucepan. Rinse the rice about three times or so, draining the water after each rinse.
2. Add water to rice. Cover and bring the rice to a boil.
3. Turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
4. Remove the rice from the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for about 10 minutes.
5. Fluff rice with a fork.
1. In the meantime, heat the oil in a wok or a deep saucepan. Add curry paste, frying just long enough to evaporate any moisture from the paste or until it becomes fragrant.
2. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock, stir to mix. Taste the curry to check the level of spiciness and creaminess (if you’d like more heat, add a tablespoon more of curry, if it’s too spicy add 2 tablespoons more of coconut milk).
3. When the mixture starts to bubble, add the Thai eggplants and onion, and leave to cook for about 5 minutes our until the eggplants start to soften.
4. Add the Chinese eggplant and cook for 3 minutes until the eggplant start to soften. When the vegetables are cooked, reduce the heat and add the shrimp. Cook for a minute.
5. Add the sugar and the fish sauce. Taste the curry and adjust flavors as needed. Add lime juice and basil leaves.
6. Stir then serve on top of jasmine rice and garnished with chopped cilantro, basil leaves, and lime wedges.
**If you cannot find Chinese eggplant use ¼ of an American eggplant.

Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash

Serves 2.
1 sweet dumpling squash
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup honey
3 Tablespoons water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. With a sharp knife cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Cut each half in half to make quarters.
3. Melt the butter, cinnamon, and honey in a microwave proof bowl for 30-60 seconds. Stir.
4. Add the water to a baking pan and place the squash in the pan flesh side down.
5. Bake for 35 minutes. Poke the squash with a fork to check for tenderness, if the squash is still hard bake for another 10 minutes.
6. Turn the squash over so the flesh is facing up. Spread the honey mixture on the flesh and bake for another 5 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Additional Resources
*Cooking Light – Cooking Through the Seasons
*Eating Well – Eating Well In Season: The Farmers Market Cookbook
*Sur La Table and Janet Fletcher – Eating Local, the Food Inspired by America’s Farmers