Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John is my favorite meal to have in the beginning of the new year. Since we were on vacation on New Year's day, I wasn't able to make the spicy, black-eyed pea goodness as usual. Back in town, I just couldn't stop craving it, so...I made a GIANT batch for just my husband and I! I had enough for lunches and still some to freeze for later.  If you Google Hoppin' John, you will find loads of recipes. My recipe isn't ground-breaking, but is simple, fresh and can easily be cooked in a crock pot. It's a great Sunday night meal which will stretch into weekday lunches.

Hoppin' John

Servings: 6-8


4 Strips of Bacon, Chopped into 1/2" Pieces
1 Ham Hock
3 Sticks of Celery, Diced
2 Green Bell Peppers, Diced
1 Orange Bell Pepper, Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
1 Onion, Diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Jalepenos, Minced
2 28 Ounce Cans of Diced Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
2 14 Ounce Cans of Chicken Stock
2 Cups of Soaked Black-Eyed Peas (or Canned Black-Eyed Peas)
2 Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon of Paprika
1 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne
4 Cups of Cooked Rice, For Serving


In a large saute pan, toss in your bacon pieces. Cook on Medium-High heat until they begin to render grease and are starting to brown just on the edges. Add in the garlic and jalepenos. Saute for 30 seconds, stirring, then add the celery, onion, and bell pepper. Cook until the onion goes translucent and the vegetables are just softened. In a large stock pot, or in a crock pot, place your ham hock. Add in the cooked vegetables and bacon, along with the tomatoes, stock, peas and spices. Simmer on low for 2 hours in the stock pot, or until the beans are cooked through. (For the crock pot, you could leave it on low for 6-8 hours.) Serve with the cooked rice and your favorite hot sauce. I like to stir in the rice and save the leftovers for lunch the next couple of days.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Bruschetta

Last weekend, our awesome neighbors invited us over to watch the equally awesome Mr. Ricky Gervais host the Golden Globes. In honor of this Golden celebration, I made a golden appetizer. I really like the small kick of the jalepeno, combined with the savory of the garlic, the sweet of the honey and squash, the creaminess of the Ricotta and the saltiness of the Parmesan. It's like a perfectly balanced cocktail, but in appetizer form!

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Bruschetta


1 Cup of 1/2" Cubes of Butternut Squash
4 Cloves of Garlic, 3 Cloves Minced and 1 Clove Reserved
1 Jalepeno, Minced
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon of Honey
1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 Baguette
Parmesan Shavings for Topping


Pour your olive oil into a saute pan on medium heat. When the oil starts to wave, add in the minced garlic and jalepenos. Saute for 30 seconds, then add in the butternut squash. Saute for approximately 10 minutes, until the squash is softened. Add in the honey and salt, stirring to coat evenly. Meanwhile, slice your baguette into 1/2" thick slices, place on a cookie sheet and broil in the oven to toast lightly. Once slightly brown, remove the pan from the oven and rub each piece of toast with the reserved garlic clove. Next, spread a layer of ricotta onto the baguette slices, then top with the warm squash, followed by a few shaves of Parmesan.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Favorite Soup Making Tools

We definitely ramp up the soup production in the Cole household during wintertime. I make lots of chili and creamy soups, so I wanted to share some of my favorite kitchen items for soup making.
Le Creuset makes my all-time favorite cookware. (Let me add, no one pays me to say this!) I think the heat distribution is amazing and they come in beautiful colors. I have two pots, including a huge red dutch oven like this fabulous green one, that my mother received when she got married. They're over 30 years old and in amazing shape! The dutch oven is perfect for all sorts of things, but I use it most for soups and chili.

I have lots of knives, and I love my japanese knives from Global and Shun, but more often than not, this Wustoff Hollow Edge beauty is my workhorse. I use it for everything, really; dicing onions, mincing garlic, slicing's great!

I really love creamy soups the most, so I almost always blend them with my stick blender. This is sort of a fancier version of the blender I have, (because they no longer make the kind I have.) I think that any stick blender is a huge help for a soup lover. Being able to leave the soup in the pot, without transferring it to a blender or a food processor is pretty nice, and the soup comes out incredibly smooth!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Navy and Gold Dinnerware Round-up

I have a weakness for ceramics. Often I dream of setting a beautiful, fancy table with an assortment of plates and serving ware. I love the idea of mixing and matching plates, and bowls, especially as it seems more obtainable to have just one piece than the whole crazy-expensive set!

Here are a few of my current favorites which I think would make a lovely setting for your first dinner party of the New Year...

This plate is by one of my very favorite artists, Hella Jongerius. It's of her Nymphenburg Sketches Animal Bowl Series
And this one...from the same collection, called the Game Plates.
From Jasper Conran for Wedgwood, 'Navy Fringe.' Jasper Conran makes so many lovely things!
From Gien France, 'Sultana.' I like the bit of folkiness to this one.
From Alessandro Zambelli, 'Gold Tub.' Because Brussels Sprouts would be so lovely in gold...
From Diane Von Furstenburg, 'Brushstroke.' I think flourless chocolate cake would look so delicious on this painterly plate.