New Year: Two Ways

If you’re from the North, Midwest or you’re Polish or German then for you New Years probably means sauerkraut and pork, for good luck. If you’re from the south, it’s “hopping johnnies” or black eyed peas. Other parts of the country and world eat grapes, fish or special cakes to bring luck and prosperity for the new year.  Since Jeremy’s background is Midwestern German and Polish and my background is ….. southern, it’s always a toss up about what to eat each new year, so this year we did both. Obviously.

On new year’s eve, before we headed out for a fun night with friends, I grilled up some kielbasa, made a traditional German Potato Salad and served it all with Amish-made sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. This is the kind of food I didn’t even know about as a kid, and I’m so glad I’ve been introduced to it through Jeremy and his family. That potato salad is on point – click above for the recipe.

Na zda-ró-vye!

Na zda-ró-vye!

Then on New Years day, we had Alton Brown’s Skillet Fried Chicken with black eyed peas and collard greens. This year I made my black eyed peas in the slow cooker, which eliminated any soaking time you would normally need to make dried beans. All I did was sort and rinse 1 lb of beans, throw them into the slow cooker with 6 cups of water and my seasoning and let them cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4). I cooked up some bacon, onion, and garlic, which I added to the cooker along with a healthy dose of pepper. They were great this way and so much easier. I wish black eyed peas were prettier in pictures, but they’re just not. Oh well, they are still delicious.

not pretty, but tasty.

not pretty, but tasty.

This has "lucky" written all over it.

This has “lucky” written all over it.

I hope you all had a safe and wonderful new year’s, and I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes, tips, and total failures with you in 2013. Happy It’s Not the Holidays Anymore!!!

What are your new year traditions? What foods do you hope will make you lucky and prosperous?

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Cookie Culture

Today I am the guest blogger at a fabulous blog, Whisks and Words. Dana (aka – Whisks and Words) asked me to participate in her blog party cookie swap. Super cute idea, unless you’re me and you hate baking and don’t eat sweets. But I love Dana and her blog and writing self-effacing posts, so I did it. Check it out and subscribe to her blog; she’s way better than me about posting on a regular basis, and always has great recipes and reflections. Here’s a teaser of the cookies I made:

apple spiced caramel cookies

apple spiced caramel cookies

That being said, and because I’m sure you’ve gone to the link above and read my cookie post, I present to you another cookie recipe, but this one is baking Rachel style. I found this recipe on Pinterest, (via Six Sister’s Stuff) just like the one in the other post, and also saved it for the purpose of making them for co-workers and others at Christmas. But once I made these cookies and tried them for myself, I actually LIKED them, and made them again. And ate some of them. Shocking. But that’s how good they are. And I’m almost positive I don’t just like them because there are only four ingredients and like three steps. Seriously, this is all you need to make these cookies:

This is my kind of baking

This is my kind of baking

Mint Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of chocolate devil’s food cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 bag of andes mints OR mint truffle Hershey kisses

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first three ingredients together until well combined. Scoop each cookie out with a large spoon or a cookie spoon works best, you want at least a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Round out each cookie into a ball with your hands, make a small depression on the top of the cookie ball and place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie pan (or use a baking mat).
  2. Bake about 7 or 8 minutes, no longer – you don’t want to overcook these. Take them out of the oven and place your mint kiss or Andes mint on top of each cookie, then put back into the oven for 30 seconds-1 minute. Remove from the oven, and with the back of a spoon or a butter knife, gently spread the mint (which will be melty) over the top of the cookie. Let the cookies cool on the sheet, then transfer the sheet to the fridge and let the mint chocolate glaze set before eating. Or eat them immediately like I did. Whatever.

mint cookies done

These are awesome. Seriously. This is now my go-to cookie. They are headache free. The hardest part was trying to find Andes mints, which are surprisingly scant. But the mint truffle Hershey kisses were actually great here in their place.  The second hardest part was not being able to share them with the dogs.

mint cookies and dog

Not really. These cookies are for me, dogs!

What is your favorite cookie around Christmas-time, or of all-time, for that matter?

Shop Locally

I write a monthly column for a local publication called Tidewater Women called “What’s in Season” (you can see all my other publications and press on my MORE BEETS page). The column usually just reviews whatever local produce is around that month, where you can get it and then a few recipes on what to do with it. But for December, I was inspired to write something more . . . well, inspired. More like my holiday mantra, if you will. The column is below, in it’s entirety and can be found in its original form on the Tidewater Women Website.

Shop Locally

The holidays are upon us, and there is no escaping them. As I contemplate what I love about the holidays, I must confess that shopping is not one of my favorite things. It isn’t that I hate giving people things or that I’m not generous. It’s just that the materialism of the whole thing really weighs me down. After my 15th trip to Target or my 5th Amazon order of the season, shopping just starts to feel meaningless. What is this stuff? Does the person I’m buying for need it? Where did my money just go? What multinational, billion-dollar corporation did I just stuff the pockets of?

I know I’m not the only person looking for a more meaningful way of giving, and so I offer up a solution: shop local. There are several reasons to shop local this season. The gifts are more likely to be unique or one-of-a-kind. Shopping local helps support your local economy. It helps support an artisan, farmer, producer, or craftsman, therefore ensuring that these members of our community have a better holiday season. Finally, the gifts will seem thoughtful and creative.

My 30+ person extended family does a Pollyanna-style gift exchange every Christmas, and last year the gift I contributed was a locally themed basket of goodies, which included goat’s milk soap, locally produced wine, jam, peanuts, and other items representative of Hampton Roads. My cousin Sara ended up getting the basket, and I told her if she didn’t like it, I would switch gifts with her. To my delight she loved it! She even texted me a few months later when her soap ran out, asking where she could buy more. She appreciated the thought, creativity, and uniqueness of the gift. She didn’t mind that it wasn’t the latest and greatest piece of technology or a gift card to her favorite store or that it didn’t hold the highest dollar value. The basket of locally sourced gifts meant way more than that because it represented a half a dozen family-owned companies or producers, all being supported by my local purchases.

Here are some great ways to shop local this season. Many farmers markets are holding special holiday markets including Old Beach Farmers Market on 19th street at the Oceanfront in the Croc’s parking lot, which will have a holiday market on December 15. Additionally the Portsmouth City Farmers Market will be open every Saturday through December 22, the Smithfield Farmers Market will be open for holiday markets on December 1 and 15, and the Virginia Beach Farmers Market on Dam Neck Road is open every day, year round.

Several retail outlets also carry locally produced items, such as Heritage Natural Market on Laskin Road, Westside Produce & Provisions on Colley Avenue, and any of Taste Unlimited’s six locations. You can also sign up for Coastal Farms Co-op, which sources products from over 50 area farms and producers and uses an online ordering system with weekly drop-offs all over Hampton Roads. A co-op membership or CSA subscription would also make a great gift for the person who has everything. And while there is not a lot of variety in fresh produce at the moment, there are still wonderful local food items that make great gifts—like fresh baked bread, homemade dried herb seasoning, jams and jellies, salsas, cheese, honey, peanuts, wine, and more.

So this holiday, skip the long lines at the store and start a shop-local revolution! The person on the receiving end of your gift is sure to be delightfully surprised and possibly inspired to support, shop, and give local themselves next year.
For more information on the markets and businesses listed above, visitwww.buylocalhamptonroads.org

Rachel Burns
 is the director of Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads. Visit 
www.buylocalhamptonroads.orgwww.facebook.com/buylocalhr, and www.twitter.com/buylocalhr.