Thursday, January 01, 2015

Hoppin' John

Happy New Year!  I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to wrapping up 2014 -- the past year was filled with incredible, unexpected stress, pain, loss, grief, transition, and finally healing for me, but still ... it really was a pretty long, difficult year.  Beginning at the end of November, all I felt like doing was fast-forwarding through the holidays and beginning anew.

(Don't get me wrong ... my year wasn't all bad.  I took trips to Seattle, Stillwater, Boston, and Duluth, attended a brilliant training for work that inspired me to take a very challenging professional development class this fall, enjoyed every crumb of the inaugural Twin Cities Donut Crawl, reconnected with some old friends and strengthened other friendships, made yoga a regular part of my self-care routine, pickled every vegetable in sight, started getting regular pedicures and flossing, lost 17 pounds, found a therapist, started "Muffin Mondays" at work, moved into an apartment that has ended up being a really good fit for my life right now, learned how to knit, watched all 9 seasons of both "How I Met Your  Mother" and "That 70s Show" (and had a lot of laughs, thanks to those well-written shows,) enjoyed many live theatre productions, and sang weekly with my church choir. There was plenty of good ... just coupled with whopper stress.)

So, here we are!  A fresh start, clean slate, blank page, new beginning.  I felt almost required to make a big pot of Hoppin' John today, as it is supposed to bring me a prosperous year filled with luck.  And after the year I've had, I figure, I can take all the luck I can get.

Hoppin' John is traditionally made with bacon or ham hock; while not necessarily vegetarian-friendly at first glance, it is basically a humble, nutritious, thrifty meal of beans and rice.  Swap out that bacon for some diced tomatoes and a canned chipotle chile in adobo, and there you have it.  A steaming bowl of vegetarian luck and prosperity -- and a healthy dose of protein, fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients, too!

Hoppin' John
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 c finely-chopped onion
1 c finely-chopped celery
1 c finely-chopped bell pepper (red, green, or a mix)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika (you could try smoked if you want extra smoky flavor ... I chose sweet today)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 2 c cooked black-eyed peas)
3/4 c long-grain brown rice
2 c low-sodium vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (or fire-roasted diced tomatoes, if you're feelin' fancy)

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, and add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano, paprika, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the spices are lightly toasted.
2. Add the chipotle chile in adobo, black-eyed peas, rice, broth, and tomatoes to the pot.  Bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat to a simmer, (use a heat diffuser if you have one,) cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour.  If you have time, remove the pot from the heat and allow the rice to continue steaming for another 10 minutes or so.  Remove the chile and bay leaf.  Serve as-is, or with greens, or cornbread ... or both!

I had a client state during parenting group Tuesday evening that he is wishing for a "drama-free" 2015 ... and I couldn't help but concur.  :)  To a drama-free 2015!