With the New Year comes the need to tidy away the decorations and clear the piles of accumulated paper off my desk in anticipation of returning to the post-holiday real world… I’m sure everyone reading this knows the feeling all too well! For the first time in a long time, I feel ready to reach out, to become productive once more.
I’ve been using crockpots extensively lately, and the obvious metaphor seems particularly appropriate. Just as our dinners have been simmering in the background, so has my energy and creativity. With our unusually cold December weather, our roads have been too icy to bother venturing out, so we lit the woodstove, gathered up some good books and settled in to enjoy the cozy warmth… and it has been bliss!
I figure we have enough food to last us another couple of days, but then we really are going to have to head to a grocery store — and with another snowstorm predicted for Thursday, stocking up sounds like a pretty good idea! Meanwhile, I want to share my crockpot inspiration with you, both in link and book form, as well as my pirated and tweaked version of a traditional New Year recipe.
One of the reasons why I’ve never let myself fall in love with, or even use, my crockpot is that it seemed so unhealthy. Most recipes instruct opening cans and mixing processed foods. Yecch! I knew there had to be a better way to do it, but the general lack of imaginative guidance turned me away. If you’ve harbored the same dim view of these dated old kitchen appliance, I have good news! In 2008, Stephanie O’Dea set herself the challenge of cooking in her crockpot every day for a year…. and over the course of the year, she blogged faithfully and fell well-and-truly in love with both her crockpot and her own creativity. She has generously posted every recipe on her blog but the whole recipe collection is now available in real cookbook form in Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, published by Hyperion Books.
As Stephanie is busy having a new baby this month, I’m hoping she won’t mind that I’ve pirated one of her recipes to share here. I give her full credit for inspiring the delicious smells now emanating from my kitchen! Black-Eyed Peas are a new year tradition in southern states, where it is considered imperative to eat them on New Year’s Day to bring luck for the coming year. I missed the January 1 goal by a few days, but the idea of a good bean-y soup sounded so good and wintry that I decided to use what I could find in my shrinking larder to make my own version to serve to a friend who is coming to lunch tomorrow. May the Gods of Luck overlook our bit of delinquency… Enjoy!
New Year’s Soup
- 1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed or 1/2 cup dried peas, soaked overnight and drained (I only had canned beans on hand this morning)
- a carrot or two, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced or chopped
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 large or several small cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1/2 – 1 cup sausage meat, cooked and drained or several sausages cooked and sliced
- 2-1/2 cups (625 ml) chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp each dried marjoram, oregano, chili flakes
- pinch of dried sage
Measurements refer to standardized (American) cups and teaspoons. Mix all ingredients together in a small crockpot and cook on high for 8-10 hours. If you only have a large crockpot, scale the recipe up. And feel free to use what you find in your kitchen; this is a perfect place to be creative!
Using an immersion blender, blend briefly so that the soup becomes slightly creamy from the beans, but not smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, put a cup of soup in your regular blender or food processor, blend, then return to the pot. Stir well before serving.
In coming posts, I will be writing about the inspiration I’ve found some of the books I’ve been enjoying during the quiet inward months since I last blogged. Sometimes I just need to let myself simmer along undisturbed for a while, and this seems to be especially so as autumn winds down towards the dark depths of the winter solstice. I honour the descent that comes so naturally at this time of year, and love the fertile nature of this deep season.
I loved 2009 — for me it was a year of great adventure and personal accomplishment, but I’m looking forward to the coming year and all that it holds…May 2010 be a year of happiness and creativity for us all!