Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Yellow Pepper Salsa and Coffee Cup Cornbread

An hour's time... a small pot of soup just for you
Your Coffee Cup Cornbread
 One of the things people (solo cooks or other cooks) often say to me is, "I just never know what to cook."  Sometimes this is an excellent cook talking and other times it's someone who seldom wields a spatula except to shake it at fools or make a grilled cheese.

To know what you want to cook isn't as important as just going ahead and cooking.  People who cook daily don't always know what they want.  They peer inside the frig or freezer and bang the cabinets a few times, wondering what's to eat.  Or they jump in the car and run to the store, only to wander around aimlessly until something strikes them.  Everyone does this...experts and beginners.    More important is to have a head-start on the process
  • by maintaining a pantry of some sort
  • by making a habit of shopping a couple of times a week for fresh food and specials
  • spending some time thinking about what you'd like to cook and what you're willing to cook (often two very different things)
  • having access to recipes or cookbooks
This means you will have already made a time and financial commitment to feeding yourself well, which is an effort well worth the time.  If you can't think of something that looks worthy of the Food Network or your favorite expensive restaurant, then that's exactly how it should be.  We all can't eat like that every day (nor should we) and what's cool is that you jump in and make something.  Anything.  Something like:
Corncakes...using the recipe for cornbread on the cornmeal container.  Why not?
  • Huevos rancheros (Fry up eggs and put them on tortillas with salsa and some shredded lettuce, tomatoes, beans and cheese...)
  • Broccoli salad (Just like at Whole Foods...broccoli, mayo, nuts, raisins...maybe a little soy sauce or curry)
  • Fried rice (Last night's Chinese take-out rice leftover..cook some eggs and push them to the side, then add chopped garlic, celery and carrots (cook 'til tender), throw in  the cooked rice and soy sauce or stir fry sauce, let it cook a couple of minutes more and--top with chopped green onions if you have any.)
  • Black Bean Soup (Saute onions and garlic, add drained black beans, toss in a sprinkle of cumin, a couple of cups chicken stock, salsa and hot sauce.  Top with sour cream if it's in the frig.)
  • Turkey burgers (You  made patties and froze Italian-seasoned Jennie-O; you also keep frozen whole wheat bun or wraps in the freezer.  Some sliced tomatoes finish the meal.)
  • Omelet and whole wheat toast (Made with the cheese that's starting to mold and the cold asparagus you cooked the other day and didn't finish.)
  • Fried corncakes served up with the chili you brought home from Wendy's. (Follow the directions on the cornmeal canister, add chopped onion  and fry up big spoonfuls in butter or olive oil.  After one side is golden, turn and cook the other side.)

Lovely the first night, great in an omelet the next.
 This is if you don't have a list on the frig...with a menu, ingredients and a timetable telling you when you're cooking what.  (That is one way to go.)   If you are somewhere in between, and most people are, you'll have a couple of options in mind at the beginning of the week and have shopped for them.  The other meals are ad hoc, puntable things to eat that are to your liking, healthy and, perhaps quick.

This black eyed pea soup appeared one noon when I just wanted something real to eat...something warm and filling, but not fattening.  Contrary to common opinions or the instructions on the package, black eyed peas do not have to soak, nor do they take two hours to cook.   Took about an hour cooking time plus prep. The coffee cup cornbread took about three minutes to put together and baked in twenty minutes.  There was not a huge hunk of bread left to go stale as the bread bakes three coffee cups full and no more.

By the way, I also could have made a potato-sweet potato-onion-"ham" hash with fried eggs on top.  But I didn't.  I made

Here's the soup almost done...letting spinach wane a bit.

Black Eyed Pea Soup w/ Yellow Pepper-Parsley Salsa makes 4 big servings..2 for you and the rest for a friend or the freezer

1 1/4 c dried black eyed peas (approx half a pound)
2 qts chicken stock, divided (low-sodium)  Use vegetable stock for vegan/vegetarian option
1 c water
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 smoked pork chop, chopped (put the bone in, too)  Leave out meat for vegan/vegetarian option
1 tsp dried time or 1 bay leaf  (You could go another route with some curry or some cumin here.)
1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 jalapeno (no seeds or membranes), finely minced and/or several drops of hot sauce

1/8 c rice, uncooked
1/2 ea chopped carrot and celery

1/2 chopped fresh spinach or kale, optional

Salsa:  Mix together 1/3 c chopped yellow pepper with 2 minced green onions, 1 small chopped tomato and 1/4 c chopped parsley
  1. In a colander, rinse peas and pick through.  Toss oddly colored or shaped peas and stones.
  2. Add peas, 1 1/2 qts. chicken stock, water, pork, thyme or bay, salt, pepper and hot sauce to a 4-qt stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Turn down a little, but leave at a slowly-rolling boil about 45 minutes until peas are beginning to be tender.
  3. Add rice, carrots, and the rest of the chicken stock.  Also add a little water, if needed, to assure all ingredients are able to boil and move freely in the liquids.  Return to a slow boil and cook until all elements are tender.  
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add chopped spinach, if using, and let cook another minute.  Ladle into bowls and top with a spoonful of the Yellow Pepper Parsley Salsa (or another salsa, if you prefer)
  5.  Quick Option:  Use canned (drained) black-eyed peas. Try to find unsalted peas.  Cook the other vegetables and spices in the broth until tender and add the canned peas after that.
Coffee Cup Cornbread  makes 3 cups of cornbread
I made two batches to see which shape I preferred.
 Preheat oven to 400 and grease or Pam 3 large, oven safe coffee cups or custard (ramekin) cups.

In a measuring cup, whisk together or beat with the a fork these liquid ingredients.  Set aside.

1/8 cup butter, melted (1/4 of a stick, unsalted--or use salted butter and don't add salt in recipe) Use Earth Balance olive oil "butter" for vegan option
1/2 cup milk  Use soy or almond milk for vegan option
1 egg Use egg replacer for vegan option
1 t onion, finely minced

Then, in a medium bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, stir together these dry ingredients: 

1/2 c cornmeal (yellow or white)
1/2 c white, unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or more to your taste)
2T white sugar
1/4 tsp salt, optional
1 tsp baking powder

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just barely mixed together.  Don't over beat.  Spoon or pour batter, dividing evenly amongst three greased coffee cups.  Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until browned to you liking.  Remove sheet from oven and gently turn cups to release cakes.  Eat warm with butter and or honey.  Leftovers?  Tomorrow for breakfast with maple syrup.  No oven safe coffee cups, ramekins or custard cups?  Bake in a muffin tin, using just a few of the "cups."

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

How's the vegan thing going?  I'm maintaining a vegan for breakfast, vegan for lunch menu for the most part--based on recommendations from Mark Bittman.   I'm still enjoying soy yogurt with granola and fresh fruit for breakfast and yesterday made curried cauliflower soup for lunch (See http://www.moretimeatthetable.blogspot.com/for recipe.)   Despite an increase in exercise and effort, I don't yet see a significant amount of weight disappearing, but I'm chugging along with the idea of health!


  1. The soup looks delicious! And the cup of cornbread is such an inventive way to serve a side. Great suggestions in this post!

  2. We adored this soup for lunch and I froze a bit for a single meal. Thanks! I'm finding it a challenge cooking in a new kitchen. While I have most of my "stuff," I don't have it all. Whah, whah, whah... So spoiled. ... Thanks!


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