Category Archives: Recipes

Hoppin’ John for a Lucky New Year

In the South, it is traditional to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day. Last year, I was in Richmond, and I made the mistake of waiting until December 31 to buy a can of black eyed-peas. There wasn’t a can left! So, this would be a good time to shop for some black eyed peas, if you’d like to attract money in the new year. According to Wikipedia, there is a tradition of leaving 3 peas on your plate for prosperity in the new year. 

You can buy black-eyed peas in the can, and even black eyed peas and rice (Hoppin’ John) in the can.  I tried it and it’s not bad, but it is really salty and pretty spicy. This brand also makes seasoned collard greens. I like those, too.

Of course, you could make Hoppin’ John from scratch and I think it would taste better. I have made vegetarian Hoppin’ John by sauteing onion, garlic, green pepper, celery and tomatoes (canned tomatoes would be fine) and then adding canned, rinsed black eyed peas and cooked rice. That was a quick version and it was very good. You could put it in Mason Jars and gift it on New Year’s Day, if you are visiting. This isn’t a picture of my dish but the Wikipedia picture is pretty much how it looked:

The way I prepare collard greens is less slow-cooked Southern-style and more heart-healthy-style. I cut out the big, tough central ribs and quickly saute the chopped leaves in olive oil, lemon and garlic until they are bright green. I don’t add meat and they don’t take long to cook.  This recipe for quick Brazilian-style collard greens is just about exactly how I chiffonade chop and cook mine. I think they would be a great complement to the hearty dish of Hoppin’ John.

I discovered a recipe for Hoppin’ John while babysitting for a little girl and it was in her copy of The Disney Princess Cookbook. It had so many good recipes, I ordered my own copy from eBay. Here is a recipe for Hoppin’ John. It is ascribed to Tiana, the heroine in The Princess and the Frog.

Tiana’s Hoppin’ John


  • A metal strainer or steamer
  • A large saucepan
  • A large skillet with lid


  • 1/2 pound of black eyed peas (dried) – check for any little stones before cooking
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 lb baked ham, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp of celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup long grain rice


  1. Rinse the black eyed peas in a metal strainer, then put them in a large saucepan.
  2. Pour in 4 cups of water. Bring the beans to a boil and cook them for 2 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and let the beans stand for 1 hour.
  3. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add ham, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cook the mixture until the onion is transparent, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add the beans and their liquid to the skillet and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and continue cooking until the beans are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Pour in one more cup of water and stir in the rice. Cover the skillet and continue simmering for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
  6. Stir and serve.


Party Meatballs

This has got to be the simplest party appetizer ever! It’s an old favorite you probably recognize. 

You only need 3 ingredients and a mini crock pot-style slow cooker, the kind that hold 1.5 quarts. You can pick one up for $15 or less. JC Penney has some on sale now that come in red plaid and snowflake designs!

Combine frozen, pre-cooked turkey mini meatballs — the “party” size with 1 bottle of Heinz chili sauce and 1 can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Put in the crock pot to heat.

That’s it! I’ve seen recipes where people add brown sugar or spices but the meatballs have spices and there is plenty of sugar in the sauce already. So I think the simpler version is better.


An Elegant Mock Pate

As Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve approach, maybe you are looking for an appetizer that is easy to make, easy to take and really delicious. Well, as long as you like meat, I think you should try this liverwurst-based mock pate recipe. A guest brought this to one of my Christmas parties many years ago, and I’ve been hunting for the recipe ever since.

Well, I finally found it. It originally appeared in Cooking Light Magazine in 2010. It’s a winner! Serve with crackers, melba toast or toast points. I will be making it for New Year’s Eve.


  • ¼ cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons good quality cognac
  • ¼ cup whipped cream cheese
  • 8 ounces good quality liverwurst
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted dry-roasted pistachios (optional)


  1. Place dried cherries in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to simmer for three minutes. Drain, cool and finely chop.
  2. Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings. Remove,  cool and finely chop bacon.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of drippings, shallots, thyme, chopped garlic, bay leaf and salt and pepper to pan. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, remove bay leaf and add cognac, scraping brown bits from pan.
  4.  Add this mixture, whipped cream cheese and liverwurst to food processor (remember to take out that bay leaf). Process until smooth.
  5. Remove mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in cherries and bacon. Place in a small serving bowl. Cover surface of pate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  6. Before serving, if desired, top with chopped pistachios.

About 110 calories per 2-1/2 tablespoon serving and it makes about 12 servings. This one won’t keep more than a few days, so enjoy!

Sausage Balls, Two Ways

This season, I’m featuring some of the appetizers you know and love. They’re kind of “retro” and might bring back some good memories for you! Today: Sausage Balls! I seem to recall they were on the table for all Christmas family reunions when I was a child. I remember how spicy but yummy they were!

Sausage balls are so portable. They are perfect for an office party, holiday potluck or home party. Here are two Betty Crocker recipes: the original style made with pork sausage (but updated with some chopped apple!) and a healthier version with turkey sausage. Since a lot of people don’t eat pork, you might want to indicate with a little table tent whether they have pork or turkey in them.

Pork Sausage and Apple Balls

Gather: Baking sheet, mixing bowl and parchment paper


  • 1 lb uncooked Jimmy Dean bulk pork sausage with sage
  • 2 and 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (10 oz)
  • 2 cups original Bisquick
  • 1 Braeburn apple, peeled and shredded (2 cups)
  • Minced dried or fresh parsley, if desired (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Moisten your hands with water and form small balls (about an inch and a half). Place the balls on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 12 – 14 minutes, should be golden brown and no longer pink inside. For a little color, sprinkle on a tad of parsley just before serving, if desired.

Turkey Sausage Balls

Gather: Baking sheet, mixing bowl and parchment paper


  • 2 and 1/2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart  mix
  • 1 lb uncooked lean turkey sausage (try the all natural “Good and Gather” Target brand)
  • 3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (12 oz)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk (at least 1%)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • Optional dipping sauce: mix Heinz Chili Sauce with a can of cranberry sauce.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Moisten your hands with water and form small balls (about an inch and a half). Place the balls on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake 20 – 25 minutes, should be golden brown and an oven thermometer inserted into ball should read 165 F, minimum. For a little color, sprinkle on a tad of parsley just before serving, if desired.

The Best Ever Spinach Dip

I’m featuring some of the appetizers you know and love. They’re kind of “retro” and might bring back some good memories for you! Today: Knorr Spinach Dip! I’ve been making Knorr Spinach Dip for decades and I just love it. It’s so much better than any pre-made spinach dip you’d buy in a store.

With its bright green and confetti colors, it’s festive enough for a family Christmas movie night, a home New Year’s Eve celebration or a pot luck holiday party. Tomorrow is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day…maybe bring this to an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party! Make sure to make this at least 3 hours in advance so that the flavors can blend. Serve in a bread bowl for a special touch. This keeps well overnight in the refrigerator, if any is left!


  • A mixing bowl.
  • A serving bowl or bread bowl to hold the dip, plus a platter for dippers.
  • Dippers (ideas: Triscuits, Pita Crackers, Bagel Thins, Stacey’s Naked Pita Chips, baby carrots or carrot sticks, celery sticks, jicama sticks, grape tomatoes and sliced bell pepper).


  • I package of Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix. It is usually with the gravy and Hollandaise sauce mixes.
  • 1 ten-ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach (like the square, frozen block kind). Bring to a boil but do not overcook the spinach. Part of the appeal of the dip is the bright green color.
  • 1 16 oz container (2 cups) of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • 1 cup of Hellman’s mayonnaise. (I use light Hellman’s mayonnaise in my dip)
  • 1 can of water chestnuts
  • 3 green onions
  • If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of garlic powder or a dash of Tabasco
  • Parsley garnish, if desired


  • Cook the frozen spinach. Drain and squeeze dry by pressing it through a colander or sieve with paper towels.
  • Combine the Knorr mix in a mixing bowl with the mayonnaise and sour cream/yogurt and stir well.
  • Add the spinach and mix well.
  • Drain and chop a can of water chestnuts. Add them to bowl and mix well.
  • Chop 3 green onions. Add them to the bowl and mix well.
  • Put plastic wrap or a lld over the bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Grilled Turkey and Cheese Sandwich with Cranberry Mayo

I love Thanksgiving but what I really love, even more than the main meal, are the leftovers! I know this is strange, but to me, they taste better the second day!

I came up with this way to get cranberry sauce on my leftover turkey sandwich. I am Southern, so I mixed it into mayonnaise.

Take a dollop of your favorite mayo. Mine is Hellman’s Light. Then cut in the cranberry sauce until the mayo is just light pink. Leaving little bits of cranberry sauce gives the mayo a kind of jeweled look. Which I know, you will never see, once the sandwich is assembled. But it gives the sandwich a bright flavor.

Then layer your ingredients. Add a slice of Havarti or Swiss cheese and grill the whole thing like a grilled cheese.

This is so good! And it is good with deli Turkey, as well, if you don’t have any leftover turkey to make sandwiches.

When you want Thanksgiving Dinner…RIGHT NOW

Do you ever get a craving for Thanksgiving dinner when it’s not Thanksgiving? I know I do! As soon as November rolls around, I am dreaming of stuffing and turkey. Not to worry. I have a Thanksgiving meal you can whip up in 15 minutes.


  • It looks and smells just like Thanksgiving.
  • It tastes pretty good. It’s better than a frozen entree.
  • It is lightining fast.
  • It is inexpensive
  • Everything is made on the stove top. The kitchen won’t be hot.

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Apple Pie Smoothie

Happy Apple Day! I have an apple recipe that I know you’ll love. This healthy recipe tastes a lot like Apple Pie to me. Add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract if you like. For one serving, add to a smoothie blender…

About 1/4 cup of applesauce (or 1 apple sauce single serving cup)
About 1/2 cup of milk, milk alternative or yogurt
6 ice cubes
Generous shake of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
1/2 tsp. brown sugar or honey, optional

Blend all ingredients until well mixed. If mixture is too thick, add a little apple juice, water or milk. Pour into a tumbler. If desired, top with spray whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup and serve with a re-usable or paper straw. Enjoy!

Non-Alcoholic Festive Drinks

Here are some of my favorite festive drinks — non-alcoholic so you can enjoy them anytime!

Photo by Madison Inouye on

The Mary Christmas In  a glass with ice, pour in mandarin orange seltzer. Top with cranberry juice cocktail. Sprinkle a pinch of ground cloves on top. I also add a twist of orange peel (when I eat an orange, I freeze the peel and store it in a freezer bag). This drink smells and tastes just like Christmas 🙂

The Holly Jolly This is nice to drink if  you are at an office party with an open bar and you don’t want to drink alcohol. Ask the bartender to make you a spritzer of plain seltzer topped with cranberry juice (plain seltzer with cranberry juice) and add a wedge of lime. It looks festive, it’s refreshing, it’s low calore and most importantly, non-alcoholic! Tip: If you are making this at home, try freezing some whole cranberries and fresh rosemary sprigs in some ice cubes for an extra festive touch.

Mom’s Mocktail My mom likes this. Mix cranberry cocktail with gingerale. Yes, they make this flavor. B ut the blend you make yourself is more tasty! To make this even more festive, rim the glass with green sugar.

The Rudolph In a glass with ice, mix coca cola with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with cocoa or chocolate syrup.

The Clarice In a glass with ice, mix Sprite with a little cherry juice from the maraschino cherry jar. Add a cherry. Bonus points if you rim the glass with pink sugar!

Three Wise Men In a glass of ice, add a couple of splashes of tart cherry juice and an equal amount of pear juice (you can use the pear syrup from an individual cup of pears or pear nectar). Fill the rest of the glass with plain seltzer or mineral water, mix and add an anise star.

Partridge in a Pear Tree Smoothie

I was reminded of the song, On the Twelth Day of Christmas, when I thought of the idea for this pear smoothie. You know, the patridge in a pear tree?

This drink will give you lots of energy. I like it as an afternoon pick-me-up. This makes one serving.

In a blender, add, in this order:

  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup canned pears in juice, mashed (you can also use very ripe, fresh pears. I left the peel on mine)
  • A splash of the juice from the can (use water or apple juice if you are using fresh pears)
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cap of almond extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • If you have it and you like the taste, a pinch of cardamon
  • A squeeze of honey

Blend and enjoy! By the way, this beautiful Partridge in a Pear Tree ornament is made by Old World Christmas.