Enjoy traditional New Year’s dishes

New Year’s Eve. Did you get everything done in 2017 that you had planned, or hoped, to do? I surely didn’t! Most of my projects for the year will just go on next year’s “project list.” There seems to be more things left undone than things done, but no one will even know about them a hundred years from now!

My Christmas cards are now almost antiques since they have been in the closet so long. I had definite plans to use them this year but it didn’t happen – again. Husband Norm put the angel on top of the Christmas tree the day before Christmas Eve and the garlands for around the porch never left the family room. Maybe next year I should start a little earlier?!!

Are you enjoying the “traditional” foods of the day tomorrow? Pork and sauerkraut in some form is supposed to start the coming year. This is one time that the crockpot does the cooking for me at night and I do the relaxing for the day tomorrow and contemplate on what this year might bring. For the young, New Year’s Eve is party time, but not for me anymore. Been there; done that; no need to repeat it.

Tomorrow is the first day of this New Year. What happens in the coming year and what we do with it is all in the future. We can “plan” all we want, but whether what we want happens or not isn’t entirely set in concrete either. Some we have personal control over and some is beyond our efforts. It is best to “hope for the best, expect the worse, and take what comes”. If you had grandparents that were like mine, you heard that phrase over and over! It does make the most sense for keeping our sanity, though. I have to keep reminding myself that you can’t change yesterday, you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so you can only handle today, and since today is the first day of the rest of our life, we should live it wisely. Everyone has plans about what would be good to have happen (New Year’s resolutions?), but plans or dreams don’t always go like we would prefer. Since we aren’t promised tomorrow, live today. (Winning the lottery would be nice, but I am not holding my breath!)

This coming Saturday is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. This is a good time to have a party in which everyone brings all the left-over cookies and candy and finishes off the “calorie” foods. About half the population will start a diet that usually doesn’t last very long. So, enjoy this last day of Christmas and the cookies and good candy and forget losing weight this week. It’s still Christmas!

Our “white Christmas” left us as quickly as it came, but we did have it for a while. Personally, if I am cold, I like to see “white” when I look out the window, but old Mother Nature does whatever she wants. I will just put on a warm sweater, make soup, bake something in the oven (helps make the kitchen warm) and be thankful for the sweater and a roof over my head. So many folks have lost so much this past year with the hurricanes and the fires that we have no right to complain about anything here in our valley.

It is a common thing for folks to pick a word to go by for the coming year. I think mine this year will be “thankful”. The things that aren’t actually like I would choose seem to activate a “complaining voice” in me too often, so, although I don’t usually make “resolutions”, this year I am going to try to live my chosen word. The older one gets, the easier it is to notice the actions and words in others that are not what we think is the best for them or us and it is too easy to complain about the world in general! So, my plan for this coming year is to TRY to change my attitude to be more “thankful” for each day, no matter what comes my way, even if it is not what I would have chosen. You know what is said – “Too soon old; too late smart!”

The garden catalogs will start arriving any day now. The garden on the hilltop will be small this year so I can handle it alone. I was raised on a farm; Norm wasn’t. He enjoys nice tomatoes, but he doesn’t feel the need to “grow something” like I do. The berry and grape vines will keep me busy enough. The weeding always got ahead of me anyway! If you have little ones at your house and even just a smidge of ground, let them plant a few seeds and care for the plants. They will eat a vegetable that they learned how to grow. Also, teaches responsibility! The Farmers’ Markets will supply most of my produce this coming year. They offer fresh veggies and help the local farmers, too; a win-win for everyone.

Count your blessings, remember our protectors, thank them and keep them in your prayers. Brew that cup of tea and relax by the fire place. Enjoy the start of this coming year.

God Bless!

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SPARERIBS AND SAUERKRAUT

Spareribs

Salt and pepper

Sauerkraut

Brown sugar

Apple

Caraway seeds

Cut spareribs into serving sized pieces and brown in a little oil. Season with salt and pepper. Drain sauerkraut and rinse with water and drain again. Core and slice apple. Peeling is optional. For one bag of sauerkraut, use one large apple or two small ones and about one-third cup of brown sugar. Use one-half to three-fourths teaspoon caraway seeds. Combine the kraut, sugar, sliced apple and caraway seeds in a Dutch oven or a crockpot. Add water to not quite the top of the kraut. Place the browned spareribs on top. Cook gently until ribs are tender. In a Dutch oven, it takes about two hours of simmering. In a crockpot, it takes several hours, but this way is best – just start the ribs on New Year’s Eve on low and have them to eat on New Year’s Day. It is the easiest – no watching the pot! If you like kraut a little more sour, don’t rinse it before you add it to the pot.

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BLACK- EYED PEAS AND HAM HOCKS

1 (16-oz.) package dried black-eyed peas

1 to 12 cups water, divided

1 ham hock – at least 1/2 lbs., or 2 or 3 smaller ones

1 large onion, whole

Salt

Sort and wash peas and place in a Dutch oven. Cover with water 2-inches above peas (5 to 6 cups). Let soak overnight. Drain peas and cover with fresh water. Wash ham hock and add to peas. Add onion. Stir gently. Simmer, allowing some steam to escape, for about 1 hour or until peas are tender. Remove onion and discard. Remove ham hock and cut meat from the bone. Dice meat and stir into peas. Add salt to taste. Fresh, frozen or canned peas can be used and don’t require the soaking the dried ones do. Add only enough water to cook them.

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HOPPING JOHN

6 slices bacon, diced

1 onion, whole

6 cups water

1 cup dried black-eyed peas

1 cup regular rice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine bacon, onion and water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Add peas, cover, and simmer 1 hour and 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Remove onion and discard. Stir in rice, salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer another 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

If you soak the peas overnight, as in the above recipe, it doesn’t take as long to make this. If you use fresh, frozen, or canned peas, it goes even quicker.

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TWELFTH NIGHT CAKE

1 cup raisins

1 cup currants

1 cup chopped candied pineapple

1/2 cup chopped candied red cherries

3/4 cup bourbon

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup ground almonds

1 dried pinto bean

1 dried black-eyed pea

Combine first 5 ingredients and stir well. Cover mixture and let set overnight. The next day, cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour and spiced together and gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in almonds and fruit mixture. Spoon batter into a greased and waxed (or parchment) paper lined 9-inch spring form pan. Press bean and pea just below the surface of the batter a little distance from each other. Bake in preheated 300-degrees for 2 hours, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely in pan.

The man who finds the bean is the “king” and the person who finds the pea is his “queen” for the party.

This is the traditional cake for a Twelfth Night Party, the start of the Mardi Gras season.

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“DIET” VEGETABLE SOUP

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

2 cups water

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 medium to large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley flakes

2 beef bouillon cubes

1 packet dry onion soup

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Dash Tabasco

1 small (4-oz.) can sliced mushrooms and liquid

1 (16-oz.) can green beans and liquid

Salt to taste

Combine tomato juice, water and cabbage in a heavy Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until cabbage is tender. Add remaining ingredients and heat to blend. Can keep leftovers in refrigerator for up to a week.

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Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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