Saturday, December 29, 2012

Black Eyed Pea Stew

" We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and it's first chapter is New Year's Day."

-Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I'm taking a little break from blogging till mid January. Until then please enjoy this Black Eyed Pea Stew I made in 2011. It is hearty, delicious, and perfect for a New Year Meal!
Happy New Year everyone! Like most of you know, eating black eyed peas on New Year's day is supposed to bring good luck. We had some ham and the bone left from Christmas, so I put it to use in this easy, and flexible stew. If you don't have black eyed peas, no big deal, use another bean, like navy, or even kidney beans. I used a bag of dried beans but you could use a few cans of beans instead.
This recipe makes quite a bit, but it freezes nicely.

Black Eyed Pea Stew


one bag (16 oz.) dried black eyed peas, or 3 cans
one ham bone with 3 cups diced ham
3 carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
3 ribs of celery chopped into bite sized pieces
1 onion chopped
2, 15 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

if you like some heat, you can add some dried chipotle pepper, or even a tablespoon or so from a small can of chopped chipotle peppers, (the smokiness works well with the smokiness of the ham) if you are using the canned peppers, and aren't familiar with using them, start with a small amount first, (they can get spicy), and adjust to your taste.


Cook the black eyed peas if using dried. I used a crockpot. (I think this is the best way to cook them, because all of the ham flavor gets infused into the black eyed peas.) Add the peas, a tsp of salt, the bay leaves, the ham, the bone and the chopped onion to the crockpot and fill the crockpot almost to the top with water. (I used a 4 quart crockpot.) If using a larger crockpot, I'd start with 8 cups water, add more later if needed.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until the peas are soft. If you are using a larger crockpot and have the time, you can add everything else and cook until the carrots and celery are soft. (an additional 3 hours or so.)

I poured it all into an 8 quart pot on the stove and added everything else and cooked for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables were tender.

If you are using canned black eyed peas, drain the peas and rinse, throw it all in a large pot on the stove, add 4-6 cups water or broth, cook on medium heat for an hour or so, until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended. If needed, add water or broth to get the consistency you like.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same."
 - Donald E. Westlake

Christmas day is in a week! Time goes by so fast. Especially as I get older. I want to stop and cherish the moments. I mean it is the most wonderful time of the year!

Chopping the cherries
I wanted to make some Christmas cookies. Usually this time of year I'm baking up a storm! Not exactly what it's been like this year. I've been sick, the dogs have been sick. And when I'm not feeling good it all backs up. The dishes, the laundry, you know what I mean.

Cut up the butter and add it to the dry ingredients
So these cookies that I wanted to make, well they had to be good, since I wasn't exactly going to make more cookies soon.

Cut it into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the butter is like fine crumbs. You could also do this in a food processor.
I'm so glad I made these. I love, love, love maraschino cherries. Once I open a jar, it's like my arm is uncontrollable, I need to eat one after the other. Thankfully I purchased 2 jars, but only needed one.

That's maraschino cherry juice on the left, I added a few Tablespoons of the juice to my cookies.
 I love white chocolate and shortbread too, so come on! I was all over this recipe.

Knead the mixture and form into a ball
These cookies turned out delicious! My husband who isn't even a white chocolate fan, said, "those cookies are really good!" (High praise from someone who doesn't love sweets.)
There is white chocolate in the cookies themselves, as well as being dipped in the white chocolate. You don't really need to dip them into white chocolate if you don't want to. I think it makes them more pretty. The cookies that aren't dipped, aren't too sweet which is nice.

Roll up a dough ball, then press it down with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar

These really are a great Christmas time cookie. I love that they are sort of pink. I added to the pink-ness by adding pink sprinkles. So they're festive, pretty, and super yummy! I think these would be the star at a cookie party! Santa would love them too, I just know it!

Right out of the oven

I hope you and your family are having a fabulous Christmas season!

After I dipped them in white chocolate and sprinkled them with pink sprinkles!

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
- Hamilton Wright Mabie

I link up with these great parties!

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens


1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz or 91 g. weighed after draining) maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped - but save the cherry liquid!
2 1/2 cups (375 g.) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) or (228 g.) cold unsalted butter, (or if using salted, reduce the salt amount to 1/4 tsp)

12 ounces (340 g.) white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 -2 Tablespoons of reserved maraschino cherry liquid

White nonpareils and/or edible glitter (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit,  160/170 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 3.
Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into pieces (around 2 Tablespoon size) and add it to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained, chopped cherries and 4 ounces (114 g.) (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, 1 -2 Tablespoons of the cherry juice. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball. It will seem too dry, but the more you knead it, it will come together.
Shape dough into about 1 -1 1/2 inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner (like a Silpat), or lined with parchment paper. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 3 inch rounds. Bake in preheated oven for 12- 15 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
Melt the white chocolate according to package directions.  Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, add some sprinkles. Place cookies on waxed paper or parchment, or a silicone baking sheet until chocolate is set. Makes about 3 dozen.
To store:
Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hot Buttered Rum

"No Matter how little money and how few possessions, you own, having a dog makes you rich."
-Louis Sabin

My dogs are sick. I mentioned it on Facebook earlier today. Thank you everyone for the words of kindness, I so appreciate it. Both of them are sick, however Lucien is the sickest. He even threw up water earlier. Now I'm giving him ORT. Oral re-hydration therapy. (Per my husband, the nurse.) A fancy way of saying I'm giving him a little water in a syringe every hour so he doesn't get dehydrated. That's what they do for little babies when they are sick in the hospital. And Lucien is my little baby, so I need to give him lots of love and care.
Anyway, I was supposed to make cookies today and tell you all about them. That didn't happen. I feel like I need to sit here and stare at the dog. However, I was able to get away and mix up this quick drink. I thought, a drink, that's what I could use right now.
The ingredients
A nice warm drink. A nice, delicious, yummy warm cocktail. This drink is just wonderful. I love hot buttered rum and order it when I see it on a menu.

All whipped up

I've never made it myself until now. I was looking through recipes on and came across this one. I'm so glad I made it. It's tasty. Sweet with some spice. It's a nice change from drinking hot chocolate, or cider. Both of which I've been drinking a lot of lately.

I love it that you mix up the spiced butter and keep it in the fridge to be used later. So if you have an unexpected guest and want to offer them a little cordial, you're ready to go. This would also be great at a holiday party. And you don't even need to use rum. I used bourbon the second time of making this and it's just as delicious.

Perfect for a night sitting with your dogs, by the Christmas tree, hoping for a Christmas miracle that they start feeling better very soon.

Tuesday December 11th is my birthday, everybody! I'm celebrating by offering a coupon code for 20% off at my shop, House of Lucien! Enter coupon code BIRTHDAY2012, this offer is good on anything! It will be good through Wednesday, December 12th.

Our Christmas Tree

Vintage Haviland, Limoges teacup and silver tray available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

Hot Buttered Rum

adapted from


3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) (170 g.) butter, room temperature

1 cup (200 g.) packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

pinch of salt



In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, add the butter, brown sugar, spices and a pinch of salt and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix again until fluffy.

Keep stored in the fridge when not in use. Can be stored for two weeks, refrigerated.

To make a hot buttered rum: Add 1 oz. to 1 1/2 oz. of rum to an 8 oz. mug (or slightly larger.) Add 2 Tablespoons of the spiced butter to the mug. Fill the mug with hot water, stir, and serve.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gingerbread Cookie Gift Tags

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas." 

~Peg Bracken

Hey everyone! Look I have a shiny new blog! Thanks to Rekita from A Lovely Army Wife, her business is called Designed Lovely Studio where she does awesome things with blogs like she did with mine! I highly reccomend her, if you need a new look like I did.
I'm loving these gingerbread cookie tags! They taste great, full of ginger and spice, and who doesn't want a little cookie with their gift?

These cookies have a good amount of spice, if you are making them for children, you may want to reduce the amounts a little.

These can be used as a gift tag with an initial like I've done, or you can write out names on them with the icing. These can even be used as Christmas tree ornaments. (I wouldn't eat them after that, since I've made these prior to Thanksgiving, but if it was a week before Christmas, I might eat them, even if they are slightly stale from sitting out.)

Spray the measuring cup with nonstick spray before pouring in the molasses so it slides right out. This recipe calls for 3/4 a cup plus 2 Tablespoons of molasses, I just eyeballed it in this one cup measure.

But yes, these are totally edible. Keep them in an airtight container until you wrap the gift.

Adding the flour

The dough is easy to work with. Just use two sheets of parchment to roll out the dough, so it doesn't stick. You can't use too much flour when rolling these out, since you don't want them to turn out white.

The dough is sort of stiff, not too bad. It's easy to work with. Here I'm dividing the dough into thirds to wrap in plastic and let chill for an hour.

Cut a hole out to put a ribbon through, with either a straw or the end of a pastry tip.

 Roll the dough out quite thin, 1/8th of an inch. This isn't super easy to do, especially between parchment. Some of mine are sort of thick. No problem, if yours are thicker you need to just make sure your hole is big enough, so when they bake the hole doesn't close up.

Rolling out the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper

Put the cookies on a parchment paper (or Silpat) lined baking sheet. Then place a second piece of parchment on the unbaked cookies with another baking sheet on top of that before going in the oven so cookies stay flat while baking.

Cut out whatever shapes you want, initials, here I did a star with an initial inside. My alphabet cookie cutters are sort of big, so to do a cutout like this, I needed to make the outside shape pretty large.

These cookies are crisp, they are meant to be. I tried to under cook my cookies slightly to make them soft. Why not? What could be the problem with that, you say? Well, with my softer cookies I had a hard time stringing a ribbon through them, I had a few break. The softer cookies are just more delicate. So crispy are better and easier to work with.

If you are using thick ribbon for wrapping, it's so much easier to attach the cookies with a small piece of wire, or a small ribbon attached to the thick ribbon. It's a chore to get thick ribbon through the hole and not have a break.

Cut a hole for stringing on top with a straw or a pastry tip if you have one. A number 12 worked the best for me, some of these have a smaller hole. Ready for the oven.

Wrap up the gift, attach the gingerbread to ribbon, and watch everyone smile when they receive their special gift.
Happy Holidays!  I wish you a beautiful and joy filled season!

Right out of the oven

Sprinkling the frosted cookies with edible glitter. Use a toothpick to keep the hole clear.

Frosted and decorated, waiting to dry

Gingerbread Gift Tags

adapted from Martha Stewart Living

makes 30-40 gift tags, you can easily halve the recipe if you want to make less

Gingerbread Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) (228 g.) unsalted butter

1 cup (200 g.) dark brown sugar, packed

1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Ginger

1 1/2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. allspice

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup (177 ml) plus 2 Tablespoons molasses - I used a 1 cup measure and eyeballed it

6 cups (900 g.) all purpose flour

Frosting Ingredients

2 cups (200 g.) sifted powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk (adding in more if needed for proper spreading consistency)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract - use clear vanilla (or omit it) if you want the icing to be totally white, regular vanilla will make it beige, or you can use lemon juice to give it a little lemon flavor.

sprinkles or other decorations for topping

Directions for cookies

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter and brown sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Mix in the spices and salt. Beat in the eggs and molasses, making sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.

Add flour and mix on low speed to combine. Divide dough into thirds, press to flatten and wrap in plastic. Place in fridge and let chill for an hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. Lightly flour 2 pieces of parchment paper. Roll out the first piece of dough to 1/8 an inch between the two pieces of parchment. Use cookie cutters to cut into desired shapes. Initials, or a large cookie with an initial cut out of the middle. Or any shape you want! Cut a hole for hanging with a straw, or a size 10 or 12 pastry tip. Using a spatula, carefully transfer cookies to parchment lined, or Silpat lined, baking sheet. Cover cookies with parchment paper then top it with a second baking sheet to keep cookies flat while baking. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Keep the baking sheet on top for about 20 minutes while cooling. Let the cookies cool completely before frosting. Frost with the frosting recipe provided if desired. Keep cooled cookies (if frosted make sure they are totally dry, overnight is good) in an airtight container before using.

Frosting Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the powdered sugar with milk (start with 1-2 tablespoons, you will likely need more milk for the perfect spreading consistency). If you are adding sprinkles or other decorations, put them on right after frosting the cookies. Then let dry completely before using.

If you want to write names on the cookies, tint the frosting to desired color, use a pastry bag and writing tip, or put frosting into a small baggie and cut a small hole in the corner for writing. If you are writing on a cookie that has been frosted already, make sure that frosting has dried first.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brown Sugar and Spice Muffins

"There are two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other as though everything is a miracle."

Albert Einstein

Wow, the holidays are here! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! The weather is chilly here. I don't seem to remember how cold it gets here in Western Washington. The Summer comes, and I blissfully forget of the winter before, leaving me cold and dumbstruck when it arrives again.

Mix wet ingredients with dry

We've lived here 5 years now. Maybe it takes longer than that to forget a lifetime of year round warm weather in Southern California.
Don't mix it too much, just until it's combined

This is the kind of food I like to eat when the weather is cold. Warm, simple food with yummy spices. This muffin recipe is super easy. Really. Add dry ingredients in a bowl, add wet in another bowl, and fold together gently. That's it! Which makes these muffins easy to whip up in a hurry.

Scoop batter into greased muffin tin

With the holidays upon us, and families visiting, having an easy muffin recipe with simple ingredients in your back pocket is a good thing.

Right out of the oven
These muffins will please even the most discerning guest. They are moist, and flavorful, with a sweet cinnamon sugar top. Heartwarming food that will comfort you on a cold day.

Vintage Paragon teacup (below) available in my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

House of Lucien is having a big CYBER WEEK SALE! Take 20 % off anything and everything using coupon code, CYBERMONDAY2012. Coupon good till Friday, 11/30/2012.

Brown Sugar and Spice Muffins

These would also be tasty with some raisins, or other dried fruit, or nuts added

2 cups (300 g.) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 g.) brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt or sour cream
1/3 cup (78 ml.) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (59 ml) unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For Topping

cinnamon sugar

ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit, 190 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 5. Spray or grease a 12 count muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and gently fold the mixture into the dry mixture. Don't mix it too much, your muffins will be tough if you do. Just mix it enough to blend it, then stop.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins using an ice cream scoop. Sprinkle tops of muffins with a little cinnamon sugar, then top them with a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, (check after 18 minutes.) Let the muffins cool on a wire rack in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tins by running a knife along the edge to loosen, then remove and let cool on a rack, or remove them and serve them!