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Black Eyed Peas with Ham Hocks

HAPPY NEW YEAR! This recipe, which can also be called Hoppin' John, is our annual New Year tradition and it was adapted from a random recipe from About.com. For this recipe, 'adapted' is used loosely; the alterations on our end are very minute.

2 lbs Black Eyed Peas
2 Medium Ham Hocks
6 Cups Water
1 Large Onion
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 tsp Sugar
Pinch of Salt

Rinse and soak the peas overnight.

Place ham hocks in large kettle or Dutch oven with the water and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Chop the onion and drain the peas and add to the ham hock. Add enough water to cover the peas and stir in the crushed red pepper, sugar, and salt. Cover tightly and simmer for 2 hours or until peas are tender.

Remove the ham hock and shred the meat. [The meat and fat should fall right off the bone, so be careful when removing the ham hock from the kettle.] Dump the meat back into the pot and stir to combine.

Serve over hot cooked rice with cornbread.

8 servings

We make sweet corn bread and basic white rice. I know some people that nix the rice and eat just the black eyed peas, while some mix in ketchup and mash the corn bread into the bowl. How do you prefer your black eyed peas? Or what different New Year's food traditions do you keep?

Candied Garlic Chicken

Ever have one of those nights where you mindlessly throw things together and you don't even hope they turn out well - you just want it edible? Tonight was such a night. I was too focused on that package of Knorr® Italian Sides: Creamy Garlic Shells that had been in my pantry for a week, taunting me (I bought it on sale as something to fill my pantry). I really just wanted to cook the pasta and eat it. With nothing else. Like I did (and sometimes still do) with macaroni and cheese. BUT! I was strong-willed enough not to do something so atrocious and guilt-inducing. Instead, I spent my time cleaning a pan, throwing things into it with chicken, not giving much care to how it would taste....

Until I realized I had parsley, garlic, brown sugar, and lemon juice combined. Um, ew?

Panic mode never set in; instead I went into Chopped mode: What do I have in here that can fix what I just did? The end result was something to which I am absolutely proud to have my name attached - even if it was a 'suicide' concoction (were you one of the brave ones at the soda fountain? I never was).

Candied Garlic Chicken
Salt & Pepper
Dried Parsley
3-4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
3-4 Tbs Minced Garlic
6-8 Tbs Brown Sugar
1/2 - 1 Cup Lemon Juice
1/2 - 1 Orange Juice
2 Star Anise Pods

Preheat the oven to 350oF.

Sprinkle a 13x9 casserole dish with salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Place chicken in pan and sprinkle with more salt, pepper, and dried parsley. Smear about 1 tablespoon of minced garlic on each chicken breast and top with 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Gently smush the sugar into the garlic. [If you would prefer, create a paste with the garlic and sugar before spreading on top of the chicken.]

Around the chicken, pour equal amounts of lemon juice and orange juice, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come up the sides about an eighth of an inch. Add an additional few tablespoons of orange juice. Carefully break the star anise into pieces, placing the individual petal-pods around the pan in the juice, but not on the chicken. [You can leave the two pods whole, if you like, but try to keep the pan balanced (don't put both on one end)]

The star anise will need to be pulled out and thrown away before serving, NOT EATEN.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the star anise and serve with rice, pasta, or even Udon noodles!

Roughly 4 servings

This chicken turned out extremely better than anticipated. It smelled absolutely delicious with such sweet scents slipping out of the oven - so much so that I almost pulled the pan too early! I was slightly dreading the first bite, but once I got the fork past my lips, my tongue was in heaven. "Nirvana on my tongue" was the first review I posted to Facebook! The pasta actually took a backseat to the chicken, which married well with the creamy garlic shells and the last minute frozen steam-bag of "Asian medley" vegetables pulled from the microwave (I do not recommend these two sides served together; the cream clashes with the Asian flavors, but with a bite of chicken between each? Not bad).

If you feel brave enough to give this recipe a try, let me know! And tell me what sides you've gotten it to pair well with. Also, as always, if you have a variation on this, do share!