Christmas is full of family traditions, right?  What we do, what we eat, who we give gifts to, when we unwrap those gifts, etc., etc.  In our family, one of the best traditions is making cream candy.  My great-grandfather borrowed this recipe from a friend more than 100 years ago, and someone in my family – my parents or brother or cousins – make it every year.  I love seeing the white paper boxes of it, tied with red bows, that my mom delivers to friends.  The weather has to be cold, cold, cold to make it, and I’ve never done it by myself.   So I took a break from the Christmas chaos in early December and took a cup of coffee over to my mom’s to help (in other words, watch) her make a batch. It was the week it turned very cold here and the weather was gray and misty… it finally felt a little more like Christmas after the warm sunny days of late November.

We started with sugar and cream and vanilla on the stove:

Then cooled it into a thick rope of taffy to pull:

Then laid the taffy onto cold marble, in a twist to keep the pretty ridges, and used cold scissors to cut it into uniform squares.

The candy softens into butter-mint consistency, delicious and sweet.

These are bite-size, but the picture makes them look a little big 🙂

Traditional Christmas treats are comforting and delicious.  We all have our favorites.  But fast forward a week to New Year’s, and it’s different… because of the dreaded black eyed peas.

I was raised in a family with some serious Southern influence, and eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day was a thing.  Eating them is supposed to bring prosperity in the new year.  I’m not a big proponent of resolutions or random things that may or may not bring good luck, but once a tradition is ingrained it’s hard to let it go.  So our family always choked down a small serving of the icky peas on New Year’s Day just to be safe.

But I don’t like them!  So I was excited when I came across a delicious soup recipe that includes black-eyed peas.  And best of all, my whole family likes it.  Every time I make it for friends or family, they want the recipe.  So I’m sharing it here for all of you who want a dose of prosperity for 2017, but want it to taste good going down.  (I still recommend prayer and maybe vision board planning as better options for ensuring a good new year):

Ham Soup with Black-Eyed Peas
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
4 cloves minced garlic
2 1/2 cups diced cooked ham
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 15 oz cans black eyed peas (rinsed and drained)
2 14 oz cans golden hominy (rinsed and drained)
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
28 oz. chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 tablespoons mild molasses

Heat oil in a 4-qt dutch oven.  Add celery, onion, peppers and garlic; stir over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in ham, paprika, sugar, dry mustard, cumin, basil, oregano, thyme, cloves, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Cook and stir 5 minutes more.

Stir in black eyed peas, hominy, undrained tomatoes, broth, parsley, molasses.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, and then simmer covered for about 30 minutes.  (from the cookbook, Better Homes & Gardens Soups & Stews)

It’s colorful and delicious.  Enjoy!


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