New Year, New Me, or not...

Happier New Year to you all! Here we are, nearly a month in to it and I’m sure that you are all as thankful as I am to have put 2020 behind us and are hopeful and well intentioned moving forward into 2021. With every New Year there seems to be a glut of goodhearted declarations. All of the sudden everyone is going to be ‘Dry in January’, ‘Fit in February’, ‘Meatless in March’, and have ‘Abs in April’, ok, I made some of those up. I don’t know about you, but I’m just trying to keep from screaming or crying on any given day so the thought of taking up any of these well-meaning decrees is beyond me and beyond what I feel capable of right now.

Don’t get me wrong (or started, it’s my blog after all!), I think most of these are good ideas and I am making changes - slowly, gently, and because I want to. All through the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I’ve made sure to move every day, to get outside and walk, get in a light workout most mornings and a rigorous one a few times a week (ok, at least once a week). I might be baking (and eating baked goods) less, and I’ll probably no longer be having a ‘Holiday-inspired’ cocktail every (other?) day, and ending each day with a sip or a nip, and I will be working even more meatless and/or plant-based dishes into our mealtimes. What I will NOT be doing is putting any added pressure on myself by jumping on the standard moniker bandwagon.

I will absolutely be cooking lots of comfort food this winter. After all, French food is the ultimate comfort food; creamy gratins, lush braises, hearty soups, flaky pastry, savory tray-bakes, cheese, chocolate, cheese and buttery goodness galore, and maybe some more cheese!

It also seems like a good time to do something else I love and that is to revisit projects that I worked on the previous year and dive back in to some favorites. I have been developing recipes and food styling for Keto-Mojo here in Napa for almost two years now and mixed in there I have the pleasure of occasionally working with some of my favorite industry folks on regular projects of theirs or on fun, one-off projects like cookbooks. Ayesha Curry’s latest cookbook, The Full Plate was one such project that I worked on late 2019/early 2020, thanks to my pal Jessica for bringing me onboard. As it was winter when I was testing these recipes, I find myself longing for a few of those comforting creations this winter.

The Full Plate is packed with accessible, weeknight-friendly, family-oriented, flavorful recipes that will surprise and delight with their ease, range and raves. Ayesha’s Jamaican red pea soup with spinners is the first one that I had to make again. A simple combo of canned red beans, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, and broth (use vegetable broth to make it vegan), a smoked turkey wing or neck offers smoky richness (which you could alternately acheive with a few hefty pinches of smoked paprika like I did, or a dash of liquid smoke), and the spinners (hand-rolled dumplings) can be made using a gluten-free flour blend with brilliant results. Soul-satisfying, simple, filling and deliciously moreish!

I recently made and posted the apple turnovers from the book on IG and other recipes from the book are on the repeat list for this winter, a time of year where we crave delicious comfort, especially when it’s as accessible as the recipes from this good book (those turnovers are just as good with pears!). Beet, walnut, goat cheese salad with maple dressing, hot honey chicken sandwiches, parmesan baked scallops, lamb pasta bake and wild mushroom orzo risotto will definitely make a comeback.

A month into the New Year and I already feel like I need a vacation. Well, no traveling yet, so I guess I’ll get into the kitchen and enjoy a cooking escape/excursion. Next stop, Comfort Town!

Want to satisfy some souls this winter? Here’s my adapted version of Ayesha’s Jamaican Red Pea Soup, enjoy! Get the book, and Happy New Year!!! XOXO

Jamaican Red Pea Soup with Spinners

Serves 4 to 6

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely diced, about 2 cups

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 (15.5 ounce) cans kidney beans (drained and rinsed)

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk

½ to 1 tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 large sweet potato (about 20 oz) peeled and cut into ½-inch dice

1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

For the spinners:

1 cup all-purpose flour (or sub GF flour blend)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and green onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the kidney beans, coconut milk, paprika, red pepper flakes, sweet potato and broth along with ½ teaspoon pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the soup to a simmer for 40 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust with salt and pepper; increase the heat and return soup to a vigorous simmer.

For the spinners (dumplings): combine the flour and olive oil along with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup cool water in a medium bowl, gently mix until combined. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth. Scoop out tablespoonfuls of the dough and roll them between your palms into fat snakes. Drop the dumplings into the bubbling soup and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.

(couldn't help add this, acknowledging my acknowledgment!)

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