Archive for September, 2011

Hoppin' John

The much awaited swing to cooler temperatures turns thoughts toward fall and a shift in food choices. After hotdog and hamburger fares on Labor Day, hearty stews and rich soups replace light salads and simpler menus of summer.

Hoppin’ John seemed appropriate on a cool day in early September. This southern delight, mostly associated with the Carolinas, is a soup-stew with a powerhouse of nutrients. Possibly introduced by African slaves, its story goes back to at least 1841.The dish combines the primary ingredient—black-eyed peas—with sausage or ham and varied seasonings. Although traditionally served in southern homes on New Year’s Day to assure prosperity during the coming year, this dish is great any time.

Several tales exist as to the origin of its name. One story goes that as the mother brought the dish to the family, children hopped around the table before being seated. Folklore says a man named John came “a-hoppin” when his wife removed the dish from the stove. Still another account from South Carolina states that folks invited guests to a meal by the greeting “Hop-in, John.” Others claim a black man known as Hoppin’ John hawked the concoction in the streets of Charleston, SC. Regardless of the origin, its flavor tempts the palate.

I did not learn of this dish until my middle-aged years. I can’t say I enjoyed it at first. Years later at a pot-luck dinner and unaware of what I was eating, I wolfed down a second serving. The gracious lady who prepared it, a stranger to me, shared her recipe. In a brief time, Hoppin’ John became a favorite mainstay in our kitchen. Below is my version. Try it and let me know what you think.

Hoppin’ John

6          cups canned and drained or cooked dried black-eyed peas

4          cups chicken broth

2          cups water

1          (6.6 ounce) package long-grain and wild rice

4          cups diced canned tomatoes

1          pound smoked spicy sausage, cut into 1″ pieces and lightly seared*

½         cup chopped ham

Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. Soup will thicken as it sets. Freeze any leftover portions for up to six months.

* Searing cooks out part of the fat. To reduce fat content even more, use a smaller amount and add more lean ham.

Resource:  http://stirlaughrepeat.blogspot.com/2009/05/hoppin-john-history.html

Read Full Post »

I retrieved from the back recesses of my refrigerator a flavored yogurt mingled among other recently purchased cartons. My chosen yogurt had expired many months earlier. Even as we attempt to keep and eat safe food, occasionally some item gets missed.

September is National Food Safety Education Month. This marks the seventeenth year for the month-long campaign to increase food-safety awareness. Although focused on restaurants and the foodservice industry, the same safe practices apply at home.

Food Insight1, reported that those aged twenty to twenty-nine had the safest food preparation practices. Those safe practices peaked at mid-life and diminished with age. The dissimilarities of older adults required targeting education to specific populations, namely those with underlying chronic illnesses and those living alone who prepared their own food.

After a major E.coli outbreak in 1993, food-handling habits for young people seemed to improve when exposed to food-safety messages at school. Teaching young and school-aged children to wash their hands decreased chances of ingesting harmful bacteria. As this group grew to young adults and started families, they recognized the health impact of contaminated food. Positive behavioral changes protected their children. Even so, the Center for Disease Control reported a high rate of hospitalizations of very young children (under age three) due to foodborne infections.

Food Insight2 also suggested four areas for home inspections and practices:

  • Proper Food Handling: Frequent hand washing lowers the spread of bacteria.
  • Clean and Sanitized Surfaces: To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods such as fruits, vegetables, and breads. Wash and sanitize surfaces before and after preparation, especially meats.
  • Storage of Food: Perishable leftover foods need refrigerating within two hours. Label containers with the contents and date. Discard after three to four days.
  • Utensils and Equipment: Meats cooked to appropriate internal temperatures as determined by a meat thermometer lessen risks for foodborne illnesses.

Keep you and your family safe from tainted foods. Follow these simple rules to protect your household against foods that may cause illness.

1 http://www.foodinsight.org/Newsletter/Detail.aspx?topic=Partnership

 2 http://www.foodinsight.org/Newsletter/Detail.aspx?topic=National_Food_Safety_Education_Month

Read Full Post »