Sometimes holidays are not what you planned. Often they take on a life of their own. Perhaps that’s what Christmas is all about. Welcoming or being open to something new, something loving, maybe even moving on from what you thought you had to have.
Having spent a good deal of my life totally and happily obsessively busy at holiday-time, Christmas these days–without a bunch of kids at home and a church job– sometimes seems like Christmas Light. I mean, there’s little to do except throw up the tree (i’m not a decorator) and bake cookies (I’m watching my cookies these days.) Well, perhaps there’s a bit more…
“The girls” in our backyard (above)
So living in Christmas Light mode means there’s time for…
Daughter Emily and I waiting for “The Nutcracker” to begin
And it’s a wrap for granddaughter Piper’s “Nutcracker.” Ballet shoes off and purple boots on! Time for lunch with everyone. (above and below)
Tucker loving “White Christmas” (above)
Rosie staying warm in the foyer light while I cooked (below)
Rosie and Tucker watching for something to bark at (above)
-Husband Dave cooking Christmas dinner–continuing a long-held tradition of me being off on December 25– while I watched “Christmas in Connecticut” with Emily (above)
And somehow, the week moves on toward New Year’s Day. There’s a sense of feeling a bit lost in those days between Christmas and New Years–particularly this year for us as Dave’s dad became ill and ended up in the hospital (ah, altitude) and Dave spend a couple of days in Denver while I dog sat here at home. He’s better and New Year’s comes what may… and surely must include a pot of beans or bean soup for good luck in 2019.
BEANS–A FEW HAPPY FACTS
Whether or not you need good luck, I hope your Christmas–if you celebrate– was all you wanted it to be. As you look ahead now at New Year’s Day, think about putting on a pot of happy beans, opening a bottle of wine, and starting a very long card game while they cook. Go ahead and try this:
SLOW COOKER SMOKED TURKEY AND BEAN SOUP
Can’t find a smoked turkey leg? Use a fresh turkey leg, or 2 wings (less meat here), or a turkey thigh along with 3 pieces of chopped smoked bacon instead.
- 1 pound dry white beans–northern, navy, or cannellini (white kidney beans)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely-minced
- 3 each carrots and celery stalks, diced
- 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence (or a mixture of dried rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil)=
- 2 quarts chicken broth, low sodium
- 1 quart of water
- 1/2 cup white wine, optional
- 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- Handful of chopped fresh parsley
- Hot sauce ( a few drops in slow cooker and passed at the table)
- Smoked turkey leg or two smoked turkey wings
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional
1. Soak sorted* beans overnight in water that just covers beans. Alternately, cover them with water, bring them to a boil for five minutes, and let sit one or more hours and drain before adding to slow cooker.
2. Add soaked beans to a 6-quart slow cooker along with onion, garlic, carrots, celery, Herbes de Provence, chicken stock, water, white wine, if using, tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, and hot sauce. Stir in 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix well. Gently place smoked turkey leg in the center of the bean mixture.
4. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until beans are tender. Remove turkey leg, let cool briefly; remove and shred meat carefully with hands. Discard skin, tendons, gristle and bone, and return the meat to the pot. See photo below. If you like your soup thicker, remove 2-3 cups of soup and puree carefully in the food processor, blender, or using an immersion blender. Return the blended portion of soup to the slow cooker. Taste and re-season as necessary.
Serve hot with corn bread (recipe below), garnished with parsley, if using. Place a bottle of hot sauce on the table for those that like spicier soup.
Cook’s Note: You can also use a bay leaf or two plus a teaspoon of dried thyme in place of these dried herbs if that is more appealing to you.
*Sorted: Check dry beans thoroughly for stones or other inedible materials before cooking.
above: carefully remove all gristle, tendons, skin, etc., while shredding meat
WINE: I have to have a red Rhône with bean soup. A French bottle is fine, but remember, too, the lovely California Rhône-style reds when you shop.
Alyce’s Corn Bread–Gluten-free option included
makes one 9″inch cast iron pan (can use 9″ baking pan if necessary)
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons for batter; 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
- 1 cups white or yellow cornmeal, stone-ground if possible
- 1 cup unbleached white flour or basic gluten-free baking mix such as King Arthur’s**
- 1/4 cup white, granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius). Place rack at center.
- Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and set aside.
- Heat a 9″ cast iron skillet (23 Le Creuset) on the stove top over low flame with thetablespoon of remaining butter. (If using a baking pan, simply grease the pan.) Tilt and tip skillet from side to side to coat the entire pan with a film of butter. Remove from heat if butter begins to burn.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, onion, and reserved melted butter. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix well the dry ingredients (cornmeal – pepper). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just barely combined.
- Pour batter into hot skillet or greased pan. I let the pan sit there a minute or two. Using hot pad for skillet, carefully move skillet to oven center rack.
- Bake about twenty minutes or until bread is golden brown with crispy edges and a toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. Serve hot with honey and butter. Wrap leftovers carefully and store at room temperature for one-two days or up to one week in the refrigerator. (Good crumbled in milk for breakfast.)
NO TIME FOR SLOW COOKER BEAN SOUP?
Try this fast bowl of beanie goodness my youngest students make:
Enjoy your New Year’s whatever beans you eat,