Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Growing up, my grandma always said that we needed to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.  She said it would bring us good luck.  Well, I am never going to turn down an opportunity for good luck OR an opportunity for a delicious soup!  Here's an easy recipe straight from my mom's recipe box for Black-Eyed Pea Soup. It's got a kick to it, so I have noted some substitutions you can make if you prefer something milder.  Happy New Year and may your year be filled with lots of luck!

Here's what you'll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 4-ounce can of chopped green chilies, rinsed and drained
3 cans black-eyed peas (or 4 cups)
3 cups beef broth (you could substitute chicken broth as well)
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (use regular diced tomatoes if you prefer a milder flavor)

Here's what to do:

On medium heat, saute oil, onion and garlic in large sauce pan.  
Stir in remaining ingredients.

Let simmer for about 30 minutes.

That's it!  Your soup is ready in about 30 minutes.  I like my soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.  I've heard eating ham is good luck too. I'm not taking any chances!  

Here's to a healthy, happy, and lucky 2015!

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

Black-Eyed Peas are supposed to be good luck for the New Year.  Here'a quick recipe for Black-Eyed Peas Salsa that you can serve with tortilla chips or as a side dish.  

Here's what you'll need:
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 can diced Rotel tomatoes with green chilies, drained
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
6 slices of pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Here's what to do:

Chop all your fresh ingredients:  red onion, red pepper, green onion, and jalapenos.

Add in your black-eyed peas.

Add in tomatoes. 

Add in garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar.

Combine all ingredients in bowl.  

Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for about 3 hours. 

Stir and serve with tortilla or corn chips.  You can also serve as a side bean salad.

Wishing you all good luck for the New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Creamy Jalapeno Dip

Here is fair warning.  This Creamy Jalapeno Dip is addictive.  I first tried this dip at Chuy's, a Mexican restaurant chain.  It is so delicious and I really think I could eat a vat of it with tortilla chips.  Some of my friends love this dip so much that they go and buy containers of it from the restaurant. Every time I ate it, I always tried to figure out what was in it.  I could detect some specific flavors, but wondered what made it taste so good.  I decided to search online for a copycat recipe so I could make it at home for my family and friends. Here's a great recipe from "Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke" and it tastes just like the restaurant version.  The only thing I changed was by adding more jalapenos and cilantro.

Here's what you'll need:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
16 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup salsa verde or tomatilla salsa
1 small handful of cilantro (just the tops)
1 and 1/2 packets of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos- drain juice
1 lime (squeeze juice)

Here's how to make it:
Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until smooth.  

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and serve with tortilla chips, potato chips, or use as salad dressing.  This dip can be refrigerated in a sealed container for about a week.  That is...IF it isn't eaten up by then!

The hubs taking the first bite and he said that it's a keeper!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cracker Snackers

Do you need a quick snack for a party or movie night?  These snacker crackers are zesty and delicious. Plus, they are super easy to make!  They taste great on their own, or you can sprinkle them on your salad instead of croutons. You can even add a few as a topping for your soup.  Delish!

Here's what you need:
1 1-ounce package of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 16-ounce bag of oyster crackers

Here's what to do:

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

In a small bowl, add the oil, Hidden Valley Ranch packet, dill, lemon pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Whisk until mixed through.

Put oyster crackers in a gallon Ziplock bag.  Add the oil mixture.  Seal the bag and toss around until well-coated.

Arrange the crackers on a baking sheet in a single layer. 

Bake the crackers for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool and store in an airtight container or baggie.

Happy Holidays!


Peanut Clusters

You just won't believe it.  These Peanut Clusters are so easy to make.  Just layer the ingredients in your slow cooker and a few hours later...ta-dah!  You have delicious peanut clusters. 

This recipe was given to me by a dear friend.  She made them for a get-together and graciously shared the recipe.  She calls it "Crockpot Candy".  It's a great treat to give to friends and relatives during the holiday season.

Here's what you'll need:
1 16-ounce container of dry roasted salted peanuts
1 16-ounce of unsalted dry roasted peanuts
1 12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 4-ounce bar of German chocolate
1 package of white almond bark (20 ounces)

Makes about 64 peanut clusters

Here's what to do:
Layer the peanuts in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Then layer the rest of the ingredients over the peanuts: white almond bark, chocolate chips, and German chocolate.

Put your slow cooker on low heat for 1 to 2 hours until all the chocolate is melted.  No need to stir until at least an hour and a half.  The chocolate will look "melty" on top of the peanuts.  

After 1 to 2 hours, stir ingredients together.

Using a tablespoon, dip out chocolate and peanut mixture in rounded spoonfuls onto wax paper. 

Let cool completely.

Store in airtight containers or bags. 

As you can see this recipe makes lots of peanut clusters!  It makes about 64 peanut clusters.  Here is a picture of my counter top with my peanut cluster palooza!

Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Irena's Jar of Secrets: A Narrative Nonfiction Lesson

I think it is important to teach kids about important people in the world, especially the unsung heroes.  For interactive read alouds, I prefer to choose picture books that have interesting stories and many times I choose a narrative nonfiction.  

I love the way a narrative nonfiction picture book unfolds with a beautifully written story and beautiful illustrations.  

This particular lesson was all about a true hero by the name of Irena Sendler. She saved about 2,500 children in the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust. 

Irena convinced parents to let her take their children to safety and smuggled these children out of the ghetto in burlap bags, suitcases, boxes, and other ways you just can't imagine.  

She gave each child a new identity and found homes for them with non-Jewish families, in convents, and in orphanages. 

Irena promised the parents of these children that she would keep track of their old and new identities by writing their names on pieces of paper and burying them in a jar under a friend's apple tree.  

She was eventually captured by the Gestapo and after months of interrogation and brutality, she remained silent and never told where she kept the hidden names.  

Miraculously, she escaped and went on to live her life, never telling anyone of her good deeds.  

Her story is remarkable, yet remained hidden for years.  

Many decades after the war ended, a group of college students from Kansas did a project for World History Day and discovered Irena's story.  

Her story is captivating. Irena was a true hero who showed bravery and risked her life to save so many.  

This read aloud fit perfectly with my historical fiction unit which focused on World War II and Holocaust related books.  

Here's how I implemented the lesson:

When students walk into my reading classroom, I have a Smartboard agenda waiting for them.  They know what we're doing for the day and what to bring to reader's workshop, plus I write any special instructions.  For this lesson, I wanted them to bring their Reading Notebook and sit by a "turn & talk" partner.  

After students were gathered on the carpet, I introduced the picture book, Irena's Jar of Secrets by Marcia Vaughan, and then discussed the narrative nonfiction anchor chart.  We had just learned about the biography genre, so we we talked about how narrative nonfiction is written to entertain readers and is written in a story-telling fashion.

During the read aloud, students sat hip to hip with their "turn & talk" partners. While reading the book, I stopped at various parts to ask questions.  I write the questions on sticky notes and put them in the book.  Students are given time to talk with a partner, then we share what ideas they talked about during a whole group share.

During this time, we had some interesting conversations.  Students made some text-to-text connections with some previous read alouds such as Star of Fear, Star of Hope, The Butterfly, Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank to name a few.  We discussed how many people risked their lives to help Jews during this time and that people had to make very difficult decisions.  These turn and talk questions led to some grand conversations.

This last question tied into a previous lesson on character traits.  Students were able to tie in character trait words into their answers.

After reading the book and group discussion, students returned to their desks to watch two short videos about Irena Sendler on the Smartboard.

The first video briefly tells about Irena's life and details how the group of college kids from Kansas found out about Irena and brought attention to her heroic efforts.   This video is only about 4:16 minutes long.  It was posted by Winslow Colwell on YouTube. Here is the link to the video that I showed:

"Life in a Jar": The Irena Sendler Project

The second video was actually the trailer to the movie, "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler".  It's only two minutes long, but all four of my reading classes were completely captivated with their eyes glued to the Smartboard.  I love showing short movie clips to my students.  It helps them get a visual representation of what we're learning.  Plus, the movie trailer ends with the most famous Irena Sendler quote, "You see a man drowning, you must try to save him even if you cannot swim."  

"The Courageous Heart of Irene Sendler" movie trailer
The movie trailer was posted on YouTube by Mark Vass.

After watching the videos, I put two reading response questions on the Smartboard and students wrote in the Reader's Notebook.  Students choose which questions they would like to respond to. 

Here are some examples of their reading responses. 

Thanks for taking time to read about a true hero- Irena Sendler.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chokes & Cheese Dip

This is one of my very favorite dips.  I first ate it a restaurant called The Bistro in my hometown of Tulsa.  I tried for years to simulate the recipe and came fairly close.  After a little research on the internet, I found a great recipe that tastes just like it.  

Below is the link to the recipe that I found online.  It was published in The Tulsa World a few years ago.  I made it just like the recipe suggested and it turned out great.  It's a great copy-cat recipe!  The restaurant always served Chokes & Cheese with buttery pita points, so that's what I made to go along with it.  Delicious!

Chokes & Cheese Recipe from the Tulsa World

Here's what you'll need:

8 ounces of artichoke hearts (of course I had the humongous jar of artichoke hearts from Sam's Club, so just measure out 1 cup and make sure you drain them)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a bag of pre-shredded Parmesan)
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used the real stuff)
8 ounces cream cheese
2 minced garlic cloves (I used about two teaspoons of the pre-minced garlic in a jar)

Here's what to do:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Place mixture in a shallow dish.  I used a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle a little extra Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is slightly browned.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or bread.  I served it with pita points and crackers.

Here's how to make the pita points:
Cut pita bread into triangles:  cut pitas in half, then cut the half into thirds. Melt a 1/4 stick of butter and brush onto pita points.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes in 325 degree oven.

I hope you enjoy this easy appetizer!