This past year has been a year that none of us will ever ever forget. For many of us it has brought changes that will forever impact our lives, and right now it might not all make sense. As we go forward into 2021, let’s go with a determination to make it the very best we can. Let us support one another with love and prayer and the strong bonds of friendship.

Who knows what this year might bring in to each of our lives? No doubt it will be a mixture of many things—some joys and some heartaches, but as we get ready to circle the sun again, I would hope that all of us will keep these wise words in mind and have a blessed and Happy New Year:

The Gate of the Year by Marie Louise Haskins (1876 – 1957)

This poem was quoted by King George 6th in his speech on Christmas of 1939. Its message is timeless!

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night

And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So, heart, be still!

What need our little life,

Our human life, to know,

If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife

Of things both high and low

God hideth His intention.

Hoppin’ John

4 cups water

1/2 lb. black-eyed peas, dry

2 ham hock (about 2 lbs. total)

2 onions medium, chopped

1/2 tsp. red bell pepper crushed

3 cups water

1 cup long grain rice

Salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, pour water over peas; cover and soak overnight. To the undrained peas, add ham hocks, onions and red pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for one to one and one-half hours or until peas are tender. Remove ham hocks and cut meat from bones. Dice and return meat to the saucepan. Add water, rice and salt and pepper; cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate overnight to improve flavor. To reheat, place in a saucepan. Stirring occasionally over medium heat, cook until heated through, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking.

Black-Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks

1/2 lb. black-eyed peas

2 or 3 smoked ham hocks

1 large onion coarsley chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 stalks celery coarsely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Soak the peas for 4 hours. Place ham hocks in large pot, add enough water to just cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for one and one-half hours until meat is tender. Add the drained peas and the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for one to one and one-half hours until vegetables are tender. Remove ham hocks and pull meat off the bone; return the meat to the stew. Cook uncovered until liquid is reduced and stew is slightly thickened.

Non-Alcoholic New Year Punch

1 (32 oz.) bottle cran-raspberry juice

1 (23.5 oz.) bottle non-alcoholic rose wine (about 3 cups)

1 (6 oz,)can frozen pink lemonade concentrate (3/4 cup), partially thawed

5 drops food color red (optional)

1 (1 liter) bottle ginger ale chilled

1 pint raspberry sherbet (optional)

In a large pitcher or bowl, stir together cran-raspberry juice, rose wine, pink lemonade concentrate and red food color. Cover and chill thoroughly. To serve, pour juice mixture into a large chilled punch bowl. Stir in ginger ale. Add scoops or block of sherbet. Serve in punch cups. Serves 18.

Sauerkraut Dumplings by Hilda Daugherty

Richard’s Note: Mother always used backbones or spareribs for this (four to five pounds), but I find that it is much easier to use a pork roast to begin with.

Roast the pork with a little onion until it is nice and brown and done along with enough water to get a broth, but not to steam the pork. When it is done, cool it and cut it into pieces and put it back into the broth until ready to finish the dish. Transfer the pork and liquid to a good-sized kettle, like you would use for chicken and dumplings. Add one 16-ounce can of sauerkraut, juice and all. (I usually add two.) Boil until the meat and kraut are well blended.

Dumplings:

2 cups self-rising flour

3 eggs

Pinch of salt

Water (enough to make a dough a little thinner than biscuit dough)

Have the broth boiling and drop the dumplings by tablespoon into the hot broth. Dip the spoon each time into the hot broth and the dumplings will clear the spoon easily. Cover tightly and reduce heat to a slow boil. Do not remove lid or peek for 20 minutes or the dumplings will become “sad” or heavy. This recipe makes about 12 dumplings and we always had it with mashed potatoes.

Crock Pot Venison Barbecue

3 lbs. boneless venison chunks

1 large onion

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

Water

2 tsp. instant beef bouillon

1 (10 to 11 oz.) can tomato soup

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. thyme

1 Tbs. paprika

2 Tbs. brown sugar

Buns

Remove fat from meat and place mat in Crock Pot or slow cooker. Add onion, green pepper and water to cover. Add bouillon. Slow cook until meat is well done and shreds easily with a fork. Let water cook down to about one-half cup of liquid. Add rest of ingredients and stir to mix. Simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Meat should be pretty well shredded by the end of the cooking time. Spoon over toasted bun halves to serve.

Creole Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Note: This recipe is good made 1 or 2 days ahead. It also freezes very well.

1 lb. pkg. of dried black-eyed peas

8 oz. ham hock

3 medium onions chopped

1 bunch green onions chopped

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 & 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

23 dashes Tabasco sauce

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

3 (8 oz.) cans peeled tomatoes, chopped

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. thyme

1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced and browned

Soak peas for one hour in cold water and drain. Combine peas and ham hocks in large pot. Add water to cover and cook until peas are almost done. Add onions, parsley, bell pepper, garlic, salt and cayenne and black pepper, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, oregano, thyme and sausage. Simmer several hours. Serve over hot rice. Book: Recipes for Busy Days

Super Bowl Chili

2 lbs. ground beef extra-lean

1 onion large, chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

2 to 3 Tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. oregano dried, crushed

1 tsp. cumin ground

1 (2 lb.) can tomatoes whole, cored and cut up

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

2 cups water

2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 (15 oz.) cans chili beans in chili gravy or pinto beans

In large skillet brown meat, onion, and garlic; add remainder of ingredients, except beans. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for one hour. Add beans, continue simmering for an additional 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. (Note: Try topping your bowl of chili with grated Cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce. Pass crushed red pepper for those wanting a really hot chili. A cruet of vinegar may be passed for those who want a tart flavor. It’s easy to make a double recipe and freeze half.)

Chili #2

3 lbs. ground beef

1 onion large, diced

3 stalks celery diced

2 (15 & 1/2 oz) cans kidney beans

2 (10 & 3/4 oz.) cans tomato soup

3 cans water

Chili powder

Salt and pepper

Fry hamburger and onion. Drain grease. In large soup pot, put fried ground beef and all the other ingredients in the pot. Add enough chili powder to make it hot to your taste. Cook until celery is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with oyster crackers. Serves five. (Quick and Easy! Book: Never Say Leftovers)

Turkey Chili with Beans

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 onion large, chopped

1 clove garlic minced

1 green bell pepper chopped

1 (4 oz.) can green chilies diced

2 (16 oz.) cans kidney beans

1 cup turkey diced cooked

1 (16-oz.) can tomatoes whole, coarsely chopped

1 to 2 Tbs. tomato paste

1 to 2 Tbs. chili powder to taste

1 tsp. salt or to taste

1/2 tsp. oregano dried, crushed

1 cup turkey broth or chicken broth

In Dutch oven or large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat; add onion and garlic, sauté for five minutes, stirring. Add green pepper and green chilies, stir, and cook another five minutes. Stir in beans, turkey, tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, salt, oregano, and broth. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary. Stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning. Serve in soup bowls or mugs.

Mixed Greens

Richard’s Note: This recipe was given to me over Christmas. It is mild and tastes even better the next day.

3 slices country sidemeat (or smoked turkey, or whatever you like to use)

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

4 cups hot water

1 tsp. sugar (optional)

2 tsp. salt

3 lbs. collard greens, shredded and large stems removed

1 & 1/2 lbs. cabbage, shredded

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper, optional

Wash the meat and add it with the oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Let cook slowly until done on both sides. Add the hot water and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Remove the meat and add the sugar, salt and collards; lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the cabbage and stir to mix well. Add the red pepper, if desired. Cover and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Mash a collard stem to check for tenderness. Add a little more hot water if needed.

Black-eyed Peas Cornbread Casserole

Richard’s Note: My good friend Dwight Brooks gave me this recipe.

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 cup white cornmeal

1/2 cup. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup canned black-eyed peas, drained

1 (8 oz.) can cream-style corn

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (optional)

Cook first four ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat until beef is browned, stirring until it crumbles; drain. Stir together cornmeal, flour and soda in a large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk and oil, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in ground beef mixture, peas and remaining ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish; bake at 325° for one hour. (Note: You can use sausage—mild, hot, or whichever you prefer or a combination of beef and sausage.)

A Little History Lesson--adapted

The story of THE BLACK-EYED PEA being considered good luck relates directly back to Sherman’s Bloody March to the Sea in late 1864. It was called The Savannah Campaign and was lead by Major General William T. Sherman. The Civil War campaign began in November of 1864 when Sherman’s troops marched from the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, and ended at the port of Savannah just before Christmas in 1864.

When the smoke cleared, the southerners who had survived the onslaught came out of hiding. They found that Sherman’s men had looted and stolen everything of value along with everything that could be eaten, including all the livestock. Death, destruction and devastation were everywhere. While in hiding, few had enough to eat, and many were starving. The Northern army had taken everything they could carry and had eaten everything they could eat. But they couldn’t take it all. The devastated people of the south found for some unknown reason that Sherman’s troops had left silos full of black-eyed peas.

At the time in the north, the lowly black-eyed pea was only used to feed stock. Taking grain for their horses and livestock and other crops to feed themselves, they just couldn’t take everything. So they left the black eyed peas in great quantities assuming it would be of no use to the survivors, since all the livestock it could feed had either been taken or eaten.

Southerners awoke to face a New Year in this devastation and were facing massive starvation if not for the good luck of having the black-eyed peas to eat. From New Years Day 1866 forward, the tradition grew to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.