• Leigh

In the Advent Kitchen -- December 10


Black-eyed Pea Salad

Peanut Soup or Caribbean Chicken

Coconut-Rum Plantains

Today doesn’t call for takeout food, even if you’re tired. You know it’s not good for you—expensive and too much fat and salt. Instead try something that will feed your body in a much better way. The black-eyed pea salad has lots of lovely fiber, vegetables, and a sweet mango that will make your mouth water. With it, serve Peanut Soup, quick, creamy, and warmly spiced to ward off the chills of the day. The soup is meatless but has plenty of protein, especially if you top it with tangy yogurt. Rather have a meat dish? How about Caribbean chicken, instead? The chicken dish is easy to put together and cooks in about 30 minutes with little tending. While your chicken is baking or your soup is simmering, you can peel and slice a few potassium-rich plantains to roast in the oven. The plantains have a sweet spicy sauce (and no actual rum) and are perfect served plain. Nonetheless, I’m sure a scoop of low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream would cool them down wonderfully if the plantains are too hot to eat when you pull them from the oven.

Black-eyed Pea Salad – Serves 6+

Try this smoky-sweet salad that gives a tropical touch to a Southern staple—black-eyed peas. The mango in the salad really boosts the flavor, and the cilantro yields a crisp freshness. The salad is best made early in the day (or even the day before) and refrigerated so that the flavors can develop. Nonetheless, if you’re short on time, just mix it up and refrigerate it for as long as you can.

1 15-ounce can of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup of chopped red onion

¼ cup of chopped red sweet pepper

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

1 large mango, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice

¼ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

½ teaspoon of cumin

3 cups of arugula

In a large bowl, combine the black-eyed peas, onion, red pepper, cilantro, and mango. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cumin and pour the dressing over the other ingredients, stirring gently to coat everything. Chill the salad, preferably for at least an hour. Mix in the arugula just before you’re ready to serve the salad.

Peanut Soup – Serves 8+

America is all about melting cultures, and this soup combines flavors from multiple countries. The soup is unusual but not so different that people will turn up their noses. Instead most people seem to gobble it down. The soup is nutritious, warm, and rich tasting without a lot of fat. You can vary the heat by increasing the ginger and using a spicy rather than mild curry powder if you like. I prefer to use mild curry powder so that the other tastes in the soup come through. You certainly can serve the soup plain. Nonetheless, the soup is great dressed up with dollops of yogurt on top and sprinkled with cilantro and peanuts. The toppings are incredible with the warm soup! If you have any leftover soup, pack it up for lunch at work – though you may have coworkers waiting by your desk with their spoons, if you do.

1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth

¼ cup of peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of canola oil

¼ teaspoon of ginger

1½ teaspoons of curry powder (mild or spicy if you like hot)

½ teaspoon of ground cumin

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

¼ cup of chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (optional)

¼ cup of chopped cilantro (optional)

Low or non-fat yogurt (optional)

Puree or mash the chickpeas with about ½ cup of water. You can do this in a food processor or blender or just use a potato masher with some muscle (my preferred method). Set the mashed chickpeas aside. Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add the onion. Sauté it for 5-10 minutes until it softens. Add the ginger, curry powder, cumin, pepper, and salt and sauté everything for another minute of so (this helps toast and blend or “bloom” the spices). Add the broth, tomatoes, mashed chickpeas, and peanut butter and stir everything together. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the soup for about 10 minutes to continue cooking the onions and blend the flavors. Pour the soup into bowls. Top each serving with a bit of yogurt and a sprinkle of peanuts and chopped cilantro, if you like.

Caribbean Chicken – Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of salt

Cayenne pepper to suit your taste

½ cup of coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle on half of the onion and top the onion with the chicken breast halves. Sprinkle the garlic powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne, if you’re using it, evenly over the chicken breasts and spritz the tops of the breasts with a little cooking spray or mist them with olive oil. Sprinkle on the remainder of the onions and spritz the onions with a little cooking spray or mist them with olive oil. Bake the chicken for about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and drizzle the coconut milk evenly over the chicken breasts. Bake the chicken for 10-15 minutes more or until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork and the chicken is done.

Coconut Rum Plantains – Serves 6

This is a great tasting, inexpensive, and a little unusual dessert. If you’ve never tried plantains, you’re in for a tender, creamy, slightly banana-scented treat. Starchier than bananas, plantains need to be cooked (or they’ll taste bitter). In the Southern hemisphere, plantains are often served as a main dish staple rather than as a dessert. Baking the plantains—especially with brown sugar, spices, and orange juice—intensifies their sweetness. My recipe calls for rum extract, which is less expensive than rum, but if you want the real stuff, go ahead. A dusting of coconut added during the last 5 minutes of baking toasts up to a crunchy nuttiness and adds to the tropical flavor of the dessert. The baked plantains are fine “as is,” but if you want to cool them, try a little low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream. Or, if you want to keep with a tropical theme, a little coconut ice cream or mango sherbet would be nice.

3 large blackish plantains, peeled and sliced in half, lengthwise (you may

need to use a paring knife to slit and peel them—the skins are tougher than

those on bananas)

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

¼ cup of orange juice

1 teaspoon of rum extract

2 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of butter, melted

¼ cup of shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the plantains, cut side down on the pan. In a small bowl or cup, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange juice, rum extract, water, and butter and set the mixture aside. Bake the plantains for 15 minutes. Flip the plantains over and pour the brown sugar mixture on top of them. Bake the plantains for another 10 minutes until soft and golden. Sprinkle them with the coconut and bake the plantains for another 5 minutes or until the coconut is just starting to brown. Let the plantains cool for at least 5 minutes before serving them.

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