Eat these for good luck in 2011

Have you ever noticed that small tubs or bags of Blackeyed Peas suddenly become available in your local produce department this time of year? There is a good reason!

There is a Southern tradition which says that to ensure good luck and prosperity in the New Year, you should eat Blackeyed Peas and greens on New Year’s Day. (The peas symbolize coins and the greens represent “greenbacks” or dollars.) That’s why recipes for Hoppin’ John — a Blackeyed Pea and rice dish — are so prevalent at this time.

So, our company saw this as a great marketing opportunity more than 45 years ago! Frieda was approached by a young man, Rollo Miller, who had found a way to soak dried Blackeyed Peas in water and salts (in a secret process) that allowed the beans to become “quick cooking.” Miller’s pre-soaked peas could be cooked up in 10 to 12 minutes, instead of in the 2 to 3 hour soaking and cooking process needed for dry peas. Maybe it was the original “convenience food” in the produce department.

Frieda started offering these fast-cooking Blackeyed Peas to all her customers around the country. No one else was doing this at the time. She figured that everyone was interested in good luck and prosperity, so she was able to convince retailers from Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles (and of course in Atlanta and all over the South) to stock them!

Each December, our warehouse fills up with thousands of cases of Blackeyed Peas and we ship them out to supermarket produce departments across the country. Over the years, many other companies have figured out the process to produce these quick-cooking peas, so you may see other brands.

Some people still like to start from scratch by soaking the dried Blackeyed Peas, and others try the frozen or canned versions. We think it’s all good…as prosperity and good luck comes in many packages.

My family always cooks up Blackeyed Peas to enjoy for New Year’s. Even though we aren’t from the South, we partake in this tradition.

Almost 20 years ago, we developed one of our most popular recipes in our test kitchen using Blackeyed Peas. (It’s actually one of my personal favorites from my Purple Kiwi Cookbook.) We combined the rich flavor of the peas with spicy Habanero chiles. I highly recommend you try it!

Habanero Chile Chili
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. lean round steak, cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red and/or green bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz. can kidney beans
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 16-oz. can tomato sauce – low sodium
1 cup beef broth
1 11-oz. tub Frieda’s Fast Cooking Blackeyed Peas (or 2 6.5-oz. pkgs. Frieda’s Dried Blackeyed Peas, cooked according to package directions and drained)
1-2 Frieda’s Dried Habanero Chiles, rehydrated, seeded and minced
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Frieda’s Bay Leaf
1 cup niblet corn – low sodium
Salt to taste
Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Warm tortillas

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the steak in the oil on all sides. Remove form the pan with a slotted spoon. Drain the drippings. Heat 2 tablespoons oil. Sauté the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the oil for 3 minutes. Stir in the beef, undrained kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, Blackeyed Peas, Habanero chiles, cilantro, basil, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat. Simmer, partially covered, for 35 to 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the corn and salt. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle the chili into bowls. Top with shredded cheese. Serve with warm tortillas. Makes 8 servings.

Wishing you lots of good luck in the New Year!