Category Archives: Main Dishes

Hoppin’ John

I learned a few years ago that this dish, Hoppin’ John, is a New Year’s Day tradition, probably more popular in the South. It’s said to symbolize good health and prosperity in the coming year. The black-eyed peas are supposed to represent coins, which tie in with prosperity. And since black-eyed peas are actually beans, they’re good for you (they have lots of fiber and are a good source of potassium, protein, and iron), so that certainly ties in with the “good health” part of the symbolism.

In addition to black-eyed peas, Hoppin’ John also has chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, and some canned diced tomatoes with chiles. This is traditionally made with a smoked ham hock, but you can use chopped smoked ham or smoked sausage instead. I actually used veggie sausage in this and it tastes good that way too–something to keep in mind if you’re not a meat-eater. The taste of this dish reminds me a little of Red Beans and Rice–if you like that, you’ll probably like Hoppin’ John! 

HOPPIN’ JOHN by NancyC, adapted from Betty Crocker

Makes about 8 servings

  • 1 (1-lb. bag) dried black-eyed peas (about 2 cups), soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 medium size yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 medium size green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped smoked ham or smoked sausage (or use 1 smoked ham hock)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups hot cooked brown or long grain rice
  • Optional: 1–2 green onions, sliced, and/or 1–2 Tablespoons bacon bits or crumbles, for garnish

Sort and rinse peas, then place in a large pot and soak in 6–8 cups of water (enough to cover the peas) for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse soaked peas; set aside.

In a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, celery, and green or red bell pepper; sauté about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic; sauté about 2 minutes.

Add chopped ham, smoked sausage or ham hock. Then add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and cayenne pepper. Heat mixture to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, then stir in soaked peas. Add salt to taste. Cook 50 to 60 minutes or until peas are tender. If using a ham hock, remove ham from bone–discard bone, shred ham, and stir ham into the mixture.

Stir all ingredients and garnish with sliced green onion and/or bacon bits or crumbles, if desired. Serve over hot cooked rice.

If you want a real Southern-style meal, serve your Hoppin’ John with collard greens and cornbread. And have a Happy New Year! 🙂

Sharing at Happiness is HomemadeInspire Me Monday.


Yummy Vegetable Pasta (Slow-Cooker Recipe)

Cooking in a crock pot is so easy and convenient, and there are lots of great recipes you can make. I found some really good ones to try in my review copy of the new cookbook Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good. There are lots of great full-color photos in this book that has 100 slow-cooker recipes which include:

  • Vegetable Pot Pie with Biscuits
  • Lasagna in a Soup Bowl
  • 4-Cheese Artichoke Dip
  • Honey Baked Chicken
  • Holiday Ham with Apricot Glaze
  • Garlicky Mashed Red Potatoes
  • Cider-Baked Apples
  • Pumpkin Spice Créme Brûlée

Such a great variety of recipes to choose from! I decided to try the Yummy Vegetable Pasta because I was in the mood for something comfort food-like, and this sounded like just the thing to make! The recipe was easy to follow and the only thing I did differently was add a cup of chopped zucchini, since I happened to have that already. Fresh sliced green beans would be a nice addition, too, if you want to add in an extra veggie or two.

This pasta dish smells great while it’s cooking. And you do have to stir it well before serving, since the spaghetti may clump together a little. But it’s very good and cheesy and yummy, just like the recipe name says! 🙂

YUMMY VEGETABLE PASTA from Stock the Crock (with a few little changes)

Makes 6 to 7 servings

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes, with juice or 1 quart canned stewed tomatoes, with liquid (I cut the stewed tomatoes into large chunks)
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • Optional: 1 cup chopped zucchini and/or 1 cup sliced green beans
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine, divided
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided (if you want this dish to be extra-cheesy, use 3 cups!)
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons sliced fresh chives, for garnish

Grease the interior of the slow cooker crock with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

In medium bowl, stir together the chopped onion, chopped green bell pepper, stewed tomatoes with their liquid, sliced mushrooms, and oregano (also stir in the chopped zucchini and/or green beans, if using).

Place 1/4 of the vegetables in the bottom of the crock. Top vegetables with half of the pasta, breaking pasta, as needed, to fit. Sprinkle the pasta with half of the Cheddar cheese.

Spoon in half of the remaining vegetables. Top with the remaining pasta, breaking the pasta as needed; the remaining Cheddar cheese, and the remaining vegetables.

In the bowl used to mix the vegetables, whisk together the soup and milk. Pour over the ingredients in the crock.

Cover and cook on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or until the vegetables and pasta are tender.

Before serving, stir the sauce through the pasta and vegetables. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Scatter fresh chives on top just before serving.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t take super-long to make–3 1/2 to 4 hours isn’t bad for a slow-cooker recipe. Have you been making any great-tasting meals in your slow-cooker?

Sharing at Happiness is HomemadeMeal Plan MondayWeekend PotluckInspire Me Monday.


Salad Burger

Just about everyone loves a good burger! I thought I’d try a making a healthier burger after I received some samples from Hilary’s. Their products are made with minimally processed ingredients and are free from common allergens. They sent me their Worlds Best Veggie Burger and Curry Veggie Burger, and I really liked them both. You can actually see bits of the fresh veggies these are made with, which make them seem even healthier than your average veggie burger. Hilary’s also sent me a few salad dressings to try: Spicy Island Dressing, a creamy,  tangy, slightly spicy take on Thousand Island dressing, and Beet Vinaigrette, a slightly sweet vinaigrette with some balsamic vinegar mixed in. Both flavors were very good and low on calories–30 per serving for the Spicy Island and 50 per serving for the Beet Vinaigrette.

I created this Salad Burger using the Curry Veggie Burger and Spicy Island Dressing, along with items I like to put in salads–cucumber, tomato, onion, banana pepper, black olives, and avocado. If you’re not into veggie burgers, you can use a beef burger cooked your favorite way–the toppings go great with beef, too! It’s a reeeaaallly good burger, so I hope you get a chance to try it this soon!


Makes 1 burger (for larger servings, multiply the ingredients by the number of burgers you want to make)

  • your favorite cooked hamburger patty (you can use a veggie or beef burger-I used Hilary’s Curry Veggie Burger)
  • 1 whole wheat roll or hamburger bun
  • 3 to 4 thin slices of cucumber
  • 3 to 4 slices of banana pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of mashed avocado
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced black olives
  • Romain lettuce or your favorite lettuce/salad mix
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons creamy salad dressing, like a Thousand Island or Ranch flavor (I used Hilary’s Spicy Island Dressing)
  • slice of tomato
  • slice of yellow or red onion

Put the top and bottom of a hamburger bun face up on a plate, or slice a large roll in half and place both sides face up on a plate.

Place your cooked burger on the bottom bun. Top burger patty with cucumber slices, banana pepper slices, sliced black olives, and mashed avocado.

On the top bun, spread the creamy salad dressing, then place a slice of tomato and slice of onion on top of the dressing.

Carefully put the bottom and top buns together and serve.

These burger toppings taste great together and you don’t need to use any ketchup or mustard–there’s plenty of toppings and flavor without those. It’s a great burger and very filling–perfect if you’re craving something really good and on the healthy side! Do you like veggie burgers or do you prefer beef?

Sharing at Weekend Potluck, Meal Plan Monday, Fiesta Friday.











Easy Marinara Sauce

Good, simple recipes are the best, especially when they don’t take long to make! I found a lot of recipes like this in my review copy of Simplify Supper, by Krista Numbers (softcover). There are lots of Italian and Tex-Mex-style dishes, as well as all-American classics like BBQ Ribs, Southern-Style Baked Beans, and Chicken Noodle Soup. And great color photos of the recipes too. Overall, it’s a great cookbook to have when you want to make a delicious dinner that’s quick and easy.

The very first recipe in the book, and the one I tried out, is Homemade Marinara Sauce and it is really good! It’s great served over pasta, but it also makes a wonderful dipping sauce (I enjoyed dipping my favorite store-bought Rosemary Sea Salt rolls in it!). This marinara sauce has a rich, tomatoey flavor and is thick and chunky. The seasonings, onion, and garlic all give it a great flavor. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it out:


Makes 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and stir about 5 minutes until evenly caramelized. Add the garlic and Italian seasoning and cook another five minutes until garlic is fragrant.

Add chicken broth and use to deglaze bottom of pot.

Add sugar, tomato paste, and undrained diced tomatoes. Stir to combine all ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce reaches desired thickness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I love tomatoey-flavored dishes–and this sauce is perfect for tomato-lovers! And it’s always nice when you can make homemade sauce. Do you make your own homemade pasta sauces?

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One-Pot Chilighetti @ NancyC

Spaghetti is a favorite dish of mine, and so is chili. I never seem to get tired of them. So of course when I came across a recipe for Chilighetti, I had to try it out!

I really liked that the original recipe was made all in one pot. I did make some changes, though–instead of using tomato juice as part of the sauce, I used a combination of tomato sauce and pasta sauce to thicken it up. And I used beef broth instead of water for a more beefy flavor.

I ended up with this nice, saucy spaghetti dish. When serving, be sure to top the Chilighetti with sour cream and cheddar cheese–you’ll have a wonderful comfort-food meal!

CHILIGHETTI by NancyC, adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar chunky pasta sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can and 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/3 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 (1 lb.) package spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

In a large (6-quart) stockpot, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and onion is tender, breaking beef up into crumbles; drain excess grease.

Stir in pasta sauce, tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings; bring to a boil. Add spaghetti, then reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for 12 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Stir in beans and heat a few more minutes, until everything is heated through (if the mixture is too thick for your liking, add in a little more beef broth or water).

Serve in bowls or on plates, and top each serving with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

This is definitely a filling meal–especially when you serve it with a salad and some crusty bread or rolls. Are you a fan of chili and spaghetti, too?

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