Monday, March 14, 2011

Jalapeno Happiness

Today was not a happy day. I moved mechanically through the tasks that needed to be done during the morning. On my walk in the afternoon, I saw the forsythia beginning to bloom, the daffodils bouncing in the wind, and a new fern turning stalky.  I felt none of the joy of it. I kept going forward, which is the only way to go, waiting for the break in the clouds that always comes, often quite unexpectedly.

As commonly happens, that break came with dinner, the best part of the day for me.

Here's what happened. (I miss Monk just a little.)  When the time came to begin preparation, I suddenly remembered a madcap idea that I'd hatched last night and felt a spark of interest.  I needed madcap.  I needed something to be excited about.  And so, just because it made me smile and feel energetic, we had an all jalapeno dinner, combining the two jalapenos in the crisper, jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins in the freezer, and a self-imposed mandate to use what was on hand only, without running to the store the day before the weekly shopping trip. 

My Sunday research, along with the no-shop rule, had suggested jalapeno black eyed peas as the main dish.  Normally I would think of rice as a partner, but pure silliness won out.  Jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins from the freezer it was.  And for dessert?  Jalapeno chocolate cake. The fact that there were no eggs or milk in the house did not dissuade me.  For such situations, we have our vegan friends. They've already invented that wheel.  I quickly searched up a recipe for a simple one-layer cake that could be mixed in a trice and tossed in to bake while I threw together the quickie legume main course and thawed the muffins. 

Yes, I know.  It was really unnecessary to turn dinner into such a larky production.  But what fun!  And I needed fun.  I tied on my perky, it's-officially-spring bunny apron with a geniune smile. All jalapeno dinner here we come! 

I'm so glad that I rode the jalapeno happiness train. The black eyed peas were quite satisfying.  Way to turn three cans and a jalapeno into dinner, if I do say so myself!  There's nothing like a bowl of health to make me feel flush with it, especially when it's ready to go in twenty minutes or less. The jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins were quite harmonious with the stew, not repetitive at all.  The jalapeno in the cake wasn't actually noticeable, except faintly IF you were tasting for it.  But it was tender, nicely crumbed, and lightly chocolatey--not the Death By variety, which is just fine for a week day when there isn't usually cake anyway.  My day went from flat to chirpy in a meal!

Even if you're not genetically cursed with the blues and/or carried away with the frivolous idea for an ingredient based dinner, consider adding the jalapeno black eyed peas and cornmeal muffins to your repertoire.  The pair are plenty nourishing and could be pulled off on a week night in about 30 minutes. A few more meals like that in the idea file would help any cook's mood, any day. 

Jalapeno Black Eyed Peas

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined, and diced
1 fat clove garlic, minced
2 cans black eyed peas, 1 drained, 1 undrained OR drain both and add stock
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon tamari
1 small bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Shredded monterey jack cheese

In a medium saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic, and cook until the onion and pepper are tender.  Add the black eyed peas, tomatoes, tamari, bay leaf, and smoked paprika.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of the cilantro.  Spoon into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and remaining cilantro.

Cornmeal Muffins

Makes: 12

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease cups of a muffin pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, and egg.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until moist.  Do not over mix.

Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from cups and cool on a wire rack.  Or, even better, eat them warm!


Dave_Flora said...

Wh-? Where's the cake recipie! Chocolate and Jalapeno lovers want to know!!

Love you!

Jay Potts said...

This seems tasty and easy enough to make on a week nighte. The only ingredient I'm not familiar with is "tamari." What sort of quality does it add, e.g. smokiness, spiciness, etc."

P.S. Yeah, throw in that chocolate and jalapeno cake recipe.

Ann said...

Jay--It was tasty leftover today, too. Maybe even better, in fact. To answer your question, tamari is a naturally brewed, gluten free soy sauce. Sorry for my lack of clarity. I was racing my bedtime deadline. The chocolate cake recipe is coming up. Thanks for your interest.

Dave--See last line of reply to Jay. Thanks for you interest, too!