“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce
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I love the first day of the new year (the only thing that would make this day better is half a foot of freshly fallen snow outside). The whole year looms ahead of us; and the possibilities are endless. And yet, today was a completely lazy day for us. Come to think of it, so was New Year’s Eve. I planned and prepared today’s meal yesterday (slow cooker means very little hands-on time for me) because I intended to spend the day straightening up and organizing (anyone that knows me knows that’s the kind of thing that I really love). But, J’s sweet tooth will not be ignored and he reminded me that we need our “lucky” dessert.
Our traditional meal on New Year’s Day always involves black-eyed peas and some kind of greens and, for dessert, a cake with a coin baked inside of it, to bring good luck to the person that finds it. The type of cake varies by year and the ingredients that we have on hand. We always love a good Irish whiskey cake, but we don’t have enough Irish whiskey on hand this year (Thanksgiving was especially festive, I guess). So, rum cake it is!
Black-eyed peas and greens are the foods traditionally associated with prosperity and good fortune here in the states, particularly the south, for various similar reasons. The black-eyed peas swell when they cook and/or resemble coins and the greens resemble, well, money. Because we are vegan, we skip the pork element of the black-eyed pea dishes and we use a meatless sausage. Hopefully our little piggie friends will enjoy some good fortune of their own in the new year, too!
But, black-eyed peas and greens aren’t only a New Year tradition in the south. The tradition of eating such things as black-eyed peas, spinach and beets at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, dates back to about the 5th century. So I guess we have covered all the bases with the leftovers from our New Year’s Eve dinner of Roasted Beet Soup and the greens in the Kale Pastries. Somewhat coincidental, but we will take all the prosperity and good fortune that we can get.
Before going vegan, I didn’t like slow cooker foods. Although I did try. I loved the concept of throwing everything in the slow cooker and dashing off to work and coming home to a house filled with the delicious aroma of a hot dinner ready and waiting. To my dismay, everything always came out of the slow cooker tasting the same: greasy, mushy and on the blah side. Back then, my only good slow cooker recipe was (you guessed it) vegetarian chili. Now that we eat only a vegetable-based diet, that is no longer a problem. We have some truly low-effort and savory dishes, sans the greasy taste.
We enjoyed this easy meal over organic brown basmati rice cooked in brewed green tea, instead of water (my new favorite). On the side of that, we had caramelized red onion and chopped collard greens (sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil) seasoned with crushed garlic, a bit of sea salt and red chili pepper flakes (my always favorite).
Taking pictures in my dark granite and cherry wood kitchen at dinnertime isn’t always a success. Someday I will get that photo box that I have been whining for… But, until I have prettier pictures, take my word for it: these black-eyed peas taste fan-freaking-tastic!
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Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas
1 pound (2 cups) dried black-eyed peas
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoonbrown sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Tablespoons non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance)
1 14-ounce package Tofurky kielbasa sausages, sliced in coins and browned in the cast-iron skillet
The day before, rinse the black-eyed peas, picking out any debris, and place in a large bowl. Cover the peas with a few inches of water and soak until bedtime. Before closing the kitchen for the night, drain the peas and rinse them well, picking out any loose skins. Place the rinsed peas in the slow cooker.
Spray a large cast-iron skillet with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until golden brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, add to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients, except the sausage.
Cover and cook on “low” heat overnight and most of the day. Three hours before serving, add in the browned sausages and turn the slow cooker heat setting to “high”.
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I adapted this rum cake recipe from Just Add Rum! A Caribbean Cookbook, purchased while we were on our honeymoon in Jamaica. The cookbook author reportedly traded 12 of her cookbooks for this family recipe from a local street vendor. Aside from “veganizing” this recipe, I also added to it: chopped pecans, rum-soaked raisins and a warm buttery rum glaze. The original recipe calls for dark rum, but we always use Appleton . Did I mention that we love Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum?!
The next time that I make this cake, I will replace the cornmeal in the recipe with an equal amount of flour. I suppose that using the cornmeal is a matter of personal taste. The cornmeal that I do keep on hand is a bit coarse; too coarse for a cake. I am not a huge cornmeal fan anyway; I use corn products sparingly, and I only use organic corn products now that the detrimental effects of genetically modified corn has become common knowledge.
Island Rum Cake
1/2 cup golden or dark raisins
1/3 cup rum
1/2 cup chopped pecans
12 Tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) Earth Balance non-dairy butter
1 cup organic sugar
Egg replacer to equal 5 eggs (below)
Zest of 1 lime
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted (I didn’t have any all-purpose flour on hand)
1/2 cup organic yellow cornmeal (or an equal amount of flour)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Egg Replacer To Equal 5 Eggs:
Scant 1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
5 teaspoons canola oil
2-1/2 Tablespoons tapioca flour
2-1/2 Tablespoons potato flour
1-1/4 teaspoons EnerG baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon Guar Gum (may use an equal amount of Xanthan Gum, but Xanthan Gum is derived from corn)
Warm Rum Glaze:
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Earth Balance non-dairy butter
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons rum
1/3 cup rum
Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the rum over them. Stir to combine and set aside (the longer the better!).
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle the chopped pecans in the bottom of the pan and set aside.
Cream the non-dairy butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer on medium speed; set aside.
Sift the dry ingredients for the egg replacer into a small bowl; whisk to combine. In a medium bowl whisk together the lukewarm water and the canola oil for the egg replacer. While constantly whisking, sprinkle the egg replacer dry ingredients into the water/oil mixture. Whisk vigorously to combine, then pour into the butter/sugar mixture in the large bowl. Beat for an extra 30 to 60 seconds.
Scrape the sides of the bowl with a large spatula and then add the lime zest and the lime juice. Beat an extra 30 seconds and scrape the sides of the bowl down again.
Add the rum and the raisins, the cinnamon and the allspice; beat an extra 30 seconds or so.
Sift together the flour, cornmeal (if using) and the baking powder and gradually beat into the butter mixture (it will be thick). This is the point where you add the clean coin, if you are using.
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, using a spatula to spread it out evenly. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the skinny end of a bamboo skewer or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool about 10 minutes on a wire rack in the bundt pan before inverting the cake onto a plate or a cake stand.
While the cake is cooling on the rack, prepare the rum glaze. Melt the non-dairy butter in a small saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Whisk in the sifted powdered sugar and then the 2 Tablespoons of rum. Remove from heat when the mixture begins to bubble and then whisk in the 1/3 cup of rum. Allow to cool slightly before glazing the cake.
Using the skinny end of the same bamboo skewer, carefully poke several holes over the top of the still-warm cake. Give the rum glaze one final whisking and carefully and slowly pour it over the entire cake. Enjoy!