To Your Wealth and Health – Start 2012 with Black-Eyed Peas

by Donna Quirk, MBA RD LD
Clinical Nutrition Manager

The tradition of including Black-Eyed Peas in the first meal of the New Year has evolved to promote luck and prosperity. The practice can be traced back to ancient Jewish traditions for celebrating Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), as well as, superstitions steeped in the cultures of ancient Egypt and Africa.

In the Southern U.S.A., many believe the tradition began during the Civil War. The fields of Black-Eyed Peas were essentially ignored by a hungry Union army, leaving the unassuming but very nutritious legume for Southerners. The traditional beliefs are:

• Black-Eyed Peas, representing coins, are eaten with Greens, representing paper money.
• Cornbread, served with Black-Eyed Peas, represents gold.
• Black-Eyed Peas eaten with stewed tomatoes represent health and wealth.

As for your health, I couldn’t agree more, Black-Eyed Peas are great!

A ½ cup serving is low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol free. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, potassium, protein, fiber, folate, and iron. Black-Eyed Peas, along with other beans and legumes, are very versatile. They can be served as part of a great vegetarian main dish, wrapped in tortillas with diced tomatoes and avocado slices, served chilled in a salad, or as the base for a dip, salsa, or soup.

So, eat Black-Eyed Peas to bring luck to start your New Year and keep eating them to bring health all year!

This Hoppin’ John recipe uses lean ham or turkey bacon to keep the dish lower in fat. Use lean ham to save 180 mg of sodium per serving.

Hoppin’ John
1 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 14 ounce vegetable broth
hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 ½ cups cooked rice
4 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
½ cup minced green onions, including tops
3 tablespoons minced parsley
1 cup lean diced ham or 8 strips crisply cooked turkey bacon, crumbled

Clean and rinse the peas. Cover with three cups water and let stand overnight. Drain peas; discard water.
Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat; add the onion and cook 5 to 7 minutes; or until the onion is translucent. Add the peas and the broth; bring to boil.
Lower heat and simmer 20 minutes or until the peas are tender and a small amount of cooking liquid remains. If the liquid is absorbed too quickly, add additional broth, ¼ cup at a time. Stir in hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
Place ½ cup rice in each soup bowl; top with peas. Garnish with tomatoes, green onions, parsley, and ham (or bacon).

Recipe from: Cooking Healthy Across America. American Dietetic Association, Food and Culinary Professionals. Kristine Napier, editor.

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