2010 New Year’s Dinner for Two: Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables, Brazilian Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas over Brown Rice

Happy twenty-ten! My New Year’s meal was spent with good friends celebrating Kwanzaa while eating black-eyed peas mixed with couscous, collard greens, baked chicken, lasagna, and other delicious pot luck dishes. We started the evening by giving thanks to our ancestors (Ashay!) and honoring our community elder. Our hostess asked her guests to bring two pieces of fruit. We brought her a pineapple and a banana.

The next day, I slept in a few more extra hours and started making our New Year’s dinner: baked chicken with roasted root vegetables, black-eyed peas over brown rice, Brazilian collard greens, and a sparkling wine that was (…ahem) too sweet!

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Arroz con Pollo served with a Green Salad

Next to Southern dishes, Mexican cuisine is my other comfort food. When my boyfriend and I started dating, I told him I love Spanish food. Instead, we ate at a Puerto Rican restaurant, New York City style. I was a bit confused, because I wanted enchiladas or tacos. Then, I realized his comfort food are Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine. Now, when he says, “Baby, I’m bringing home Spanish food. Did you want a plate?”, I know what to expect.

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Got Time? Italian Turkey Meat Sauce (Bolognese Inspired)

Sometimes, a cook wants a day off. I recently had a morning of nothingness. It was a day meant for relaxing, watching a movie or a cooking show. Later in the day, I would meet the boyfriend at a coffee shop to go shopping. As much as I love to cook, I didn’t want to spend this rare morning prepping food. Reading one of the cookbooks, I decided to make a Bolognese Meat Sauce. Except this version will use turkey. Starting the sauce is easy, and it requires a few hours of cooking time with the occasional stirring. The sauce is traditionally made with tough cuts of beef and pork and slowly simmered to tenderness.

The prep work is easy (hint: Trader Joe’s sells a start kit of chopped onions, celery and carrots in the produce section). As the sauce slowly simmers on the stove for a couple hours, continue to have a relaxing morning. Watch television. Nap. Read a book. One hour before leaving the house to run errands; turn the stove off and let the sauce cool. Place it in the fridge before leaving the house. Run errands around the city. Come home a few hours later. Reheat the sauce. Proceed with the final steps of the recipe. Cook pasta. In 30 to 45 minutes, enjoy your fast meal.

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Roast Paprika Chicken, Garbanzo Beans and Tomatoes over Couscous

Paprika is too overqualified as a garnish. It sits in the back of most spice racks behind the thyme, basil and rosemary. Blame it on the average grocery store’s fault for offering a pretty spice with no substance.

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