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New Year trivia and traditions

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Happy New Year. I feel this is the time God has given us to wipe the slate clean of all those things we did amiss and write a whole new chapter in our lives that will be more pleasing to Him. I wish you His blessings.

Starting this effort with important things, I wish my granddaughter, Heather (York) Swearengin a happy birthday as of tomorrow, Jan. 6. Heather, like granddaughter Leighton Reavis, has a unique birthday date. She was born 1-7-76 (1776, the day our independence was signed) (Sorry I told, Heather). Leighton was born 12-13-14.

I pray you had a happy, safe Christmas with your family. Ours was “scattered” for safety, but joyful just the same. I thank God I am still able to make small gifts for family and friends. I made 70-plus containers of jelly (four kinds) and 39 adult bowl huggers and twelve bowl huggers for great-grandchildren, on which I embroidered their names. If you don't know what a “bowl hugger” is, call and I will explain. (Might even make you one.) My granddaughter, Amanda taught me how to make them. Thanks, Amanda. What fun!

I am a teacher at heart; having at one time taught a few years in the old one-room schools. (That dates me, doesn't it?) So I will share a few facts and some fiction about the month of January and New Year’s in particular.

January was named for the Roman god Janus and he was depicted with two faces: one looking forward, one looking backward. That fits most of us, doesn't it? Traditions differed in countries: China shot off firecrackers; early Americans shot their pistols; Swiss ring bells and today’s Americans just make noise: horns, sirens, etc.

The traditional American drink is, of course, champagne and in most countries, it was celebrated by drinking from a Wassail bowl (fruit punch with some “spirits” added) all for good luck. What you should eat also varies but to Americans it must be “blackeyed peas and smoke jowl (jul)” for good luck. I like them but I will just trust God for my blessings.

If you don't know what jowl is it is the meat taken from the lower jaw below the chin of a hog. It is smoked and sliced and used like bacon. I love it! To my taste it is much better than bacon. Try some. It is usually just available in stores near New Year’s. I like it in place of bacon with eggs and just as a sandwich. I will share one recipe with you.

I always served this at my restaurant for New Years and it was very popular. There are very distinct strengths of curry; some very hot! Curry is a ground powdery spice made from about 20 other spices, herbs, seeds, etc. It is used in East Indian and Asian cooking. “Madras” is the very hottest.

CURRIED BLACKEYED PEAS AND SMOKED JOWL

1 pound smoked jowl

1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder as desired

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cups barbecue sauce, your choice*

4 (15-ounce) cans blackeyed peas, drained**

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Chop jowl in very small pieces, put in a heavy roasting pan and fry until lightly brown. I use kitchen shears to chop it. Add onion and curry; cook until jowl is somewhat crisp and onion is transparent; about 15 minutes, stirring often.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well; pour into a casserole dish. Bake uncovered 30 minutes; stir and return to oven, baking an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 8 to 10.

*See the following barbecue sauce recipe.

** Pork and beans or other canned beans may be used if you don't prefer blackeyed peas.

EASY BARBECUE SAUCE

1 cup ketchup

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2 tbsp. finely chopped onion

1/2 cup sugar, opt.

1/4 cup tomato sauce

Place all ingredients in large bowl and stir until well combined. Use at once or store in covered container in the refrigerator for later use.

If you are a barbecue fan as I am, try these.

CROCK POT BARBEQUE RIBS

1 1/2 to 2 pounds ribs cut in serving portions

1 cup tangy ketchup

1 medium onion, chopped fine

8 ounces (1 cup) Coca Cola

Lightly salt and pepper ribs; place in crock pot.

Stir together remaining ingredients; pour over ribs and cook on low: beef short ribs 8 to 9 hours; pork ribs 6 to 7 hours.

Here is a great side dish to go with the ribs.

POTATO CASSEROLE

8 medium to large potatoes*

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream

1/2 cup chopped onion**

2 cups shredded cheddar or Velveeta cheese

1 cup crushed cornflakes

Boil potatoes until fork tender but still solid enough to shred. Shred coarsely.

In a large sauce pan melt 1/4 cup butter; add soup, sour cream, and cheese. Over low heat, cook and stir until cheese melts. Add onion. Lightly salt potatoes and add to cheese mixture, stirring gently to mix.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour potato mixture into a large greased casserole dish. Sprinkle cornflakes evenly over mixture and dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

*Commercial hash browns may be substituted.

**Chopped green onions may be used for color.

If you’d like to share a good recipe with You’vah, you can write her at 320 S. Harlin, West Plains, MO 65775 or via email at yschafer@yahoo.com. Although she does not take recipes over the phone, she invites your questions at 293-5333.

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