a hoppin’ John experiment

This recipe for Hoppin’ John from America’s Test Kitchen’s Light and Healthy  cookbook was loaded with salt. I decided to try and cut it down by using water instead of low-sodium canned broth, and to cut down on the fat and carbs by using turkey ham and bacon instead of pork.

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 (1 pound) boneless turkey ham steaks, 3/4 inch thick
6 slices turkey bacon, crisp and crumbled
2 celery ribs, minced
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
4-8 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (substitute 4 cups water plus 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
1 (16 oz) bag frozen black-eyed peas (instead of 2)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed
3 scallions, sliced thin

I don’t have a Dutch oven so I used my Calphalon Everyday pan to heat up the oil. Then I fried the turkey ham steaks 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, I crisped the turkey bacon in the microwave.

After removing the steaks to cool, I added the celery and onion to the oil in the pan and fried them until they were tender, about 4-6 minutes. Then I added 6 minced garlic cloves (add more or less to taste) and the fresh thyme and cooked them until they were fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then instead of the broth, I added 4 cups water and two chicken bouillon cubes for flavor, 1 bag (instead of two) frozen blackeyed peas, and the bay leaves. I let the mixture cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. When it came to a simmer, I reduced the heat to low. While the broth mixture was cooking, the ham had cooled enough. I sliced it into 1/2 inch cubes and set it aside.

After 20 minutes, I added the white rice. Now, the original method says to spread a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of the pan  resting it on top of the rice-broth mixture, then cover. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring and changing the foil twice during cooking. Then I was to remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, this did not work for me. After 20 minutes the rice was still slightly raw rather than just cooked. Either it was the pan, which doesn’t have the high sides of a Dutch oven, or it was the foil which didn’t completely seal all the edges. What I did to salvage the dish was to let it steam-cook on low heat for an additional 10 minutes instead of letting it rest.

Then I tossed in the turkey ham cubes, the scallion, and the crumbled bacon. This version of Hoppin’ John was lightly salted but not very flavorful. The turkey ham was hearty and just like pork, but the turkey bacon is a sad substitute for the real thing. My instinct, from years of cooking rice, is that it is best left undisturbed during the steaming process, and that once sealed, with the foil and the cover, it shouldn’t be opened until the cooking time is up. I will have to try this recipe again to test this theory. Or try it next time in the rice cooker. Like my foray into baking meringues and pavlovas, Hoppin’ John is a work in progress!

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the 500-calorie dinner: hoppin’ john, summer squash soup, and watermelon yogurt ice

Tired of dieting but must eat! These recipes came from Eating Well’s dinner menus which offer a main dish, a side, and a dessert, all for 500 calories. What a bargain! Now I’m starting the sequence with dessert, a cool delicious ice, because dessert takes the longest time to make, in fact! The second recipe is a light soup. The third one is a variation on the southern dish Hoppin’ John, and it is made with lean pork chops rather than with bacon or salt pork.

Watermelon-Yogurt Ice
This is so refreshing! Especially on a warm night in the Teeny Tiny Apartment.

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups diced seedless watermelon, (about 3 pounds with the rind)
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice

1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan.Cook,stirring,over high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a glass measuring cup and let cool slightly.
2. Puree watermelon in a food processor or blender,in 2 batches,pulsing until smooth.Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled sugar syrup, yogurt and lime juice until combined. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another large bowl, whisking to release all juice. Discard pulp.
3. Pour the extracted juices into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturerʼs directions. As an alternative, pour into a shallow metal pan and freeze until solid, about 6 hours or overnight. Remove from freezer to defrost slightly, 5 minutes. Break into small chunks and process in a food processor, in batches, until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately or transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to 2 hours.

For one 1/2 cup serving: 74 Calories; 1 g Fat; 0 g Sat; 0 g Mono; 2 mg Cholesterol; 16 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 0 g Fiber; 21 mg Sodium; 155 mg Potassium

Golden Summer Squash and Corn Soup
This soup reminds me of the classic Chinese corn soup. It was rather bland so I suggest adding salt and pepper to taste. And a dash or two of hot sauce like Sriracha! Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 medium summer squash, (about 1 pound), diced
3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme or oregano, divided
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup fresh corn kernels, (tinned is okay)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash or two of hot chili sauce, optional but recommended
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook,stirring,1 minute.Add squash and 1 teaspoon herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is soft and mostly translucent, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.)If you have an immersion or wand blender, then puree the soup in the pot.
3. Return the soup to the pan and stir in corn. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add hot sauce, if using. Serve garnished with the remaining 2 teaspoons herbs and feta or goat cheese.

For a scant 1 cup serving: 111 Calories; 6 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 6 mg Cholesterol; 13 g Carbohydrates; 5 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 462 mg Sodium; 497 mg Potassium

Blackeyed Peas with Pork and Greens
This one was quite tasty. I added 2 extra cloves of garlic; you can never have too much garlic. Remember not to overcook the pork or it will get tough.

1 pound boneless pork chops, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup instant brown rice
8 cups roughly chopped kale leaves, (about 1 small bunch), tough stems removed
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot
1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1. Toss pork with salt and pepper.Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.Add the pork and cook, stirring, until just cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
2. Add onion,tomato paste and rice to the pan and cook until the onion softens,about 4 minutes. Add kale and garlic and cook until the kale begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth, vinegar, paprika. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the rice is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved pork and black-eyed peas and heat for 1 minute.

For one serving (1 1/3 cups): 281 Calories; 8 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 3 g Mono; 45 mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 22 g Protein; 5 g Fiber; 405 mg Sodium; 740 mg Potassium