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Counter Intelligence: Start the new year off right

By April Hamilton

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Break out the new calendar and start fresh. What's in store in 2014? What a wonderful time to turn over a new leaf, start a new habit, break a bad one.

Some people build long lists of things they truly want to change, while others have trouble sticking with one resolution. As I ponder the myriad possibilities for new year's resolutions, I concocted my own list from various sources of inspiration. In this new year, I decided on a collection of 14 popular resolutions. Sounds a little daunting. But I quickly realized that this longish list of goals could all be accomplished with one simple action.

Want to save money? Lose weight? Spend more quality time with loved ones?

Cook.

The answer to it all is cooking. Cooking for yourself instead of eating out saves lots of money. Cooking for yourself, with fresh ingredients, can be very instrumental in achieving a healthy weight. What better way to spend quality time with family and friends than sharing stories over a home-cooked meal?

Come along on this exciting journey and discover the true joy of cooking. According to my great mentor, the late writer Laurie Colwin, "What you want is an enormous return on a small investment. Almost the only situation in which this is possible is cooking." Makes perfect sense.

Here are 14 resolutions for 2014, a brilliant plan for bringing cooking into your daily routine:

  • Save money.
  • Stay happy.
  • Buy local.
  • Find your love.
  • Help others often.
  • Keep on learning.
  • Eat five new foods.
  • Grow a simple garden.
  • Spend more time with loved ones.
  • Lose weight.
  • Cut out processed foods.
  • Do something out of your comfort zone.
  • Plan everything.
  • Bring your lunch from home more often (don't miss the Lunch & Learn opportunity as part of the Live Well Charlie West initiative, a hands-on pack-and-go Miracle Brown Bag Lunch event 11:45 a.m. Jan. 22 at Ferguson's, 160 Spring St.; $5 per person).
  • Happy New Year! Happy cooking! Thanks for reading!

    Lucky New Year Stew

    Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is thought to bring prosperity in the new year. This delicious, fragrant and festive stew is a great way to kick off a new year of exciting resolutions. Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine. Makes 8 servings.

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    1 1/4 pounds Italian sausage links, pricked with a fork

    1 onion, chopped

    1 green bell pepper, chopped

    3 garlic cloves, minced

    1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

    1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice

    2 cups dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed

    4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

    3 cups water

    Salt and pepper

    HEAT the oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer sausages to a plate and set aside.

    ADD the onion and bell pepper to the pot and cook until just softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and increase heat to medium-high.

    COOK until liquid has reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas along with the broth and water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

    COVER the partially covered pot, reduce heat and simmer until the black-eyed peas are just tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    CUT the sausages on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices and add them to the stew along with any accumulated juices from the plate.

    SIMMER the stew for 10 minutes. Serve in deep bowls, with crusty bread.

    April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. April would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencounter@gmail.com.


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