January 2, 2019 9:55:05 AM
Traditional New Year's celebrations don't usually appeal to me.
I am too old and tired to stay out all night drinking champagne, and I am too young to fully embrace the traditional New Year's meal of black-eyed peas and ham hocks with collard greens.
I'm at that in-between age where all I'm offered are opportunities to promise myself I'll start exercising (I won't) or eating more healthfully. (I will, but only because I've been eating straight butter and sugar for a month straight, and my body can't take it anymore.)
I started trying to make my own New Year's traditions a few years ago when I realized that resolutions really aren't that exciting for a child. One of my sisters watches the previous year's home videos with her family on their television on New Year's Eve. That idea is genius, but I have never been technologically savvy enough to pull it off.
Paper and pencil and total convenience are more my speed. So when I ran across the idea of the New Year's tree, I knew it was for us.
Here's how it works: After Christmas, the children and I undecorate the tree together and make a run to the dollar store for a roll of streamers, a bag of balloons and a few noisemakers or poppers. (If you are noticing that this tree requires both children doing chores and Mommy getting out of the house, then you are beginning to understand my parenting style.)
Then we fill the balloons with a New Year's fortune, a chocolate or a coin or two. We blow them up and tie them to the tree with curling ribbon. When it's time for our New Year's celebration, we have special snacks and sodas and pop the balloons to read our fortunes.
This year for my special snack, I made this black-eyed pea dip. I got the recipe from a church cookbook my aunt gave my mother many years ago. I love it because it's full of vegetables, which makes it perfect for breaking the nutritional slump of the holidays. I've often taken it to parties because it makes a lot and can (and should!) be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
The recipe recommends serving with scoop Fritos, which I have always done. However, I have taken it to parties where the guests assumed it was a marinated salad and ate it with a fork and asked for the recipe -- it's that good.
It's called Tennessee Caviar in the cookbook, but I think it's fair to claim it for Mississippi if you want.
Amelia Plair is a mom and high school teacher in Starkville. Email reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yields about 8 1/2 cups of dip; halve the recipe if you're just serving a few people.)
3 cans black-eyed peas, drained, OR about 5 1/4 cups cooked peas
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup jalapeno peppers, sliced
1/2 cup hot salsa
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sliced green olives
3/4 cup Italian dressing
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves