Day 5 in the Life of My Stomach

>> Friday, May 28, 2010

Now, if that isn't the picture of health . . . I don't know what is! But it's Friday, and I always, always go easy on my dinner Friday nights. Especially after a long week at work -- and a nice sweat session on our spinning bike. I'm incredibly happy it's the weekend. I can't even express it in words right now. All I want to do is relax. And show you what I ate today, of course!

Here's the day in pictures . . . (and, no, I didn't eat an entire jar of Nutella!).

And here's the breakdown . . .
  • BREAKFAST: Worst smoothie ever. Tried to make the mint chocolate one again, but forgot the recipe. Yuck. 140-ish calories.
  • SNACK: Double chocolate granola-ish bar. 270-ish calories.
  • LUNCH: Microwaved sweet potato with pepper-jack cheese and strawberries. 400-ish calories.
  • DINNER: Three slices of cheese pizza and a beer. 865-ish calories.
  • DESSERT: 2 (heaping) tablespoons Nutella. Straight from the spoon. 250-ish calories.
Talk about not my best day. I came in -- even with all that pizza -- at right around 2,000 calories yet again. UGH. Have I expressed how much I HATE counting calories? And it becomes this awful habit where I am now thinking about it before every meal. The good news is that my counting stint is over! Yes. No more counting for me. The next time you see one of these recaps (Monday), it'll be sans numbers. Also: There will be a summary of my weekend eats as well. But from now on, I'll monitor my consumption with my gut and not with a calculator in hand.

Reflections about today's dietary choices. Not my best work. Definitely bottom-loaded the day. I felt full all day, though. I just think I could have topped my pizza with some veggies (Stephen piled basically a large salad on his). I went with the most classic, I'm-a-5-year-old approach. Maybe had another serving of vegetables at work (forgot my carrots at home!). I think I just got lazy. I woke up sort of late and didn't leave enough time to eat a good breakfast (1st huge mistake) and pack a good lunch (2nd mistake). Noted.

That's all from me for tonight. Except this: Do you want to win a fantastic $50 shopping spree at YES, YOU DO is the answer. Why? Well, you can buy all this cool stuff . . . or whatever your might like to snag yourself!

So, visit us on Tuesday for all the details about how you -- YES YOU! -- can win. And if you need to catch up on my week of healthy eating, check out day 1, day 2, and day 3, and day 4.

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Changing Up the Commute

I'm lucky enough to live only a few miles away from where I work. So, I really have no need for a car. Right? Well, truth be told -- my area isn't exactly bike-friendly. Yes, there are bike lanes and sidewalks, but they involve trekking across busy highways with loads of traffic. A non-auto commute, needless to say, is certainly not for the faint of heart. But I decided to give it a try earlier this week when the temps were high and the clouds were few.

The result: I am still in one piece. I got to work. I got home from work. I got some good exercise. And I'm planning to do it at least two to three times a week -- weather permitting.

Commuting to work by bus, bike, or on foot requires a certain level of planning, however. So, if you're fortunate enough to live close to your place of employment, you might consider taking alternative transportation for a day or two. Just to try it out. For the purpose of this post, I'm concentrating specifically on biking and walking. Not only is it good for the environment, but it's also good for your wallet and waistline.

Here are just a few tips to get you started:

1.) Plan out your route considering safety, ease of travel, and time. There are likely multiple ways to get where you need to be. Figure out the good, bad, and ugly about each. For me, the long way around is definitely quieter, but involves more hills and several more miles. As a compromise, I take the short way -- but in the area where I feel least safe, I ride on the sidewalk. I see others doing the same thing, so it's not a horrible thing to do (I know bicyclists need to obey traffic laws -- but until they improve the bike lanes around here, I'll break them for the 1/2 mile that makes me feel uneasy). But look at all your options and plan accordingly.

2.) Dress appropriately. The temps in our area were in the high 80s this week. So, I knew I didn't want to be a mess when I got to work. I dressed in layers. Packed a cardigan for the inevitable office chill (too much air conditioning). I wore spiffy shorts one day, a stretchy skirt the next (and, yes, it's possible to bike in a skirt and still be descent . . . practice makes perfect). If you're especially self conscious about sweating, etc., pack another shirt. Wear sensible shoes. If you're walking, flip-flops just won't do. And high heels on a bike? I don't think so. If you're concerned with fashion, think about bringing a change of clothes. Ultimately, you don't want to sacrifice safety and comfort for fashion.

3.) Saddle up with a backpack. Include other key gear. If you're walking, having a backpack will help alleviate back problems. You can stow away lunch, a laptop, your purse, change of shoes (if necessary), etc. If you're biking, same thing -- but you'll also need to throw in a bike lock. Oh, yeah. And don't forget a HELMET. I never, ever, EVER ride without a helmet. When you're on the road with cars buzzing past you going 1,000,000 miles an hour, you'll be happy you're wearing one, too.

4.) Pack all your supplies. As I mention above, you want to pack smart. But this doesn't just include the basic necessities. You'll also want to be sure to bring a bottle of water with you. (Hydrate, please!) Furthermore, if it's hot outside, you may even want to consider bringing your getting-ready routine on the road with you. Nothing's worse than melted makeup with asphalt embedded in your pores. I pack a small toiletries bag so that I can apply my makeup and fix my hair in the bathroom at work. I also bring deodorant and some face soap so I can lather up a bit beforehand. If you don't feel like carrying all of this in your bag, you may want to keep a supply kit in your desk.

5.) Leave yourself enough time to get to your destination. I was completely surprised to learn that it takes me exactly the same amount of time to bike to work as it does to drive and walk from my car to my office. Astounded, in fact. But I didn't know this the first day, so I was sure to allow myself a full half hour just in case. You may even wish to do a test walk or bike ride on a weekend to see how long it takes to get from point A to point B.

But leave yourself enough time to get to your office so that you won't be rushing and perhaps ignoring the rules in the following step . . .

6.) Obey the rules. Yeah, I'm not going to lie. I do break a biking rule on my route. But, unless there's a reason that is particularly compelling (seriously, folks -- that part of my route is DANGEROUS, so I'd rather take my chances with a couple pedestrians on the sidewalk), you must obey traffic rules on your ride. This includes hand signaling. Both walkers and bikers must look both ways a.) for your own safety and b.) for the safety of others. Think about when you're in the driver's seat in your vehicle. It's frustrating when you see cyclists, etc. not obeying rules (or just being confusing and oblivious). So, you want to be the model . . . less frustration for those in cars, less chance of accidents for you.

One more thing: Just like you would for your vehicle, be sure to check that your bike is in good working order being heading out. Check the brakes, tire levels, etc. And consider carrying a bike kit with you for any unforeseen emergencies.

One of my friends describes biking to her place of work as "empowering" -- and I certainly agree with her. The days I chose to get here without my car, I felt liberated. I felt happy and strong. I was also happy about the extra exercise I was squeezing in. And despite the relative difficulty of my particular route, it was fun! So, if you choose to travel an alternative way to your 9 to 5, be safe. And let us know if you have any other tips to add! Just leave a comment or email us at

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READER SPOTLIGHT: Eating, Gardening and Living in Bulgaria

My name is Casey Angelova and I am an American living in Bulgaria. I have a blog called Eating, Gardening and Living in Bulgaria, which I write about my adventures learning to cook, grow and live in abroad. Today I would like to share with you all two vegan recipes from my blog.

The first is a beet and cashew croquette with tahini sauce. 10 years ago, I made a beet salad, which was my first beet experience and I wasn't too crazy about it. However, I've since warmed up to them. While not really a croquette, this dish was inspired by a restaurant in Sofia, Bulgaria. I tried, rather successfully to re-create the recipe.

You can find all the details and instructions here.

The second recipe I'd like to share is a dessert. Though it was a challenge to use dates, ginger, and couscous in a recipe, I came put with a tasty vegan pudding.

You can find the recipe here.

Casey's blog is all about the the trial and error process of learning how to cook, grow and live in Bulgaria. If you'd like to check out more, just visit If you'd like to be considered for a Reader Spotlight, just check out our info post with all the gooey details.

PS: Image credit for the map of Bulgaria is here.

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Day 4 in the Life of My Stomach

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day four. And I'm so right about staying at home being the optimal choice for healthy eating. It isn't that I didn't eat well today. I did. But, it's just so much more difficult without all my supplies and tools! My energy felt pretty stable today. I ran 4 miles in the AM, so my breakfast had to work extra hard to sustain me throughout the morning. It did a great job. In all, I consumed around 2,000 calories today. I'm surprised that number isn't more, though. I think it's all the veggies I'm eating. They're so filling, it's difficult to stuff more into my stomach!

You'll also notice that I didn't eat quite as much variety today. In fact, a large chunk of my intake was made up of those incredibly amazing double chocolate granola-ish bars. Not the healthiest way to spend my calories, but certainly not the worst way either.

Here's the day in pictures . . . (Yeah, I know I said I didn't like the collage thing, but it's easy!)

And here's the breakdown . . .
  • BREAKFAST: Fabulous and creamy banana-peanut butter green smoothie that I found on Ashley's blog (Edible Perspective) this morning. Approximately 420 calories. I could hardly tell there were greens in it from the taste -- but it felt like a booster shot of health!
  • SNACK: Double chocolate granola-ish bar. Approximately 270 calories.
  • LUNCH: 1/2 Mediterranean veggie sandwich with 1 cup veggie black bean soup. Approximately 410 calories. Also, I got the photo above from MSN. Didn't want to pull out the DSLR at lunch.
  • SNACK: Apple. Approximately 80 calories.
  • DINNER: Sweet and sour stir fry with noodles (recipe soon!). Approximately 500 calories.
  • DESSERT: Another double chocolate granola-ish bar. Approximately 270 calories.
Today's eating was especially challenged because I headed out to eat with a coworker for lunch. We went to Panera Bread because it's fast, but I have a problem not eating all the baked goods when I go. So, I planned ahead and checked out their menu online. They have fantastic nutrition information (check it out!) -- and I was able to craft a meal for under 500 calories that was both satisfying/filling and incredibly delicious.

I honestly don't have much else to say right now. One thing that I feel particularly proud of is that -- with the exception of going to Panera -- I haven't had any packaged foods lately. Well, some of them may have come in packages, but I think the majority of what I've been eating is made up of whole foods. It feels so good to look at these photos and know what each of the ingredients that went into them looks like. The calorie counting is still driving me mad, but it's helping my portion control. I think before I started this experiment, I was eating like double portions all the time.

Someone pointed out that, yeah, I'm an athlete. And I so agree. I need more fuel than non-athletes to get myself through the day. However, I know I've gained a solid five pounds since the marathon in November. It's because I got too used to stuffing myself silly after 20-mile long runs. I'm not doing that intensity now, so my diet needs to reflect that change in my energy expenditure. I'm getting there. Finally! And at no point have I been feeling hungry. When I "feel" like I want to eat more, it's usually some weird emptiness that really isn't hunger related. It's mostly boredom. And just love of my own kitchen creations.

Need to catch up? Check out the life of my stomach day 1, day 2, and day 3.

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Green Hummus

Over the past year -- and likely longer -- we've been seeing all these new types of hummus pop up at the grocery store. There's even edamame hummus -- crazy times we live in, right?! We rarely (if ever) buy hummus in the store. We just love making it too much . . . and all these new flavors have served as inspiration for our at-home spread making.

Instead of chickpeas, this "hummus" uses peas and spinach for the bulk of its flavor. A healthy dose of tahini and garlic powder round it all out nicely, too. I was certainly skeptical at first. I mean, what would it taste like? Would it be a case of trying to make something way too healthy . . . and then backfire? Nope. The best part about it is that there's little salt (yay!) . . . and you'll also enjoy your greens.

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup peas (I use frozen and just defrosted them first)
  • 2 heaping handfuls of baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
Method . . .
  1. Easy: Blend everything until smooth.
Use as you would any hummus, really. I like mine in a melt. But it would also be great with veggies. I'm sure you can use different seasonings to achieve another kind of flavor. Now that I've mastered making spreads with different types of veggies, I want to try even more interesting combinations. I'm sure you'll all hear more about it soon!

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Double Chocolate Granola-ish Bars

These chocolate walnut oat bars (I need a better name, of course) are divine. They pack a one-two chocolate punch and a heck of a lot of protein (and other nutrition). And making them is as easy as pie! Actually, much easier! I ate a lot of great foods yesterday, but this bar was definitely my favorite of all.

And if you need to get caught up on the life my stomach's been leading lately, check out the life of my stomach day 1, day 2, and day 3.

What you'll need . . .
  • 3/4 cup steel cut oats, processed until powdery
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts, processed into meal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 heaping tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 handfuls vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter)

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together your processed steel cut oats, walnut meal (just pulse each ingredient in a food processor for a bit), cocoa powder, and coconut flakes.
  3. Then, in the bowl of an electric mixer, add the honey (or maple syrup), coconut oil, and peanut butter.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Then lightly oil an 8x8 glass dish and pour your mixture in. Press into corners to distribute evenly.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove from oven to let cool for 10 minutes. Slice into either 8 or 10 bars (8 bars equals 270 calories each, 10 bars equals around 210).
  7. Then up the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes -- until lightly browned. Let cool and then transfer to your refrigerator (this will help them stay together even more).
  8. Enjoy!

NOTE: Yeah. It's a weird baking process. I admit that. But I was inspired by the way biscotti is made.

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Day 3 in the Life of My Stomach

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I think my days of mindlessly munching on half moon cookies are over. Oh, boy. OK. I'm not going to lie. I feel like I'm taking one for the team this week with all this calorie counting. It's totally against my food philosophy. However tedious, though, I think it's important for me to check in on my consumption. I just didn't remember how incredibly time consuming it is. That being said, today's total was right around 2,000. And at not point during the day have I been hungry. Steady blood sugar -- and it's awesome.

What counting all these calories has told me is that I was eating WAY more than I need. I mean. I have a food blog. I bake a lot. I am always tooling around in the kitchen to create cool things for us and you all out there in blogland. I just didn't realize how much I was overeating until recently. I could pack away half a batch of cookies no problem. And just because they're vegan. Well. It doesn't make it OK. :)

ANYWAY. I was actually off sick today because my allergies are so bad I can hardly open my eyes (scratching) and my nose is more-than stuffy (head-pounding congestion). After a long day indoors resting, I did finally get out to do a 6-miler, which felt good. And thankfully no one was cutting grass at the time (that usually triggers an allergy attack for me). 2,000 calories seems to have supported my run quite well. I'm also pretty sure my constant flow of coconut water mixed with water (1/2 and 1/2) helped.

The day's foods in pictures . . . (PS: I thought I liked this collage idea better. But looking at it now, I certainly don't. I'll go back to the other style tomorrow.)

And here's the breakdown . . .
  • BREAKFAST: Bagel topped with 1 tablespoon Earth Balance and a homemade "jam" (recipe soon!) I created using fresh strawberries and pitted dates. A large Pink Lady apple. Approximately 500 calories total.
  • LUNCH: English muffin topped with a "hummus" I crafted using spinach, peas, and tahini (recipe soon!) and a serving a jack cheese. Side of carrots and strawberries. Approximately 600 calories total.
  • SNACK: The most awesome homemade granola-ish bar you'll ever taste (recipe soon!). Approximately 270 calories.
  • DINNER: Amazing cocktail creation (see recipe below!), and coconut rum. Broccoli with quinoa topped with a walnut oil/soy sauce. Approximately 530 calories total.

I feel incredible after today's healthy eating. Everything was so full of nutrients. Not a ton of salt today either! A better mix of carbs and fresh fruits/veggies. I'm going to say it: I'm an all-star today. But what we're not factoring in is that I was home. I could control absolutely everything about my meals. I could be as creative as I wanted to be. At least in my reality, I am truly a (never home)maker. I'm at work all day. So, this kind of perfection is likely not feasible (but if you have tips -- please let me know!).

This is where the calorie counting reached epic levels, though. Because I had all the food packaging around, I counted pretty much everything. I measured everything. And honestly, I hated it. I don't usually care, but it became this obsession. Let me say this again: I HATED it. I'm going to continue monitoring my daily intake for the rest of the week. But after that, I'm done. It's hard work. And I know from past experience how it can lead to unhealthy habits.

I've decided to continue this food diary through next week, too. But next week, I'm going to try to eat the "right" number of calories by listening to my body. Then at the end of the week, I'll try to go through and see how I did. I'm interested in what my body needs versus what I'm putting into it. I tend to, as I mentioned above, mindlessly eat. As a disclaimer: I don't advocate obsessively counting calories. What I hope to gain from this experience is simply to be more in tune with my hunger and fuel needs versus my lust for food.


What you'll need . . .
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure carrot juice
  • 1 shot of coconut rum (2.5 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup frozen strawberries (use 1/2 for blending and throw some to throw in as ice cubes)
  • Mint leaves for garnish

Method . . .
  1. Combine the carrot juice, rum, and 1/2 frozen strawberries in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and plop in some frozen strawberries for ice cubes. Garnish with mint. Yes, I realize I just repeated a lot of what I typed above. I'm sick today. Go easy on me! :)
And if you've missed Day 1 and Day 2 of my food diary, feel free to check them out ASAP.

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Garbanzo Bean Salad

I'm loving that you are all enjoying my food diary! I wasn't sure how it'd go, but I'm enjoying it, too. It's one thing to write down the things I eat in a day. And -- confession time -- sometimes in the past when I simply wrote down my intake, I'd LIE to myself. Trust me, it doesn't make sense to me either, but I'd conveniently leave out things like . . . well . . . five cookies. Hahah.

So, the photos are keeping me honest. And in the spirit of honesty, I need to add an 80 calorie serving of bittersweet chocolate chips to yesterday's mix. (I ate them after the post.)

And if you've missed Day 1 and Day 2 of my food diary, feel free to check them out ASAP.

Anyway, lots of you want the garbanzo bean salad recipe. I anticipated this. After all, a good lunch recipe can make your day (just like it did mine). This dish packs around 600 to 650 calories. Sounds like a lot, but when you consider that it keeps you full all day (and who says you need to eat it all in one sitting? I picked at it throughout the day), it's worth trying out.

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (I used Xagave, but you could also use honey)
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk (or other substitute)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Pepper (to taste)

Method . . .
  1. In a medium bowl, toss garbanzo beans, carrots, basil, and coconut flakes.
  2. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together the tahini, agave, and almond milk.
  3. Add sauce to veggies/etc., toss, and season with pepper as desired.
The only critique I have of this recipe is that it packs 45% of your daily sodium intake. I guess I didn't realize canned garbanzos have so much salt in them! The good news is that my salt intake yesterday -- not counting this recipe -- was minimal. I'm trying to be more conscious of adding salt to everything (which I started to do this year for some reason). However, the next time we hit the store, I'm going to pick up some dried chickpeas and use them. From now on. After reading this info, I want to use less of the canned variety. There's so much more nutrition when you take a little more time to revive the dried.

So, whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy this recipe. It's immensely tasty. Incredibly easy. Unique in flavor. And easily adaptable -- try it with other veggies and fruits (raisins would be a nice addition), and let me know all about it! Just leave a comment or email us at

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Day 2 in the Life of My Stomach

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day one in the life of my stomach certainly surprised me. I ate so much bread and so few fruits and veggies, well, it made me plan out today's eats much more carefully. Yesterday, I estimate I ate around 2,600 calories. Some people (including, uh, me!) were surprised at this number because it didn't look like I ate terribly much. But those pumpkin garlic knots definitely made up the bulk of that number.

Today's plan was to, of course, eat less bread: Accomplished. Eat more fruits and veggies: Kind of accomplished. Eat fewer calories (more appropriate for my activity level): Accomplished.

Here's the day in photos:

  • BREAKFAST: Dark Chocolate Mint Smoothie (1 cup almond milk, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon flax meal, 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves)
  • SNACK: Three carrots and Republic of Tea Pink Lemonade Green Tea
  • LUNCH: Gigantic garbanzo bean salad (recipe soon!) -- BEST part of my day!
  • SNACK: Apple
  • DINNER: Red quinoa risotto (recipe soon!)
In all, I estimate today's calorie count at around 1,500 to 1,600. But I'll probably have a handful of dark chocolate chips before the night is over. More like 1,750, then. That's actually much lower than I would have thought. Some folks are wondering what tool I'm using for these counts -- I am actually just counting them myself from the foods (looking up counts for fruits and veggies). Usually, I'd think I need to eat more, but today I didn't run (skipped it because of the heat, planning to run tomorrow morning instead -- if my allergies cooperate) . . . so I'm actually pretty happy with this number.

How have I felt all day? Full. Honestly. The garbanzo bean salad I had for lunch was so big I almost couldn't finish it! The risotto was a similar story. I've been incredibly full and energized. I liked having a bit of dairy for dinner because it added some flavor to the dish, but I definitely think I could have gone vegan (with some nutritional yeast) on that one. I wasn't craving breads, but I think that might be because I didn't run today. I know for sure that tomorrow will showcase more carbs, and I'm totally cool with that.

So, if you didn't catch yesterday's eats, head over there now. Otherwise, have a lovely evening!

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Black-Eyed Pea Stew

It's easy in fall and winter to devote early Sunday afternoons to chopping veggies to throw into the crock pot. When it's super sunny and 80+ degrees F, however, the last thing on my mind is slow cooking. The heat emanating from the pot isn't comforting and cozy. No, it's just plain awful. And usually the recipes I make in my crock pot and heavy and thick. Just the kind of food I try to steer clear of on a hot day in May.

But this past weekend, I decided to deal with it. To spend some time gathering unused ingredients from the refrigerator and putting them together to make something edible. We had so much yard work to do, so I didn't worry about the heat from the pot bothering me. I'd be outside -- far, far away. I used fresh veggies and a light broth to get over my notion that all slow cooker food must be dense.

You know what? I'm ever-so thankful I got over my slow-cooker-is-only-good-in-cold-weather attitude. Because at the end of the day, we dined on this divine black-eyed pea stew. We used up all the almost-past-their-prime veggies . . . and even had some stew left over for lunches this week.

What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/2 cups dry black-eyed peas (BOOM BOOM POW!) -- plus water for prep.
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 2 cans of water (just fill up the empty veggie broth can to measure)
  • 1 can of unsalted corn, drained
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 medium to large head of broccoli, each floret quartered (like above)
  • 1/2 a medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method . . .
  1. Soak the black-eyed peas (BOOM BOOM POW!) overnight. Or, if you don't plan for these sorts of things (like me), fill a medium pot with about 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Throw in the dry peas and let cook for 2 minutes. Take off heat and let sit while you prepare everything else.
  2. Pour the vegetable broth, water, corn, broccoli, and onion in the crock pot. Mix and then turn to high and let cook for half an hour to an hour.
  3. Then add the black-eyed peas (BOOM BOOM POW!) spices, salt, etc. Stir and go do something outside! Simply let cook until the peas are soft. Which is around 3 hours (stirring occasionally -- also checking on seasonings).
  4. Enjoy with pumpkin garlic knots.

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