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As you get ready to ring in 2012, here’s a skinny take on a New Year’s tradition: Healthy Hoppin’ John.

With black eyed peas symbolizing coins, greens representing cash and pork, rice and spices adding more richness, this quintessential southern dish is believed to secure good fortune in the new year.

But while black eyed peas are a powerful bean with loads of fiber and nutrients, the pound of bacon, fatback or the whole ham hock found in most recipes won’t bring much good luck–unless you’re hoping to clog a good artery.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up this New Year’s tradition…you just have to approach it in a new way. Whether you use this skinny-fied version of Emeril Lagasse’s dish, or rework your own family recipe, by making a few substitutions–bumping up the fiber rich and calorie free veg, using smoked sun-dried tomatoes or a couple of slices of organic bacon instead of a pound of pork, and using healthy brown and wild rice rather than white rice– you can give most of the fat and calories the boot, and kick your Skinny New Year off right!


Hoppin’ John has 3 components: rice, beans and greens. I always make the stewed beans and the rice the day before so that all I have to do to serve is re-warm them and saute fresh greens on New Year’s Day.

Start by popping your rice in the oven…


(Unless I’m making rice for 20 and need to use my rice cooker, this is the easiest way to make perfect rice.)

2 1/3 c water

1/2 t kosher salt

1 1/2 c brown rice or brown and wild rice blend (I like Lundberg brand best. Available in packages in most markets or in bulk at Whole Foods.)

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine water and salt in a microwave safe casserole dish and nuke on high for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the rice, cover tightly with foil and place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Set the timer for 1 hour.  That’s it. When done, simply fluff with a fork.

While rice is in the oven, make the black eyed peas..


After seeing Food Inc, I swore off factory farmed pork for good…but I still use a wee bit of organic and sustainably raised bacon now and then. It is more expensive…but if you freeze slices individually, you’ll have it when you need it but won’t overeat it, and nothing will go to waste.  If you’d like to make a vegetarian version, simply omit the bacon.

2-3 slices organic smoked bacon, diced

1 c smoked sun-dried tomatoes, diced (The smoked variety is packaged dry. If you can’t find smoked, you can use regular sun-dried tomatoes, just sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika.)

1 t olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 T garlic, minced

3-4 jalapeno peppers, minced

1 t dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 lb. (2.5 cups) dried black eyed peas, rinsed well

6 c chicken stock (or 6 c water mixed with 1 1/2 T Better Than Bouillon Paste)

1 t dried red pepper

1/2 t black pepper

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 large celery stalk, diced

1-2 t salt (amount depends on saltiness of broth you use)

Tabasco sauce to taste

Fresh chopped tomato, green onion, parsley or cilantro to garnish, optional.

Spray a big soup pot with cooking spray and cook bacon and sun-dried tomatoes together until the bacon has rendered all of its fat. Add a teaspoon of olive oil if the pan gets too dry.

Toss in the onions, jalapenos, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, red and black peppers and stir.

Add the broth and beans and bring to a boil, skimming off any grey foam.

Reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 minutes until beans are al dente and broth has reduced.

Add salt, bell pepper and celery and cook on medium low until beans are tender…about 15-20 more minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings.


This is less of a recipe and more of a technique that proves you don’t need 4 Tablespoons of olive oil (500 calories) to pan saute otherwise healthy and calorie free greens.

Simply spray your non stick pan with cooking spray, or add just 1 teaspoon on olive oil, and toss in a bit of minced garlic, shallot and damp greens.

If you’re cooking kale, which has a rather tough leaf, give it a bit of a massage with a tiny bit of oil first and feel free to add a little broth to the pan if it starts to dry out.


Place a 1/2 cup of wild rice, a generous serving of greens and a cup of the stewed black eyed peas in a bowl. I f you like, you can add fresh chopped tomatoes, green onions and/or a little fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish.

Sprinkle with Tabasco sauce to taste.


Once you have the components of Hoppin’ John in the fridge, you can throw together other quick dishes.

To make a tasty and easy shrimp gumbo soup, combine the leftover rice, beans and greens in a soup pot and add a can of Rotel tomatoes with chilis, frozen sliced okra, peeled shrimp and seafood broth.

Or add some strips of cooked chicken to the beans and make a quick soft taco or simply chop the greens fine and add to a morning omelet.  Remember, to lose weight and keep it off for life, INVENTORY is key!



About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
This entry was posted in Fit For Kids, Low Meat Mains, Skinny Sides. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Andre-Ann says:

    Thank you so much Lisa for share all of this.
    I found you website while I was looking to see if you could froze cauliflower rice, and was amazed with what I found.
    I also have tried many diets and always ended up quitting because I was always hungry.
    But, I tried a few of your recipes (which are great) and it made me want to try to lower the calories in my own everyday recipes.
    The inventory is a MUST, so you don’t end up eating empty calorie food.
    Thanks again!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Thank YOU, Andre-Ann for writing. I can’t tell you how much I rely on Cauliflower Rice (and the 50/50 mix of cauliflower and brown/wild rice that makes Magic Rice) for so many of our favorite dishes. And, since I make it in big batches and freeze it in baggies, it’s ALWAYS there in my frozen “inventory” when I need it! Would you keep me posted on how your weight loss is going? We’re about to add a feature so readers can share their triumphs on the website…learning from each other and staying excited about this new way of eating is going to help us all fight back against the forces of fat that, until now, have been putting their profits over our health. Good luck and Keep in Touch!

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