Cart Smarts: Eat for luck with black-eyed peas

My sister moved down to Richmond, Va., after college to pursue her doctorate degree in biostatistics. During graduate school, she fell in love with three things: a fellow math nerd, Virginia's warmer weather and the bike trails. She got married last summer and refuses to move back to cold Minnesota. Thankfully, I can convince them to visit twice a year.

Two years ago, when they were home over Christmas, I learned about a Southern tradition for the New Year. It was January 1, 2012, and my sister was panicking over where she could buy black-eyed peas. I was confused about her random food request and asked why she was craving them. Her husband went on to explain that his parents taught him to eat black-eyed peas every year on New Year's Day. Southerners believe this will bring prosperity in the New Year. This good-luck tradition had me intrigued. I certainly wanted a prosperous year and knew beans were a healthy food whether they were magical or not.

Black-eyed peas are perfectly named for their appearance — they are small white beans with a black circle in the middle. They are also sometimes called cowpeas. These legumes are considered a nutrient-dense food with approximately 100 calories, less than a gram of fat, six grams of fiber, seven grams of protein and 10 percent of the daily value of iron in just a half-cup serving of cooked black-eyed peas.

In the grocery store, you can find black-eyed peas cooked in a can or dry in a bag. The canned version is more expensive but convenient and recipe-ready. If you buy the dry version, be sure to sort the peas first then follow the instructions on the bag for soaking and cooking.

This year, there's no reason for my sister to panic — I am prepared. I found a delicious recipe for cucumber salad with black-eyed peas. We tested it a couple weeks ago and everyone loved it. Owen's favorite vegetable is the cucumber, so he was excited. My husband really liked how the flavor reminded him of Greek food. I thought the leftovers tasted even better the second day.


Wishing you happy and healthy 2014. Celebrate tomorrow with some black-eyed peas.

Kaitlin Anderson is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee North in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.


Cucumber & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

Freshly ground pepper to taste


4 cups peeled and diced cucumbers (about 2 large)

1 (14-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

2/3 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup slivered red onion

2 tablespoons chopped black olives, optional

Whisk oil, lemon juice, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until combined. Add cucumber, black-eyed peas, bell pepper, feta, onion and olives; toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes 6 servings, about 1 cup each. Nutrition per serving: 160 calories; 10 g fat; 12 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber; 270 mg sodium; 273 mg potassium; 50 percent DV vitamin C; 15 percent DV vitamin A.

Recipe adapted from Eating Well, Inc.

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