When we arrived it was an almost full moon with twinkling stars so bright it was if I had never seen stars before. The silvery-white puffy clouds were illuminated by the full moon peeking in and out as they floated by. I saw moonbeams for the first time. I cannot get this image out of my head.
This is Kauai.
The next morning we awoke to a rainbow. This didn’t stop for three days. We gazed at this scene – ocean, rain-showers and rainbows – until the clouds finally cleared. It was a gift.
This is when we first started spotting Humpback Whales and an occasional pod of Spinner Dolphins. With our binoculars we’d watch patiently to see a breach, spin, tail or pec slap. Female Humpbacks migrate all the way from between Siberia and Alaska, some 3,000 miles (4,828km), to bear their young while males arrive a few weeks later to begin competing for a mate.
Males flex their muscles by throwing their bodies about, often breaching in part or in full, slapping the surface of the water while singing their haunting songs. It’s quite a spectacular display. While out on a sunset cruise, a hydrophone was lowered into the water. The displaying male was singing. As I wiped tears of bliss from my eyes, I learned that their songs can be heard up to 20 miles (30km) away. These gentle giants were at one time on the path to extinction. However, some populations are recovering, like the North Pacific Hawaiian Humpbacks. In some parts of the world, Humpbacks are still hunted.
There is so much to love about Hawaii and a few conservation success stories to tell. But still, I can’t help think about how more than 90% of Hawaii’s native plants and animals are found nowhere else on the planet, yet it holds the record for the most (437) threatened and endangered species in the United States. It’s a paradox and an outrage that we humans have created this situation.
Rob and I rented a small cottage on the North Shore, Kilauea, on a five-acre parcel. The hale was simple, private and comfortable with a spacious lanai, an incredible view and an almost private beach. All beaches in Hawaii are considered public, however some can only be accessed by boat due to the rugged nature of the terrain or private property leading to the beach. The almost private beach was a 10 minute walk down a very steep bluff (with steps). Getting back up was a complete chore, some 298 steps, but an excellent and exhilarating workout. I’m so out of shape. In fact, the entire time we spent at that beach, we only saw five other people. No boats and no aircraft. Just the roar of the deep blue Pacific, soaring Laysan Albatross (who lead exceedingly interesting and grand lives), the world’s rarest goose, the Nene, a lounging Hawaiian Monk Seal and a gorgeous sandy beach.
Paradise, yes. But then we picked up tiny bits of plastic and a large mass of entangled fishing debris. We picked up more on each trip. Instead of focusing on the ugly, we relished in the beauty.
Until it was time to walk back up. It kicked my ass.
We spent Christmas through a few days after New Years on Kauai and, I must say it was difficult to leave. I’m not complaining. But the solitude, peace and serenity of being immersed in nature with few-to-no human-caused mechanical sounds is something I’ve not experienced since hiking in Olympic National Park several years ago.
We didn’t spend the entire trip in solitude. We did do some snorkeling, cruising watching more whales and dolphins, took an incredible helicopter ride, listened to live slack key Hawaiian guitar and enjoyed pina coladas and mai tais. However, in retrospect I realize that while experiencing new sights and sounds is important, being immersed in nature with little-to-no human-generated noise is something my spirit craves and needs. Making this type of intention at least an annual priority is a new goal.
Since it’s a new year, it’s a good time to revisit goals and create new ones anyway. It was good timing.
This recipe was inspired by the new year. Black Eyed Peas are regularly on the menu, but especially as we transition into the new year becauase it is said they bring good luck. Black Eyed Peas with Smoky Collard and Cheesy Grits is a Southern recipe I adore and takes me back to my days growing up in Texas.
With just a bit of planning, it’s a snap to pull together and makes a quick and easy week-night meal.
Be sure to read the notes on this recipe. I’ve included several cooking options and notes on Black Eyed Peas, types of grits and vegan and vegetarian options. Choose what fits your schedule/diet best.
Next week I’ll share more on Kauai including the fabulous foodie scene and how I got locked in the men’s restroom our second night there (don’t worry, it’s a funny story)! OMGeeee.
Before I sign off, I’d love to know how/where you find solace and/or solitude to clear your head to take care of yourself and just be. What are your new goals for the new year?
Black Eyed Peas with Smoky Collards and Cheesy Grits
For the Black Eyed Peas:
- 2 1/2 C Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas* 668g
- 1 C Dry Black Eyed Peas soaked overnight, rinsed, 164g
- 2 C Vegetable Broth 472g
- 1 C Yellow Onion small dice (about 1), 210g
- 1 C Green Bell Pepper small dice (about 1), 150g
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 1 Bayleaf
- 1 tsp Vegan Worcestershire Sauce gluten free if needed
- 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke
- A few dashes of Tabasco optional but recommended!
For the Collard Greens:
For the Grits:
- 3 C Water 711g
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 C White or Yellow Corn Grits** 182g
- 1 1/2 TBS Nutritional Yeast***
- Serve with Fresh Sliced Jalapeños
- Slather with easy Homemade BBQ Sauce
- If using Slow Cooked Black Eyed Peas, skip #2 and move right into cooking the collards.
- In a medium saucepot, add the soaked black eyed peas, vegetable broth, onion, bell pepper, garlic, bayleaf, and optional tabasco. Bring to a boil, turn down to low or to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes to one hour, uncovered. The peas should be tender with just a slight tooth, not mushy. Add the worcestershire, and liquid smoke. Taste for seasoning adjustment.
For the Collard Greens:
- In a large stockpot, bring the broth, liquid smoke, tamari sauce, and garlic to a boil. Add the collard greens, stir throughly using tongs, lid the pot and cook on med-low for between 10-15 minutes. Stir the greens at least twice while they cook down and become tender. Their color will darken a bit too. Add the apple cider vinegar and pinch of red pepper flakes. Taste for seasoning adjustment (add salt if needed).
For the Grits:
- In a medium saucepot bring water and salt to a boil. Turn down to low and whisk in the grits. Stir in the nutritional yeast. Cook on low, covered, for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. (if using cheese, stir in the cheese after cooking for 5 minutes). Grits can dry out pretty quick, so if you need, add a TBS of water at a time and stir in after they're done cooking.
- To an individual serving bowl, add the peas, greens and grits arranged separately. Serve with jalapeños and/or tabasco and plenty of BBQ sauce for slathering
- Store in individual lidded containers, refrigerated for up to two days.
Recipe Notes*Slow cooked black eyed peas can be made the day of or the day prior to when they are needed. The quick cook (re: 45 minutes), will take a bit more 'cook' time for the entire dish, but you can prepare the other components of this recipe while the peas are cooking. I've not found a suitable vegetarian canned Black Eyed Pea brand, so I always cook fresh - buying in bulk reduces cost and waste and I can buy organic!
**There is much debate on grits. I grew up eating white hominy corn grits (often quick cook). They are hard to find and I've read that some are 'bleached' to obtain the white color (and GMO issues). So I opt for a brand I trust (Bob's) who uses white corn. Polenta can be used instead with delicious results, although they do take longer to cook. Look for grits and/or polenta in the bulk section for a more economical selection.
***I've made cheesy grits with nutritional yeast many times, although Rob prefers smoked provolone or pepper jack. If using dairy cheese, sub the yeast for 1/2 C (50g) of shredded cheese.