New Year's Day open thread

Happy new year to the Bleeding Heartland community. Here’s an open thread. I’m among the minority of Iowans not watching the Outback Bowl today, but for what it’s worth, I do hope the Hawkeyes beat Louisiana State. LSU jumped out to an early lead.

Several new laws take effect in Iowa today, notably the alternative to expanding Medicaid, just approved by the federal government in mid-December. Under the plan, federal funds will cover Medicaid for Iowans earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level and private health insurance for Iowans with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In theory, the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is supposed to cover between 100,000 and 150,000 people, roughly half of our state’s uninsured population. Problems with the federal health insurance exchange website may leave a lot of people with a gap in coverage, though. The Iowa Department of Human Services has advised roughly 16,000 Iowans who applied for coverage through Healthcare.gov and may be eligible for Medicaid to apply again to the state agency. If they apply by January 31, they can get coverage retroactive to today.

Teen drivers in Iowa face new restrictions under Senate File 115, which passed both chambers with large bipartisan majorities last year. After completing driver’s ed and having an instruction permit for six months, teenagers will have an intermediate license for 12 months (extended from six months under the previous statute). Also, the teen driver’s parents have the option to limit the driver to having no more than one unrelated minor passenger in the vehicle. Rod Boshart explained more details about the new law, intended to reduce the risk of traffic accidents involving young drivers.

Boshart also reports, “Thousands of commercial property owners in Iowa face a Jan. 15 deadline to apply in their counties for a new tax credit established” in the compromise property tax bill approved at the end of last year’s legislative session with strong bipartisan support.

As of today, it is legal in the state of Colorado to sell marijuana to people over age 21 at certain licensed stores. Drivers with Colorado license plates were already among the groups more likely to be pulled over by Iowa State Patrol. I would guess that profiling will increase.

In some parts of the country, black-eyed peas are considered a lucky food to eat on New Year’s Day. I’m not a fan of “hoppin’ John,” the most traditional preparation, but I’ve posted the recipe for my favorite black-eyed peas dish after the jump.  

I adapted this recipe from Vegetarian Indian Cookery by Shehzad Husain, a British food writer.

Husain’s recipe calls for fresh green chilies instead of cayenne and has a few minor differences, such as fresh chopped mint and fried baby potatoes to garnish. This is my fast and easy version.

Spicy black-eyed peas

1 large onion, sliced very thinly or diced fine

1 tsp ginger, grated or chopped fine

1 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp garam masala (I don’t recommend substituting curry powder)

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1 1/2 tsp chili powder (or less, depending on how spicy the powder is)

pinch cayenne pepper (optional if you like spicy food)

salt to taste

tomatoes of your choice (I have used 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, a few chopped fresh tomatoes, a small jar/can of tomato paste plus some water, or about 1-2 cups of strained tomatoes)

2 Tbsp lemon juice (from a bottle works fine if you don’t have a fresh lemon)

2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed, or about a cup of dried black-eyed peas, cooked and drained

Saute onion in vegetable oil (you need to use several tablespoons) until it is getting caramel brown. You need to stir frequently so it doesn’t burn. It takes me about 20 minutes to get the onions the right color.

Meanwhile, assemble all the other ingredients. When onions are done, add tomatoes and all the spices, and stir and cook for a minute or two.

Then add the drained black-eyed peas, stir and cook until heated through.

Serve with warmed tortillas or Indian-style bread. I warm tortillas in a dry skillet. You could cook rice to go with it, but this isn’t an Indian curry with lots of sauce to pour over rice. It’s filling enough to be a main dish. I like to add a bit of mango chutney.

This recipe is suitable for vegans, vegetarians or omnivores. It can be made for someone on a gluten-free diet if you serve it with the right kind of bread or tortilla.

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