Lazy Spring Cooking & New Music

I have to admit, I’ve been a little lazy in the cooking department lately. Not sure why and luckily, Grant has been on a cooking tare. I’m preparing to post some more of his Korean inspired recipes real soon but in the mean time, I have two more soups to post that I made in the last cold weeks before spring finally broke through.

dogwood

Both of these two soups were tasty and super easy to make. This first soup was inspired by our dear friend Catherine Oliva. Catherine is one of the first friends we made when we moved to Nashville. She has a perfect combination of southern (North Carolina) charm and modern day business sense. She always says the right thing and handles herself with grace. I have occasionally found myself in a social situation where I have thought, “What would Catherine Oliva do?” Thank God for friends like that, who you can channel to help you in times of need. Several times she has made us this wonderful Italian sausage soup with garbonzo beans and zucchini. I was craving it lately and made up this version of my own. It wasn’t nearly as yummy as hers but it was good and easy. I used spicy Italian sausage from our neighborhood local butcher and it was delicious. You can vary it, too, depending on what you have on hand. You can add peppers or tomatoes. Her’s doesn’t have kale but I wanted a one-pot meal with some greens and it turned out great. It went something like this…

Italian Soup-1

Italian Sausage Garbanzo Soup
Serves 6

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 medium Zucchini, cut in rounds and then each round, halved
  • 1 25oz can Garbanzo Beans
  • 1 bunch Lacanato Kale, washed and cut in small strips
  • ½ lb Ground Sausage
  • Fresh Parsley (I use lots but not everyone loves it as much as we do. I also added in some dried Italian herbs.)
  • 3 cups Vegetable Stock

Italian Soup-2

Saute the onion in olive oil. Add the loose sausage (or if you have links, squeeze the sausage out of the casings and into the pan) and stir to break it up. Add the zucchini and stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add the garbanzo beans and herbs. Cook for a few minutes. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about half an hour or so. Salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Italian Soup-3

Last summer I had a devil of a time finding any organic fresh corn (and I was trying so hard to avoid any of that Monsanto corn that is taking over the world) but I kept craving corn because it was summer so I bought a few bags of frozen organic corn and apparently we didn’t eat them all because I realized we had a couple still in the freezer. I wanted to make a chicken corn chowder but didn’t want it to be too rich or heavy. Here’s what I came up with. Being lazy, I bought a rotisserie chicken from our neighborhood natural foods store but you can easily use any leftover roast chicken you have or even boil up a breast or two and then shred them.

Corn Chowder

Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder
Makes 6 large servings

  • 1 Tbsp Butter or Ghee
  • 1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cups frozen organic Corn (I used 1 cup white shoepeg and 3 cups yellow sweet.)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Jalapeno, chopped (I used the seeds, too, to make it spicy!)
  • 2 cups Chicken (Roasted or Rotisserie), chopped
  • 1 14 oz can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Lime Juice
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
  • Sliced Avocado and Chopped Cilantro to garnish

Chowder

Saute the onion in the ghee until it gets nice and soft. Remove it from the stovetop. In a blender, blend 1 cup of the corn with the onion and 1 cup of the broth. This makes a nice creamy broth. Set aside. Saute the peppers and then add the remaining ingredients. Cook for a few minutes to combine all the flavors and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the blended onion and corn broth which gives the soup a nice creamy texture. Cook for 15 or so more minutes. Top with avocado and cilantro and enjoy!

And speaking of lazy… because I was being so lazy, I figured out I could make homemade granola in less than 30 minutes and I never even turned the oven on. I made it in an iron skillet, just as I’ve been making my spiced nuts.

Granola-3

Simply mix these ingredients together in a medium bowl (too lazy to measure any of the ingredients but just mix together whatever you have and enough to fill whatever size iron skillet you have without crowding it too much)- roughly chopped raw nuts, raw seeds, raw oats, chopped dried apricots, and currants.

Granola-4

Pour the mix into your iron skillet (dry- no oil necessary). Stir them periodically and watch closely so they don’t get too toasty. Once they begin to brown very slightly and you can start to smell the nuts, add 2-3 tablespoons of pure maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your granola) and a sprinkle of salt (optional). Keep stirring until lightly toasty. Remove from heat. Pour back into the bowl to cool. We enjoyed ours with some plain Greek yogurt.

Granola-1

While kicking back and relaxing with all that extra time I had from being so lazy in the kitchen, I have been enjoying some new music. Our friend Robby Hecht is a wonderful songwriter and he has a beautiful new album out. I have been listening to it all week.

Robby-1

This is Robby’s third album and is simply titled, Robby Hecht. You can purchase it here (along with other awesome Robby Hecht merch) and he has a new video for the song, Soon I Was Sleeping, which was brilliantly made by Ryan Newman and features the lovely voice of Canadian songbird, Rose Cousins.

Happy Spring, Y’all!

 

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Eating Herbs While Listening to New Albums

Basil

Herbs! I have been cooking with so many herbs. I planted herbs in about half of our raised bed garden this summer and it is so nice to walk out to the back yard and come in with all the herbs I need for my meal. We throw them in everything. We toss them in salads, soups, veggie dishes, sauces, and even iced tea and lemonade. Below are a few of our favorite current dishes we came up with over the last few weeks. Herbs, while being super tasty, also provide many health benefits to the body. There’s power in those herbs! Plus, they smell amazing.

Cilantro

I made this Chimichurri type sauce as an accompaniment to a sliced Bella (their bread is delicious!) baguette one weekend recently when we had company visiting. We realized this would be excellent on top of grilled vegetables, meat, or fish. We later used it on top of a local skirt steak from our neighborhood Porter Road Butcher. You can use any herbs you have really and I added a little piece of a jalapeno pepper to give it some kick!

Baguette

Cilantro & Parsley Chimichurri
1 large bunch fresh Parsley
1 large bunch fresh Cilantro
1 small bunch fresh Oregano
⅓ Jalapeno Pepper
3 cloves fresh Garlic
juice of ¼ Lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (enough to cover the herbs)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Grind all together in a food processor (I have a mini one and use it all the time. If you find yourself without one, you can just chop everything really well and mix thoroughly). Store unused in the refrigerator.

Chimichurri Steak

This next recipe is based very loosely on a Trader Joe dip that a friend of mine used to always serve at parties. I really liked the flavors and eventually created this based on my memory of that. It is yummy with cherry tomatoes and pita chips.

Cilantro Pecan Dip

Cilantro Pecan Dip
1 big bunch Fresh Cilantro
2 cloves Garlic
½ cup Roasted Raw Pecan Halves
8 oz Neufchatel Cheese (or Cream Cheese)
¼ cup (give or take a little) Buttermilk
½ – 1 tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper

Grind all together in a food processor (Again, if you find yourself without one, you can just chop everything really well and mix thoroughly.)

Grant made me breakfast last weekend and came up with these lovely herby roasted potatoes. Served here with Spinach Eggs and Porter Road Breakfast Sausages. Mmm…

Herby Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Herbs & Garlic
10-12 Fingerling Potatoes, sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter, cut into small pieces
Fresh Herbs (2 large Sage leaves, small bunch Thyme, small bunch basil), chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Toss potato slices with the olive oil and butter and space evenly, in one layer, on a baking sheet or oven proof dish. Place dish in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown. Remove from the oven and toss in the herbs and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Place the dish back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Serve.

I love summer squash and one of my very favorite things to make each summer is 101 Cookbooks’ recipe for Buttermilk Squash Soup. I know, soup in the summer doesn’t sound so appealing in the hot south, but this recipe is so yummy and comforting that it works.

I wasn’t setting out to change her recipe by any means. It really is perfect the way it is, however, I found myself in for the day, ready to cook, and with no cumin seeds, which is one of the main ingredients. So, I adapted her original recipe to fit the herbs I had in the garden. I was skeptical but it turned out really well so I decided to post it. This would be great for lunch or served in little cups as an appetizer for the perfect Southern summer dinner. By the way, be sure to find some organic squash if you don’t have any from your own garden. It is one of those crops (along with zucchini, corn, soy, beets…) that has been contaminated and overtaken by GMO seeds so unless you have organic, there’s no telling what you might be eating.

Summer Squash Soup

Summer Squash Soup
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 medium Vidalia Onion, chopped
3 medium Red Potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 ½ lbs (estimate, I used 5 medium sized) Yellow Summer Squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Buttermilk (I used local Hatcher Buttermilk which is delicious!)
3 Garlic Cloves
1 bunch of Chives, chopped (I had to use dried, about 1-2 tsp, all I had…)
1 big handful of Mixed Herbs from the garden (Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a teaspoon or so of salt. Saute for a few minutes, or until the onions start to get translucent. Stir in the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the squash and cook another 5-10 minutes. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Add in the chopped garlic and herbs. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, roughly another 20-25 minutes. Remove the soup from heat, puree completely with blender, return to the stove top and then stir in the buttermilk. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Tofu

My friend and I have recently declared Mondays to be “Wild Cow Mondays” and tend to eat there for lunch most Mondays. It sure brightens up a usually hard work day and kick starts a week of healthy eating. In addition to having some of the yummiest vegetarian food in town, serving lots of local and organic veggies, Wild Cow makes the best tofu dishes. It has made me suddenly way more excited about cooking with tofu. Also, The Turnip Truck carries Farm Soy Tofu made in Tennessee out at The Farm so knowing I can buy locally made tofu from a source I can trust is nice. A block of this tofu in the refrigerator and all that basil in the garden inspired me to make this Italian-style tofu dish. It was again one of those dishes that came about because of the ingredients I had on hand. It was a bit of work but totally worth it. We really enjoyed it.

Parmesan Tofu

Parmesan Crusted Tofu With Roasted Tomato Sauce
Serves 4
For the Sauce:
Tomatoes, cut in half (I used nearly a pint of Delvin Farms’ Juliettes + a few whole canned ones that I had leftover)
1 Vidalia Onion, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 cloves Garlic (keep in skin to roast, squeeze out of skin with a fork- be careful, it is hot- after and discard the skin)
Olive Oil for drizzling
Balsamic Vinegar for drizzling
¼ cup chopped Fresh Herbs

1 block Tofu, cut in ½” slices and patted dry
⅓ -½ cup chopped Fresh Herbs (Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
⅓ cup Fine White Cornmeal (local Falls Mills makes a great one)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano (a little less than ¼ lb piece)
1 Egg, beaten
2-3 Tbsp Buttermilk
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
6 small Peppers (or 1 big Bell), sliced
6 Mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls of Fresh Spinach

More Parmesan Reggiano grated on top for garnish

Tomato Sauce-1

Tomato Sauce-2

Heat the oven to 400. In an ovenproof baking dish, place the tomatoes, onions, and garlic in and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Place in a food processor or blender and blend. Place in a pan on the stove on low. Add the herbs and stir.

peppers

Cut the peppers, mushrooms, spinach and herbs and set aside. Cut the tofu into 8 slices, about ½” thick, and place on a towel to drain. Pat dry. In a medium bowl, mix the herbs, cornmeal, herbs, and cheese. Add some salt and pepper (or you can season as you are cooking). In a small bowl mix 1 egg with buttermilk. Heat a skillet. Add a couple Tbsp olive oil. Dip each piece of tofu in the egg mixture and then coat with the cheese mixture. Place each in the skillet. I used an iron skillet and did 2 batches as to not crowd the tofu. After a few minutes, flip each piece of tofu over and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the skillet and place on a paper towel to drain some of the oil off. Add a tad more olive oil and then saute the peppers and mushrooms. Add the spinach and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saute Veggies

To serve, place the sauteed veggies on plates. Place 2 slices of tofu over the veggies and then spoon some sauce on top of the tofu. Top with grated cheese if desired.

Tofu final

We’ve had a bit of a rough Summer so far, losing Grant’s Dad and a sweet dear friend of ours two weeks apart. In addition, we’ve been wanting to stay in with our elderly pup whose health is a bit compromised. All of this has made us feel like anti-social homebodies and we haven’t seen much live music at all. The small upside, however, is that we’ve finally had time to listen to many new albums that just came out. My top four favorites for this week are-

1. Jason Isbell’s Southeastern is an excellent follow up from his last studio recording (and one of my favorites) Here We Rest. You can hear him here talk all about it and perform a few cuts from it on Fresh Air with Terry Gross that aired this week. The more I listen to this album, the more I love it, which is usually the case with Jason’s songs. He is an incredible writer. He’s one of those rare artists who is equally dynamic- whether singing in a large venue with his full band or in a tiny room with just his guitar. This guy’s going places. And if you live in Nashville, be sure to get tickets to his Ryman show in August. Caitlin Rose is opening. What an incredible show that will be!

2. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison‘s  Cheater’s Game is a really nice collection of their favorite love songs. Both of their voices are so beautiful on their own and together, they really can sing the duets. I love the uniqueness of this group of songs and it is nice to have some new favorite country duets to add to my ongoing playlist.

3. Son Volt’s Honky Tonk. If you’re like me and your favorite Son Volt song (and quite possibly the only one you can really think of) is, “May The Wind Take Your Troubles Away”, then you will love this album. They brought the twang back.

4. A nice compilation of John Denver songs titled, The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver put out by ATO Records. This album is a good reminder of how great a song writer John Denver was. This is a collection of some of his best songs with a diverse mix of some interesting folks singing them. I became aware of it because WSM had been playing Take Me Home sung by Emmylou Harris and Brandi Carlile. The first time I heard it, I actually didn’t like it and it totally caught me off guard but the second time, I loved it and needed to hear it again and again. Eventually I fell in love with the whole album.

I’ll close with this video of Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison singing Border Radio written by Dave Alvin & The Blasters.

OKRA, TOMATOES, AND CUKES! OH MY!

We’ve been growing okra every summer since we moved to Nashville. Okra loves the heat which is why it was impossible to grow it up in the Pacific NW when we lived there. Okra is great for sauteing up with tomatoes and corn or cooking it into some gumbo. Our two favorite ways to prepare okra have become pickling it and roasting it which is about as simple as you can get. Roasting it takes away the sometimes unpleasant slimey texture which can be present. It also brings out a great almost nutty and corn flavor. And, it is incredibly easy. All you do it wash it, dry it, lay it out in a roasting dish, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast it up. I usually roast it at 400 for about 15-20 minutes. It makes a great side dish to just about everything.

Southern tomatoes are the best in the world and I honestly love them but about this time every summer, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed by them. We can’t eat the raw ones fast enough so I start roasting them up, too! I roast them with onions and fresh herbs and sometimes I add garlic or squash. Once roasted, you can throw them in a jar and in the fridge. I still haven’t started canning and I so admire all my friends who do. I promise I will soon. I used to fear it but now I think I’m just lazy.

We use roasted tomatoes all the time- in risotto, salads, egg dishes, on sandwiches… the possibilities are endless. To make the easiest pasta sauce in the world I just puree the roasted tomatoes and top with cheese. It makes a killer pizza sauce or lasagna, too!

Summer Squash Risotto, Corn Crust Pizza, Veggie Lasagna- all made with roasted tomatoes!

And, my third favorite summer veggie… cucumbers! My favorites are the Kirby pickling cukes. Since I was a child, we have always just had a bowl of them sliced with a little salt on the dinner table to accompany most summer meals.

Grant and I will sometimes throw a splash of vinegar and some sliced onions in and then every once in awhile we get even fancier and make refrigerator pickles in which we slice the cukes and onions and place in a jar. We boil some vinegar and water and throw in some dill, peppercorns, and garlic and then pour over the cukes. These last in the refrigerator for a few weeks. They make the perfect pre-dinner snack.

These lemon cucumbers cut in wedges made pretty pickles!

A favorite side to enjoy with all these summer veggies is always a pan of cornbread! We always have leftovers so often times we will toast a piece with cheese on it for breakfast. The other day, we came up with this Cornbread Strata which was delicious!

Simply cube up the leftover cornbread. Saute some summer veggies in an iron skillet. Pour a bowl of about 7 eggs mixed with some grated cheese on top. Add the cubed cornbread and bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until eggs are firm and top is slightly golden.

The temperatures have cooled down here in Nashville for a few days so I plan to enjoy my brand new bottle tree from the comfort of our hammock while I dream of all the yummy food to make with the first of the fall harvest to soon arrive!

Real Country Music and Yummy Fall Food

So,  Nashville just finished celebrating the Americana Music Association’s annual hoo-haw. I always enjoy this week in Nashville as many of my favorite bands and musicians are in town and out and about. We were so busy this week that we actually missed most of the festivities. I did make it out to the Station Inn for the celebrated album release of Jon Byrd’s, Down at The Well of Wishes. It’s a damn fine album so be sure to check it out.

Jon Byrd with Eric Brace and with whole band, Station Inn, October 11, 2011.

And, we went to Grimey’s Americanarama party outside, behind the record store! What fun!

Derek Hoke, Nikki Lane, Chris Scruggs, Paul Burch, and Rose!

Americana is a fairly new term in the world of music genres. It seems to include all of those bands I once termed, “Alt. Country” but also welcomes some other roots sub-genres. I understand the ease of having one umbrella label to lump all these tiny categories in together but I’ve noticed many times lately that a favorite new song I love will be labeled Americana but yet is so obviously country. I realize this Americana label probably benefits the artist in that many people who have distanced themselves from “new country” now run screaming from the country label. But, I don’t want to roll over so quickly and relinquish the term “country”. I think it makes more sense to rename all the new country. Let’s just call it, “Suburbia.” Then we can take the term country back.

I missed the awards show this year but apparently, you can hear it all here. There were some great nominees this year, as always. Justin Townes Earl’s song, Harlem River Blues, won Best Song. This performance with Jason Isbell on David Letterman awhile back was pretty awesome.

The weather in Nashville this weekend is perfect right now. Fall is in full swing. It is my favorite time of year.

There’s a light breeze rustling through the slightly turning leaves and the temperatures have dropped to the 50’s and 60’s. All the Fall produce is ripe and beautiful.

I made some pumpkin bread this week. It was nice. I kept wishing I could remember to bring home some cream cheese to smear on top.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup all purpose flour
½  teaspoon of salt
1 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
½  cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
¼  cup melted butter
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I keep it frozen and then use a microplane to grate)
½  cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin puree, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and spices together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and then stir in the nuts. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until the center of the loaf comes out clean when a cake tester (or toothpick) is inserted. Turn the loaf out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

And we roasted up a bunch of pumpkin to make a soup. It was pretty tasty with parmesan croutons! Here’s the recipe I came up with…

Roasted Pumpkin & Caramelized Onion Soup

1 pie medium pumpkin
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic (place in oven with pumpkin for last half hour)
2 ½ red or vidalia onions (I had a variety of both), chopped
4 cups stock
1-2 tsp herbs de Provence (I added a little extra fresh rosemary)
seat salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin into pieces, clean out seeds (You can reserve them and wash them and dust with sea salt and bake on a cookie sheet later to make roasted pumpkin seeds!!!), rub with olive oil and roast in oven for about 45 minutes (until it forks done). Meanwhile, heat olive oil in stock pan. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn light toasty brown. Once pumpkin is done, cool and scoop out of the skin. Place roasted pumpkin in a blender and add a cup or two of the stock. Blend until smooth. Add the pureed pumpkin and roasted garlic to the onion pot, along with the remaining stock. Add herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste.

You could also top with a little creme fraise, grated cheese, or pumpkin seeds. We served this soup with a nice salad of beets, tamari pumpkin seeds, and Rogue River Smoky blue cheese. Yum!

Also, we enjoyed the leftover soup with some chicken Andouille sausages. Grant sauteed the sliced sausage up with some garlic and then added it to the soup!

And, I’ll end with this simple pie recipe that my friend Brad helped me come up with a couple years ago.

Pear Apple Gruyere Pie

2 dough balls (please never use store bought pie dough!) *
mix of 5-7 pears and apples, pealed, and sliced thin
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup (+ 1 cup for dough balls) cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1 egg white

Roll out dough ball and place in pie plate. Mix pears with sugar, flour, cinnamon and pour into pie shell. Sprinkle the Gruyere on top. Roll out second dough ball and lay on top of pie. Trim edges and use your index fingers and thumb to pinch edge. Cut a few slits in top to let air escape while pie bakes. Brush top of pie with egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 35 minutes.

*For the pie dough-
(This recipe was given to me by a friend of ours in Seattle who was a pastry chef.  They key to a good pie is in the crust!)

Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (I use White Lilly)
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I use organic butter)
1 cup finely grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp sea salt
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times.  (I just use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix.)  The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice.  Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl.  Lightly mix in cheese. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water.  Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated.  Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm.  It should have just enough moisture to stay together.  If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoonful at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can.  Balls of dough can be stored in fridge for a week or you can also freeze them.

It seems I’ve fallen behind on my posts. I sometimes run out of time to put all the recipes and photos together. I have also been guest blogging on our good friend, Dolan Geiman’s blog. Dolan is a great artist. Check his site out here and buy some art here! (Art is good for our souls, makes our world a prettier place, supports talented, creative people, and makes awesome gifts!) And, you can read all my guest posts here.

I’ll end this post with this new country song from Pistol Annies. These women have it going on!

Happy Fall Y’all!

This Sudden Fall Weather Makes Me Want to Snuggle Up To a Big Scone!

I recently had a conversation with another Northwesterner who has relocated to Nashville regarding biscuits. She was talking about how Northwesterners just can’t make biscuits properly, they always turn out more like scones. I began to think about this and it occurred to me that Southerners never seem to make proper scones either. More times than not, Southern scones end up resembling biscuits. I remember when I first moved from the South to Seattle, one of my favorite food discoveries was scones for breakfast. Every coffee shop and bakery had them and they were like nothing I had ever had back home. They were dense and packed full of grains and fruit. It was the perfect accompaniment to a big latte. I had a housemate back then who used to make scones every once in a while and he made them perfectly and effortlessly. I used to bring home scones for my family on my first few visits back which, I think, inspired my Mom to start making scones. Her favorites are apricot oatmeal scones which is a delicious combination in my opinion. I was recently given Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life. (Thanks Bray!) I’ve followed her blog, off and on, for awhile now. Her writing is very comforting and easy to read. She is from Oklahoma, spent time in Paris, but now lives in Seattle. She has a recipe in her book for Scottish scones. Once I read it, I immediately craved scones so the next morning, I came up with this variation on her recipe. These remind me of the great Pacific Northwest and are perfect with coffee on a lazy weekend morning.

Berry Scones

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour (I use White Lily)
3 Tbsp cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
a few fresh berries (if unavailable, frozen will do)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Using your hands, slowly and gently mix the butter into the flour mixture, pinching with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal and there are no lumps larger than a pea. Mix the buttermilk with the egg and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir gently to combine. Using your hands, press the dough into a mass. Turn the dough onto a dough board.  Gently add berries into the dough.  Form dough into a round disk about 2” high. Cut into pieces, like a pie. I like to make 6 larger ones but you could also cut into smaller triangles. Bake 10-14 minutes. Allow a few minutes to cool on a wire rack. Scones are best when eaten right away but if you have some left, store in an airtight container and I would advise reheating before serving leftovers.

Truck Stops & Diners

With the July 4th holiday upon us, I thought it appropriate to talk about truck stops and diners. What’s more American than truck stops and diners? Well, actually, this post is neither about truck stops or diners but rather, truckin’ songs and diner food! And of course it really won’t include any real diner food but rather, my healthier version of what I like to think is diner food.

So, I figured out way back that I am a “Middle Person” which in my definition means, I am a very tee-tiny, infinite percent of the population that does not fit into any specific category in regards to everything. In school, I always had a friend from this group, a friend from that group. In fact I don’t even really like groups so that’s probably why I have never been successful at belonging to any of them. Kind of the Groucho Marx idea of not wanting to belong to any group that would have me as a member… or maybe it just seems way too limiting to get categorized into one group when there are so many with such varying tastes. Maybe it is a commitment issue? Anyway, along with this, I think, comes a skewed vision of what is popular with the general public. For instance, whenever there is an event I am super excited about, I just know it will sell out and I get really worried about not being able to get in for fear it will be too crowded and then the reality of this situation almost always results in the opposite and there is a small handful of other “Middle People” present. I’d say this might also be the case for the way I feel about one particular sub-genre of country music, truckin’ songs. I absolutely LOVE truckin’ songs and for the life of me can’t understand why this tiny sub-genre never made it out of that sub category. And the other day, after listening to truckin’ songs all day, and contemplating this crazy, amazing “sub-genre” (the quotes are really meant to denote some eye-rolling on my part), I was trying to come up with a way to single-handedly bring it back into the country music forefront. I don’t understand why this can’t happen honestly, with the 1980’s ballad sound resurfacing under the disguise of “new country” and all. It seems completely reasonable from this Middle Person’s point-of-view. If we could somehow tap it into the electric car theme or bio-diesel/ Willie Nelson Truck Stop concept and craft some new eco-friendly lyrics or something, I think it might really catch on.

Anyway, back to the topic- truckin’ songs.

For anyone not familiar with truckin’ songs, they are simply songs about truck driving. More important than the topic, to me though, is the amazing group of artists who have had some great songs about trucks! Also what usually catches my attention more than the words about trucks (which are always completely awesome on a ridiculous level) are the amazing guitar riffs and the sound of a truckin’ song.

They’ve been around since the 1930’s but seemed to have their little moment of popularity in the 1960’s and one of the most famous of the truckin’ songs is Dave Dudley’s ”Six Days on the Road’ which came out in 1963 (and features one Mister Buddy Spicher on fiddle!).

And here’s another classic from Del Reeves here.

Here’s a totally awesome one from The Willis Brothers which is a clip from the 1965 film, “40 Acre Feud.”

Even girls like to sing truckin’ songs. This is a classic from Ms. Kay Adams.

Thanks to the likes of Dale Watson, Chuck Mead and BR549, Junior Brown, Jon Byrd, Knut Bell,  truckin’ songs can still be heard!!! Some of these guys are even writing new truckin’ songs. Here’s an original from our friend Knut Bell who is the big country voice of the Pacific NW!

There are plenty of amazing truckin’ song compilation albums- easy to find in old country album collections. There’s also a great record label out of NY called, Diesel Only, that put out a cd box set of truckin’ songs from 1939-1969.

There is a collection of painstakingly ridiculous spoken word songs from 1970’s that were almost like little movies in and of themselves… I find these difficult to hear over and over when listening to my (awesome and amazing) truckin’ song play list Grant made for me but when you get caught off guard by one while driving around town, as I did today when WSM played Red Sovine’s “Teddy Bear,” it can turn a bad day into a glorious day!

To add to my obsession, I’ve been watching lots of Truckin’ movies lately. Netflix has quite a collection (starring the likes of Jerry Reed, Kris Kristofferson, Peter Fonda!). Every good truckin’ movie has plenty of truck stops and diners. Diners make me think of meatloaf.

As a child, my Mom made meatloaf pretty often. It was always delicious. She often served it with corn or succotash. Her best friend, Mary Bauld, always served her meatloaf with fried potatoes which were naughty delicious! Mom and Mary Bauld had a few unspoken cooking competitions going and us kids were the judges. Grant and I don’t eat much beef anymore but sometimes we do need meatloaf so we make turkey meatloaf, using a combination of my Mom’s recipe and Ms. Loretta Lynn’s from her cookbook, You’re Cookin’ it Country. It goes something like this…

Big & Lady Smokey’s Turkey Meatloaf
2 lbs ground turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-2 slices of whole grain bread, finely crushed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup ketchup (you could make your own with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, little vinegar, and some molasses)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl mix together the turkey, onion, egg, garlic, bread crumbs, and seasonings. Shape the mixture and place in a loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. In a small bowl combine ketchup, hot sauce, and brown sugar and pour over the meatloaf. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Meatloaf served with sauteed fresh corn off the cob; squash, zucchini, and Vidalia onions; and cucumbers and dill from the garden with a little brown rice vinegar, salt and pepper!

And don’t forget that leftover meatloaf makes a great sandwich!

Grant usually makes me Sunday brunch and he just recently mastered frittatas! Dang, he’s good! The other morning he said, “This one has a super secret Southern ingredient!” Here’s the recipe…

Tater Tot Frittata
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small yellow crookneck squash, cut into rounds
2 slices think cut bacon, chopped
5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup tater tots, baked in oven
6 eggs
splash of milk
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
sea salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Use a good skillet or omelet pan. Heat pan on stove top on medium heat. Cook bacon until mostly crisp. Remove bacon and put to the side. Leave bacon fat in pan. Add onion, garlic, squash, and mushrooms. Saute over medium heat until done. Beat eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk. Add egg mixture to veggies. Cook for about 3 minutes until eggs have partially set. Fold over once. Add bacon crumbles and tater tots. Add cheese to top. Put whole pan in oven. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes until eggs have fully set. Put broiler on high and continue to bake until top is slightly brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.

I made a mess of cherry pies recently for our first Red Barn Round-Up of the summer, which coincidentally had many truckin’ songs sung by Jon Byrd and Heath Haynes!!!

Now, though, the fresh summer fruit is rolling on in… Hoping to make many summer fruit pies and finally learn how to can but now, we are enjoying some delicious Pimm’s cups (completely un-American, haha!) with cucumbers from the garden. Happy 4th!