In Celebration of the Tomato


I have proclaimed this every year since I moved back to the south and I will do it again- southern tomatoes are the best tomatoes in the world! It’s true. Our neighborhood in Nashville believes in this so much that it hosts the Tomato Art Festival which grows in numbers of attendees every year. With it happening this coming weekend, I thought it was a good time to post some of our favorite tomato recipes from this summer. And just in case you need more ideas, here is the link to last year’s recipes.

Tomatoes are perfect on their own. Growing up, a small plate of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers was always on the dinner table throughout the summer. This year, Grant and I have been enjoying this simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, lemon basil from our garden, and sea salt and pepper.

2-Tom Cuke Peach Salad

I am afraid I didn’t write out actual recipes for most of these tomato creations this time. But, here are the ideas. They are all super easy and the ingredients are all so awesome, they are pretty hard to mess up no matter what measurements you use.

3-Bread Salad

I used to make this bread salad all the time, so much so that I think I got a little tired of it. I rediscovered it as a way to use up lots of leftover Bella Nashville sourdough bread. First, cut up leftover bread into cubes. Heat a large iron skillet. Add some butter. Toss in the bread cubes and saute to make croutons. You can toss anything in this salad- cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed green beans, olives, capers, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, red onion, chopped garlic, peppers, scallions… add the homemade croutons and sprinkle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy! If you need a real recipe to follow, Ina Garten has a great one here.

4-Chicken Eggplant Parmesan

We had so many tomatoes and little eggplants in our CSA box one week that we made a Chicken Eggplant Parmesan. It was so beautiful and super yummy. We didn’t follow a recipe. First we roasted up all the tomatoes with some garlic and a little olive oil in a baking dish at 400 degrees in the oven. Once they got all nice and roasted, we pulled them out and added in a bunch of fresh herbs from our garden and ground them in a little food processor. Voila- the sauce was ready! I sliced the eggplants and brushed them with olive oil and roasted those in the oven on a baking sheet until they were slightly brown. Next, we flattened two chicken breasts and cut them into pieces. We dipped them in egg and lightly coated them with a flour mixture and lightly fried them in an iron skillet. Then, we layered all the elements and added some Parmesan Reggiano and baked in the oven at 375 for 20-30 minutes.

5-Grit Stuffed Squash

I used some leftover cheese grits and roasted cherry tomatoes to come up with this next recipe. We had so many patty pan squash in our CSA basket and I had seen some recipes recently for stuffed patty pan squash that I decided to give it a try. Using the cheese grits as a base, I added a little crumbled bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes, some of the squash I cut out of the patty pans, fresh herbs, sauteed onion and garlic. I mixed it all together, stuffed it into the squash, topped with cheese, and baked in the oven.

6-Mac Cheese Prep

Some of my favorite ingredients to mix with tomatoes are cheese and bacon! I had this idea for a decadent Macaroni & Cheese for about a week and finally had time to make it. It was delicious! I used a fun new cheese (to me) that I got at The Bloomy Rind called Suffolk Punch from Parrish Hill Creamery in Vermont. I used this recipe for Mac & Cheese, below, that is an adaptation of a recipe from my Sister. I pulled the dish out of the oven a little early and added tomato slices, crumbled bacon, and I also topped the Mac & Cheese with some Pecorino to give it some sharpness. I then placed it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delicious!

Mac & Cheese
olive oil
2 cups macaroni (I use Montebello brand)
2-3 cups grated cheese (I use combination of sharp cheddar & gruyere usually)
1 tsp butter (to coat bottom of baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 eggs
2 cups milk

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and blanch with cold water. Cover bottom of buttered baking dish with 1/2 of pasta. Spread 1/2 of the cheese over. Repeat. Beat eggs, milk, and spices together. Pour over. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

7-Mac Cheese

I served it with some green beans from my cousin Johnny’s garden that I steamed and then sauteed with a little olive oil and mixed herbed nuts and some sauteed yellow squash and Vidalia onions!

7-Mac & Cheese

A musical highlight for us this summer was an outdoor concert at the Frist Art Museum one evening a couple weeks ago of Marty Stuart and his band, The Fabulous Superlatives. The show coincided with Marty’s photography which is on exhibit there now. I have so much respect for the man and his art. What a fun way to spend a summer evening (and celebrate my birthday!).



Go listen to some Mary Stuart music and be sure to check out his many books of photography. They’ve got a new album in the works and I can’t wait!


No Need For Blame

Photo 1- Soup

Soup and an attitude adjustment for winter survival!

Here come all the seasonal colds! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard lately, “I’m so mad at so-and-so, they made me sick!” Or this one, “Don’t breathe on me, I don’t want your cold!” First off, no one likes to get sick and secondly, it really sucks for everyone when someone deliberately goes out into the world and sneezes and spreads their germs around. But guess what? We have very little control over everyone else’s snot. Being mad and finding blame does no one any good. It only fosters negativity and hate in your body. What we can do, though, is take really good care of ourselves and build up our body’s defenses through eating well, exercising to keep our bodies in good working order, and finding ways to control the stress in our own bodies so that we will be less likely to catch what everyone else has. I know we aren’t all on the same playing fields and some of us have compromised immune systems or other conditions that don’t make any of this easy but even in those instances, taking good care of yourself can only help make whatever situation you are in, better. We can do this!

Since this is my own personal blog, these are just my own personal suggestions for combating the winter colds that you might be coming into contact with. For starters- don’t forget to drink lots and lots of water. I keep catching myself not drinking as much as I do in the summer but it is so important to stay hydrated. It’s so easy and makes you feel so good. Secondly, breath. I keep getting stressed out over stupid things. Stop. Make yourself take 10 deep breaths. Count them out.

For vitamins, supplements, and herbs, I wholeheartedly stand behind these two brands of products: New Chapter and Gaia Herbs. They both are great companies with superb products made from real- organic in most cases- food and herbs! They cost more but I think they are way more effective so really it is like paying forward on health care. And you can feel good knowing you are giving your money to good companies who give a damn about real food and good health.


Don’t forget to eat simple nourishing food. The winter produce, at first, seems less desirable than all that succulent summer produce but look again. Big, juicy apples are so good for us. An apple a day can do wonders, indeed, to keep the doctor away. There have been tons of studies on how great apples are for us. Google it. I carried one with me the other day and ate it on the plane and it made me feel so good to have selected that over the crappy plane snacks I was offered. I imagined that everyone was jealous of my big red apple, too, and all that goodness I was filling my body with. And what about all those winter squashes and root vegetables, they are packed with vitamins. Eat your greens! Don’t like greens? Then, throw some in with some fruit and yogurt and blend it up to make a smoothie. Juice them or blend some up with veggie stock to make all your favorite soups, rice or risottos. You will hardly even taste them. We need to be eating these every single day. I could go on and on… Mostly, I am writing this out to remind myself to take good care because each time this year, I start to worry and get all kinds of ailments. I start to realize that I haven’t been exercising, I’ve been loading up on carbs to pack on warmth for the winter (knowing I can hide the extra fat behind the bulky sweaters), and one pain or ailment brings out the inner hypochondriac and it suddenly starts to spin out of control.

So I’ve started to get realigned by eating as many fruits and vegetables as I can. I made this really simple Cabbage Soup. I kept putting these ingredients together in my head a couple weeks back and realized there are many variations of this recipe idea. Here’s my interpretation.

Cabbage Soup-1

Cabbage Soup
Makes a big soup pot

Olive Oil
1 White Onion, chopped
½ head of Green Cabbage
2 Carrots, grated 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
1 can Great Northern Beans
5 cups Stock (I used vegetable)
1 cup chopped canned Whole Tomatoes
½ cup Juice from Tomatoes
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp fresh Herbs, chopped (I used Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme)
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
Grana Padano (or Reggiano), grated to top each bowl

Cabbage Soup- 2

So, heat a soup pot on medium heat. Add some oil. Add the onion. Stir. Once the onion starts to be translucent, add the cabbage. Stir. Add the carrots and garlic. Stir. Add the beans, stock, tomatoes, and cook. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for a few minutes so the flavors can combine. Salt & Pepper and add the herbs. Cook a few more minutes. Top each bowl with cheese.

I was certain I was coming down with a cold last week and decided to cook up as many vegetables as I could find in our house and make a big simple stir fry. It wasn’t the best seasoned stir fry, it was a little bland but I wanted to mention it because this simple stir fry had quite a life. It became one of the best uses for leftovers ever. Here’s the series of meals in my leftover makeovers. May it inspire you to create masterpieces from your leftovers! Each dish was tastier and more dynamic than the preceding dish.

Stirfry Veggies

Stirfry to…

Fried Rice to…

Stuffed Peppers…

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

And a few days later I came up with this healthy salad to accompany a big pot of our favorite Turkey Chili.

Kale Salad w Chili

Winter Kale Salad
Serves 4

Kale, maybe 6 or so big leaves, vein removed and chopped finely
Sea Salt
1 Beet, cut into slices and then tiny cubes
1 Carrot, cut into matchsticks and then tiny cubes
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
1 Tbsp prepared Horseradish
Juice of 1 Lime
Romaine, maybe 2-3 leaves, chopped
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, for sprinkling on top
Toasted Cumin, just a few

Kale Salad-1

Place the kale in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the kale to sort of break the leaves down a bit. This helps make the kale less bitter. Mix the beet, carrot, cilantro, horseradish, lime, and romaine in. Stir. Top with pumpkin seeds and a very small amount of toasted cumin seeds.

And Lord, don’t forget to keep listening to music. Music fills my world with happiness. I’ve been really excited about these recent releases from our neck of the woods- Patrick Sweany‘s Close To The Floor and Buffalo Clover‘s Test Your Love . Both are a little more rockin’ and soulful than I usually suggest for this blog although, I see both Patrick and Margo play more country songs all the time at shows in my neighborhood.

Patrick Sweany

Patrick Sweany at the 5 Spot November, 2013.

Margo Price singing at Country & Western Night at the 5 Spot. Grant Johnson on guitar. October, 2013.

Margo Price singing at Country & Western Night at the 5 Spot. Grant Johnson on guitar. October, 2013.

When not writing songs and spending time fronting her own band, Margo is one of the best back-up singers around, too. And Patrick is one fine guitar player and, when he plays solo, he has the most awesome stomp box. Come on, who doesn’t love to hear that? I first heard someone stomping when I was in college in Athens, GA, where I majored in live music (not really). It was the awesome duo of the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies. That stomping sound just really goes straight to my heart. I love it.

Both of these new cds are really fun and were made with love by really nice folks. And they sort of go nicely together so you should buy both and then put them on shuffle.

Stay healthy! Happy holiday season!

Don’t Forget to Eat Your Veggies!

Photo 1- Carrots & Beets

We’ve been eating so many vegetables lately. We always have but the last few months, I decided to challenge myself to just add more and more so that each meal is packed with vitamins and nutrients. I want to really see a difference in how I feel because of what I am eating- but I still want eating to be fun. This can sometimes be a bit of a challenge in the winter when not as much good local produce is available but I’ve really enjoyed the winter veggies I have found- especially those root veggies! This first salad is so colorful and it is all raw and made me feel so good.

Raw Beet & Carrot Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette
4 Carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 Beets, sliced into rounds and then into matchsticks
1 bunch Cilantro
1 Tbsp Prepared Horseradish
2 cloves Garlic
juice of 1 Lime
½ Avocado
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Honey
Sea Salt

Place the carrots and beets in a big bowl. Mix all the other ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Pour the vinaigrette over the beets and carrots and stir.

Photo 2- Beet Salad

This next salad has been a favorite of ours the last couple weeks. I got the idea from our dear friend Ali Marie, half of the super couple behind Dolan Geiman Art. I write for their blog once a month and in between blog posts and real life visits, we share recipe ideas. I altered it a bit just simply based on what we had in our kitchen. She likes to use spinach and add green onions to hers and uses a ginger vinaigrette on top. I added kale, garlic, lemon, and parsley all of which we eat a ton of. I decided to call it a chop salad sort of mockingly. I have always thought the name “chop salad” was funny and when I was a cheese monger back in Seattle, I had to also slice deli meat. Older wealthy women would come in and tell me they were making a “chop salad” and as they said those words, they all seemed to make a chopping motion with their hand. But since this salad does require lots of fine chopping, it seemed an appropriate name. The mint gives it a refreshing feel and a hint of Spring. It is so tasty!

Photo 3- Salad

Spring is Coming Chop Salad
3 Carrots, finely chopped
4-6 Radish, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
3-5 Kale Leaves, washed well, middle vein/stem removed, and finely chopped
6 Romaine Leaves, washed well and finely chopped
small handful of Fresh Mint, finely chopped
small handful of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1 big Lemon Wedge
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
a dozen or so Toasted Almonds, chopped
a small piece of Parmesan Reggiano, chopped

Mix all the vegetables together in a big bowl. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze the lemon over. Toss. Add the almonds and cheese. Enjoy!

Speaking of Dolan Geiman’s blog, this next recipe originally appeared here (along with some other one-pot meals) a few weeks ago but I’ve made it about three times since so I thought I should share it here as well. I sometimes grocery shop for a woman in our neighborhood who isn’t able to get out much. One day she needed some lima beans and explained how she was going to prepare them which gave me the basic idea for this next soup recipe. I added the lemon and herbs. It is so very simple to make and quite delicious.

Photo 4- Lima Bean Soup

Lima Bean Soup with Bacon and Lemon
3-4 slices of Bacon (I used Cowboy Apple Smoked Bacon), cut into small pieces
1 Yellow Onion, chopped fine
juice of ½ a Lemon
small bunch of Fresh Thyme
7 cups Lima Beans (I used frozen)
1 sprig Fresh Rosemary
4 cups Vegetable Stock
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, cook the bacon pieces on medium heat until almost done. Add the onion and stir. Cook until the onion is soft. Add the lemon juice and herbs, stirring to mix well. Add the beans and stir well. Cook for a few minutes and then add the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Growing up (and still to this day), my Mom makes a yummy dish called, Party Potatoes. It is super naughty and delicious- mashed Russet potatoes mixed with french onion dip, sour cream, and then covered with grated cheddar cheese and baked in the oven. The other day, Grant and I tried out this roast chicken recipe from one of our recent Saveur magazines. They recommend serving it with herbed french fries. In our own weird way of trying to make ourselves think we were eating healthier, we decided to instead, slice the potatoes really thin with a mandoline and layer them with onions and use the same herbs suggested for the homemade fries. Then (this is where we turned and made it naughty again) we topped the dish with Comte, a French cheese similar to Gruyere. The result was delicious and reminded us of my Mom’s Party Potatoes so we named this new concoction, French Party Potatoes. It goes like this…

Photo 5- French Party Pots

French Party Potatoes
1 tsp Olive Oil
2 Russet Potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 small White Onion, very thinly sliced
1 small bunch Fresh Thyme, finely chopped (reserve one sprig for garnishing the top)
5 Tbsp Butter
¼ cup Chicken Stock
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
½ – 1 cup Comte, grated

Preheat oven to 475. Layer the potatoes, onions, thyme, salt, pepper and then place tiny pats of butter on top. Repeat layering until you have filled the dish with several layers. Pour the broth in and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with cheese and a sprig of thyme. Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes more until top is brown and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

I wanted to make a big pot of yummy, comforting Risotto one evening recently but I was more in an Asian food mood. I sort of hate the word “fusion” and most implications associated with it but loved the idea of this end result. So as to not conjure up ideas of restaurants with “fusion” concepts on their menu, I didn’t call this a risotto but that is in fact how I prepared this dish, just as I would have a classic risotto. It was really delicious served on top of some steamed asparagus with a little squeeze of lemon on top and a piece of Coho Salmon that had been marinated in nama shoyu (or tamari or soy sauce) and brown rice vinegar. It made for quite a colorful meal.

Photo 6- Thai Rice

Ooey Gooey Thai Rice
5 cups Vegetable Stock
1 can Coconut Milk
4 tsp Red Curry
1 tsp Roasted Red Chili Paste (optional)
2 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar (or lime juice)
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce
2 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
3 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
1 Green Pepper, chopped
2 cups Arborio Rice
½ cup White Wine
2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

First, make sure to do all the prep work necessary for the rest of the meal as you will need to stir for quite a long time to pull this dish off. Place the stock, coconut milk, red curry, chili paste, vinegar, and fish sauce in a pan. Heat on medium heat and then simmer. Heat a large pan or Dutch Oven on medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and pepper and stir. Add the rice and stir. Add the wine and stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the tomatoes, half of the cilantro (save the other half to sprinkle over the plate before serving), and the salt and pepper. Stir. Let sit for a few minutes and then serve.

This recipe made a huge pot of rice. We had enough leftovers for at least 2 more dinners later in the week. One night we made rice cakes, sauteed Brussels sprouts and iron skillet steak.

Photo 7- Rice Leftover 1

The second time, we enjoyed rice cakes again but with beets cooked with the greens and a soft fried egg on top. Despite the Asian flavors, it had a nice Mediterranean feel to it. Yum, yum, and yum!

Photo 8- Leftover Rice 2

Oh, and while we’re talking about fish, I ended up making homemade fish sticks by accident, sort of. We decided that since we cook fancy and fun meals all year long, for Valentine’s Day, we would not not do what everyone else was doing and instead we would not cook. We would revert to one of both of our childhood comfort meals- fish sticks! Ha. I was going to buy the healthier version but decided not to worry about it and go get Grant’s favorite brand, Van de Kamp’s. Apparently, these are not available in our neighborhood Kroger. So, I spent nearly 45 minutes looking for them. I finally tried to settle for one of the other brands but made the mistake of reading their ingredients. Agh! I just couldn’t buy them, especially to celebrate a holiday about love. So, neurotic as I am, I then scurried through the store and found TN farm-raised catfish and came home and spent the rest of the “relaxing” evening making homemade fishsticks! They looked more like catfish “fingers” but this brought to mind images from Okie Noodling so I decided to just call them fish sticks.

Photo 9- Fishsticks 1

Homemade Fish Sticks
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (of course I made it difficult and made my own but you can use Panko)
1 lb Catfish Fillets, cut into 2” strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the flour in one bowl and mix with the seasonings. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a third bowl. Dip each fish strip in the flour, then the egg, and then the breadcrumbs. Next, place the fish strips on a well-buttered baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

Homemade Catfish Sticks, Macaroni & Cheese, and Peas.

Homemade Catfish Sticks, Macaroni & Cheese, and Peas.

February was filled with a little too much sugar as talented friends baked sweet confections to celebrate Mardi Gras.

Photo 11- Feb Desserts

Our friend Nicole makes the most delicious King Cakes and our friend Krysta makes her Polish grandmother’s recipe for Paczkis every Fat Tuesday, one day only. We got to her house just in time to have a bite of the very last one…

Photo 12- Cookies

And then I got addicted to this wonderful recipe for Sorghum Graham Cookies that my pastry chef friend, Rebekah, shared with me for a December blog post. They are amazing with this delicious Jim Beam Rye.

And I’ll end this post with a musical recommendation- Canadian Daniel Romano. He came through Nashville last week and jump started my musical outings. They’d been a little sparse lately but not because there wasn’t any to go see. I feel like a turtle who has just decided to poke my head out of my shell.

Photo 13- Daniel Romano

Definitely catch his show if he comes through your town. He has crafted some really clever songs and is quite a fancy dresser to boot!

Everything Good, is Good Again!

With Thanksgiving only a couple weeks behind us, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on leftovers. We had so much feasting with our buddies Lewis & Shirley who spent Thanksgiving week with us. We all love to cook and eat so that is exactly what we did, all week long.

I had two new recipes I came up with this year. One was for a Roasted Cranberry Fig Conserve. We ate the leftovers for days afterwards and it is perfect on sandwiches or as a side to most anything.

Roasted Cranberry Fig Conserve
1 ½ cup chopped dried black mission figs
1 cup port
3 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup raw cane sugar
1 splash balsamic vinegar
½ onion finely chopped
1 splash olive oil
1 tsp dried rosemary
sea salt

Place the figs in a sauce pan with the port. Bring to a boil and then simmer until it gets thick and some of the liquid has been cooked down. Mix with all remaining ingredients and place in a casserole or roasting dish and place in oven on 400 for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

Grant and I even made a topping for turkey meatloaf the following week using the last of the this Cranberry Fig Conserve as our base- mixing it with tomatoes and seasonings.

Turkey meatloaf served here with steamed broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes.

Also new this year was our Thanksgiving dessert. I usually stick to pies but Shirley wanted a sweet potato cheese cake so that is exactly what we made, well, sort of… I think I lost my springform pan in the big flood and Shirley left her recipe at home so we decided to make a tart instead. We looked up a bunch of different recipes online and then came up with our own version. We decided on a gingersnap crust but I forgot to get gingersnaps at the market so I decided to make my own. I found a great recipe for them on Smitten Kitchen’s blog here and we made them the night before Thanksgiving along with the corn bread Grant used to make our Cornbread Pecan Bacon Dressing.

Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Tart
3 cups crushed gingersnaps
½ cup roasted pecans, chopped finely
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sweet potatoes roasted, skin removed (about 1 lb)
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
1 egg

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs with the melted butter and toss together until the mixture clumps together. Pat the mixture into the base and slightly up the sides of eight 4 1/2inch tart pans. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until crisp.

To make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the filling ingredients. Pour the filling into the tart pan and return to the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the center is just firm to the touch. Cool to room temperature, then chill for up to 2 hours or overnight before serving.

Grant smoked our turkey this year and it was the best I have ever had! He basically treated it like pulled pork and it just fell off the bone. He made tomato gravy to accompany it which was so delicious with the smoked flavor of the turkey. We recently read the article in Garden & Gun about the Louisiana tradition of making gumbo from the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and we could not stop thinking about it, having just returned from a quick trip to New Orleans. It was amazing! The smoked turkey was perfect and I had some okra from the garden that I was frozen so we threw some in. This was a perfect way to eat up leftover turkey!

Another great way to eat up your leftover turkey (or roast chicken as was the case here, a few weeks back) is to make Turkey or Chicken & Dumplings! Just cook up some onions, garlic, celery and the stock made from the chicken or turkey bones. (I like to add in a little creme fraise!) Add the shredded chicken or turkey and make a batch of herbed biscuits and spoon batter on top of broth until the biscuits cook up. Delicious.

One of our most common ways to incorporate leftovers into a brand new meal- and believe me, this works for just about anything- is to make Enchiladas! In this case, I just layered all the ingredients instead of actually rolling the tortillas.

Or an even lazier, condensed version of our Enchilada Casserole is what happened this afternoon. We had leftovers from vegetarian taco night- a sweet potato and pinto mixture, sauteed green peppers and onions, spinach, homemade corn tortillas, and some avocado mixed with Greek yogurt. Grant fried the corn tortilla strips and then made a sort of hash, similar to Chilaquiles, and we topped with the avocado/ yogurt sauce. Instant lunch. Delicious!

And what to do with leftover mashed potatoes? Make potato cakes! And, just so you know, potato cakes make an excellent egg companion for breakfast! The leftover Benton’s Prosciutto (that’s right, those Thanksgiving green beans pictured at top were sporting a little crisped Benton’s Prosciutto on top!) made those scrambled eggs quite decadent.

Not to suggest in any way that Ms. Wanda Jackson is a “left over” but I would most certainly like to mention her and I definitely do mean to say that she was great and is still really great. Jack White produced and supported her in a new album release titled, Party Ain’t Over and friends of ours, Heath Haynes & The Hi-Dollars, have been touring with her as her live back-up band. We saw them recently and she is amazing! The guys were pretty awesome, too. Yay Wanda! You can get a copy of her album here.

Wanda Jackson at Robert's Western World. 10/11

Also once and still great is the amazing Glen Campbell. He has a new album out, Ghost on The Canvas, and is in the middle of his final musical tour, The Good-Bye Tour, which he launched as the news of his Alzheimer’s became public. We had the good fortune of seeing him perform with Jimmy Webb and the Nashville Symphony a couple years back and again, a week ago, at The Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the entire world.

Glen Campbell with daughter Ashley at the Ryman. 11/30/11

It was a powerful show. We knew going into it that it would be a little sad so I had mentally prepared myself for that. I couldn’t stop crying when they brought the lights up for the first song, Gentle On My Mind! Incredible! And then Wichita Lineman was amazing! But overall, I had a real sense of happiness about the whole night. I felt such a strong sense of performer/fan bond in the room as if we were all there to support him doing this to the end and him really loving what he does and wanting to say good-bye. His kid’s band was his backing band and they were very patient and helped him through. They offered great support. It was similar to watching an aging and forgetful older relative stumble a bit which some people thought was just sad but I felt it was a powerful and graceful way to end. I guess it partially depends on your outlook towards illness and dying maybe? And I tend to gravitate towards finding a positive way to view things ultimately, so… He was great and seemed so happy to be singing those songs that he loves so much and seemed so appreciative we were all there. He sang and played all of our old favorites and some new songs with great energy. One favorite moment for me was when he was singing Rhinestone Cowboy, he had the entire Ryman Auditorium singing with him and in the middle, he yelled, “I LOVE THIS SONG!” So perfect. If you get the opportunity to say good-bye to Glen Campbell, I suggest you take it.

Nashville Cats

I’ve gotten in a bit of a rut… Grant has some good weekly music gigs which is great and I always enjoy getting to go to these but it seems to have made me less likely to see other music now. I’m slipping. Because Nashville has so many amazing musicians and performances every day of the week, it can become fairly easy to slip into a rut and start missing shows I really want to see because I can always, “catch them next time.” That is a terrible excuse! So, my hope is to have more exciting live music to write about and photograph, starting now. We went to see our friend and amazing pedal steel guitarist, Pete Finney, play at The Family Wash this week. This was one of his non-pedal steel nights as he was on guitar and lap steel but usually he has pedals! He has played for the likes of Asleep at The Wheel, The Dixie Chicks, and Patty Loveless. Besides all that, he is a super cool guy.

Pete Finney @ Family Wash 01/19/2011

As I sat there listening and watching him play guitar and lap steel, I reminisced in how I came to love the pedal steel guitar and how lucky I have been to be able to see so many of the masters play live in Nashville.

Grant's first Sho-Bud on the left and his new one on the right.

Back in 2003, while we were still living in Seattle, Grant got very interested in playing pedal steel and bought his first Sho-Bud. It was beautiful. It was then that I realized how much I love the sound of a pedal steel guitar. The pedal steel, to me,  is real, raw emotion and the spice of a good country song. He got obsessed. It was his intention to play pedal steel in Nashville and his first few gigs upon our arrival were on pedal steel. He soon began getting much more work with guitar and eventually sold his pedal steel. Recently, though, he began to miss it so we are now the proud new owners of a 1970 red Sho-Bud. It is beautiful. Lucille, our hound dog, especially loves it!

John Hughey @ Station Inn June 2007

Shortly after we moved here, we were fortunate to get to see John Hughey play many times. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2007 of heart complications. This (not so good) photo is from June of 2007 and was taken at the Station Inn when we took Mom and Larry to see the Time Jumpers, a great Western Swing band. John Hughey was one of the best pedal steel guitar players in the whole world.  He played every Monday night at the Station Inn, weekly down on lower Broadway, and even at the Family Wash once! He grew up with Conway Twitty and played with him for years. He played with lots of other players including, most recently, Vince Gill for 10 years. We talked to him once about recording with Willie Nelson on the Phases and Stages album. He always seemed so appreciative that people wanted to talk to him about his music. He was a good soul!

Buddy Emmons @ Ernest Tubbs' Midnight Jamboree, 2007

That same year, I saw Buddy Emmons play with Texan Johnny Bush at the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree (for free!). Little Jimmy Dickens first brought Buddy Emmons to Nashville (from Indiana) back in 1955. He has played on countless recordings and has toured with many performers including Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Roger Miller, and the Everly Brothers. He was one of the first session men to play pedal steel guitar and experimented with pedal steel guitar design. He collaborated with Shot Jackson and together they started Sho-Bud Guitars out of Shot’s garage (which later was located in the building where Robert’s Western Wear is currently housed!). Buddy has his own popular signature model, the Emmons Guitar!

Lloyd Green @ The Station Inn, 2007

My very favorite pedal steel players of all time (and favorite famous person- grocery store encounter) is Lloyd Green. We’ve been lucky to see him play a couple of times at The Station Inn (thanks Peter Cooper and Eric Brace!) and I swear, it nearly brought me to tears. He is amazing! When Lloyd Green arrived in Nashville (via Alabama and Mississippi) in 1956, his first job was with Mr. Hawkshaw Hawkins and then he joined Faron Young’s band later that year. He soon played steel guitar on his first session, George Jones’ “Too Much Water Runs Under The Bridge” and has recorded for thousands of albums since- including the Byrds’ legendary album, Sweetheart of The Rodeo. He has recorded with over 500 different artists! Lloyd Green also has his own model pedal steel (Sho-Bud’s “LDG” Model”). Back in the 1960’s, Green served as in-house arranger on the Little Darlin’ label and recorded several records under his own name for this label. His playing is amazing!

Although I haven’t seen her in person, I did grow up watching Barbara Mandrell’s TV show. Unfortunately I didn’t remember she played pedal steel until seeing these awesome youtubes of her a few years back. Notice, our friend and neighbor Buddy Spicher on fiddle in this first one:

And here’s one more…

And these are just the folks with the pedals! I didn’t even mention those steel players without pedals such as Kayton Roberts, Billy Robinson, Cindy Cashdollar, and Chris Scruggs! At least once a week I find myself exclaiming, “I LOVE NASHVILLE” and it because of players like these and moments like these. This amazing country music history surrounds us. It is all still so accessible and still in the making.

I’ll close this post with a bit of a recipe. We recently went to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant (who, until recently, had live bluegrass every Thursday!!!). We ordered shrimp fajitas for two and I asked the server, “Is that too much for the two of us?” He responded “yes” and smiled and nodded. I thought surely he misunderstood me- until he brought out our fajitas and offered to help us eat them! Who knew he’d tell the truth? So, we had leftovers which we turned into a world-class breakfast of shrimp and grits! HA! I thought this was such a clever use of leftovers that I was excited about it for days.

Shrimp fajita make-over!

What Leftovers?! HA!

Mastering the art of leftovers… sounds boring but it is actually fascinating. Really.

So, I made pizza one night for Sara as our husbands were playing down in Texas. A couple nights later, I used one of the leftover dough balls to make a flat bread with some spices and Reggiano sprinkled on top to accompany a salad (with leftover green beans on it, by the way)…

Then, I had all those pizza toppings left in the fridge so I pulled them all out and it looked something like this:

It was around this time that I noticed that doggers LOVE slices of raw zucchini!

I sauteed all the veggies- onion, peppers, garlic, and sliced zucchini- and then added some chopped olives and leftover canned tomatoes. (I always buy whole canned tomatoes, I think they save the best ones for the whole canned tomatoes and use the not-so-great ones for diced canned tomatoes! It makes sense, right?) I think I used a little oregano, brown sugar and maybe a few chili pepper flakes.

In another pan, I sauteed the leftover prosciutto and then threw in some spinach. I added a little balsamic vinegar.

Then I got some noodles ready. I used my favorite capellini.

Finally, I layered all the components like this and added a dollop of ricotta cheese on top:

And then topped it all off with some finely shredded Parmesan Reggiano… Viola! Deluxe Leftovers!

This was yummy served with some simple Italian red wine. Leftovers no more!

Storms Never Last…

Lots of fun music shows this past week… oddly enough, all of them at clothing shops. I saw Thad Cockrell at Imogene & Willie and Derek Hoke and Korby Lenker at Hip Zipper. (Side note from music and food- Imogene & Willie has one of the coolest spaces ever and they make totally awesome and amazing custom jeans. Carrie and Matt are good people! Teresa at Hip Zipper in East Nashville has some of the best vintage threads in town and she has a ton of new stuff!)

Oooh so back to the title there, tornadie weather in Nashville kept us in the house on this Saturday evening… and unexpectedly we needed to cook some dinner so I took stock of what we had on hand and came up with a good plan. I created a Green Risotto with cooked carrots on the side. It was delicious and very nutritious and oh so pretty! It went something like this…

I was lucky to get a little concert of Grant’s new slide guitar as I worked on the prep. Our kitchen seems to have some good acoustics! Maybe kitchen concerts in the near future?!

So, back to the risotto- First, I heated some veggie stock we already had open (Imagine’s No-Chicken stock) and added some thinly sliced garlic (2 cloves). Then I blended a little of the stock with a bunch of spinach and a bunch of parsley and mixed that in to the stock. It made the stock turn a beautiful Kelly green color!

Then I sliced up the colorful organic carrots we had and cut them in match sticks to saute in a little butter. They were so sweet and delicious that we didn’t even have to salt them. They were a perfect side dish- color and flavor.

Once all the other prep work was done, we started on the risotto. I learned to make risotto from Grant who learned from his Italian friend Maurizio long ago. First we sauteed finely chopped onion, then added garlic and the arborio rice. Then gradually we added the stock, stirring constantly. It was at this point I summoned Grant in to help. On the side we sauteed the cut zucchini and green pepper and added that in when the rice was almost done. At the very end, we stirred in some shredded Parmesan Reggiano.

AND then, this morning Grant made risotto cakes with eggs and Old Folk’s turkey sausage for our Sunday brunch! It was so delicious and a great use of left overs.

Tomato, pepper, and herb starts to plant in the garden today!!! More music and food to report soon.