Korean Garlic Ginger Deliciousness (3 Ways) & The Music of Luke Bell

3 ways

So, as I have stated before, Korean food is sort of new to our tastebuds. Neither Grant nor I experienced it much before moving to Nashville eight years ago. Don’t get me wrong- Nashville is not a city, in any way, known for its Korean food but somehow, we found a little joint that probably serves up pretty good Korean food. I say, “pretty good” because I am certain there are so many better places in the world to get great Korean food. But for us, it was good enough to entice us into a new cuisine and we’ve been experimenting around with Korean flavors at home ever since.

We experienced our very own Korean Thanksgiving last year and since then, have been expanding on that idea to include chicken, catfish, and a vegetarian option of mushrooms with tempeh. So basically, it is just a variation on a similar theme but I loved them all and wanted to keep track of them here.

First off, you’ll need kimchi. Grant has tried making it once and we have experimented with several store bought varieties. They were all delicious in different ways. Once I have a great homemade recipe, I will post it.

Kimchi

You will also need these two delicious sauces…

Sauces

Ginger-Scallion Sauce (this sauce is a necessity!)
2½ cups Scallions, thinly sliced, both green and white parts
½ cup Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup Grapeseed Oil
1½ tsp Tamari
1 tsp Sherry Vinegar
½ tsp Sea Salt, or to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Ssam Sauce (this sauce is optional)
2 Tbsp Fermented Bean-and- Chili Paste (Ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 Tbsp Chili Paste (Kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup Sherry Vinegar
½ cup Grapeseed Oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve in a bowl.

Tempeh-3

Korean Garlic Ginger Mushrooms & Tempeh
Serves 3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
8 oz Soy Tempeh, cut into cubes
6 Mushrooms (any variety), sliced
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, 2 Tbsp tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Set aside. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the mushrooms and tempeh (you can also just use vegetable or tofu in place of the tempeh). Sprinkle with remaining tamari. When the mushrooms are soft and reduced and the tempeh has browned a little and firm, turn the heat down to low. Add the sauce to coat and cook down for a couple minutes.

Serve with both sauces, butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice. You can make little lettuce wrap bundles and vary what toppings you use in each. This is a really fun (yet somewhat messy) way to eat it and each little wrap can be slightly different. We also served sliced cooked carrots with black bean sauce and a tiny bit of molasses in addition to a marinated cucumber salad.

Carrots

Korean Garlic Ginger Chicken
serves 2-3
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, each cut into 4 pieces
Grape Seed Oil

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the chicken and soak for approximately 30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the chicken. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the chicken in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the chicken with both sauces, kimchi mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with tamari and sesame seeds.

Kimchi Pots & Ses Spin

Korean Garlic Ginger Catfish
Serves 2
2 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
3 Tbsp Tamari or Shoyu
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
a couple drops of Sesame Oil
¾-1lb Catfish Fillets, chopped into big chunks
Grape Seed Oil

catfish 2

In a small bowl, combine the mirin, ginger, tamari, garlic, and sesame oil and whisk into a sauce. Use the sauce as a marinade for the catfish and soak for approximately 15-30 minutes. Heat a skillet and add a little oil. Add the catfish. Cook the catfish for about 3 minutes on each side, until it is lightly brown on each side. Add the sauce (which you marinaded the catfish in) to coat and cook down for a few minutes.

We served the catfish with butter lettuce, kimchi, and rice and made lettuce wraps for this one, too. We also had roasted Brussels sprouts on the side.

Brussels

Catfish

Leftovers of any of these are always good just piled on top of each other in a bowl. Yum!

Leftovers

Here’s another awesome new country (*real country*) album out. This one is from another fellow we became acquainted with through the magic that is Santa’s Pub named Luke Bell. In fact, Luke had his cd release at Santa’s and what a fun party it was. He got a friend of his to roast a goat all day and there were tacos, guest singers, and dancing.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

Luke Bell at his cd release party, June 2014.

This is Luke’s second album out. It is titled, Don’t Mind If I Do, and as the title suggests, he’s a little bit sassy yet very laid back, down to earth, and really nice. Luke grew up working on a Wyoming ranch. He has a deep appreciation of old school country and has aligned himself with like minded folks here in Nashville. The new album has many danceable songs- two-stepping tunes, waltzes, and even a little yodeling. You can buy his new album here.

And… Kelsey Waldon‘s new album came out this week! Everyone is talking about The Gold Mine. You can read Rolling Stone Country’s review here and buy a copy for yourself here.

tumblr_n54cladNMr1qzkmx3o1_500

Chuck Mead & Dressed Eggs

Potluck

Growing up in the South, deviled eggs were a part of every Easter celebration, always found at potlucks and cookouts, and were always made basically the same way- eggs, mayonnaise, a little mustard, and pickle relish with a dusting of paprika on top. My Uncle Joe made the best deviled eggs! He never held back on the mayo and always salt and peppered them just right.

Dressed Eggs-1

In Tennessee, we’ve learned that deviled eggs are referred to as, “dressed eggs” because they are often served at church picnics and potlucks and presumably, it just isn’t proper to talk about the devil while in church (especially while eating something so delicious!).

I haven’t made many dressed eggs of my own but I have seen so many different versions in cooking magazines lately that I started concocting my own versions in my head. I finally came up with these two varieties- one using avocado and cilantro and one using kimchi which we always seem to have in our refrigerator as of late. We enjoyed them with some sauteed collards from our CSA and this recipe from awhile back for Herby Pecan Baked Chicken (only it being summer now, I substituted all the dried herbs for fresh and added 3 cloves of garlic in with the nuts and herbs which was delicious).

Kimchi Dressed Eggs
6 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup chopped Kimchi (with a little of the liquid)
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
Srircha Hot Sauce
Sesame Seeds

Avocado Dressed Eggs
6 Eggs
½ tsp Salt
½ Avocado
1 Tbsp Mayonnaise
½ tsp Lime Juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cilantro (a little bit chopped to mix in the egg yolk mixture and a small piece to garnish each of the 12 egg halves)

Eggs

Put the eggs in a saucepan and pour water over them to cover them by 1-2 inches. With the stove on high heat, bring the water to a full rolling boil and then immediately turn the heat off. Remove the saucepan from the burner and cover with a lid. Let sit for exactly 10 minutes. Pour the hot water out of the pan and rinse the eggs with cold water to stop all cooking. Roll the eggs around to crack the shells. Place in a bowl. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently peel the eggs under running cold water. Cut them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks and place in a bowl, placing the egg whites on a separate plate. Mix in all the ingredients for each specific variety above. Spoon in the mixture into the egg whites. Top the Kimchi Dressed Eggs with a tiny dollop of Srircha and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Top the Avocado Dressed Eggs with a piece of cilantro.

Dressed Eggs 2 ways

Speaking of potlucks, we had some potluck recipes featured in the May issue of Country Living. And while my recipes on this blog are typically made a little healthier than the usual way to make things, these recipes do not hold back on the fat! You will be sure to please all your friends and neighbors this summer with these recipes. Here’s the link. We had lots of fun having them visit.

Getting our recipes photographed.

Getting our recipes photographed.

Chuck Mead singing a song with the lovely & talented Sarah Gayle Meech at the Red Barn Round-Up party back when Country Living visited.

A couple of weeks ago, we got to see Million Dollar Quartet, the traveling Tony award winning Broadway musical that our Nashville buddy Chuck Mead brilliantly directed the music for and our NYC buddy Corey Kaiser stars in as Carl Perkin’s brother and bass player, Jay Perkins. The show was in Nashville for about a week down at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. It was fabulous!

Chuck & The Grassy Knoll Boys, October 2012.

Chuck & The Grassy Knoll Boys, October 2012.

Chuck Mead also has a brand spankin’ new album out called Free State Serenade and it is on heavy rotation at our house. I love his music- his songs with his long-time band BR549, a well as his solo releases with his current band, his Grassy Knoll Boys. Those Grassy Knoll Boys kick some serious ass! Chuck writes fun, good-timing songs and has a huge knowledge and respect for the history of music. This album seems a little more unique, a little more personal and heart felt. Every song was written for Chuck’s home state of Kansas. You can purchase his new album here.

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson.

Metamodern Sounds in Country Music by Sturgill Simpson.

A couple of other country albums that we’ve been digging are Sturgill Simpson’s second album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Sturgill is super talented, a true original, one of the nicest folks around, and I am thrilled that people are taking notice! You can purchase the new album and other cool merchandise here. He puts on a great live show so be sure to catch him when you can.

Carter Girl by Carlene Carter.

Carter Girl by Carlene Carter.

We’ve also been enjoying the new release from Carlene Carter titled, Carter Girl. The daughter of country music legends, June Carter and Carl Smith, her new release is a beautiful album covering three generations of Carter family songs. Guest vocals on this new release include Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Elizabeth Cook, and Vince Gill. You can buy it here.

May your summer nights be filled with delicious food and good music!

Radishes & Rock

Radish-1 We’ve joined a Nashville CSA! For years we had a CSA in Seattle with Willie Greens. They taught us how to appreciate Brussels sprouts and so many other wonderful vegetables. Well, our friends Nick and Nicole over at Double N Urban Farms have a beautiful urban farm and we are proud CSA members for their very first year. It hasn’t started just yet but we were invited to an open house last week to have a sneak peak at the farm and pick up some radishes and arugula. What fun!

CSA=1

CSA-2

We made the most delicious Radish Butter. We experimented with the Lee Bros. recipe for Radish Butter last year but Nicole turned me on to a slight variation she found from Cinnamon Girl blog which inspired me to add in the radish greens and a little lemon zest. Here’s how our recipe turned out. We enjoyed this on some Bella Nashville Bakery‘s sourdough bread. Their bread has reignited my love of toast! It is so delicious. Radish Butter Radish Butter
¼ lb Radishes (with leafy tops)
4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
1 tsp Lemon Zest
½ tsp Sea Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until creamy. Delicious on toast and also a great spread for a springtime sandwich. We created a delicious sandwich with some with leftover grilled asparagus and steak.

Radish Butter meal I am way behind in updating my “Welcome to Nashville” post. I try to update it whenever everything seems to have shifted and new highlights arise. I’m afraid Nashville is changing so much and so often that I am having trouble trying to keep up with all the goings on. As far as old school country music goes and the living history still so vibrant in our city, I still highly recommend any visitor to do everything listed in my last update!

You can see country music legends like Bill Anderson play around town- even sometimes for free as was the case here. Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree. March 2014.

You can see country music legends like Bill Anderson play around town- even sometimes for free as was the case here. Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree. March 2014.

But, as far as shopping and restaurants go, I’ll let you rely on some other excellent sources who spend more time keeping up with all that. When we first moved to Nashville, we pretty much only went out to eat when we found ourselves needing a break from doing the dishes because otherwise, we quickly realized we could cook way better food at home. In fact, that’s why I started my blog- to keep up with our cooking experiments. The rare exceptions to this norm were a trip to Margot or City House to celebrate a special occasion when we could afford it. We, thankfully, can still do that and there are some really great new restaurants to add to that short list but there are so many opening now, at such a frequent rate, that we can’t possibly keep up. And besides that, if I told you about all the awesome new stuff happening here, you might get the bright idea to move here and it’s beginning to get a little crowded… It’s getting so crowded, in fact, that reservations almost seem to be a requirement to ensure a table at new restaurants, especially on the weekends. To our surprise, we stopped at Two Ten Jack before a show last Saturday and although the entire outdoor seating was full, we had absolutely no wait! According to our server and our past recent experiences, this was out of the ordinary. Two Ten Jack is a really fun Japanese bar and restaurant that opened just a few months back. We have enjoyed some delicious cocktails, small plates, and ramen here a few times.

Two Ten Jack has outdoor seating but expect it to be full all summer. Luckily, I sort of love their interior. So fun.

Two Ten Jack has outdoor seating but expect it to be full all summer. Luckily, I sort of love their interior. So fun.

After dinner, we had so much fun at Bobby Bare Jr’s cd release show at the Mercy Lounge. We must have seen at least a dozen BBJr shows while living in Seattle nearly decade ago. He has so much energy and his songs are so well written. There is always an underlying humor in his songs, even the sad ones, that I always connected with. And he always brought an excellent cast of revolving side musicians with him to Seattle, too, which I loved. That’s where we first heard the beautiful voice of Carey Kotsionis, saw Tom Pappas’ incredible hair and his impeccable bass stylings, Cory Younts’ multi-instrumental talents, Duane Denison &  Chris Masterson’s beautiful guitar licks, Doni Schroeder’s fascinating drum beats (at that time, every beat came from way above his head), and even back-up vocals by the lovely Holly Williams. Since moving to Nashville, Bobby’s hometown, we rarely get to see him play an entire show of his music (especially with a full band) so when he told us about this cd release show a month or so ago, I promptly put it on our calendar.

BBJR

This show was a full-on ROCK show featuring all the new songs and a few of my old favorites. Bobby seemed really comfortable and confident. Doni Schroeder, in the most amazing skeleton onesie I’ve ever seen on a grown up, has really become one of the best drummers I have ever seen. Sadly, it was his last show with Bobby as he moves on to his next big project. Jimmy Matt Rowland masterfully rounded out the trio with TWO keyboards and his usual antics. They all had great energy and made me very happy (albeit a little deaf).

Doni Schroeder & Jimmy Matt Rowland.

Doni Schroeder & Jimmy Matt Rowland.

Bobby joined by Cory Branan.

Bobby joined by Cory Branan.

The new cd (on Bloodshot Records) is great, too, probably his best yet and filled with the same fantastic level of storytelling that endeared me to his other Bare Jr. and Young Criminals Starvation League albums prior. You can purchase it and his new dvd here and be sure to catch him on tour, opening for the awesome Guided By Voices, if they happen to be rolling through your town (sorry, Nashville…).

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!

 

Eating Lots of Carrots & Thinking about Austin

Carrots

I just love cooked carrots. I know, not everyone does but I can’t help but think those who do not, just haven’t really explored all the taste possibilities cooked carrots have. They are so delicious cooked with onions and a little butter. So savory with a tad bit of sweetness. And they are so good for us, nutritionally speaking. Carrots can be alkalinizing, cleansing, nourishing, and stimulating to almost every system in the body. Carrots are powerful antioxidants which can help prevent and fight cancer in the body. Carrots are also high in fiber and loaded with pectin which can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Don’t fool with those “baby carrots” though, as they aren’t really babies at all, just big ones that have been whittled down to look cute and easy to eat. How wasteful. And I have found that those are never as flavorful as the the real deal.

Here’s a couple of comfort dishes I came up with in the last week. The first one is a risotto. Instead of using arborio rice, though, I found some Italian farro in the cupboard. Farro is similar to barley so it takes a little bit longer to cook and has a little bit more of a chew than rice but it’s pretty yummy.

Carrot Risotto

Roasted Carrot Farro Risotto
Serves 6

  • 5 Carrots
  • ½ Onion, sliced
  • 6 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • ½ Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 cups Farro
  • 1 cup White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • Small Bunch Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Carrots Roasting

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Preheat oven to 400. Slice the carrots very thinly- I like to use a mandoline to get them thin and uniform. Spread the carrots and the onion slices out in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, Italian herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set carrots aside. Heat the stock in medium sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat butter in large flat pan on medium heat. Add the other half of the chopped onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add farro. Stir. Add wine. 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 a little bit of the fresh chopped parsley every few minutes, too. 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 farro will still have some chew to it. The process will take about 45 minutes, as the farro takes longer to cook than rice. Add the carrots and onions in and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh chopped parsley. I served it with a simple green salad.

And then there was this next concoction which would be good served with some greens or roasted Brussels sprouts on the side. It might also make an excellent side dish for some grilled pork chops. I love the sweet and spicy from the maple and bourbon combined with the Tobasco in the grits mixed with the earthiness of the rosemary and Gruyere. Mmm…

Carrots & Onions

Maple Bourbon Carrots & Grits
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup Stone-Ground Corn Grits*
  • 4 cups Water
  • ¼ – ½ cup Buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
  • Tabasco
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Ghee or Butter
  • 6-7 Carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 big Red Onion, Sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon
  • Chopped fresh Parsley & Rosemary (I used about 2 Tbsp)
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

I tend to go for a creamier texture for my grits but you can play around with how long you cook them, how much liquid you add, etc. until you find the right texture to suit you. Cooking instructions usually have you soak the grits in the water to allow the hulls to rise to the top so you can skim them off. I always omit this step, opting for a little more grit and texture. Place the water in a pan on the stove. Add the grits and a couple pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to thicken, pour buttermilk in a little at a time and stir, as the liquid starts to all be absorbed and get thicker. Once you get a nice creamy texture and the grits aren’t too tough to taste, add the cheese, Tabasco, salt, and pepper and stir. Total cooking time usually takes about 45 minutes for me.

Grits

As the grits cook… In an iron skillet on medium heat, add the ghee. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften and caramelize. Keep stirring and right when you start to think the carrots are just about done, add the maple syrup and bourbon. Stir and then toss the herbs in. Cook a couple more minutes. Serve carrots over the grits.

Grits & Carrots

*All grits are definitely not created equally. Be sure to use really good quality, old fashioned, stone-ground grits which you can usually find in nicer grocery stores, specialty shops, at old mills out in the country, or online. I really like to use Falls Mills grits when in Tennessee.

Austin

SxSW is coming up down in Austin, TX and we, sadly, are not making the trek this year. Just thinking about it and hearing as our friends prepare to head down has made me crave some good ol’ Texas tacos! If you are headed Texas way, here’s my list of favorite taco joints from a few years back. And then, there’s also this I wrote the following year. I’m sure there are plenty of new places to try but these listed are some of the best that have been around for awhile.

And speaking of SxSW, these two are preparing to take it by storm! They’ve got a slew of shows down in Austin, and at towns along the way, and I am so happy for them.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Walden, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Waldon, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

We first met Kelsey Waldon at a $2 Tuesday at The 5 Spot long ago and quite often she will sit in with Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers on Sunday nights at Santa’s Pub. We were instantly drawn to her old school country sound. Kelsey is from Kentucky and just graduated with a degree from Belmont in songwriting. Her songs are thoughtful and honest. It is evident she has an understanding and love of real country music. There is a vulnerability in her voice and her warm, genuine personality shines through her songs.

Kelsey

Kelsey Waldon with Brett Resnick on pedal steel guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donnas, Nashville, 2013.

Here’s a video of her song, Know My Name, that was shot at The Stone Fox in January. This song is the first one from her most recent album titled, Fixin’ It Up. She has a new album coming out real soon. Watch for it!

Cale Tyson is another singer and songwriter who we first met as he led the Ice Cold Pickers at Santa’s Pub. Cale is from Texas and sings slow, mournful yodels with a slight Texas twang. He sings songs about whiskey, being lonesome, honky-tonks, and lost love with a deep respect for the legendary songwriters whose music he grew up on.

Cale-1

Cale with Grant Johnson on guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donna’s, Nashville, 2013.

His first EP, High on Lonesome, just came out and features some of Nashville’s best musicians. Here’s a video he shot for his song, Old Time Blues, featuring Grant “Big Smokey” Johnson on guitar and the beautiful Erin Rae singing.

Both Kelsey and Cale have voices very indicative of where they are from, seem fully immersed in Nashville’s rich history, and are poised for a very bright musical future.

Colorful Winter

Lulu the hound dog in one of her favorite snuggling spots.

Lulu the hound dog in one of her favorite snuggling spots.

Look at all these colors- colorful snuggling, colorful cooking! I love colorful meals and we’ve been lucky to find so many colorful veggies lately. It makes me really happy.

2- Colorful

I had someone ask me recently, “You have a soup blog, right?” Guilty. It seems last summer I had an herb blog and now, a soup blog. I do like my soups. They are so super easy to make, loaded with nourishing veggies, and so easy to eat. A big pot means we can have it for dinner and leftovers for lunches throughout the week. Plus, they are delicious. I got obsessed this week thinking about roasted vegetable soups. The roasted flavor creates an added layer. I made a batch of Banana Bread this week and had some coconut milk left over. That was the inspiration for this soup- one cup of coconut milk that I didn’t want to waste. It had a slight Indian spice to it but mostly, it was just delicious.

3-SwtPotSoup

Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
4-6 servings

  • 1 Yellow Onion, cut in half and then quartered
  • 2 medium sized Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 medium sized Red Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
  • ½ Red Pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper
  • 5 cloves Garlic, with skin on
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk
  • 4 cups Stock (I used chicken stock but vegetable would be good as well.)
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp Curry Powder
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Parsley

Preheat oven to 400. In a large baking dish, add the onion, potatoes, and red pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Mix together. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir. Add the garlic and place a little more olive oil on the garlic. Roast for 20-30 more minutes. Meanwhile, heat a soup pot on the stove at medium heat. Add the stock, paprika, curry, cilantro, and parsley. Remove the vegetables from the oven and blend with 1 cup of coconut milk. Whisk the blended veggies together with the broth and cook for a few more minutes.

This next dinner came about because I wanted to make Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup but realized I didn’t have all the ingredients. I made it anyway and then it wasn’t quite right. I thought about what I could do to it to make it better for a day and then Grant and I decided to turn it into a sauce with meatballs. I know people who make great Italian meatballs are vehemently opposed to using ground turkey but we chose to use it here to keep the recipe leaner. It turned out really well. Here’s the final recipe.

4-turkey meatballs

Turkey Meatballs in a Vegetable Nut Ragu
Serves 4

  • ½ cup blend of- raw Cashews, Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds
  • ½ cup Water
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Ghee
  • ½ small Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 big Carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups Diced Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Italian Herbs (I used an Italian herb blend from Frontier that I love but any would work- basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc…)
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Toast the nuts and seeds. Cool. Blend in a blender with water. Set aside. Heat a soup pot on medium and add oil or ghee. Add onions. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and carrots. Cook for another few minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add tomato paste, herbs and seasonings. In small batches, blend the tomato mixture in the blender with the nut milk and then return to the pot to heat through a few more minutes.

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground Turkey
  • 1 large Shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • ½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 -2 Tbsp Olive Oil

In a medium size bowl, mix the ground turkey with the shallots, garlic, and seasonings. Once it is evenly mixed, form into small meatballs (we like ours about an inch in diameter). Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the oil. Place the meatballs in the skillet and cook on both sides until lightly brown and cooked through. Add the sauce to the skillet, on top of the meatballs. Cook for a few more minutes. Serve the sauce with meatballs over cooked pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano. We served a simple salad on the side and washed it all down with a glass of red wine.

I haven’t been posting many sweet recipes lately. I still make pies from time to time for others but we have sort of lost our sweet teeth. And once you don’t eat much sugar, you don’t really ever crave it. When I do want sweets, it is usually in the form of a cookie or a little piece of good chocolate. I found these great Theo chocolate bars (one of my favorite chocolate companies whose chocolate factory just so happens to be on the street I lived on years ago in Seattle!) on sale at several grocery stores this month. The Salted Almond chocolate bars are so good. Luckily, I had a couple stowed away in the cupboard when it came time to figure out a cookie recipe to make for a dear friend’s birthday last week. Here’s what I came up with.

5-chocolate bar

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s, “Our Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies.” It is our new favorite! There is nothing better than a perfect cookie.

Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

  • ½ cup Cane Sugar
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 stick Unsalted Butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raw Almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1 Theo Salted Chocolate Almond Bar, chopped
  • Parchment Paper (for storing and baking)

Preheat to 300. Beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the flour and salt and mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate and the almonds. I like to divide the batter into 3-4 balls and, on a piece of parchment paper, form each ball into a log about 1” in diameter. I then wrap each cookie dough log up in the parchment and place in a plastic bag. You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them for months. When you are ready to bake some, simply slice them off and place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

6-cookies

It seems many of our friends and neighbors are all working on new albums. There are many in the works and I can’t wait! For now, keeping with the colorful theme- in name and sound- I have been listening to a local band I became aware of last Spring, Great Peacock.

Great Peacock at a neighborhood gathering one Saturday in June, 2013.

Great Peacock at a neighborhood gathering one Saturday in June, 2013.

Great Peacock’s Blount Floyd and Andrew Nelson combine a bold harmony-driven sound, nicely crafted songs inspired by their upbringing in the South- Alabama and Mississippi respectfully, lots of energy, and a love of old country music to create some really fun songs. I’ll close with this video they put out in December, of their single, Tennessee.

Comfort in a Bowl of Soup & New Music

icy

It’s still so so cold here. Frosty car windows have been my main inspiration it seems, at least photographically speaking. We’ve found comfort and warmth in more new soup recipes and some new music.

Cauliflower is a cool-season crop so it seems to be quite easy to find on the produce stands at most markets throughout the winter. A member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin B6. It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and helps support good heart health and good digestion. So eat up! We found this soup helped make it real easy to fall in love with cauliflower.

Soup ingred

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Smoky Blue Cheese
(4-6 servings)

  • 1 head of Cauliflower, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil 1 couple sprigs of fresh Rosemary, removed from stem
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock (or veggie)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Ghee or Butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped Shallots
  • 3 cloves Garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • Blue Cheese (I used Rogue River Smoky Blue, a little less than ¼ lb)
  • Salt & Pepper (again)

Preheat oven to 400. Place cauliflower in a baking dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, rosemary, salt & pepper. Place in the oven for about 25 minutes, stirring every once in awhile. Remove from oven and let cool. (By the way, this is a yummy side dish or snack just as it is.) Once the cauliflower has cooled (you could even roast the day before and use the leftovers to make a soup), place it in a blender with enough stock to blend the cauliflower until smooth. Meanwhile, heat a soup pan and add ghee. Add the garlic and shallots. Stir. Add the cauliflower mixture. Add the remaining chicken stock. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add the milk and stir. Add the blue cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

cauliflower soup-2

As I type this, I am listening to the new EP by our friend Andrew Hunt‘s band, Johnny Appleseed. We first met Andrew at Grant’s Sunday night gig with the Ice Cold Pickers, the house band at Santa’s Pub every Sunday evening in Nashville.

Santa's Pub

It’s a wonderful group of musicians- some in their twenties, some nearly fifty; some just starting out, some with quite a resume. The common denominator, it seems, is all are very talented and super nice. The band has a revolving cast of singers who all sing a variety of classic country songs but who, I’ve discovered, all have their own sound and their own albums. They seem to be supportive of one another, it is a great group of musicians. I can’t wait to tell you about all of them but for now, since we just went to their cd release and their music fills the room, I present… Johnny Appleseed.

Santas

Santa’s is a smoke filled double-wide with an eclectic mix of music lovers of all ages. The ceiling hangs low and Andrew is so tall, the top of his head nearly touches the ceiling. His voice is so familiar and reminiscent of a time long past. He brings to mind early Johnny Paycheck, Webb Pierce, and Lefty Frizzell and he can sing those classics so well but holy cow, listen to his originals!

Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed- the 5 Spot 2/04/14 with twin fiddles, Mark Sloan on guitar, John Estes on bass, & Smoking Brett Resnick on pedal steel guitar (sorry, you can only see his arm- more about him soon!). And that’s Gentleman Joe Giotta’s drum set peeking out behind Andrew.

Andrew has put together a supportive backing band with great guitar licks from Mark Sloan, really fun pedal steel guitar work from Brett Resnick, and even features twin fiddles on some songs. Their song, Harper’s Ferry, is one of my new favorites. I already look forward to hearing more. You can buy the new EP here. And look out for Johnny Appleseed if they come rolling through your town! I’ll close with this video for their song, Double Barrel Boogie.

NIKKI & RAY

It’s taken me a few weeks to pay tribute here to the one and only, the great Ray Price- not because he wasn’t worthy or I didn’t care. It is quite the opposite. I felt a strong fondness for Mr. Price. He was one of our true musical heroes. When my husband Grant and I first moved to Nashville, we visited the Ryman Auditorium and went on the tour. We had our photo made up on that stage and we knew then that it is one of the coolest places on earth.

Photo 1- G&K Ryman

That’s us on the Opry stage back in 2006!

I remember saying to Grant, “Maybe one day you’ll play on this stage, right here where it all began.” And sure enough, one year to the day of us arriving in Nashville, Grant got to play guitar on that stage.

Photo 2- Grant at Ryman

Grant performing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium with Jon Langford at Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam. June, 2007.

Our very first concert at the Ryman, though, was in September of 2006. My sister got us tickets to see Ray Price for my birthday and our new friend from the neighborhood, Buddy Spicher, was up there on stage playing fiddle. Grant and I got all dressed up and were so excited to be there. We arrived anxious and excited, walked in and squeezed into our seats on our pew in the 6th row. The woman beside me looked up at us and said, “They let you in? Did they card you?” In our thirties, we were some of the only “youngsters” there. It was an amazing show. Ray’s voice was still, at age 80, so strong and wonderful. The band sounded top-notch, of course.

Photo 3- Ray at Ryman

Ray Price on stage at the Ryman Auditorium. September, 2006.

We got to see Ray Price another time, about a year later, at the “new” Opry house while he was on tour with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. They called it “The Last of the Breed Tour.” I always hated that title, it sounds so sad… But, those three together? We felt so incredibly lucky to experience that.

Eddie Stubbs interviewing Ray Price at the CMHF with Hank looking on.

Eddie Stubbs interviewing Ray Price at the CMHF with Hank looking on.

A few years later we went to a special talk with Ray Price at the Country Music Hall of Fame which coincided with the Hank Williams family exhibition. You see, Ray Price had been Hank’s friend and roommate at the end of Hank’s life. He had witnessed Hank’s life first hand. That had a lot to do with why he lived such a clean life.

Ray Price left this world on December 16th at the age of 87 due to his illness with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only soul we lost to to pancreatic cancer this year.

I once asked our dear friend Nikki which one of Waylon’s songs was her favorite and this was her answer. It’s one of my favorites, too. I didn’t know a whole lot about Waylon when we first moved to Nashville nearly 8 years ago. But upon our arrival, I quickly learned so much about many musicians and country legends. I was quite eager to learn but even if I wasn’t, it seems impossible to live here and not learn about these larger-than-life musical personalities as their history is so much apart of the environment here. I love it. Waylon quickly became one of my favorites.

I first met Nikki on one of the saddest days of my life, the day the mighty Mister Moses died back in 2007. Moses was one of my soul mates and best friends. He was one of the coolest dogs ever. Seriously. I mean, anyone who knew him would say the same. That is not a biased opinion. It’s a fact.

Photo 5- Moses

Anyway, one morning Moses suddenly collapsed and had to be rushed to the 24-hour emergency pet clinic. As I waited all day in doom and gloom to find out that Moses would never be able to leave, this bright ray of sunshine (named Nikki, wearing a Waylon t-shirt) entered the waiting room for about an hour. It was if she was sent there to comfort us all and offer support as she waited for her big cat Shinery to get some stitches. She wanted to know all about Moses. She gave me her card and told me to keep in touch. A couple weeks later I emailed her to tell her that Moses had passed away but how nice it had been to meet her. (To this day, I believe it was Moses who arranged our meeting. He knew I needed to know her.) Next thing I knew, Grant and I were meeting Nikki for lunch. We met her at the Waylon office as Nikki was Waylon’s business manager and she drove us to lunch in Waylon’s old Cadillac. We had so much fun. That was one of many meals we shared and a friendship was born through our shared love of dogs, food, and music.

Photo 6- Lunch w Nikki

Nikki, Lucy, and me with Waylon’s Cadillac.

Besides being a real-life hero, always living life to the fullest and encouraging those around her to do the same, she was an amazing friend. She was spread thin between all her animals (she rescued anyone who needed to be rescued!); her long and steadfast career with Waylon Jennings music; her hobbies which included flying planes and fly fishing; creating a new community for good food, friendship, and music down in Normandy, Tennessee, she still managed to make time for good friends.

Photo 7- Nikki & Buddies

Photo 8- Nikki & Cafe

Nikki at the River Cafe in Normandy, the cafe she and her brother Mike started.

She always made each of her friends feel as if they were of utmost importance to her and always introduced every friend by one of their strengths. I came to realize that she always lit up every room, not just that waiting room at the emergency pet clinic. She told the best stories about growing up in Texas, all of her many careers and adventures, and all the characters she met along the way. There was even one about Ray Price- them both being from Texas and all.

We didn’t get to spend nearly enough time getting to know Nikki but every moment we had with her was memorable and really special. When we first found out she had pancreatic cancer a few years back, I was just sick. The pain was real and in the middle of my gut. It just ached for days. But Nikki kept living and I began to believe she would be with us for a long time. She accomplished more in the last few years than many of us ever do. Somehow she was able to add the hospital visits and the time for treatments into all she was already juggling.

Sadly, we lost Nikki in June to pancreatic cancer but not before she planned her own memorial service and you know what, it was a wonderful celebration of life and she was right there with us. I could feel her presence. In the last email I have from Nikki in the weeks before she passed away she wrote, “Your love and energy is always felt and will be with me forever and ever!!” Even then, she was trying to lift me up and since her death, I feel her friendship all the time. Our friendship has just taken on a different form and even though I don’t physically have her here, I sense her presence with us so often. It feels like her presence is even bigger and more spread out now and I can just carry her around with me all the time. I feel her encouragement and strive to be a better person because of her.

Our last dinner with Nikki, we all cooked a giant Paella down in Normandy. April 2013.

Our last dinner with Nikki, we all cooked a giant Paella down in Normandy. April 2013.

The other day I was remembering the pecan muffins Nikki started making awhile back. She kept trying them out. She brought us some when she came to visit and then made them for us one time when we spent the night down in Normandy with her. I never asked her for the recipe because I knew she had plans for these. The other day it occurred to me to ask her friend Rhonda if she had the recipe and lucky for me, the recipe had belonged to Rhonda’s Mother and she gave me permission to share it here. These are especially good with a cup of coffee. They make the perfect breakfast treat for house guests but are rich so they also make a nice little dessert.

Photo 10- Muffin Batter

Pecan Mini-Muffins
Makes 2 ½ dozen
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
½ cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
⅔ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
2 Eggs
Dash of Salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease mini-muffin tins. Combine sugar, flour, nuts and set aside. Mix together butter, eggs, and salt and then stir into the dry mixture. Stir just until moist. Fill the muffin tins ⅔ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the oven. You can check to see that the center of one is done by inserting a cake tester or a toothpick. It it comes out clear, they are done. Remove immediately and cool.

Photo 11- Pecan Muffins

I want to close with this link to The Nikki Mitchell Foundation. Nikki’s friend and flying partner, Rhonda who helped care for Nikki throughout her illness, quit her job this summer and founded this organization to continue Nikki’s work in bringing awareness to pancreatic cancer. Two years ago, Nikki organized the first of many benefits to raise awareness to her cause down in Normandy called, Full Moon Full Of Life. It was a way to raise money for this important cause while creating a musical event that was affordable for the community of Normandy, so everyone could bring the whole family.

Full Moon, Full of Life benefit in Normandy, October 2012.

Full Moon, Full of Life benefit in Normandy, October 2012.

So, not only did Nikki and Ray have Texas, country music, and (very sadly) pancreatic cancer in common, they both fill some of our most cherished Nashville memories. We will continue to listen to Ray and our friendship with Nikki will never end.

WHOAA…

Photo 1- Ice on Window

It’s Cold! I mean smack dab in the middle of winter, freezing cold temperatures. I know you mid-westerners are somewhat accustomed to frigid temperatures in the winter but down here in the south, it is usually a bit milder. The new year brought a new climate for us. We’ve been snuggling up in the house with blankets and the soup is definitely on! Here are a few yummy ones loaded with vegetables to keep you all healthy and warm.

Photo 1- Hubbard Squash

Before I get to the soups, though, I was given this beautiful but enormous Blue Hubbard Squash a couple of weeks ago. Its size was quite intimidating. Once I finally got it open, I had to roast it in several batches. I made a couple of different recipes with it and Lu, our hound dog, even enjoyed some. Below is a photo of a Winter Squash and Shiitake Mushroom Rustic Pie I made. I just sauteed onions, mushrooms, garlic and then added some of the roasted squash and topped with herbs and grated Cave-Aged Gruyere cheese.

Photo 3- Squash Gallette

Rustic Winter Squash Pie
For Pie Crust:
1 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour (I use White Lilly)
4 oz (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I use organic butter)
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Ice Water

Place flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add butter. Gently mix with 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. Go slow. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of peas or grains of rice. Sprinkle with 3 Tbsp of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and 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 teaspoon 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, into a circle, onto floured surface as quickly as you can.  Place the rolled out dough onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

For Tart:
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ medium or 1 small Onion, sliced in rings
Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced (I used a small container full)
3 cloves Garlic,  crushed and chopped
Cubed Winter Squash, roasted (I think I used 1-2 cups)
2-3 oz Cave-Aged Gruyere Cheese, grated
1 Egg, lightly beaten
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp Fresh Herbs, chopped (I used Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme)

Preheat oven to 425. Heat a saute pan on medium heat. Add olive oil. Saute the onions. Once they begin to soften, add the mushrooms and garlic. Remove from heat and mix with the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Roll out dough, leaving about a one-inch border all the way around. Place the squash mixture on top, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the top with the cheese and the herbs Gently fold over the edges of the dough to form a rustic edge all the way around. Pour the egg over. Place in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and fully set. Let it cool for a few minutes and then cut into slices as you would a pie.

I still had some squash left so I decided to make soup. The idea of a pureed winter squash soup just sort of bored me. I wanted some different ideas so after rummaging around in the kitchen to see what I could pair it with, I came up with this one and it was perfect. I again paired it with Gruyere. It is such a yummy fall and winter cheese. You could easily leave the cheese off or use a Parmesan Reggiano or sharp Cheddar. I used chicken stock here but you can easily substitute vegetable to make it vegetarian.

Photo 4- Squash Soup

Hubbard Squash Potato Apple Soup
1 Tbsp Ghee, Butter, or Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 big Red Potatoes, finely diced
2 Apples, finely chopped
3-4 cups Roasted Hubbard Squash, finely diced
4 cups Chicken Stock
Herbs (I used probably 2 Tbsp mix of- fresh sage, rosemary, lemon thyme, and 1 Tsp dried Herbs de Provence)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to Taste
Cave Aged Gruyere, grated, to top each serving

Heat a big pot on the stove on medium heat. Add the ghee. Add the onion and potatoes. Stir. Once they begin to soften, add the apples and squash. Stir. Salt and pepper. Add herbs. Add stock and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, lower heat and continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes. Serve each bowl topped with grated cheese.

Photo 5- Squash Soup Final

I recently found a small jar of dark greenish-brown lentils up in our cupboard and I happened upon a beautiful bunch of Rainbow Chard at the market so I did a quick google search for those two ingredients together and found this which gave me the general idea for this next soup. I added more celery and then lots of other stuff and came up with this version, below. It turned into a beautiful French style soup and was the perfect pairing with some fancy cheese and crackers and a good bottle of red wine.

Carrots-Chard-Lentils

Lentil Soup with Chard, Lemon, and Manchego
1 cup Lentils
1 bunch Rainbow Chard
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil (I used 2 and 1 Tbsp of Butter)
1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
3 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
5-6 small Rainbow Carrots, with tops
3 ribs of Celery, chopped
1 small bunch of Parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 Lemon
Water
Salt & Black Pepper
Manchego Cheese

Lentils Cooking

Place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and simmer, covered, until tender (about 30 minutes). Wash the chard leaves, remove the middle vein and then chop the leaves into small pieces and add to the lentils with 1 cup water. Cook until the chard is wilted. Crush the garlic, chop the parsley, and chop the green leafy carrot tops. Mix these together and sprinkle with salt and the lemon juice. Set aside. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots until soft, and then add the herb mix in. Stir and then add this mixture to the lentils. Add more water (I ended up using about 4 cups total, it just depends on how soups you want your soup to be) and adjust your salt and pepper to taste. Stir and simmer about 20 minutes. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the Manchego and serve each bowl with some Manchego shavings on top.

Lentil Soup Final

And sometimes, you just need some good old beans and cornbread! Here’s how I prepared them last week… These were tasty and warming. Leftovers made for great lunches.

Photo - Beans Final

Beans & Cornbread
Dried Beans- I used equal parts Pintos and Kidneys, 1-1 ½ cup of each, soaked overnight in enough water to cover the beans.
2 tsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
4 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
3 Celery Ribs with leaves and tops, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 Tbsp ground Cumin
1 Tbsp fresh chopped Oregano
3 Bay Leaves
Water
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Fresh Chopped Cilantro and Avocado to top each bowl (optional) or cook with Country Ham, diced

Photo - Beans

Heat a big pot on the stove on medium and add the oil. Add the onion and stir. Once it has begun to soften, add the garlic, celery, and pepper. Stir and cook for a couple minutes. Drain the beans and rinse them. Add the spices and the beans and ham if you are using it. Add some water. I used about 4 cups. Add just enough to cover the beans in the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are tender, it usually takes me about 1 ½ – 2 hours. Top with fresh cilantro and avocado (if using).

Photo - Cooking Beans

And here is my favorite cornbread recipe.

Photo - Cornbread & Beans

When we moved to Nashville, one of the most exciting things was to suddenly be immersed into all this country music history with so many of the musicians who made that music so famous still living and working right here. We’ve had some amazing opportunities to get to know some of these folks and Grant has even had the good fortune of playing with some of them. The downside of this, though, is with so many of them elderly now, we feel a little closer to the loss when one of these folks passes away and it happens pretty often now. Last week, we were saddened to lose Phil Everly, half of the great musical duo The Everly Brothers. The Everly Brothers were members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame AND The Country Music Hall of Fame. These two toured early on with Buddy Holly. They moved to Nashville and found much success as songwriters with hits such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Bird Dog,” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and they are famous for their incredible harmonies and for helping to create the sound of rock & roll as we know it.  Here’s some old footage of them doing “Take a Message to Mary” and “Bird Dog.”

The tiny silver lining to such a loss as this is, we are all reminded of the immense musical contributions his life made on Nashville, and the world. I’ve been listening to some of their greatest tunes all week. Here’s one of my current favorites which they did not write but they sang so beautifully.

And, it just so happens that we were road tripping to South Carolina to visit family last weekend and as the news of his passing hit, we happened to be listening to the new album from Nora Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong called, Foreverly, that consists of traditional American songs that were reinterpreted, recorded, and released by The Everly Brothers in 1958. It is a beautiful album with wonderful harmonies, in the tradition of the Everlys.

Oh and don’t think I haven’t forgotten to pay tribute to Mister Ray Price. I’ve been working on that. Coming soon…

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.

apples

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!