Summer Potlucks, Sunday Dinner, and Gospel Music

Eating is so fun! I love all the fresh veggies and fruit that is in season right now. I went to a potluck last night. Just look at all those veggies that were on my plate.


Amazing. It is hard not to eat healthy right now. One of our favorite things to do lately is grill lots of vegetables on the weekend and then find all sorts of ways to eat them during the week.

Often, we just put them on top of a big salad. This little salad is so simple that it seems strange to even write it down but we’ve been enjoying it so much and using it as the basis for so many meals lately that I wanted to write it down to remember it and share it. It goes like this…

Kale Salad
1 clove Garlic
1 Carrot
1 small handful of Parsley leaves, chopped
1 slice Lemon
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

I use a few Kale leaves, deveined, and a few Romaine leaves. It isn’t science, just a few of each. Chop the Kale into strips and chop the garlic. Place both in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and the juice of the lemon slice. Stir or massage the leaves with your fingers. This process helps take any bitterness out of the Kale. Let sit for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Cut the carrot into matchsticks and add to the bowl. Add the parsley. Chop the Romaine and add. Sprinkle with the vinegar and oil and stir together. You can play around with the amounts, I always make it a little different and it always turns out great!

We roasted these portabellas with a little Balsamic vinegar and laid them on top of a salad with Romaine, grilled asparagus, sliced peppers, cukes, and herbs. I made a homemade vinaigrette to pour on top and sprinkled fresh chevre on top. It was so simple and delicious.

One of my favorite things to do with summer yellow squash, or crookneck as we used to call it growing up, is to saute it with Vidalia onions and tomatoes (add the tomatoes in right at the end so they don’t get too squishy). I realized this was an excellent topping for cheese grits. It made the best breakfast!

Cheese Grits with a Fried Egg on top, Pederson’s Uncured Bacon, & Sauteed Squash with Vidalia Onions, Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil.

Our first veggies from the garden this year were- potatoes that we forgot we planted! Surprise!

I had just brought home a mess of English Peas, too, so I made this yummy Creamed Peas with Potatoes dish I remember my grandmother on my Mom’s side, Nana, make just about every Sunday for dinner in the summer.

I called my Mom to make sure I knew how to prepare it. Simply boil the cut potatoes in a little water. Drain. Set aside. Do the same with the shelled peas. Make a roux with 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp flour. Add in a cup of milk, white pepper and salt. Add the potatoes and peas back in and cook for a few minutes to let the sauce thicken.

A dinner Nana would have approved of- Chicken Fried Chicken, Cucumber Salad, Creamed Peas with Potatoes, and Sauteed Squash and Onions.

Speaking of Sunday dinners… I can’t get enough of this new Gospel album from Elizabeth Cook. She’s knocked it out of the park with this one.

I adore this woman- she is beautiful, sweet as can be, and has the most amazing voice. She embodies the spirit of country music. Real country music. On top of all that beauty and talent, she is super smart and has this amazing courage to do what she wants to do, musically speaking. It’s a bit of a Waylon Jennings spirit and I admire it. Go by this album, Gospel Plow. You’ll love it! And enjoy this clip of her performing one of the songs from the album, which was released last week, on the David Letterman show. Incidentally, Dave also happens to be a big fan of hers.


End of the Summer…

I can’t believe how fast this summer has come and (almost) gone. I thought it would be a good idea to post a couple of my favorite new concoctions we came up with this summer.

Grant came up with this one-pot wonder one night as a way to eat up all of our veggies from the garden. This is pure comfort food!

Big Smokey’s Southern Chicken Bog

3-4 chicken thighs, bone and skin on
¼ cup flour
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
sea salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp bacon fat or butter
1 small red, orange or yellow pepper, chopped
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
6-8 okra, cut in slices
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp dried chopped rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 ½ cup white Basmati rice
3 cups stock

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium. Add bacon fat when pan is hot. While pan is heating, mix flour, spices, salt & pepper together in a bowl. Dredge chicken thighs in flour mixture. (Save flour mixture for use with okra.) Once pan is hot and bacon fat is sizzling, add chicken skin side down. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until skin side is a dark golden brown. Turn chicken over and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Put chicken aside. Add onion and pepper to pan. Dredge okra in remaining flour mixture and add to pan. Cook until onion and pepper is soft and okra is slightly brown. Add chopped tomato, rosemary, bay leaf, and cook for 5 more minutes until tomato starts to break down. Stir in rice. Salt and pepper a little more to taste. Nestle the chicken back into the mixture, skin side up. Add 2 cups of the stock. Reduce the heat to medium low. Let cook 15 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Stir mixture without turning the chicken. Add the remaining cup of stock and cook for 10 more minutes until rice is done to taste. Optional- last two minutes, turn pan on medium high and cook until a dark brown crust forms on the bottom of the rice (Lady Smokey is especially fond of how this makes a yummy crispy rice crust!). Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. One pot wonder or serve with a side salad! Hot sauce is recommended. YUM!

And another meaty dish, this was inspired by our new found love of tomato gravy.

Tomato Smothered Chicken Fried Pork Chops
Serves 3

3 boneless pork chops
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ cup all purpose flour
dash of cayenne pepper
sea salt and black pepper to taste
2-3 fresh tomatoes, chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will want to use an iron skillet (or wide, oven proof skillet). Mix buttermilk and spices together in a bowl. Soak pork chops in buttermilk mixture for about an hour. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add grape seed oil (enough to fill your skillet ¼ inch deep). In another bowl, mix flour with another dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Take the pork chops out of the buttermilk soak and place in flour mixture. Coat on both sides and place in skillet. Cook pork chops until golden brown on both sides (about 5 minutes on each side). Move pork chops to sides of pan. Add 2 Tbsp flour to middle of pan and stir in, mixing flour thoroughly to the oil in the pan to form a rue. Once you have a nice rue formed, add 2-3 chopped tomatoes. Place iron skillet in the oven for 10 more minutes to finish the pork and give the tomatoes time to break down. Place pork chop on a plate and spoon the tomato gravy over top.

Tomato Smothered Pork served with asparagus and sauteed corn.

We have so many friends who have new albums out or coming out in the next few weeks. It is very exciting and I look forward to listening to them all. This week, however, we were thrilled to get to see Connie Smith again and pick up a copy of her new album and her first release in 15 years, Long Line of Heartaches.

Connie Smith and guitarist Rick Wright at Grimey's Record Store August 2011.

One of the greatest voices in classic country music, Connie Smith grew up in West Virginia and Ohio. Bill Anderson first heard Connie Smith sing in a talent competition back in 1963 and he invited her to come sing in Nashville. She recorded the classic hits, “Once A Day” and “Cincinnati, Ohio,” and after almost a decade of country music stardom and hit songs, Connie left the spotlight to pursue motherhood and a gospel music career but remained an influential figure in country music. Dolly Parton once said that Connie Smith is the best female country singer. Many would agree. She also seems like a beautiful woman- inside and out. Locally, Connie Smith often performs on The Grand Ole Opry, with her husband of almost 15 years, Marty Stuart, on his  t.v. show on the RFD network, and she occasionally plays with her band, The Sun Downers (featuring the amazing Rick Wright on guitar), at the Station Inn. This month she is the Artist In Residency at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Happy Birthday Waylon!

I love Waylon Jennings. There, I said it. I am reluctant to blog about my love of Waylon for fear of not appropriately conveying my feelings or somehow coming off sounding like a big cornball super fan but here it goes anyway… Of all the classic old school country musicians, Waylon is the one I most closely connect with. That cut-time drum beat just puts a smile on my face every single time. Any bad day is made better when I put my Nashville Rebel cds on. It started out as the music but now, it is so much more than just the music. After becoming close friends with folks who were near and dear to Waylon, I feel a true sense of kindred spirit.

Waylon grew up in Littlefield, Texas. He started out working in radio and began playing guitar. He became friends with Buddy Holly, played bass for him, and toured with him in the late 1950’s. Lucky for all of us, Waylon was not on that ill-fated plane trip that took Holly’s life. Waylon ended up in Arizona where he became a local celebrity with weekly gigs in a Phoenix bar. It was there that Bobby Bare first heard him and spread word to Nashville of his talents and unique sound.

Waylon moved to Nashville and took the world by storm but Waylon did things the way he wanted to do them, the way he felt was right. This attitude gave him his “outlaw” persona as he paved the way for many others who had their own ideas and didn’t want the cookie-cutter “Nashville Sound.” He used the musicians he wanted to use and gave those deserving a chance. He cared so deeply about those close to him.

Waylon was a really good man with a huge heart who left the world with some amazing music. For this, I am truly thankful. And in honor of what would have been his 74th Birthday, June 15th, I decided to cook up some of his favorite foods.

Beef seems an important ingredient in Texas cooking and Waylon, being a true Texan, loved chicken-fried steak. I happened to be living in Washington when the most recent publicized US (originating from WA) Mad Cow scare hit. I read way too many articles on the subject and decided right then and there that I could no longer support the commercial beef industry. Only in the last few weeks have I found beef in which I trust the source and know to be independently processed. I decided to allow it back in my diet, very minimally and under close scrutiny, and to Grant’s delight! So with this, I decided to cook up Waylon’s favorite dish. It went something like this.

Chicken Fried Steak
Serves 2

2 sirloin steaks
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
¼ cup grape seed oil
½ cup all purpose flour
dash of cayenne pepper
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Pound the steaks flat. Mix buttermilk, egg, spices together in a bowl. Soak steaks in buttermilk mixture for about an hour. Heat skillet to medium heat. Add grape seed oil (enough to fill your skillet ¼ inch deep). In another bowl, mix flour with another dash of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Take steak out of buttermilk soak and place in flour mixture. Coat on both sides and place in skillet. Cook steak about 6-7 minutes on both sides. Pull out of skillet and drain on paper towels.

You can then make a milk gravy by adding flour to the leftover oil in skillet. Whisk together to blend, add salt, pepper, and milk and continue to whisk until desired thickness. Delicious over mashed potatoes and if you have any leftover gravy, you can serve with homemade biscuits the next morning!!!

We served the chicken fried steak with buttermilk mashed potatoes, milk gravy and artichokes (just in season and another Waylon favorite!).

And by the way, artichokes are an edible variety of thistle, in the sunflower family. They are shown to improve blood sugar control in diabetics and have been found to benefit heart activity and the gastrointestinal tract. Good thing, considering Grant and I decided after this meal that this definitely needs to be a once a year kind of a meal. In fact, we’ve decided to have this meal every June 15th from here on out! And we toasted the man who inspired it several times with this delicious red wine.

It should also be noted that the doggers LOVE the smell of chicken fried steak!

If Waylon were still with us, I would delight in making him lots and lots of pies. I think he might like Buttermilk Pie. Here’s my latest variation on this classic southern recipe made with Olive & Sinclair chocolate which is handmade in Nashville, minutes from our house.

Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Buttermilk Pie

1 pie dough ball (Please never used store-bought!)
3 eggs
1½ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup organic unsalted butter
1 heaping tsp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ Olive & Sinclair sea salt chocolate bar

Let the butter get to room temperature. Mix eggs, sugar, and butter together. Add vanilla, cinnamon and buttermilk. Place in uncooked, prepared pie shell. Shave chocolate bar over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 40-45 minutes.

Now go listen to some Waylon and give thanks for his contribution to this world! The Ernest Tubb Record Shop has an amazing collection of box sets available. You can also find Waylon merch at this site.


I’ve been enjoying the heck out of these 13 year cicadas. They are so entertaining! I have a full photo account of their once- every 13 years- visit here.

We have also been enjoying our first Spring bottle of French Rosé. Nothing ushers in the warm weather better. Those Frenchmen really nailed it with that one. Lots of people shy away from the Rosés because they fear they are too fruity and sweet but the French Rosé is nice and dry. It is the perfect accompaniment to summer meals. Grant picked this one up at our favorite neighborhood shop, Woodland Wine Merchant.

I’ve been trying to get back on track with some healthy eating and with all the summer veggies on their way, it should be fun and easy!

There is tons of local kale available now and I keep trying to find more and more ways to slip it into our meals. Kale chips are one easy and fun way to enjoy kale. You can buy them but they are so expensive and they are so simple to make. I found this great recipe from Smitten Kitchen and pretty much followed her directions. I tossed a little olive oil, sea salt, and nutritional yeast on some organic Red Russian Kale from Delvin Farms, spread it out on a cookie sheet and baked at 300 for 30 minutes. We even crumbled some over popcorn one night. Yum!

We enjoyed this fancy (and chocked full of healthy goodness) slaw with Teriyaki salmon and some sweet brown rice with toasted sesame seeds. This was one of those meals that just made my body feel so clean and energized!

Fancy Tasting Asian Slaw
1 small green cabbage, finely chopped
1 small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
a few big kale leaves, de-stemmed, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1” fresh fresh ginger, finely grated
1 shallot, finely chopped

for the dressing:
2 tsp Umeboshi paste
2 tsp Nama Shoyu
3 tsp Mirin rice wine
3 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
3 Tbsp grape seed oil

Mix all vegetables together in a big bowl. Mix all dressing ingredients together with a fork or whisk and pour on top of veggies. Stir.

The other day, I overheard my co-worker mention that his wife liked to top turkey burgers with a yellow squash mixture. I didn’t even get the recipe or hear more than that one sentence and I could not stop thinking about it. One of my favorite summer vegetable dishes has always been yellow squash sauteed with Vidalia onions. I had to make it! Another co-worker gave me some garlic scapes today so I incorporated some of those in, too. Scapes are the tender green tops of young garlic. They are milder but really fresh and delicious.

Turkey Burgers with Squash & Onions
serves 3
1 lb ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced in rings
1 yellow squash, sliced on an angle
1 zucchini squash, sliced length-wise
garlic scapes, chopped thin
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
whole wheat hamburger buns (we used local Provence)
Aged goat gouda (I used local Noble Springs Dairy Southall Gouda!)
grainy mustard

Saute the onions, squash, scapes in a pan, stirring occasionally. Salt & Pepper to taste. Set aside. Mix the ground turkey with the garlic powder and onion powder, salt & pepper. Grill or cook in a skillet on the stove. Place sliced cheese on bun and warm in oven or on grill. Place turkey burger on bun and top with sauteed veggies. Smear some grainy mustard on the top half of the bun and enjoy!

We enjoyed these burgers with some homemade potato chips!

Hand-Cut Oven Chips
serves 3
2 large Russet potatoes, washed and thinly sliced
1 cup brown rice vinegar
grape seed oil
sea salt freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 450. Fill a medium sized bowl with water and then add vinegar and stir. Place sliced potatoes (with skin on) in water and vinegar mixture. Place potatoes in one layer on a baking sheet lined with grape seed oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip them over (if they are thin enough, this is not necessary) and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove with a spatula and drain on a plate with paper towels on it. Repeat this process until all potatoes are cooked.

Know what else is totally awesome right now? STRAWBERRIES! All the local, organic ones are in and oh, so delicious.

My friend Meg gave me her Grandmother’s Buttermilk Pie recipe. It is so simple and very delicious. I rarely even eat much pie (yet I make them all the time) but there are a couple varieties that I do really love. This is one of them. I used local eggs and buttermilk, so fresh and delicious. The only thing I really changed about her recipe was the addition of the cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I topped with local, organic strawberries.

Buttermilk Pie with Fresh Strawberries
1 pie dough ball (Please never used store-bought!)
3 eggs
1 ½ cup organic cane sugar
½ cup organic unsalted butter
1 heaping tsp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Mix eggs, sugar, and butter together. Add vanilla and buttermilk. Place in uncooked, prepared pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 40-45 minutes. Serve with fresh, sliced strawberries on top or to the side.

I’m still hooked on that NY Times Flat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I found in Saveur and I wrote about months ago. I keep varying it, though, and my latest variation involved local Olive & Sinclair Sea Salt Chocolate and Coffee Chocolate bars with the special ingredient of fresh mint from the garden! I just chopped it up and threw it in. It was delicious.

Falling behind on my music posts but Allison and I have been busy planning the first Red Barn Round-Up of the season…

Hey Y’all and Welcome to Nashville… (updated 02/16/2013)

Sparkly Opry Greeter, Horse, Hank’s suit

I frequently have friends who email to say they have friends or co-workers visiting Nashville and ask me to recommend a few places for them to visit. I LOVE Nashville and this request usually leads to about an hour or more of trying to write down all the things I would take them to see while they are visiting Nashville. I love doing this so much so that it is a little weird and I decided it might be nice to have all this information written up in an easy to view place and on the ready for those moments. So for this post, I veer slightly away from my topic of cooking but there will still be plenty of food and country music involved so hold on to your cowboy hat…

First off, you must turn your radio dial to 650AM. I don’t care if you are traveling by car, a rental, a cabbie, or if a friend picks you up, you must listen to WSM your entire visit with us. There is much more than country music in Nashville but this station tells the history of us. I know, I’ve only lived here for about six years but I now consider myself to be part of Nashville. So, ‘us’ it is.

Hall of Fame dj, Eddie Stubbs is quite a personality.

Eddie Stubbs hosting Music City Roots August 2010

There really is no one quite like him. He is a walking encyclopedia of country music history. His show of good old classics is on week nights and he also hosts the Grand Ole Opry on the weekends. Bill Cody and Charlie Mattos are quite the morning dj team, as well. While you are here you may find yourself wanting more of WSM. There are many ways to have it infiltrate your stay. You can walk by the studio while visiting the Opryland Hotel, go to live WSM events and when you go back home to wherever you came from, you can continue to listen to WSM via the world-wide web.

Let’s get right to the business of music. I suddenly realized a few months back that there is now a quintessential Nashville event for every night of the week. On Sunday nights you can catch a double shot of old school country music.

29- Santas

Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers at Santa’s Pub Sunday nights 7-9pm.

Chris Scruggs & Air Castle All Stars Sundays at The Stone Fox.

Chris Scruggs & Air Castle All Stars Sundays at The Stone Fox.

Start out at Santa’s Pub where you can hear some an awesome bunch of young musicians play classic tunes with different guest singers. They also have one Grant Johnson on guitar and Richard Bailey on banjo. They call themselves Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers. They play 7-9pm. Then head over to The Stone Fox for Chris Scruggs and The Air Castle All-Stars. These are the old-timers and some of the top players in town. These folks are legends (or at least have played with the legends)!


Famous in Nashville as simply “The Monday Night Dance Party,” KEEP ON MOVIN! is the wildly successful weekly dance party presented by Electric Western Records at The 5 Spot on Monday nights. While not country, it is pretty awesome. DJs Jacob Jones and Reno Bo spin a hand-selected mix of the most dance-able popular and obscure 50’s and 60’s Rock and Roll, Soul, old school R&B, Stax, Motown, Girl Groups, Doo Wop, Funk and Garage. Another one of my very favorite things to do on a Monday is head over to 12th South Tap Room for the trio of Kenny Vaughan, Jeffrey Clemens, and Dave Roe. These are three pros, some of the best in the business and all good people. Mondays are also Western Swing night. The amazingly talented and Grammy-nominated Time Jumpers play at 3rd & Lindsley every Monday night and it frequently sells out so go early. You won’t believe your ears, these folks are some of the best players in the world. The show costs $15. You really must experience this but if you just can’t spend the money, head down to Robert’s Western World for John England & The Western Swingers from 6pm-10pm. John England is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet and he always has some of the top players. Robert’s is a great honky-tonk. Stay for dinner, they have the best veggie burgers in town! In fact, they have a pretty good schedule all the time so whenever you have a few moments to spare, head on down and see who is playing. If you’re lucky, you might catch Grant Johnson playing his sparkly tele. Reminder: Always carry a little cash money. These hard working musicians really do depend on your tips to help pay their bills. This is what they do for a living and they work really hard.

On Tuesdays, The Grand Ole Opry has a show and many different venues around town host a local short sets night with about 5 different musicians or bands playing a few songs each. The Basement calls theirs, New Faces Nite. The Family Wash in East Nashville has $10 Pie (Shepherd’s, that is) and Pint Night with short sets. This is where some of the best sidemen in town come for a pint or pie and they’re likely to end up on stage. Be sure to check out both these places for music schedules all week.

Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland 2010, Patterson Hood & David Barbe 2010 @ The Basement

Dave Alvin 2010, Family Wash, DB Harris & The Men of Action 2009

Also on Tuesdays, Derek Hoke hosts $2 Tuesdays at The 5 Spot each week with some of the finest up-and-coming rock and Americana bands in town. Sometimes there is even a little bluegrass! It only costs $2 to get in and there are plenty of Yazoo (local) brews on tap for only $2 a pint! You never know who will show up and end up on stage…

Derek Hoke & Band joined by John Ramberg & Peter Buck from Seattle, Grant & Derek, and Caitlin Rose at $2 Tuesdays at The 5 Spot

On Wednesdays you will have some good options. From 2:30-6pm at Robert’s, you can sometimes hear Rachael Hester sing all your favorite old country classics. She always has some of the best players and an amazing voice! She’s the real deal. You can drive out to the Loveless Cafe for dinner and then catch Music City Roots live radio broadcast in the Loveless Barn.

Dale Watson on Music City Roots 2010, Jewly Hight’s book release party at Music City Roots 2011

My very favorite music venue of all time and one of my favorite places in the world, in fact, is the Ryman Auditorium. If you get a chance to go to a show here, please do. If not, at least experience the guided tour. This place breathes history. It is some kind of amazing. I’ve been on multiple tours, shows, backstage a few times when friends (or husband!) were playing, a job interview (no such luck), and I walk past it all the time and I never get used to its magnificent presence. If this building were a person, she’d be my hero.

Grant playing on the stage of the Ryman with Jon Langford & his Fabulous Nashville band. June 2007

Another favorite venue is the legendary Station Inn. This place is the home of Bluegrass music. Everyone has played here and a little bit of history is everywhere you look here. Its one of friendliest places around, too. Be sure to check out their calendar of events and plan accordingly.

station inn 2

Bobby Bare (w/ Gary Kubal on drums and Grant Johnson on guitar) at The Station Inn Dec 2012

Mike Bub & Chris Scruggs and Chatham County Line at The Station Inn

Other venues whose music calendars you should check are: The Stone Fox, The Basement, The 5 Spot, The FooBar, The Mercy Lounge, 3rd & Lindsley, Exit In, 12th & Porter, The Bluebird CafeThe High Watt, Marathan Music WorksTennessee Performing Arts Center, The Franklin TheatreThe Nashville Symphony… Pick up weekly rag, The Scene, for complete listings.

Sturgill Simpson at The High Watt, Nashville. January 19, 2013.

Sturgill Simpson at The High Watt, Nashville. January 19, 2013.

Jason Isbel at The Franklin Theatre Jan 2012

DB Harris & The Men of Action and Heath Haynes @ Robert’s Western World

Sarah Gayle Meech and band playing on Lower Broadway June 2011.

Be sure to catch Sarah Gayle Meech on Fridays and Saturday afternoons at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn 4pm-8pm. They play at Robert’s a few times a month, too! You can catch her occasionally at other venues around town, singing her original songs. She’s a lot of fun and they always put on a good show.

Jesse McReynolds, Opry Square Dancers, Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives @ The Opry

Friday is a great night to catch the Grand Ole Opry! During the winter, the Opry returns to it’s original home at the Ryman Auditorium. And after wards, head on over to Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Lower Broadway to see Hillbilly Casino at 10pm, when they are in town. These guys are amazing with their high energy rockabilly country goodness.  Always fun and an amazing group of musicians, you must see also Brazilbilly next door to Layla’s at Robert’s Western World 10pm-2am Fridays and Saturdays.

Hillbilly Casino @ Opryland at Christmastime 2008

Brazilbilly at Roberts 10pm-2am Robert's Western World.

Brazilbilly at Roberts 10pm-2am Robert’s Western World.

Saturday is another opportunity to see the Opry but there are always other fun events happening as well… The first Saturday of every month is Art Walk and all the galleries downtown open up their new exhibits from 6pm-8pm. Be sure to walk through the Arcade and pick up a guide to all the other galleries around town. Grab some dinner and maybe some honky-tonkin’ and then head out to Ernest Tubb’s Midnight Jamboree over on Music Valley Drive. They now record the show at 10pm for radio the following week. We’ve seen some amazing performers on stage at the Texas Troubadour Theater for free and the audience is usually made up of lots of old timers and locals so there is sure to be some good people watching and fun times.

Charlie Louvin on the Midnight Jamboree July 2007

Another fun musical adventure to check out on the weekends is the Bluegrass Underground concert series in the cave at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN. It is truly awe inspiring, one of the most amazing places I have ever been to witness live music.



The Time Jumpers and Jim Lauderdale performing at Cumberland Caverns.


They don’t call it Music City for nothing- Nashville is loaded with history and there are many tours and exhibits all around town to educate you and give you some deeper insight. Our buddy Bill DeMain leads one of the best walking tours ever, Walkin’ Nashville- Music City Legends Tour. For $16, you get a downtown musical history tour filled with many colorful stories. Bill is a real gem.

Other Favorite Tours and Museums: Country Music Hall of Fame, Hatch Show Print (I LOVE THESE GUYS!!!), Ryman Auditorium, United Record Pressing (Amazing!), The Tennessee State Museum, The Frist Art Museum, Opry Museum, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Fontanel Mansion, Natchez Trace (beautiful drive!), Dukes of Hazzard Museum (haha!), Nash Trash Tour,, or you can enjoy some classic country music while you float down the Cumberland River on The General Jackson Showboat!


United Record Pressing

United Record Pressing

Hatch Show Print

Hatch Show Print

The Frist Art Museum

Jon Langford & mural, Buddy Miller & Emmylou Harris at special events @ TN State Museum

My friend Kathy modeling beside the General Lee at the Duke’s of Hazzard Museum!

The Natchez Trace, Building in Lieper’s Fork, country drive

The General Jackson

The General Jackson

Favorite Restaurants and Shopping Adventures-

Arnold’s is only open for lunch Monday – Friday!

Miller’s Grocery- make reservations for weekend brunch!

Southern Food: Monells, Arnolds, Jack’s BBQ (on Trinity Lane), Prince’s Hot Chicken, Edley’s BBQ, The Southern, The Loveless Cafe, , Eastside Fish, Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork, Miller’s Grocery in Christiana (they have music on the weekends- look for The Howling Brothers, I love these guys!), River Cafe in Normandy (and you can rent a kayak here to take down the Duck River!)

Margot’s in the heart of East Nashville

Nicer, More Expensive, Delicious Food: Margot, City House, Silly Gooose, Eastland Cafe, Lockeland Table, Watermark, Rolf & Daughters, Miel, and The Catbird Seat.

Silly Goose in East Nashville serves delicious, local and seasonal dishes.

City House Restaurant in Germantown

Less Expensive, not Southern, and probably delicious no matter where you are from: Slo-Co has the most delicious seasonal and sustainably sourced sandwiches. The Family Wash, Burger Up, Smiling Elephant Thai, Mas Tacos, The Pharmacy, Far East Nashville, Miss Saigon, The Wild Cow, Mitchell Deli, Sunflower Cafe,  and Korea House are also favorites.

Spring rolls @ Smiling Elephant Thai on 8th Avenue

Watering Holes: Village Pub, 3 Crow, Patterson House, No. 308, The Flying Saucer, The Oak Bar (at The Capitol Grill in the Hermitage Hotel), Bobby’s Idle Hour

Bang Candy Company serves lunch and delicious sweet treats in a great little cafe.

Bang Candy Company serves lunch and delicious sweet treats in a great little cafe.

Coffee and Yummies: Barista Parlor, Crema, Las Paletas, Sweet 16th Bakery, Bobby’s Dairy Dip, Hot & Cold, Pied Piper Creamery, Jeni’s Ice Cream, Bang Candy Company

The Turnip Truck in East Nashville on the left and new store in the Gulch on right.

For groceries or a quick and delicious meal, go to The Turnip Truck! There are 2 locations- East Nashville which has deli items, a soup bar, and lots of groceries and supplements and one in The Gulch which has all that and a hot and cold bar. And check out our Farmer’s Markets! We are proud of all our local farmers! There is one big one downtown (eat lunch at Jamaica Way!) and lots of little ones all around town. Also, be sure to check out the Nashville Flea Market!

Jamaica Way is one of my favorite restaurants but be warned- they are closed on Saturdays!

Flea Market Weekend!

Some favorite shopping spots: Imogene & Willie (amazing space, handmade jeans), Katy K’s (western wear, all around great place), Billy Reid, Manuel’s (rhinestone and embroidery legend), Country Music Hall of Fame gift shop, Old Made Good, Antique Archaelogy has a new location in Marathon Village, some amazing handmade boots and bags can be found at Peter Nappi’s studio in Germantown, Ann Patchett’s bookstore Parnassus Books is a must, Grimey’s (awesome shop for cds, albums), Ernest Tubb Record Store, The Grove (East Nashville record shop), Third Man Records (Jack White’s shop), plus there are many vintage (Hip Zipper, Fanny’s, Pre to Post Modern, Local Honey, Boomerang, Flashback Vintage…) and thrift shops (Southern Thrift, Music City Thrift…) all around town!

Collection of cowboy hats, jean patterns, old sign- interior of Imogene & Willie on 12th South

We also have sports- Nashville Rollergirls, Hockey, Football, Minor League Baseball, wrestling… And there are many, many fun things happening all the time. This is simply a little list of some of my favorite things. I will continue to update as I remember things I have forgotten to include or as new and exciting happenings surface. Enjoy your stay in Music City, USA!

Singing & Dancing in Nashville

Songs of Spring, Farmer’s Market Dinners, and Channeling the Greek Isles

I have to admit, for a moment there I was worried the climate change was all coming to a head and I feared I would never make it out of winter to feel the warmth of the sun again. OK, that is an exaggeration, I will admit. I know it isn’t THAT cold but it has been rough this winter for us Southerners. This morning as I walked through Shelby Bottoms with the doggers, though, we heard the wild, deafening, mating songs of the toads and now I know that Spring is indeed on the way! That’s southern country singing at its finest! I know that soon all the other crazy summer sounds of the South will fill the air and comfort me.

I can’t help but feel that our recent culinary experimentation- channeling the food of the Greek islands- has had something to do with that. We’ve been real busy day dreaming of warmer climates which has led to many Greek salads and Mediterranean inspired dishes. It all started with those lemon roasted potatoes a few weeks back. Two of my favorite ingredients lately have been these: lemon stuffed olives which we have to order by mail and Tennessee’s own Bonnie Blue Farm marinated goat’s milk feta.

We created this chicken recipe below and ate it with some good crusty bread and a Greek salad made with the aforementioned olives and feta along with some red onion, red pepper, olive oil, lemon, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.

I Wish I Was In The Greek Isles Chicken
serves 2

2 Springer Mt. Farms chicken breasts
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon
3 tsp dried oregano
½ white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp capers
1 cup canned whole tomatoes
1 pinch of sugar

Coat the chicken breasts with 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic cloves, ½ tsp of the salt and pepper, the lemon juice and 1 tsp oregano. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Heat olive oil in an iron skillet on medium high. Add onions and saute until soft but not browned. Add the chicken and marinade into pan. Brown the chicken breasts on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Flip. Add the remaining ingredients, squishing the tomatoes in your hands as you add them to the skillet. Add more lemon, the remaining oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Turn heat down to medium low, cover pan and cook 10-12 minutes until chicken is done and sauce has reduced somewhat.

We ate this yummy dinner the other night just before heading out to FooBar to catch the Hackensaw Boys from Virginia. We heard their first album about seven or eight years ago while living in Seattle and really fell in love with their sound. They are a fun fast mix of old timey hillbilly music and bluegrass. We sort of lost track of them but they’ve had a couple albums out since and were on tour to support a new release called, “The Old Sound of Music Vol.1 ” They put on a fun show and we’ve been enjoying the new album ever since.

Hackensaw Boys at FooBar 02/05/2011

I’ve always heard about the Franklin Farmer’s Market but it happens every Saturday morning and until just recently, I had to work on Saturday mornings. We finally checked it out and were delighted to discover a cart with handmade cinnamon sugar donuts amongst our favorite local farmers such as Delvin Farms, Hatcher Family Dairy, and Noble Springs Dairy goat milk cheese.We had lunch at Gulf Pride Seafood in the Factory… The gumbo and shrimp po boy sandwich were  delicious! Thanks Kristin, for the recommendation! We then came home and made a Farmer’s Market Dinner with all our local finds.

We made fried chicken with local chicken from West Wind Farm, roasted potatoes and turnips from Delvin Farms, and coleslaw with cabbage from Delvin Farms. Grant made a tomato gravy for a complete Southern dinner! We’ve seen several variations for tomato gravy. We opt for the non-Italian version. He simply made a rue with Hatcher Family Dairy homemade butter (this was the key ingredient!) and White Lily flour. He added some tomato paste and hot sauce to the chicken stock that he then added to the rue.

I talk about Shrimp & Grits often and Grant has his favorite way of preparing this classic Southern dish but we keep thinking of new ways to incorporate leftovers and I am starting to think that perhaps all leftovers lead to Shrimp & Grits because that tomato gravy made the perfect base for Shrimp & Grits!

Another new recipe I came up with recently is this one for Cranberry Rosemary Walnut Bread. I love buying extra cranberries at Thanksgiving and freezing them to use later in the year as they aren’t always easy to find during non-Thanksgiving times. So many recipes pair cranberries with citrus but I am not such a big fan of this combination. I was thinking about rosemary and how it is in season all year ’round here and that it might be nice to add a savory characteristic to a classic sweet bread.

(By the way- I got a new ceramic loaf pan. Giada De Laurentiis has a new line of cookware available at Target. You know, the woman with the simple Italian cooking show on the Food Network. She’s beautiful and the whole time you are watching you can’t stop thinking, “How is this woman so skinny? There’s no way she eats her own cooking!” Well, I am super excited about her bakeware. Go check it out!)

Cranberry Walnut Rosemary Bread

makes 1 large loaf

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup White Lily all purpose flour
½ tsp sea salt (I used homemade rosemary salt)
1 ½ tsp baking powder (I used homemade)
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup organic cane sugar
¼ organic brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter, cooled
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan.
2. In a medium bowl,mix together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, nuts, and rosemary.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add buttermilk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add cranberries.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

I’ll close this post as I usually do, with a pie..

We were invited to a Super Bowl Party. You can’t grow up in the South without knowing at least the basics of football but I don’t really follow it now as an adult. We do, however, have lots of friends now who are all Green Bay Packer fans so I decided to make an Apple Cheddar Pie (green apples and yellow cheese- for Wisconsin and Green Bay color scheme, get it?). I think it helped make up for the fact that we aren’t football fans. It went something like this…

Apple Cheddar Pie

2 cups all purpose flour (I use White Lily)
2 sticks unsalted organic butter
6-7 Tbsp ice water
1 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
5 granny smith apples
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup organic cane sugar

Pie Dough
(Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.)

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times. (I use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix. Slow down.) The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl. Mix grated cheese in. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated. Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm. It should have just enough moisture to stay together. If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a 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 onto floured surface as quickly as you can. Keep the second dough ball in the fridge until you are ready for it.

Peel the apples. Cut, core, and chop them. Mix them with the lemon juice and sugar and pour into pie shell. Roll second pie dough out and lay over top of the pie. Pinch the edges and cut a few slits in the top with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush, brush the top with an egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then 350 for 35 minutes.

Happy Eating and go support your local music scene!

Thankful for Food!

Thanksgiving 2010

I couldn’t let my memories of Thanksgiving go undocumented! One of my favorite things about the holidays is cooking and eating and Lord knows we did our share this past week. Grant and I have had so many family and friend visits these past few months, we decided to spend this Thanksgiving with each other and spent the entire day cooking and eating in our pjs. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on Thanksgiving anyway?

Leftovers. Bird's eye view.

We enjoyed a classic NW breakfast consisting of bagels (from our awesome new neighborhood bagel shop, Bagel Face Bakery), cream cheese, and lox while thinking of Grant’s family in the great Pacific Northwest. (Notice Lighthouse Roasters’ coffee mug for added, purely coincidental, effect!)

For a lunch snack, we had the perfect appetizer which has been a tradition in Grant’s family for quite awhile- Texas Tandies! Grant’s Mom got the recipe for these from a family friend in Texas and they quickly became a family favorite. My family likes them now, too!

Texas Tandies

2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 stick chilled butter
1 cup of flour
pinch of sea salt to taste
pinch of cayenne to taste
½ tsp Tabasco
1 tsp of Worchester
2 Tbsp Water

Cut chilled butter into small pieces and mix with flour until grainy. Add cheese, salt, and cayenne.  Mix liquids and sprinkle into mixture until dough just holds together.  Form into two balls and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 350 and roll out dough onto a floured surface.  Cut out with a small round cookie cutter and gently press a pecan onto each cookie… Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or so. Let them cool for about ½ an hour (if possible!).
Good with Ice Cold Beer or Bollinger!

Since it was just the two of us, Grant decided to get a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey. He de-boned it and flattened it and then stuffed it with the most amazing dressing ever. Recipe soon to follow…

He first seared the turkey in an iron skillet on the stove and then cooked it in the oven until done. It was super delicious!!!

As is customary in my family, we had way too many side dishes but I just couldn’t narrow it down. I made roasted carrots and parsnips and glazed them with a mixture of butter, honey,  balsamic vinegar, and a little sea salt and black pepper. They were super simple, very pretty and quite delicious.

We also made Brussels Sprouts seasoned with a tiny bit of Spanish chorizo! Grant is a genius for coming up with this!

We tried a completely new idea of a dish for us, too, Braised Leeks. They were interesting and went well with the mashed potatoes and gravy but weren’t the most amazing thing we had ever tasted by any stretch of the imagination. As for those mashed potatoes, I tried to channel my step dad, Larry, who makes the best mashed potatoes, and therefore, did not skimp on the butter! They were delightfully fluffy and a perfect vehicle for the gravy.

Now about that dressing… Grant got this recipe spot on this year. It was the perfect blend of sweet and savory, moist and crispy, nutty and fruity. He used some to stuff the turkey breast and the rest, he cooked in a baking dish and we ate on the side.

Apricot Pecan Dressing

2 tsp butter (or bacon fat)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups hearty Artisanal bread (we used a crusty rosemary bread), cut into cubes
1-2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Saute onion, garlic, and celery in butter until soft. Mix bread cubes, sage, pecans, and apricots together in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic, celery and mix thoroughly. Add stock until mixture is well moistened but not too wet.  Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Place mixture in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes covered and then 30 more minutes uncovered to crisp the top.

Oh, and there was wine. We enjoyed a lovely Oregon Pinot Noir from A to Z and a pumpkin pie with pecan crumble for dessert.

I know there are many pecan pie fans out there and I have a great recipe for it which I adapted from an Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock recipe but I much prefer pumpkin pie. Since there are only two of us, I decided to try to combine the two holiday favorites and created a pumpkin pie with a pecan crumble top. It worked quite well. So well, that I ended up taking one down to Robert’s Western World Thanksgiving night and two more to our last Red Barn Round-Up of the year this past Sunday. What a great Round-Up it was as we were fortunate enough to have the very musically talented and artistically savvy Julie Lee perform as well as Mister Paul Burch. If you haven’t heard their latest albums, the holidays are the perfect time because both would make excellent gifts! And while you are at it, you can also buy some of Julie’s art work! What better time to support local art?

So here is the pumpkin pie recipe. Please remember to make your own crust. You can find my recipe here.

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crumble Top

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp freshly ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp arrowroot (or cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups of roasted pumpkin, pureed
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 extra large eggs
1 cup coconut milk

for crumble top:
1 cup pecans, toasted & ground
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
½ cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin open and into four wedges, clean the seeds out (I roasted them up with a little salt for a yummy snack!), cut the strings out and rub the inside with a little olive oil and place face down in a baking dish. Bake for about an hour, until the pumpkin is tender when forked. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh and mix well in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together brown sugar, salt, arrowroot. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, maple syrup, eggs and mix well. Then, add the coconut milk and gently stir. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn oven down to 350 degrees for another 40 minutes (set timer for 20 minutes, though, as you will need to add the crumble top!).

Make the crumble top. Grind roasted pecans in a food processor or chop very finely. You can then add the other ingredients to the food processor or mix by hand. Be very careful and open oven door and quickly but gently crumble the topping over the pumpkin pie. Bake for the remainder 20 minutes or until pie is set.

Lots of good music coming up this month so I should have lots to report… I am also super excited about a new cookbook we picked up at McCay’s used books this past weekend. It has recipes of Barcelona! If we can’t visit Spain, at least we can eat like we did.

Enjoy all your holiday baking!

Low Country Cookin’

We love the South Carolina Low Country and all the gastronomical goodness that accompanies it. Some years back, while still living in Seattle, Grant stumbled across an article in a wine magazine about Low Country cooking which featured some recipes from Loius Osteen’s book, Charleston Cuisine. We tried a few of the recipes and they were delicious! About a year later, a dear friend of ours was getting married in the Low Country and during our visit to Pawley’s Island, we were able to dine at Louis Osteen’s restaurant and we bought his book, pictured above. A few of his recipes quickly became staples for us such as his Baked Sweet Onion Rice which I will include here. We serve this all the time and everyone always raves about it. It makes great left overs, too.

Baked Rice With Wadmalaw Sweets

Serves 6-8
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cups sliced sweet onions
2 cups minced shallots
1 bay leaf (we use 3-4)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups stock
1 cup long grain white, such as basmiti
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Heat butter in an ovenproof skillet with a cover over medium  heat. Add the onions and shallots and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves, thyme, and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to mix well. Cover and transfer to a preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently fluff rice with a fork before serving.

One of the best things about this super side dish, is all the amazing dishes you will be inspired to create to accompany it! Grant made this yummy BBQ Shrimp last night to accompany our Sweet Onion Rice. It was a perfect Sunday night dinner.

And, back to Louis Osteen… A few months back I was thinking about him and decided to do a google search and find out what he was up to. Turns out he and his wife just moved to Nashville and he is now cooking here, as part of the new BBQ restaurant in the 12th South neighborhood, Blind Pig. Psychic? I think so! We are anxious to see what culinary delights he brings to Nashville.

Continuing the Southern culinary inspirations, we have had some delicious fried green tomatoes lately- Monell’s served up some amazing little sweet ones when my Dad was in town a couple weeks ago. Everyone has them on the menu right now because we all have them in our gardens. I came home from work last Saturday and Grant had fancy Southern BLTs waiting for me. They included- red leaf butter lettuce, crispy bacon, green tomatoes from the garden coated with corn meal and spices and gently fried, Big Smokey’s special sandwich sauce, and rosemary bread. Delicious!

And you know what makes a great sandwich side dish? Roasted okra! Yes, we still have local fresh okra thanks to the late, hot summer we had.

I’ll end this post as I usually do- on a sweet note. People seem to like my pies and I really enjoy making pies but have to admit that pies are not my favorite dessert. I don’t eat many sweets but when I do, my favorite dessert is cookies.

Lately, I am obsessed with cookies- more specifically, my friend Rebekah’s cookies. She is the pastry chef at City House and she keeps showing up with bags of her cookies every time I see her and these are the best cookies in the world. I can’t stop day dreaming and obsessing about them. She has inspired me to want to be a better cookie baker so I have started trying to make all the good recipes I can find. I am in search of the perfect cookie recipes! Until I figure that out and have some of my own recipes, be sure to check out her amazing recipe for fancy gourmet Peanut Butter Moon Pies! Heavenly…

Crunkin’ Cornbread

We’ve had visitors, lots of out-of-town visitors! Oh what fun! We LOVE showing off Nashville. We tend to eat healthier on our own but when out-of-towners visit, we have to introduce them to all the Southern gastronomical treats such as Arnold’s, Monell’s, and The Loveless Cafe. And sometimes we really need to show off our neighborhood’s own award-winning charm with hot chicken from Prince’s or Catfish Sandwiches from Eastside Fish (go East side!). Eastside Fish claims their sandwiches are the “crunkest” and I’m no catfish sandwich aficionado but I’m going to say that they really are pretty crunkin.

Speaking of Southern gastronomical treats, I have some cornbread in the oven right now. I’ve been eating cornbread for as long as I have had teeth. My Grandmother, known to us as Nana, made the BEST cornbread in the whole wide world. When I was little, my Mom tried and tried to bake it and it just never tasted like Nana’s. After Nana passed away some years back, my Mom brought home Nana’s cornbread pan (and I think there was some divine intervention involved, as well) and suddenly, my Mom now makes the best cornbread in the whole wide world! My sister and I continually watch and assist her whenever we are visiting but she doesn’t follow a recipe or use measuring cups so it is a little hard to try to replicate her exact method.

Every once in awhile, I would try a new cornbread recipe from a favorite Southern cookbook but none of them were ever too memorable until I stumbled across one in the cookbook I mentioned a post or two back, The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. Their recipe for “Our Favorite Sour Milk Cornbread” is good and reminiscent of Nana’s recipe. I modified it a little, of course. It goes like this…


1 1/2 cups fine-ground white cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2-3 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix the cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda together. Mix eggs with buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk and egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir together.

Place the butter in an large iron skillet. Place in oven to melt butter. Slightly brown the butter and then pull the skillet out of the oven and the pour the melted butter into the batter and stir. Pour mixture into the iron skillet and bake for 20-30 minutes when golden on top and the sides begin to pull away from the side of the skillet.

Oh, while we are on the subject, I need to tell you that real Southern cornbread is NOT sweet. There. I said it. There are many uses for cornbread. We eat it for lunch or dinner with soup, beans, sauteed cabbage and sausages, or anything really. We also eat it leftover and toasted in the oven with cheese, honey, or jam on it for breakfast. One traditional Southern way to eat leftover cornbread and a way I remember enjoying it at Nana’s house is crumbled in a bowl with milk poured on top!

I’ve been experimenting with some new pie recipes! I made my friend, Meg’s Grandmother’s buttermilk pie. It was delicious. I’ll be working on a buttermilk recipe of my own now. Stay tuned! This I know- buttermilk makes a good pie. And, I must share our friend Dolan’s beautiful pie-eating tradition- Cut off the tip of your pie piece and save it for your last bite upon which you can make a wish! I wished for something big on this buttermilk slice!

I baked more pies for the Red Barn Round-Up this past week, too.

And I close this post with a little youtube from our last Red Barn Round-Up that our friend Korby made…

Recipes for My Brother-In-Law

My Sister broke her foot last week. If you know my Sis, it is hard to imagine her sitting still allowing people to help her as she is usually on the go and in her spare time, can often be found helping women deliver babies on the side of the road, rescuing battered women from gas stations, or saving neglected pups from an unforeseen doom at any given moment. My brother-in-law is a good cook but I thought he could use some more suggestions for quick and easy dinner recipes especially now. So, this post is for him. Meanwhile, we’ll try to help out a few more people in need while she is relegated to the sofa and hobbling around on one foot so the world won’t get too out of balance.

My favorite recipe of last week was a Summer Seafood Cioppino. We went to Margot for our 8th Wedding Anniversary dinner a couple weeks ago and I had a similar dish there and I guess this dish was inspired mostly by that meal. It seemed a good way to use more of the tomatoes from our garden, as well. I bought three different pieces of fish- talapia, cod, and grouper. I chopped up all the veggies and the fish and then let Grant throw it all together and cook it to perfection! Grant is a super great cook. He started cooking as a kid, with his Mom, as a way to get out of cleaning (haha!), and then in college he cooked at a sorority house for his part time job. He’s much faster and more skilled than I but we make a good team as I love coming up with the ideas and shopping for the food and preparing the ingredients. Anyway, back to the Cioppino…

We used chopped vidalia onion, sliced green pepper from the garden, a variety of chopped tomatoes from the garden, 3-4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced, thinly sliced yellow squash, and chopped flat leaf parsley. Also good to have on hand- crusty bread, some aged gouda (Reypanaer 2 year old is my current favorite!) and some dry white wine.

Grant sauteed up the onion in a little olive oil and then added the garlic, squash, and pepper. He then dredged the fish pieces in a little flour mixed with sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, smoky paprika, a little saffron, and thyme and placed it in the same pan. He sauteed that up and then added the tomatoes, some dry white wine, some chicken stock (fish stock would have been ideal), and then simmered. He added in the fresh parsley at the end.

We served it with some steamed asparagus!

It was so delicious, fresh and summery with the use of fresh tomatoes and much lighter  than the winter NW Cioppino version we are accustomed to. Also, the addition of squash gave it a Southern vibe. Leftovers made for a perfect lunch the next day. We just mixed the leftover asparagus right in!

I have to write about pesto again, too- not because it is something I truly love or can’t get enough of, but simply a good way to use up all of my fresh herbs from the garden. (Special note to said Brother-In-Law: you don’t have to use any of those foods y’all can’t eat to make pesto. You can keep it really simple and just use herbs, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and olive oil blended together. You can also add some good Parmesan Reggiano if desired. Maybe you already do that?) So, I’ve been trying my darnedest to come up with more uses for pesto so as to not waste all of that which I made so as to not waste all those beautiful herbs! Here are a few ways we have come up with (I have already posted some of these ideas but wanted to form a more concise thought on this and have them all together):

Pesto makes a wonderful salad dressing base to which you can add a little balsamic or lemon, sugar, and a tab bit more olive oil to:

Use it on toast for an appetizer or lunch, on sandwiches, or on homemade pizzas.

Use it on top of grilled chicken, pork, or fish.

Blend it in to pasta or rice.

Slather pesto over roasted or grilled veggies!

Or blend it into eggs…

Which brings me to breakfast. We were reminded this weekend that breakfast makes a great dinner, too! Here’s our newest pancake recipe- Blueberry Corn Cakes! This recipe is based on the recipe Grant uses for his buttermilk pancakes which he got from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking, which Bray gave us years back. This is one of our favorite go-to cookbooks. We have found so many yummy recipes here. I often get the ideas here and then try to make them a little healthier.

Blueberry Corn Cakes

1/2 cup fine corn meal
1/2 all purpose flour (White Lily)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 egg
3 tbsp melted butter (organic, unsalted)
1 1/4  cup buttermilk (up to 1 1/2 cup, you can adjust for consistency)
fresh blueberries

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, give it a quick whisk. Combine the buttermilk and egg in another bowl with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the melted butter into the buttermilk and egg bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredient together just briefly, until well blended. Do not over mix. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease very lightly with a little butter. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake and then drop 10-12 blueberries in each one. Cook until bubbles appear on top. Flip the pancakes and cook for 30 seconds longer.
Serve hot with butter and maple syrup!

We used stone ground corn meal we bought at the same little mill in Virginia where we found those yummy grits!

We’ve still been able to get local, organic blueberries and they have become a staple for us! My favorite way to eat them (besides just popping them in my mouth!) is to mix them with some plain Greek style yogurt.

And, one final easy dinner recipe for my Brother-In-Law that Grant came up with… Bratwurst Sandwiches. These are man sandwiches but ladies like them, too!

The main fancy ingredient was the special roasted tomato jam he made to put on them which was so amazing, you really can make any kind of sandwich and put this magical ingredient on top and be completely satisfied!

He sauteed up some red onions with the brats…

Here’s the recipe…

Big Smokey’s Fancy Bratwurst Sandwiches

Roasted Tomato Jam:
8 small golden roma tomatoes from the garden, roasted with a little olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp organic cane sugar
Sea salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Red onion, sauteed in a little olive oil
Provolone cheese
Sandwich buns

And the final sandwich looked like this:

Happy cooking!