Happy New Year!

Family Portrait on Thanksgiving Day!

Family Portrait on Thanksgiving Day!

Renewal. That’s the word that keeps popping into my head as I start this new year. 2015 has a nice ring to it, I have to admit. I just successfully made it through another holiday season. Whew… After years of working retail during the holidays and getting caught up in the extra stress often associated, I decided a couple years back that the only way to make it through is to do the very minimum when it comes to celebrating and participating in the festivities. I have worked hard at avoiding all stressful situations during this time. Lucky for us, the real meaning of the season found us anyway. With the new year, we’ve been greeted with so much love from awesome family visits, great times with old dear friends, as well as some fun new friends.

I have felt that the last couple of years have been so difficult for many folks near and dear to us. We lost some dear loved ones and had more friends who were faced with scary health and life challenges. Perhaps it is our age. I have to admit that entering into my 40’s has been more challenging mentally for me than any other decade. The last few months though, I’ve been trying to regroup, alter my perspective on things, reconnect to the people and things that are most important to me, figure out some new paths, get rid of the clutter (literally and metaphorically) and I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable and excited for whatever lies ahead.

One thing that becomes more clear the older I get is the love I feel for family and friends. It becomes easier to let people know how important they are to you. And throughout all these changes and challenges that life offers us as we move through this life, the constants for me that always help keep me grounded and connected to others is good food and music. I feel so grateful that I have always been able to have these two constants in my life.

Final Plate

In keeping our distance with the holidays these past couple of years, Grant and I have used Thanksgiving as a time to try completely new recipes and ways of cooking which has been totally exciting to us. Last year, we had a Korean Thanksgiving and this past Thanksgiving, we did it again but decided to make dumplings! As we have just enjoyed the last two dumplings we had left in the freezer, I thought it was about time to post these recipes. In researching recipes before Thanksgiving, I found this wonderful website by a Korean woman who goes by the name Maangchi. I adore her. She has some great recipes and her videos are really helpful.

I started out by making her recipe for dumpling wrappers and while I did this, Grant was busy working on the dumpling filling.

DoughMandu-Pi (Dumpling Wrappers)
This recipe makes 16 large wrappers, each one roughly 5 ½ to 6 inches in diameter.
2 cups all purpose flour plus ¼ cup extra for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup water

Combine 2 cups of flour, salt, and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until it turns into a lump. Then knead it by hand for a few minutes until the dough gets a little softer. Put it in a plastic bag to keep it from the air and let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes on the kitchen counter.

Take the dough out of the plastic bag. It will be a little softer and moist and easier to handle. Knead it for 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a cutting board dusted with a bit of flour and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Put one half into the plastic bag to keep it from getting dried out as your work on the other half. Cut the piece of dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece out with a rolling pin into 5 ½ to 6 inch round circle disks. They should be a little thinner on the edges than in the middle, because you will eventually be pinching the edges together when making the dumplings, so you don’t want them too thick and doughy. Take the second half out of the bag and make dumpling wrappers out of it using the same method. Use them right away to make dumplings, or freeze them for later. To freeze: Cover a large platter with plastic wrap and put the wrappers on it. Place them so they don’t touch each other, and separate layers of skins with sheets of plastic wrap. When it’s full of skins, cover the entire tray with plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 1 month. To use frozen Mandu-Pi, thaw out at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes before using them to make dumplings.

Dumplings

And here is the recipe for the Kimchi Dumplings. Our version was slightly adapted from her version which can be found with this awesome youtube instruction class here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyEDjmTeGo

Kimchi-Wangmandu (King Sized Kimchi Dumplings)
Makes roughly 16 large dumplings.
½ pound Ground Beef
½ pound Ground Pork
1 tsp finely chopped Fresh Ginger
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Raw Organic Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
1 cup finely chopped Onion
1 cup chopped Green Onions
1 cup Kimchi, chopped
½ cup Firm Tofu
½ cup Bean Sprouts, chopped
1 tsp Salt
Grapeseed Oil
a little flour to dust your fingers

Dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons Tamari
1 tablespoon Rice Wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped Onion
1 Jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp Raw Organic Cane Sugar

Place the beef, pork, garlic, and ginger into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix with 2 teaspoons tamari, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. You can use a food processor if you want to. Heat up a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil. Stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is no longer pink. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and be sure to include the juices from the cooked meat. Add the minced onion, the green onions, and kimchi to the mixing bowl. Squeeze the tofu slightly by hand to remove excess water and add it to the mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Mix well by hand or a wooden spoon until well mixed. Put a wrapper on your palm and add 2 or 3 spoons of filling to the center. Loosely fold it in half vertically. Pinch the bottom on the fold to seal it. Push the right side in a little bit, so the wrapper folds in on itself slightly. Pinch that fold to make a pleat. Do the same on the left side and alternate sides all the way up until the dumpling is sealed. Pinch or wrap the end to seal it. Repeat until you’ve made all dumplings.

Filling

To freeze for later use (up to 3 months):
Set the dumplings on a tray lined with plastic wrap so they aren’t touching each other. Put into the freezer for 8 hours or so, until they are all frozen. Gently put them into a plastic bag or airtight container and put them back into the freezer.

To steam dumplings:
Boil water in a steamer. Line the steamer rack or basket with a parchment paper. Place dumplings in the steamer basket, but be sure to make room between them because they will expand slightly when cooked. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Remove and serve with dipping sauce.

To fry dumplings:
Heat up a skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl to spread the oil evenly. Add some dumplings and cook over medium heat, rotating them so each side gets golden-brown. Lower the heat to low and cover. Cook for a few more minutes. Remove and serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce:
Combine 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon vinegar, ¼ cup chopped onion,  jalapeño in a bowl. Mix well. Optionally, if you like it sweet, add 1 teaspoon brown sugar.

Dumplings & Beans

In making the mashed potatoes, Grant saved the skins and, not wanting to ever waste any food (plus, always looking for more delicious snacks), he lightly fried the skins for a little pre-meal appetizer! Genius idea.

Potato Skins

Kimchi Mashed Potatoes

We made a few fried dumplings and a few steamed. I think the steamed ones were my favorite! We served the dumplings with green beans that had been sauteed with shiitake mushrooms and some kimchi mashed potatoes! As an appetizer (it was Thanksgiving after all), Grant made these yummy chicken wings that he threw together. We enjoyed these with some delicious homemade cider our friend David made for us.

T-day Korean Wings

Korean BBQ Chicken Wings
12 Chicken Wings
¼ cup Tamari
¼ cup Rice Wine
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp Hot Korean Chili Paste (or Sriracha)
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients (excluding the chicken & grapeseed oil) together in a bowl. Add chicken and cover. Marinate 2 hours or overnight. Heat an iron skillet on stove on medium high. Add grapeseed oil. Take chicken out of marinade but reserve the marinade. Put the chicken wings in the pan skin side down and sear until a golden brown. Flip chicken wings over with tongs or a fork. Place skillet in the oven for 20 minutes to finish cooking. While those are cooking, heat the marinade in a saucepan over medium heat to reduce by half. Use this to baste the chicken wings a couple of times for the last 10 minutes of baking time. Remove the skillet from the oven and cool for a couple minutes. Serve!

And for dessert, I made these cookies which I adapted from another shortbread recipe I came up with awhile back.

Shortbread

Ginger Raisin Shortbread
¾ cup Powdered Sugar
½ tsp Sea Salt
2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
½ cup Raisins, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
¼ cup Buttermilk
¼ cup Raw Cane Sugar (for sprinkling on the top of the cookies)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix sugar, salt, and flour together in a bowl. Add butter. Use your finger to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, slowly and gently like you would pie crust. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice. Once the butter is mixed in, add raisins, ginger, and buttermilk. Mix together. Gather dough into ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can roll dough out and cut cookies with a cookie cutter or roll into a log and slice. Sprinkle each cookie with a little raw cane sugar. Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Music

Left & Middle- Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers play at Santa’s Pub every Sunday 7-9pm. Right- Kenny Vaughan Trio playing happy hour at The 5 Spot (Jan 2015).

We’ve been enjoying some fun Happy Hour shows around town and our usual weekly musical events and sincerely hope to follow through on my resolution of more live music in 2015 in the weeks to come… Happy New Year everyone!

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Oat Cakes, Blue Cheese & Bluegrass

Oat Crackers & Blue Cheese

Oat Cake Crackers served with Dunbarton Blue.

Grant and I both love whole grain, very slightly sweet crackers that are really somewhere in between a cracker and a cookie. When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, we could find these up in Canada or in specialty food stores around Seattle. Often they are labeled “Digestive Aids” and are popular in British food sections. In Scotland, they call them Oat Cakes. They are a perfect companion to really good cheese, especially blue cheese. I’ve been hanging out lots at The Bloomy Rind and she has an excellent selection of U.S. artisan blue cheeses. So many! I’ve been slowly working my way through all of them which made me start to crave the little oat crackers I can’t seem to find anywhere around these parts. So, I came up with my own recipe! It’s really hard to know what to call them since the idea seems to stem from the Scottish Oat Cakes yet, they are more like cookies but since they aren’t very sweet, they are also kind of a cracker. I decided to call them Oatmeal Cake Crackers.

Oat Cracker Dough

Oatmeal Cake Crackers
1 ½ cups Rolled Oats, coarsely ground in a food processor
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
¼ cup Demerara Sugar (or Cane Sugar or Brown Sugar)
¾ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ cup Unsalted Butter
¼ cup Buttermilk (I used Hatcher whole buttermilk.)

Oat Crackers on Sheet

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together with your hands or a food processor. Roll out on a floured surface to ¼” thickness. Using a small biscuit cutter, cut into rounds and place on a cookie sheet. Brush the tops with egg white. Bake for 15-16 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. These are delicious with cheese, especially the blue or cheddar varieties.

Oat Crackers Baked

Last weekend was a big bluegrass weekend for us as Grant’s bluegrass band, Off The Wagon, had three shows. Saturday they played The Station Inn and our friend Bradford Lee Folk joined them for a few songs. It reminded me of how much I love his voice and that I forgot to mention his new album, Somewhere Far Away, which came out a couple months back.

Bradford  & OTW

We first became familiar with Brad, or at least his voice, back when we lived in Seattle and we saw his old band Open Road play one of our favorite venues, the Tractor Tavern. So, when we first met him in Nashville a few years back, we were thrilled he had moved to town and excited to hear his new music. What a voice!

Brad&Mic-2

You can find his new cd plus lots of other good merch and his touring dates all on his website here. His songs are so beautiful and his voice is really unique. Definitely check his music out!

Brad at Roberts

 

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.

What Month Is It Anyway?

Oh my God, I think we just hibernated through the entire summer. While I am still holding on to the last few hot days with sadness that it has passed so quickly and that we were so preoccupied with some heavy life stuff to really notice, deep down inside, I am sort of yearning for fall and all that comes with it. Our best summer moments were spent up in Washington for our dear friend’s beautiful wedding during what everyone there said was the best weather week of the summer. It was glorious- the weather, the food, our friends and family, so much love and celebration.

Seattle 1

Seattle 2

Seattle 3

Seattle 4

For one of the celebrations, a family picnic, a small group of us made some salads. This potato salad recipe below was one of the dishes that Grant and I contributed and our friend asked for the recipe. Grant and I made it up, based loosely on one his sister makes which I think is based on a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Here is how it went…

Potato Salad

Cornichon Potato Salad
6 large Red Potatoes (about 5 or so cups), washed, cubed, cooked in boiling water until done
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
⅓ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Liquid from the Cornichons
1 Tbsp Raw Organic Cane Sugar
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste (1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper is what we used)
⅓ cup Cornichons, chopped
¼ cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
¼ cup Fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped

Drain potatoes and let cool. In a small bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, Cornichon liquid, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper together to form a dressing. Mix the herbs and cornichons in with the potatoes. Pour the dressing over and gently stir.

For some time now, I’ve known about all the health benefits of eating quinoa yet, neither Grant nor I really love it. Still, I continue to try to make it in new ways with new combinations and usually we have the same results. It tastes OK but we just don’t love it. Finally, I came up with this little recipe that we both enjoyed and happily ate all the leftovers. I used it to stuff some small Italian peppers from our garden. It made for a colorful dinner. I served the stuffed peppers with Rosemary Roasted Cauliflower.

Peppers

Peppers & Pinenuts

Italian Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large Tomatoes, sliced
½ Red Onion, sliced
A few glugs Olive Oil
1 cup Quinoa, cooked
¼ cup Pine Nuts
¼ cup Fresh Chopped Italian Herbs (I used parsley, basil, and lemon basil.)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 cloves Garlic, crushed & chopped
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
Bell Peppers (I used mini ones but any will do.)

Quinoa

Slice the tomatoes and toss with the onions and a small amount of olive oil. Roast them in the oven at 400 for about 20-25 minutes. Cook the quinoa (be careful not to cook too long, you don’t want it too mushy), drain any excess water, and set aside. Once the tomatoes are done, mix all of the ingredients (except the peppers) together and then stuff the peppers. Rub a tiny bit of olive oil on the outside of the peppers and cook in a baking dish on 375 for about 25-30 minutes. If you have excess of the quinoa mixture, it makes a great salad.

08-26

And rapidly trying to eat more and more basil before it all completely flowers (but excited for fall soups!), I came up with this lovely lemony Basil Pea Soup. It is very light and flavorful.

Flowering Basil

Basil Pea Soup
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Vidalia Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic
4 cups Frozen Peas
Juice of 1 small Lemon
1 tsp Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
5 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Basil Leaves
1 cup Walnuts, lightly toasted
Parmesan, grated for garnish (optional)

Soup

Heat soup pot on medium. Add oil. Saute onion until it begins to turn translucent. Add garlic. Stir. Add peas, lemon, salt and pepper. Stir. Cook for a few minutes to heat the peas and let the flavors coalesce. Remove from heat. In small batches, blend the basil, walnuts, and the soup to puree. Be careful not to fill blender too full with the hot liquid as the heat can make the top of the blender come off and cause the hot liquid to splatter. So, don’t get burned. Return to heat. Heat for a few minutes. Stir. Serve. I topped with some grated parmesan but this is purely optional.

Basil Pea Soup

I will close with this little cookie recipe I came up with based on another I adapted from somewhere… Just the right little ending to any meal. I like to refrigerate the batter and bake a few at a time so I can’t get all Cookie Monsterish or anything.

cookies

Small Batch Nutty Cacao Cookies
1 cup White Lily Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Sea Salt
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
¼ tsp Baking Powder
½ cup Light Brown Sugar
½ cup Cane Sugar
1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
1 Egg
1 big tsp. Vanilla Extract
¼ cup Cacao Powder
½ cup Chopped Raw Mixed Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pepitas, lightly toasted and chopped)
Sprinkle tops with Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl. Mix the butter with the sugars using a mixer. Add the egg and vanilla. Mix. Add the cacao, flour mixture, and nuts. Form into small balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Bake for 12-13 minutes.

More music coming soon!

Cookies Are Good (& So Is Derek Hoke’s New Album)

Vanilla Wafers on vintage plate and *brand new* Dolan Geiman table cloth!

We don’t actually eat many sweets but I love making desserts, especially for guests. My Momma brought me up right! However, unlike my Mom, I tend to gravitate towards desserts that aren’t too sugary. I often use less sugar than a recipe calls for (to which Grant always reminds me, “We are in the South now, people like things sweeter!”), use alternate natural sweeteners, or just select recipes that are naturally less sweet. These recent dessert recipes struck a chord with me.

Vanilla Wafers with Noble Springs Dairy fresh chevre.

I took that Vanilla Wafer recipe (I altered it a little so am posting here again) and first paired it with some fresh chevre from Noble Springs Dairy. This was a special flavor, chocolate, that they don’t always have but you could easily make up some of your own, I would think, starting with a plain chevre. These would also be delicious with their Apricot Honey Chevre!

Vanilla Wafers
½ cup Unsalted Butter
½ cup Raw Cane Sugar
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350. With a mixer, mix sugar and butter together until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix. Refrigerate for about half an hour. Roll dough out to ¼” on a well floured board or pastry cloth. Cut with a small cookie cutter. (Or you can form dough in a log and slice.) Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet and they will crisp up.

My Dad and Stepmom were recently visiting and I used these same vanilla wafers to make Banana Pudding. I used little ramekins and tiny jars to make individual servings.

I found this Vanilla Pudding recipe to work well. I combined a Real Simple recipe with a Martha Stewart recipe and came up with this…

Vanilla Pudding
½ cup Cane Sugar
3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
½ tsp Sea Salt
2 cups Whole Milk (I used local Hatcher Dairy milk)
2 Egg Yolks (I used local Willow Farms)
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Vanilla Bean

Whisk together sugar, flour, and salt in a saucepan. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add both the seeds and the pod to the pan. Pour ¼ cup of the milk in and whisk it together to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and the yolks. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. DO not allow it to boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the butter. Pour into a bowl or, if making individual Banana Puddings as I did, have tiny jars or ramekins laid out. Place a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each and then place about 5 slices of banana on top of the cookie. Pour pudding over and then top with another cookie or cookie crumbs and cover with wrap. Let cool and then refrigerate for at least one hour.

Inspired by my friend (and pastry chef at City House) Rebekah’s amazing homemade cookies, in particular here- her graham crackers, I decided to try to make my own. I looked at many recipes online and adapted this one from Smitten Kitchen (which she had adapted from a couple other sources). Mine went like this…

Graham Crackers
2 ½ cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
¾ cup Brown Cane Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Sea Salt
7 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
¼ cup Honey (I used local Wildflower.)
1 Tbsp Molasses
5 Tbsp whole milk
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the topping, mix together:
2 Tbsp Cane Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon

Mix the flour together with the sugar, baking soda, and salt in a big bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix the honey with the molasses, milk, and vanilla using a whisk. Add the butter to the flour mixture. I just used my hands to gently crumble the butter while mixing it with the flour, as I do for making pie dough. Then once the butter is incorporated and not larger than rice grains, I poured the honey mixture in and combined. Divide the dough into two portions and pat into a rectangle about 1” thick and wrap it up. Chill for an hour or two. Flour a dough board or pastry cloth. Roll the chilled dough out to ⅛” thickness. Trim the edges to form a straight edge on all sides. Cut into desired sizes. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar and place crackers on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Of course, the thought of graham crackers always brings to mind homemade S’mores so I searched for a more natural recipe for marshmallow cream and found one from Bon Appetit that sounded promising. I added a some cacao powder to include the chocolate element and made these little S’more Sandwich Grahams!

Homemade Marshmallow Creme
¾ cup Cane Sugar, divided
¼ cup Water
¼ cup Cacao (I like Navitas brand.)
4 Egg Whites
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Vanilla

Combine ½ cup sugar with ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cacao. Occasionally swirl pan and brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush. Using a candy thermometer, simmer until thermometer reads 240. Place egg whites, salt, and vanilla in a bowl and mix on high until frothy. Slowly add the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Whip until peaks form and then pour the hot syrup into the meringue in a slow, steady stream while whipping. Increase mixer speed to high and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and whip until meringue is cool. Use this to sandwich between two homemade graham crackers! YUM!

I can only imagine that these homemade grahams would also make an amazing crust for your favorite Key Lime Pie recipe. I have never made a Key Lime Pie- mostly because I never need to. Our friend and Red Barn Round-Up cohort, Allison, makes the best! She very kindly agreed to share her recipe here.

Allison makes all sorts of yummy treats!

Allison’s Key Lime Pie is a regular to our Red Barn Round-Up parties, as pictured on far left.

Allison’s Key Lime Pie
Allison originally got her recipe from the bottle of the Nellie and Joe’s Key Lime Juice! The trick, though, is a good crust. They say graham cracker, but she makes hers out of crushed gingersnaps. She says a mix of half graham cracker crumbs and half gingersnap crumbs works well, also.

9″ graham cracker pie crust (or gingersnaps)
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
½ cup Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice

Combine milk, egg yolks and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust and bake at 350º for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating.

By the way, did you know that Derek Hoke’s favorite pie is Key Lime Pie? It is.

Grant’s been playing with Derek Hoke for a couple years now. It was actually Allison who first introduced us to Derek’s music, specifically, his first album, Goodbye Rock N Roll. (I love that album.) Grant started playing for him shortly thereafter.

Grant & Derek at the 5 Spot. August, 2010.

And speaking of Derek Hoke, last week was Derek Hoke week in our neighborhood. His brand new, very anticipated album, Waiting All Night, was just released. This follow up album, produced by Dexter Green, features eleven new Hoke songs and world-class musicians. It is pretty awesome. Last Monday he was interviewed on my favorite radio station, WSM, where he and the band played a couple songs and talked with Bill & Charlie (my fav!). Then on Tuesday, he had his album release party at the celebrated 5 Spot and played to a packed house.

Derek Hoke Album Release party. 5 Spot. August, 2012.

He even has new merch! That’s right. You heard me! Hurry up before it sells out! Then on Sunday, he and the band (who were dubbed “The Hoke Ridge Boys” for last week) did an in-store at The Groove record store. Allison and I provided treats (cookies and biscuits and pies, oh my!) and dj Tim Hibbs played some of the best music ever heard from a vintage 45! All in all, it was a good week for Derek Hoke, but it doesn’t stop here… get a copy of the new album now and watch the new video here (featuring a special guest appearance by our friend Rose!).

Listen out for interviews (NPR y’all!) and upcoming shows. And, there’s always $2 Tuesdays at the 5 Spot… always Derek Hoke, always fun, always $2. See you there!

Dreaming of Spain (As I Listen to Davis Raines)

Grant and I love Spanish food. For years, we have dreamed of traveling to Spain to experience all the amazing food and wine first-hand. While living in Seattle, we settled for celebrating special occasions at one of our favorite restaurants, Harvest Vine, and shopping for all of our favorite Spanish ingredients at the Spanish Table down near Pike Place Market. Grant learned to make an incredible Paella from an old Spanish man who he knew through his wine job way back when. Now, living here in middle Tennessee, we still dream of our future trip to Spain and enjoy a Paella feast from time to time made with ingredients we’ve either ordered online, had friends bring to us, or scraped together serendipitously through various trips all over town.

Big Smokey’s Paella, March 2012

A couple years ago we stumbled upon an Anthony Bourdaine episode in which he was in Spain, enjoying the grilled Spring onion festival with a family in the countryside. We were reminded of this last week as we grilled up a bunch of vegetables, and decided to throw some spring onions on.

As we tasted them, we were immediately reminded of our friend, Bray’s Romesco Sauce and thought that would be the perfect dipping sauce for the sweet grilled onions.

This is one of Bray’s most famous dishes so I immediately contacted her for the recipe. Meanwhile, the spring onions had run their course and were no longer available at the farmer’s market but we found some red scallions and some green onions and we made it work! We also grilled some potatoes and zucchini to enjoy with it and decided to grill the red peppers for the Romseco instead of using jarred roasted red peppers which the recipe originally called for. Here is our adaptation of Bray’s recipe which she originally adapted from an Epicurious recipe.

Grilled Pepper Romesco Sauce
1/3 cup Whole Raw Almonds, blanched to remove skins and then toasted
1 slice Whole Grain Artisan Bread, torn into pieces
1 Garlic Clove
½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ tsp Smoked Paprika
1 large Grilled Red Pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
½ tsp coarse Sea Salt, or to taste
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 Tbsp water to thin out a little

Finely grind almonds, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika in a food processor. Add grilled peppers, vinegar, and salt, then purée, adding oil in a slow stream. Add a little water to thin out (because grilling the peppers makes them drier). We found the sauce to be so versatile- delicious as a dipping sauce but also amazing on sandwiches, over pasta, as a bruschetta topping, and as a side dish on top of grilled potato rounds! YUM!

(Side note: I never knew how easy it was to blanch almonds. All you have to do is throw the almonds in boiling water for 1 minute exactly. Remove from the water. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze each almond in your fingers and the skins slip right off! Easy! The whole process took about 10-15 minutes.)

Speaking of sauces, we had a major heat wave this week and suddenly, our poor little raised bed garden was in danger! I saw the basil begin to shrivel up so I picked a bunch of it to save it and made a couple different pestos. I made a classic walnut one with the Genovese basil and with the Thai Purple basil, I combined it with a little lemon basil, cilantro, garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt and olive oil for a Thai sauce. Not yet sure exactly what we will make with it but I think it would be great as a marinade for a grilled chicken satay, a start to an Asian salad dressing, or to top a piece of grilled fish.

Also last week, I finally got to hear the great songwriting and sound of Davis Raines. This guy is the real deal, y’all. He’s from Alabama and he has an old school country music vibe. I felt like I had discovered a lost country music soul! Listening to his new album, Santa Maria Hotel, I am sometimes reminded of Merle Haggard and occasionally he conjures up a little of Wayon’s spirit with some cut-time drum beat but this album is not a copy cat album of any sort. It is all Davis Raines and really great. What a great list of musicians on this album, too- you need this album! (You can see a youtube of a Nashville performance at Douglas Corner here.)

Davis Raines at the Station Inn June 2012 (phone photo!)

I’m going to make some more of those homemade Vanilla Wafers this weekend to enjoy with some homemade Peach Ice Cream!!!

Vanilla Wafers
½ cup Unsalted Butter
½ cup Raw Cane Sugar
¼ cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350. With a mixer, mix sugar and butter together until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and mix. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix. Refrigerate for about half an hour. Roll dough out to ¼” on a well floured board. Cut with a small cookie cutter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet and they will crisp up.

And I close with this little tip- Vinho Verde helps keep you sane during the heat wave!

Stay cool, y’all!

SPRINGTASTIC!

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…

How’s The World Treating You

Charlie Louvin at Grimey's 2007.

Tonight, Nashville is mourning the loss of one of its own, Mister Charlie Louvin. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him play live. I believe it was three years ago. He had a new album out and our friend Mike was elated to have him play in his record shop. It was quite crowded but we arrived early and were standing right in front so I could get some photos. As he sang, I noticed a shiny penny on the floor right between Charlie and me. After he played, he reached down, picked up the penny, handed it to me and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” I still have that penny from Charlie Louvin but he gave me so much more- the songs he created with brother Ira years ago will live on forever. Their beautiful harmonies set the bar pretty high for aspiring songbirds. His stage banter was sometimes unsettling- off color jokes, sexist remarks- you never knew what was going to come out of that man’s mouth but when the music started, you suddenly knew the world was truly blessed by his presence.

Charlie's 80th Birthday party at Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree 07/07/2007.

Thank you, Charlie Louvin, and I hope you left knowing just how much better the world is because of your musical contributions.

(And now I plan to write about food that Charlie Louvin would have probably hated!)

On to some cooking… Winter is kicking my butt this year! I have been freezing cold and it just seems more difficult to eat healthy in the winter months. There are not as many yummy fresh seasonal fruits and veggies available to choose from and with the colder temperatures, I think I get an unconscious urge to bulk up with comfort foods.

I try not to eat too many soy products but in moderation, soy can be a healthy substitute for meat and there are many health benefits to eating fermented soy in the form of miso or tofu. We have been experimenting some these past couple of weeks. Here are a few simple recipes we came up with. Grant is the genius behind this first one…

Pan Roasted- Miso Marinated Salmon

2 Tbsp red miso
2 Tbsp tamari
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp warm water
2 pieces salmon
1 tsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients together to form a saucey paste. Place marinade in a bowl and place salmon, skin side down in the marinade for one hour. Flip salmon over for another hour. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon in a cast-iron skillet or any other oven proof dish with a drizzle of olive oil on the bottom to prevent sticking. Roast salmon, skin side down with some of the miso paste on top for approximately 10 minutes. Add more miso paste to top of salmon and then set under high broiler for about 2 minutes until top is brown and bubbly.

Miso Soup

Miso soup can be as easy to make as adding a spoonful of miso to some hot water! This seems too easy for me so I usually have a more elaborate plan… I like to saute onions, tofu, mushrooms, and garlic and then add some Nama Shoyu, brown rice vinegar… In a separate pot, heat some water for noodles. Add in soba noodles. When the noodles are almost done, add in a couple big spoonfuls of miso. Next, add sauteed veggies and some frozen corn. Add some spinach leaves & cilantro and eat it up!

Next, I offer up a few tofu recipes. I will admit, I don’t love tofu by itself and these recipes aren’t the healthiest ways to eat tofu but they do make the tofu taste pretty yummy! One of my very first introductions to eating tofu was when I was in college and living in Athens, Georgia. One of the hippest vegetarian restaurants (then and now), The Grit, serves up good ol’ Southern food but vegetarian style. One of their most popular dishes is the Grit-style Tofu. You can find this and many more yummy vegetarian recipes in their cookbook.

Grit-Style Tofu

1 block firm tofu
grape seed oil
Tamari or Nama Shoyu
Nutritional yeast

Cut tofu in cubes. Lightly oil a skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to heat slightly and then add tofu. Saute, tossing with a spatula until evenly lightly golden brown. Sprinkle lightly with the tamari and saute briefly to further brown tofu. Remove from skillet, draining and discarding any excess oil.

Rinse and wipe skillet dry. Lightly oil skillet and place over high heat. Allow oil to become very hot. Saute tofu again, tossing with a spatula until evenly browned. Sprinkle with tamari to taste. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast to coat, tossing vigorously. Saute for a few seconds and then remove from heat.

Grit Style Tofu with vegetables and brown rice.

Because tofu is most commonly used in Asian cooking, I sometimes forget about cooking it in other styles. I came up with this next recipe as a way to broaden my thinking of tofu. I think it turned out quite nicely. We’ve been really hungry for Mediterranean food lately (and wishing for a Mediterranean climate!). There was a Greek restaurant in Seattle called Yanni’s that served the most amazing lemon roasted potatoes. We think of those potatoes quite often. They were the main inspiration for this dish. We served the potatoes and tofu steaks with a Greek salad.

Greek Style Tofu Steaks with Lemon Potatoes
Serves 2

1 block tofu, cut into 2 thin blocks approx. 1” thick
1 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt (I used homemade rosemary sea salt)
freshly ground black pepper
grape seed oil

Mix flour with spices. Coat tofu steaks with flour mixture. Get skillet hot, add grape seed oil (2-3 Tbsp). Add tofu steaks to skillet and brown on each side, using tongs to flip.


Lemon Roasted Potatoes

4-6 red potatoes, washed
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sea salt (or less)
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tsp water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut potatoes into cubes. Place in a baking dish with olive oil. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top and toss with salt and pepper. Add 1 tsp water. Place in oven, stirring every 15 minutes. After half an hour, add more lemon juice. Roast for a total of 45 minutes to an hour.

And for my last tofu trick… this dish was inspired by a dish we had at a Chinese restaurant long ago.

Chinese Style Tofu with Mushrooms & Baby Bok Choy

1 block extra firm tofu, cut into little triangles
1-2 cups flour
1 tsp 5 Spice
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 Tbsp grape seed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 cups mixed mushrooms (shiitakes, chantrells, button…), sliced
3 bunches baby bok choy, chopped
2 Tbsp Nama Shoyu
2 Tbsp Mirin (rice wine)
1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1 Tbsp organic corn starch
2 Tbsp water

Cut tofu into triangles. Mix flour with next 5 ingredients in a medium size bowl. Heat pan on the stove on medium high. Add 2 Tbsp grape seed oil. Coat tofu wedges in flour mixture and place in oil. Brown tofu on both sides and then place on paper towel to drain. In another pan (or same one, cleaned), heat 1 Tbsp grape seed oil. Add onion and saute. Add in garlic, mushrooms, and bok choy. Add in Nama Shoyu, Mirin, and stir. Mix corn starch with water and sugar. Add tofu back into the pan and coat with the vegetables and sauce. Add corn starch mixture. Stir. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

All week, we’ve been totally enjoying Espresso Banana Muffins for breakfast. I found this recipe in Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. They are delicious!

And, I will close with another cookie recipe. This is another variation of those yummy Flat & Chewy Cookies from the Saveur and NY Times cookbook that I blogged about a few weeks back. I think the secret to making really delicious and much healthier food is using really good quality ingredients. I think you can really taste and feel a difference.

Pistachio & Cacao Cookies

1 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 cup organic cane sugar
2 sticks unsalted organic butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour (White Lily’s the best!)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
⅓ cup raw cacao powder
1 cup roughly chopped raw pistachios

In a bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla. Add flour, salt, soda and stir in. Add cacao and nuts. Mix until just combined. Chill. Once batter is cold, form into 3 small logs about ¾”-1” thick. Wrap in plastic and keep in refrigerator or you can freeze.

Heat oven to 350°. Slice dough logs into ½” thick discs and transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3″ apart, and gently flatten. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Over and out… hey, which reminds me that I should blog about my love of Trucker Music soon!!

Embraceable Cauliflower

Yeah, so maybe cauliflower isn’t very huggable (and this post’s title probably won’t make it very popular) but we’ve come a long way from our meager beginnings together. Many of us seem to have grown up with certain vegetable voids for a variety of reasons. Asparagus was scarce in South Carolina back in the 1970’s- I barely knew what it was until I was an adult. Neither Grant nor I knew what to do with Brussels sprouts when we first started receiving them in our CSA box back in Seattle ten years ago and now we love them! Then there’s the matter of zucchini and cauliflower in which case my Mom does not like so we just never ate them growing up. My earliest memory of cauliflower is seeing it on the salad bar at a Western Sizzler!  Years passed and I only ever considered cauliflower as an ingredient for crudité platters, in its raw state. That is until about six years ago when our West Seattle neighbors, Terry and David, invited us over for dinner. They had an amazing cheese platter which I will never forget but they also served pureed cauliflower in the place of mashed potatoes (cauliflower had a little resurgence here in the US of A in the post-Atkins low-carb diet boom). This potato substitute was delicious and I kept meaning to replicate it time and time again but never did for some unknown reason. Fast forward to two weeks ago when two childhood friends, Laura and Shannon, visited. We were sitting around eating and Shannon mentioned cauliflower and wondered why no one really ever ate it. I took this little curiosity as a challenge and couldn’t stop thinking about what we could do to enjoy more cauliflower. It is quite nutritious with antioxidant, antibiotic and antiviral properties (all the good antis) and it is helpful in cases of asthma, kidney and bladder disorders, high blood pressure, and constipation. We first set out to eat it as a side dish and borrowed an Italian preparation Grant had learned from his friend Marisio awhile back.We sauteed it in browned butter until it was soft and then topped it with sea salt, black pepper, and grated Parmesan Reggiano.

The following week, we made a pasta dish with sauteed white onions, cauliflower, a little lemon zest, and chopped olives (a mix of green manzanilla and kalamata) in olive oil. We served it over fettuccine with finely grated Parmesan Reggiano.

In our search for recipe ideas, we also came up with some gratins- topped with bread crumbs and cheese (YUM) and cauliflower soups. Of course, the health benefits are best reaped when eaten raw so salads are still the best bet for ideal cauliflower consumption. Speaking of which, I noticed a delicious looking raw cauliflower salad in the deli of the new Turnip Truck Urban Fare which consisted of pistachios and grapes. Pistachios make most things seem more delectable…

And speaking of olives… I am amazed at the lack of really good olives in Nashville. It is impossible to find good olives here. I did a big internet search this past weekend, though, and have good olives on the way thanks to La Tienda out of Virginia. Olives are on the way!

Back to those fried green tomatoes- which are STILL lingering around- Grant has perfected his method and I think this might be one of my new favorite foods. We enjoyed them this weekend for brunch again with cheese grits and turkey sausage. It was a nasty-good Southern mess of a meal…

Grant’s Fried Green Tomatoes

green ‘maters right off the vine
1 egg
1/4 c milk
1/2 c fine corn meal
1/2 c flour
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt

Wash and slice tomatoes- not too thin or too thick. Mix the milk and egg together in one bowl. Mix the corn meal and flour with the spices. You may need to adjust the spices to taste. (Grant never measures anything so this is a guess but should get you close to perfection!) Dip the tomato slices in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture. Fry in a frying pan coated with olive or grape seed oil.

And my grits were really great this time- here’s how I did it. I used the local stone ground grits- Falls Mill White Corn Grits- which I found to be coarser than my usual stone ground grits.

Cheese Grits

half an onion, chopped finely
green pepper, chopped finely (I used the little Italian ones from the garden)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 tbsp organic butter
1 cup stone ground grits
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup organic milk (I used 2%)
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used half sharp cheddar, half Parmesan Reggiano)

Saute onion in butter. Add peppers and then garlic. Add the grits. Stir. Add the water, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally. Cook for about 30-40 minutes until consistency is smooth and thick. Add the milk and stir again. Stir in the grated cheese.

And here is the final mess, all together… (Note: I added a little maple syrup in the bottom which Grant finds very odd and does not do. It is delicious but maybe not for everyone.)

Puttering around on Sunday with the ipod on, I was reminded how much I LOVE Hayes Carll’s music. He is an amazing songwriter and he is also from Texas and it has been my observation that this combination of characteristics makes for some fine folks.

Hayes Carll at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville- Dec 2008

You can find out more about him and buy his music here.

I found a yummy cookie recipe in the latest Saveur mag. It is actually a NY Times cookbook recipe. It might be a new favorite! They really are flat and chewy, sweet and salty. I’ll definitely make this one again.

Flat & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups flour
1 scant tbsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
1 1⁄2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. finely shaved bittersweet chocolate
8 oz. finely ground walnuts

1. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. In a bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in vanilla. Add reserved flour mixture, chocolate, and nuts; mix until just combined; chill.

2. Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 1-tbsp. portions; roll into balls, transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3″ apart, and flatten. Bake until set, about 15 minutes.

And, speaking of desserts, we went to the art walk this weekend and observed Bryce McCloud’s (Isle of Printing) Old Fashioned Pie Throw in which he invited all to partake at throwing a pie at him for a mere $5!

It was a super fun event complete with two dancing ladies and a Hawaiian band featuring Chris Scruggs and Fats Kaplin. We just gauked and loitered (until Grant bought me this poster!).

We also ventured up to Estel Gallery to gawk at our friends Harry Underwood and Mister Hooper‘s newest paintings. I’ve decided Grant and I need to strive to be more like Herb & Dorothy Vogel as we grow old… Their story, by the way, makes for an amazing movie. Check it out!

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
Ingredients:
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…