Colorful Winter

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

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

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

2- Colorful

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

3-SwtPotSoup

Simple Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
4-6 servings

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

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

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

4-turkey meatballs

Turkey Meatballs in a Vegetable Nut Ragu
Serves 4

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

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

Meatballs

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

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

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

5-chocolate bar

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

Chocolate Almond Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

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

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

6-cookies

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

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

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

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

Comfort in a Bowl of Soup & New Music

icy

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

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

Soup ingred

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

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

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

cauliflower soup-2

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

Santa's Pub

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

Santas

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

Johnny Appleseed

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

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

Party Food & A Salad

Chicken Wings & Salad I sort of love chicken wings! No one ever wants to order them out with me and I really never do either because of the guilt. They are nasty-good. But, ever so often, I find some chicken wings in a store from a well-sourced place and I bring them home and Grant makes some for me. He prepares them a little bit healthier than what we’d find in a restaurant. They are way tastier, too! I thought it’d be a good time to share it with it being Super Bowl Weekend and all (Go Seahawks!).

Big Smokey’s BBQ Chicken Wings
Dry Rub:

  • ½ cup Cane Sugar
  • ½ cup Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 4 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 18-24 Chicken Wings

Mix rub ingredients together and rub liberally over chicken wings. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Sauce:

  • ½ Cup Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Cup Ketchup
  • 4 Tbsp Guava Paste (or 3 Tbsp Molasses)
  • 3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Worchestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco Sauce to taste

Warm all ingredients together in a sauce over medium low heat until guava paste breaks up and melts (approx 15 minutes) then put aside.

Preheat oven to 375. Heat a large iron skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of bacon fat or oil of choice. When fat is smoking, place wings in pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides. Take off of heat and baste with the sauce and cook in the oven for 25 minutes basting and turning a few times. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Chicken Wings

Now, sometimes we keep some of the Big Smokey’s Dry Rub mixture up in the cupboard but the other day we ran out and I happened to have some local, Rhino Rub seasoning blend. I used that and it works great! If you live in Nashville, check it out! You can find it at The Turnip Truck.

I came up with this salad to go with the Big Smokey’s BBQ Chicken Wings and it was so delicious, we ate it three more times in the next few weeks without the chicken. Below is the original recipe and then, the two alternate vegetarian-friendly meal options.

Celery Salad

Celery & Blue Cheese Salad
Serves 2-4 (depending on serving size- whether it is a side salad or an entree)

  • 2 Carrots, chopped
  • 2 Celery Ribs, chopped
  • 4 Radishes, sliced
  • 1 Shallot, finely sliced
  • Small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Romaine Hearts (1 small head or half of a large head)
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 oz Blue Cheese (Point Reyes or Maytag), crumbled

Mix the chopped carrots, celery, shallot, and parsley in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and vinegar (not too much, maybe a Tbsp or so). Mix together well. Wash and dry the romaine. Chop into small pieces and add to the mix. Add more vinegar to taste, drizzle with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the blue cheese crumbs on top.

The very next night, I needed to have this salad again and we still had all the ingredients but we didn’t want to have more chicken wings so instead, I toasted some mixed raw nuts in an iron skillet. As they began to get slightly toasted, I mixed in about ½ Tbsp melted butter with a tsp or two of the same dry-rub spices Grant had made the BBQ wings with. I removed the nuts from the pan and let them cool in a bowl. Then I tossed them into the salad above.

Celery Salad wNuts

And then the following week, I made the same salad (without the nuts) and served it with roasted acorn squash which I again seasoned the same way as the chicken wings and the nuts had been. I simply cut the squash in half, put a pat of butter in each half and sprinkled with the dry-rub spice blend. Then, I roasted some seeds- sunflower and pumpkin- in an iron skillet dry. Once they started to get hot, I added in about a teaspoon of maple syrup and a dash of sea salt. I topped the cooked squash with these little salty and sweet seeds. It was delicious and pretty nutritious.

Acorn Squash

Happy eating y’all!

WHOAA…

Photo 1- Ice on Window

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

Photo 1- Hubbard Squash

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

Photo 3- Squash Gallette

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

Place flour and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add butter. Gently mix with your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix. Go slow. The largest pieces of butter should be the size of peas or grains of rice. Sprinkle with 3 Tbsp of ice water. Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated.  Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm.  It should have just enough moisture to stay together.  If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoon at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Roll out, into a circle, onto floured surface as quickly as you can.  Place the rolled out dough onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

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

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

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

Photo 4- Squash Soup

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

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

Photo 5- Squash Soup Final

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

Carrots-Chard-Lentils

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

Lentils Cooking

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

Lentil Soup Final

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

Photo - Beans Final

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

Photo - Beans

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

Photo - Cooking Beans

And here is my favorite cornbread recipe.

Photo - Cornbread & Beans

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

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

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

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

No Need For Blame

Photo 1- Soup

Soup and an attitude adjustment for winter survival!

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

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

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

apples

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

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

Cabbage Soup-1

Cabbage Soup
Makes a big soup pot

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

Cabbage Soup- 2

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

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

Stirfry Veggies

Stirfry to…

Fried Rice to…

Stuffed Peppers…

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

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

Kale Salad w Chili

Winter Kale Salad
Serves 4

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

Kale Salad-1

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

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

Patrick Sweany

Patrick Sweany at the 5 Spot November, 2013.

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

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

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

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

Stay healthy! Happy holiday season!

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!

A Little Late to the Tomato Party…

platter of maters

Wait, here I am! Always late to the party. Actually, if it were a literal party, I would be right on time. I think that’s a Southern trait. However, the party I am referring to is the tomato celebration in our East Nashville neighborhood. I am not a big festival goer so I don’t always make it there in person but The Tomato Art Festival has made our neighborhood famous. We do have some of the best tomatoes in these parts. I love that. My friend Melissa over at Corbin in the Dell won first place and second place in the bruschetta recipe contest at the festival for her yummy recipes! I feel so lucky that she lives right around the corner and I got to sample one of the winning recipes, HO’ Chetta (made with hoe cakes instead of bread and mostly ingredients from her backyard garden), the night before. DELICIOUS!

HO'Chetta

Melissa Corbin’s prize winning entry at the Tomato Art Fest, “HO’ Chetta.”

I have a few more tomato recipes of my own that I’ve been meaning to post. We just returned from a dear friend’s wedding and visiting family in the PNW where the tomatoes were just getting good. Hopefully it isn’t too late for you to enjoy some delicious homegrown tomatoes but if so, you can make use of all those canned tomatoes you put up…

Grits

This first recipe seemed a good way to use the late summer tomatoes that aren’t quite as delicious as the early summer ones. I just love roasted tomatoes. They add so much flavor and excitement to many different dishes. I throw them in everything. I served these Roasted Tomato Grits with some sauteed mixed vegetables from the garden (peppers, onions, okra, and corn) seasoned with smoked paprika and some sauteed kale with a tiny bit of shoyu (or tamari or soy sauce) and then garlic and quince paste thrown in at the end.

Roasted Tomato Grits
(serves 4)
Tomatoes (the equivalent of about 2 cups chopped, I used some cherry tomatoes and 1 large yellow tomato from our garden)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Butter
1 small Vidalia Onion, finely chopped
1 cup White Stone Ground Grits
3 cups Water
1 cup Buttermilk
2 oz Beechers Flagship Cheese, grated (or a sharp cheddar will do)
3 Tbsp Fresh Herbs, chopped (Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Thyme)
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice small tomatoes in half and larger tomatoes in 1” chunks. Place tomatoes in an oven safe baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until they are nice and caramelized but be sure to stir occasionally so they don’t stick or get too dry. Once the tomatoes are out of the oven and a little cooled, chop them a little more. Meanwhile, heat saucepan on medium and add butter. Once the butter begins to brown, add the onion. Cook until translucent. Add the grits and stir. Add the water. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally so grits do not stick to bottom of pan. Once most of the water has been absorbed and the grits are thicker, add the buttermilk. Stir. Cook for a few more minutes until the grits are the consistency you like. Add the cheese. Stir. Add the tomatoes and fresh herbs and stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

I had a birthday a few weeks ago so Grant made me one of my favorites, Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy.

friedchicken

Well it was delicious. We enjoyed it with a Basil Cole Slaw that Grant came up with on the spot. (That’s right, we still have plenty of basil!) Here is his recipe.

Basil Slaw

Basil Cole Slaw
½ head Green Cabbage
¼ cup chopped Fresh Basil
¼ cup chopped Fresh Parsley
1 clove finely chopped Garlic
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Cooking Sherry
2 Tbsp Cane Sugar
1 Tbsp Salt
Black Pepper to taste

Chop the cabbage finely. Chop the fresh herbs and mix with the cabbage in a big bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients to form a dressing. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture. Stir well. Let sit for at least half an hour. Serve.

We made the leftover Fried Chicken and Tomato Gravy into a sort of hash and served that over homemade biscuits with the slaw on the side. I love when leftovers can be reinvented!

_MG_6288

Lady Smokey Biscuits
3 cups All Purpose Soft Wheat Flour (White Lily)
2 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Sea Salt
10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 1/4 cups Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix the salt and baking powder with the flour and then add the chilled butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the butter pieces are a little larger than an English pea, but not larger than a lima bean. Work quickly so that the heat of your hands won’t melt the butter. Pour in all of the buttermilk and, using light pressure, fold the mixture a few times until it holds together. Don’t overmix. In order to make light biscuits, it is important to work the dough as little as possible. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it quickly and gently 4-6 times, just enough to get all the ingredients mixed. Sprinkle a little flour under the dough so that it won’t stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won’t stick to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about ½” thickness. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 11-12 minutes. I like the biscuits to be crispy and brown on the top and bottom, but not dry in the middle.

Listening to the Opry on WSM now. You can, too, every Friday and Saturday night. I will close with this recipe for Tomato Pie I made to take to a Tomato Sandwich Potluck a couple weeks back.

tomatoes

tomatoes in pie
Tomato Crumble Top Pie

1 Dough Ball (Remember to never use store bought please.)
Tomatoes (I chose a variety of small Heirlooms but you can use any variety really. If using big ones, just cut them into bite sized pieces.)
2 Tbsp Corn Meal
Fresh Herbs (I used 3 Tbsp total, a combination of basil, oregano, and parsley.)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
½ cup All Purpose Unbleached White Lily Flour
½ cup Corn Meal
6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into slices
1 cup Cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar and Parmesan Reggiano.)

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough, form into a pie plate, and scallop the edges. Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes. I find this helps the edges keep their form a little better once you place the pie in the oven. Cut the tomatoes in half (or if using larger ones, cut into smaller pieces) and mix with 2 Tbsp corn meal, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs. Place in pie shell. Mix the next few ingredients with your hands or a food processor to form crumbs and cover the tomatoes. Place the pie in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until golden on top and the tomatoes have burst but are not too runny.

I made mini ones in tiny Mason jars, too.

I made mini ones in tiny Mason jars, too.

The little ones are great served as a side dish with some summer veggies!

The little ones are great served as a side dish with some summer veggies!

Enjoy the last of the summer crops!

Eating Herbs While Listening to New Albums

Basil

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

Cilantro

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

Baguette

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

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

Chimichurri Steak

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

Cilantro Pecan Dip

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

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

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

Herby Potatoes

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

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

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

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

Summer Squash Soup

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

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

Tofu

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

Parmesan Tofu

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

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

More Parmesan Reggiano grated on top for garnish

Tomato Sauce-1

Tomato Sauce-2

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

peppers

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

Saute Veggies

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

Tofu final

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Big Bowl of Salad Could Change Your World

Salad

Homer Simpson says, “You don’t make friends with salad,” but I’d like to counter that with this- if you eat lots of salads you will probably be more likeable in the eyes of others and therefore, you just might make new friends. Salads are a good way to put tons of vitamins and nutrients into your body all at once. They can make you feel so good which will make you be happier (Umm, this statement has definitely not been approved by any medical or government organization.), which will therefore make people want to be friends with you. Adding more salads to your diet and eating less non-salad foods can make you sexier and Lord knows, we could all use some more sexy in this world. And let’s face it, salads are delicious. They really are. If you don’t like salads, maybe you’ve just never had a good salad.

This first salad, I came up with, like many recipes in our house, because I had these ingredients on hand and already in my kitchen. But it was so good, I made it again. It has lots of herbs that are really yummy with the Manchego cheese. It’s a little bit Mexican and a little bit Spanish and a whole lot of tasty. It’s a meal in a bowl, however, it would also be great as a side salad with grilled fish or meat.

Manchego Salad

Veggie Salad with Manchego and Cilantro Lime Dressing
(These portions are enough to serve two or me.)
Salad:
A Good Mix of Lettuces and Greens
Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
¼ Red Bell Pepper, cut into small pieces
½ Avocado, cut into cubes
1-2 Red Potatoes, diced and cooked in water until done, then drained and cooled
1 Green Onion, chopped
1 medium sized piece of Manchego Cheese, cut into small pieces

Dressing:
1 medium sized Bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 small Bunch Fresh Oregano
1 clove Garlic
Juice of ½ a Lime
⅓ Jalapeno, seeded
2 Glugs of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Water
Sea Salt to taste

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a medium bowl. Blend all the dressing ingredients together in a blender or little food processor. Pour dressing over and toss.

This next salad is an adaptation of a Hugh Acheson recipe for Dill Pickle Vinaigrette, which he pairs with a salad of local lettuces, feta, and radishes. We made this for our cookbook club and it was great, however, this dressing really made me crave a salad of potatoes and asparagus so I made it again, changing it a bit, and served it as such.

Dill Pickle Dressing

Potato & Asparagus Salad w/ Dill Pickle Vinaigrette
Spring Lettuces
3-4 Red Potatoes, cubed and cooked in water, drained, and cooled
1 bunch Steamed Asparagus, cooled

Vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Grainy Mustard
1 Clove Garlic
1 cup Sliced Kosher Dill Pickles
3 Tbsp Fresh Dill
1 Tbsp Fresh Tarragon
Red Pepper Flakes

Mix all vinaigrette ingredients together in a blender or small food processor. Pour over salad and toss.

Dill Pickle Salad

This next salad was featured on a post for my friend Dolan’s blog recently but I really enjoyed it and wanted to share it here as well. For a meal suggestion with this slaw (yes, slaws are salads, too), you can visit the original post here.

Slaw

Ginger Pear Slaw
1 Bartlett Pear, cored and then cut in slices and then thin 1” pieces
1 small Green Cabbage, thinly chopped
1 bunch fresh Cilantro, chopped
1” piece of fresh Ginger, peeled
1 Shallot, peeled
Juice of 1 Lime
½ cup Brown Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Honey
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix the pear, cabbage, and cilantro together. Mix remaining ingredients together in a food processor or blender to form the dressing. Pour over the cabbage, pear, cilantro mixture and stir.

I used to get so bored with salads but that was because I just wasn’t being creative with them and adding variety into how I made them. Once I realized that you can make any raw veggies into a salad, a whole new way of eating opens up. Raw food doesn’t have to be some new age, crazy way of eating and altering your life. It can be as simple as stopping at the farmer’s market on your way home, buying a few incredible veggies from the farmer who grew them, chopping them up and throwing in a bowl with some herbs and seasonings. A big bowl of color. See, even before it hits your mouth, it makes you happy. Eat up!

Simple salad of tomatoes, cukes, avocado, herbs, salt & pepper. Perfect summertime side or light lunch!

Simple salad of tomatoes, cukes, avocado, herbs, salt & pepper.

Oh, and with spring almost gone and summer creeping up on us, I’d like to mention that salads are excellent with French  Rosés. You know, wine. Oh, I know how much disrespect Rosé gets. Pull out a Rosé and you get a similar reaction that you get when you try to discuss Quiche with boys. Real men don’t eat quiche just as wine drinkers turn their noses up at Rosé. Well, I know lots of real wine folks and they all drink Rosé. I’m not talking about the super sweet cheap American version of pink wine that your granny used to sneak. I am referring to the dry French style. These are delicious and go great with salads and most all of those early summer foods! So, drink up! If you don’t want to believe me, go ask someone here or here. They can advise you and help you find just the right one to help you enjoy all these salads a wee bit more.

Rose

And while you eat your salads, you might enjoy this…

Our buddies and fellow Nashvillians, Los Colognes, have a new album out called, Working Together. Get it now! Not only is it awesome, these guys are really good people. And they appreciate good food, in case you were wondering. Win-win, all around I’d say. See how that works? You give them your money so they can buy good food and their hard work makes you happy and your salads more palatable.

Melancholia

1-Doggers & the Rain

Well, here we are at the tail end of April and the spring rains have hit this weekend. What already seemed like a sad and stressful time in our house with a sick dogger was made more melancholy with the passing of one of the greatest voices in country music, George Jones. One perk yesterday was WSM played all our favorite George Jones songs over and over all day long and the Opry last night had a nice dedication to Mr. Jones. What an effect his music had on so many people. Unfortunately, I never got to hear him live and had no real life encounters with him, however, living in Nashville in the midst of live country music, I have second hand musical encounters with him on a daily basis. I can’t walk down on Lower Broadway without hearing a George Jones song come pouring out of one of the many Honky-Tonks lining the street. We even see George Jones sausage in our neighborhood grocery store. And one of my favorite Nashville memories of when we first moved here is the Hunters Tire (local, eastside neighborhood store) commercials that had George Jones standing in front of the building giving them his endorsement. Classic. One of my favorite songs made famous by George is “Walk Through This World with Me” which was written by Sandy Seamond and Kaye Savage. It was released in January 1967 as the title track of George’s twenty-forth album. Grant and I had our talented friend Jake London sing this in our wedding nearly eleven years ago. It is a beautiful song. Here is a youtube version I found of it:

So with George Jones tunes filling the house, doggers lounging nearby, and the sound of the rain gently falling on this quiet Saturday, I am inspired by gifts from friends. I love gifts that come in mason jars. Just last week I was presented with this wonderful jar full of fresh oregano from my friend Nicole’s garden. And a few weeks ago our friend Traci brought us these gorgeous tomatoes she put up from her garden last fall.

2- Gifts in Jars

Today seemed a perfect day for tomato soup! When I moved to Atlanta right after college, my first job there was working in the cafe in the back of Rainbow Natural Foods in Decatur. This was back when natural food stores were predominately frequented by hippies and new age thinkers. It was a great little cafe, I am sure it still is. Anyway, they had the best homemade soups. One of my favorites was their tomato soup which was made creamy with cashew butter! Man, I wish I had swiped that recipe! I searched online today trying to find it but, no luck. I decided to make one of my own. This is a very basic recipe but it turned out really well. It goes something like this…

3- Cashews & Tomatoes

Creamy Tomato Cashew Soup
1 cup Raw Cashews, toasted
1 cup Water
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 small Onion, finely chopped
2 Carrots, finely chopped
2 pieces of Celery, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
32 oz jar Whole Tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp Dried Herbs (I used an Italian blend from Frontier that I love but any would work- basil, rosemary, thyme, etc…)
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Toast the cashews. Cool. Blend in a blender with water. Set aside. Heat a soup pot and add oil. Add onions. Cook, stirring, for about 4 minute or so over medium heat. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for another few minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in cashew milk. Add herbs and seasonings. In small batches, blend the soup well in the blender and then return to the soup pot to heat through a few more minutes.

4- Tomato Soup

I know it isn’t eggplant season quite yet but I’ve been really craving it and so when I saw this organic eggplant show up on the produce stand of The Turnip Truck, I immediately bought it and brought it home.

5- Eggplant

Then the next few days, I dreamed up this simple recipe. Today, I finally had time to make it become a reality. It was yummy with some olives and a little salami to start. Lazzaroli’s Pasta shop has some yummy Salumi salami. It is one that, apparently, Salumi only makes once a year with oregano. So thankful these guys have some of our favorite NW flavors available here in middle Tennessee!

6- Salami & Oregano

Roasted Eggplant Sauce w/ Fresh Oregano
1 medium sized Eggplant, cut in cubes
2 Red or Yellow Bell Peppers, cut in 1” pieces
1 Jalapeno Pepper (optional)
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
1 bulb of Garlic, top cut off
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1/4 cup good Red Wine
Bunch of fresh Oregano, stemmed & chopped
Pasta or Gnocchi of your choice
Freshly Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Grana Padano

7- Eggplant Roast 1

Spread the veggies out in a glass pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Then gently drizzle a little vinegar over. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and let cool a little. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skin. Chop all veggies a little finer and place in a pot on the stove. Add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup of red wine. Gently heat and stir well.  Toss fresh oregano in. Salt & pepper to taste. Toss with pasta and top with cheese.

8- Cheese & Eggplant

And this spring risotto made us really happy a few days back…

7- Pea Risotto

Spring Pea Risotto
4-6 cups Homemade Chicken Broth (Canned or boxed will work just fine.)
Small Bunch Parsley
1/4 Onion, sliced
2 cups Frozen Petite Peas
juice of 1/2 a Lemon
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio Rice
1 cup White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup Chopped Snap Peas
1 Tbsp fresh Mint, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Tarragon, chopped
1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

8- Risotto Cooking

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Heat stock in medium sauce pan. I like to add chopped onion, and fresh parsley sprigs to the broth. Puree the peas with the lemon juice and add to the broth pot. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat oil in large flat pan on medium heat. Add onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add rice. Stir. Add wine. Stir. Gradually begin to add stock in, about half a cup at a time and continue to stir. Stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add another addition of stock and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until the mixture is creamy and a bit loose; the rice should still have some chew to it. The process will take about 20-30 minutes. Right when you think you are getting close, add the snap peas, mint, and tarragon. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir.

9- Risotto w:Zucchini

Spring Pea Risotto served with Sauteed Zucchini Spears

Last weekend we went to the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree out at the Texas Troubadour Theatre on Music Valley Drive. This happens every Saturday night at midnight and is broadcast on WSM 650 AM! It is the second longest running radio show in history.

10- Jesse McReynolds & Howling Brothers

We saw old master of bluegrass, Jesse McReynolds,  play. He is amazing. His voice is still so strong. Acquaintances of ours, The Howlin’ Brothers, got up to sing a few, too. The reason I mention this is I want to be sure everyone is aware of The Howlin’ Brothers’ new album, Howl, came out in March! It is moving up all the record charts and has gotten great reviews. These guys are so deserving, too. They are such talented musicians and nice folks. They have been playing all over this area for years. They are hittin’ the road to promote their new album so be sure to keep an eye out for them and definitely go see them if they play your town.