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!


Grits and Bluegrass and Tomato Cobbler!

Grits are delicious. That is my opinion but I would guess that those who think they don’t like grits, just haven’t had real grits. Real grits are stone ground and are ground at old mills that have been around forever. I used to get my Sis to send them to me all the way from Charleston but have since found them in many other little towns in Virginia- along the Blueridge Parkway and near the Shenandoah Valley. We have some in Tennessee from Falls Creek that I plan to try next. Also, Anson Mills in South Carolina is famous for their stone ground grits! You can order those online here. Anyway, it is important to have real grits I think. As I’ve blogged about before, one of our favorite ways to eat grits is Shrimp & Grits, a low-country specialty. I also LOVE grits for breakfast. My favorite way to eat them is a little odd but really delicious…

The grits are slow cooked with either some butter and/or cheese (add when almost done). Then I like to pour hot sauce and maple syrup over them (I somehow always feel like Will Ferrell’s character in Elf when I do this step!), then top with a fried egg and a turkey sausage. Yum!

Then the next morning I sauteed onion, yellow squash, and tomato to eat on the left over grits and then shredded Parmesan Reggiano on top! It made for a perfect brunch.

Sunday was another Red Barn Round-Up party and we finally had some bluegrass with Off The Wagon who are amazing. You can catch these guys at the Station Inn once a month usually and you can hear more of their music here. They are super nice fellas, too, and some of them happen to live in the neighborhood so we were delighted to have them play. Derek Hoke opened.

Here’s a clip of Derek and Off The Wagon from The Station Inn a couple months ago:

Sunday, lots of music-loving friends brought some yummy food and a great time was had by all.

So, I have been totally inspired by all of the amazing heirloom cherry tomatoes this summer. My favorites are the ones from the Habegger farm, a Mennonite family run farm, in Scottsville, KY which I buy at The Turnip Truck. They taste like candy!

I have these tomatoes on my mind quite often lately. I was probably thinking about them when I read an email from a friend who mentioned making cherry cobbler. For some reason, I thought she had written cherry tomato cobbler. When I realized I had read it wrong, I couldn’t stop thinking about cherry tomato cobbler! So, I mulled it over in the back of my brain for a few hours, thinking of course that it was an original idea. I made sure to establish exactly how I wanted to do it before googling to search for other recipes. Of course it has been done before but I made it my way anyhow. It went something like this…

First I placed the cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe dish with some olive oil and roasted them for 20-30 minutes at 375. Meanwhile, I sauteed some vidalia onions in olive oil and then added sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and some fresh basil and rosemary. I pulled the tomatoes out and combined those with the onion mixture and added in one teaspoon of flour. These tomatoes are so amazing on their own that I did not want to add many more flavors. Next I made some biscuits (2 cups self rising White Lily flour, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 2/3 cup buttermilk- see previous post for directions) and added in freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and black pepper. I then dropped the dough by spoonfulls over the tomato mixture, leaving a few tiny gaps between. I baked this for about 40 minutes when the biscuits were golden brown and the tomatoes were bubbling up!

We served this with some grilled okra which was tossed with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and grilled pork chops which Grant brined with some fresh sage leaves and then slathered with homemade pesto. This meal was a super delicious summer meal! (Except that it was so incredibly hot outside that my camera lens steamed up as I went outside to photograph Grant’s grilling methods!)

I’ll end with a sweet musical note here… last night we saw the incredible Desert Rose Band with the original line-up at the Belcourt Theatre. They are all amazing musicians and their harmonies are as smooth as butter. They made me so happy. This was truly comfort music to my ears! Musical guests included Emmylou Harris and Brad Paisley.

It was another amazing musical night in Nashville.

Turn, Turn, Turn…

As with all natural disasters, the Great Nashville Flood seemed to bring the community together to help one another out. What an amazing city of good souls Nashville is. As far as the music goes, there was a real sense that the “show must go on” as exemplified by the Grand Ole Opry who temporarily lost its Opry House but didn’t miss a single show. Vince Gill helped organize a telethon at our local news station in which he played with many of country music’s biggest stars (some who also suffered loss in the flood) while other top stars answered phones and took pledges and raised well over a million dollars in one night. Since then, there have been many benefits every week. We had our own benefit over in East Nashville at the 5 Spot last week, organized by the lovely Traci Thomas with proceeds to benefit MusiCares. American Songwriter wrote a lovely little article about it here. It was a great night of music and they raised $3000. On the bill was- Joshua Black Wilkins with Amanda Shires, Josh Hedley, Derek Hoke, Caitlin Rose, and Justin Townes Earle.

The first ever East Nashville Arts Fest last weekend brought many of our Chicago buddies to town! It was a super fun weekend full of good art- new paintings by Bryan Cunningham, our friend Dolan Geiman, and tons of hand-made goodies added to our wish list (jewelry by Nancy Deal, leather bag and guitar strap by Becky Quigley, a new skirt by Beeline A-Line skirts made by Meg Guiffrida, and awesome printed shirts by Mary Ink.). We went to a vintage clothing sale at Fanny’s House of Music, the Ton Up vintage motorcycle show put on by the Road Mangler himself, Dim Sum with our friends Buddy & Adrienne at Lucky Bamboo (that’s right- Nashville finally has Dim Sum!), and enjoyed good food shared with friends all weekend!

Dolan and Ali Marie, who were staying with us, brought us home a big bag of veggies from the Turnip Truck. We already had the menu for the night planned out- Big Smokey’s amazing bbq smoked chicken, a big salad, sweet onion rice, and apple pie.

But, later in the week we made this Thai red curry dish using the big bag of veggies they brought us… Thank you Dolan & Ali Marie!

And, new summer cocktail idea:

And then- MORE MUSIC! Grant won tickets from WSM (one of the greatest radio stations in the world) to see Roger McGuinn at the Belcourt Theater. We had seen him once before a year or so ago, in the round, with Guy Clark and the Toad the Wet Sprocket guy. This solo show, however, was amazing. He simultaneously demonstrated the history of music and his own personal musical history. He had his Rickenbacker, his special edition Martin 7 string guitar, an acoustic 12 string guitar, and a banjo. He played all the classics and the early songs that inspired his early musical career. He put on one great show musically and visually, I really enjoyed watching the jingle jangle tapping of his cowboy boots. They were very animated. And, it is unbelievable that he is 68 years old as he looks about 50 and his voice is very strong (yet flowery as always). Such an inspiring show! Thank you Roger McGuinn!!!

The sign on the door of the Belcourt stated that I was only allowed to take non-flash photos from my seat and because Grant had an afternoon gig and we got there just as the show started, we were in the back of the theater. Anyway,  you can see his instrument set-up here…

Grant ended his musical week playing two gigs with Jon Byrd on Saturday. I have confessed my love of Derek Hoke‘s music on this here blog before but I have not yet had the opportunity to share my love of Jon Byrd’s music. If you haven’t heard of him, I just don’t know what you are waiting for. He is amazing! Check his music out now! Do it!

Pictured here are Jon Byrd with the awesome and amazing Grant “Big Smokey” Johnson in the shadows on the left and with the super talented Eric Brace on the right.

Next week- I look forward to reporting on the opening of our friend’s new River Cafe in Normandy, TN and a very exciting show at the Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world!!! Good food and country music- all of the time!

Storms Never Last…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little of This and A Little of That…

Thank God my husband plays music because I haven’t been to see much live music the last two weeks except for his. At least there was that. He’s had lots of Lower Broadway gigs with some good folks and a couple gigs with Derek Hoke. If you don’t know who Derek Hoke is, you really should. Here’s his latest video, filmed at our friend Allison’s house, in which Grant has a cameo. Enjoy.

Derek Hoke “Sweet Pea”

We’ve also had some amazing new music to listen to as I got Grant a little box set of The Browns for his Birthday. One of my favorite songs lately is this one…

The Browns “The Three Bells”

And then there is this one (Their harmonies are soooo good!) …
The Browns “I Heard The Blue Bird Sing”

Speaking of Grant, “Big Smokey”, Johnson, he smoked a delicious turkey this week with SW spices. We served it up with a classic sweet and sour cole slaw and the most delicious green chili sharp cheddar mashed potatoes ever (whose leftovers made the BEST topping to a SW Shepherd’s Pie later in the week! After growing up with a single Mom who was incapable of cooking for two and together loathing leftovers, I have finally grasped the concept of turning leftovers into something quite wonderful! More on that later.)

The rest of the week consisted of many culinary experiments. Some turned out really good, like my roasted beet hummus. My friend Nikki mentioned the idea and I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I did some internet research for recipes and then came up with this one of my own.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Throw in a blender:

can garbonzo beans
2 roasted beets (clean, place in dish with 1″ water, cover dish with foil and roast in over at 400)
few glugs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2-3 garlic cloves
ground cumin, salt, pepper
big handful of roasted pecans (I hate buiying Tahini because I never
use much, I figured roasted sesame seeds could be substituted by
roasted nuts and olive oil.)

THEN, for the finale… I topped it with a little crumbled Maytag blue

I tried my hand at homemade pizza dough this week, too, inspired by the current Saveur all about LA cuisine with the squash blossom pizza on the cover. It was a super easy and really good recipe and my first two pizzas turned out great. I froze the other two dough balls for later in the week. The second time around, I forgot a crucial step- placing the dough on parchment before topping them and then moving into the oven. Thus, the raw pizzas were stuck to my dough board. I laughed and then moved them onto the cookie sheet (have to buy a pizza stone this week!) as best I could and they cooked up into what I called an open-faced calzone! It was a mess but with all those yummy ingredients, it tasted just fine.

Right now I have some banana bread in the oven. My new favorite way to make it is with coconut milk- so delicious and moist! Here is a recipe I modified:

Banana Bread With Coconut Milk

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3-4 mashed bananas
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp fresh ginger (I keep my fresh ginger in freezer- it makes it so easy to grate!)
1 cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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

Hopefully I will have more amazing music and interesting cooking adventures to report on soon!