Oh Hello January

1-Cranberries

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I stock up on bags of fresh cranberries. It seems you can never find them any other time of year so I get so excited and buy three or four bags and freeze some. I start out really good, planning things to make. I usually make a loaf or two of Cranberry Bread but then forget about them until the next Thanksgiving when I bring home excess bags to stockpile in the freezer, only to find last years stash. Yikes. So, when I came across this recipe as I tried to figure out what to cook for dinner the other night, I was delighted! I got the idea from Miss Edna Lewis but altered it significantly. Here is what I came up with. I served it with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Carrots.

2- pork chops

Smothered Pork Chops with Cranberries
Serves 2

2 Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops
2 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
1 onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic quartered
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup Maple Syrup
2 tsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
¼ cup chicken stock
Salt, Pepper, and Flour

Wash and pat dry pork chops, dust with salt, pepper and flour, and set aside at room temperature.  Melt butter in iron skillet over medium high heat and brown the pork chops on each side. Remove chops and set aside. Place onion in pan and cook until translucent, then add garlic, herbs, cranberries, maple syrup and stock. Cook for a few minutes. Then reintroduce the pork chops turn heat to low and simmer until pork chops are done, sauce is reduced and cranberries burst (approximately 10 minutes).

3- cranberry pork chops

I haven’t been making as many soups this winter. Maybe because it hasn’t been as cold yet. I did get a hankering for Chili the other day, though. This has been my basic chili recipe for the last couple of years.  I always just sort of make it up but it almost always ends up this way. This time, I decided to jot it down so it’ll be a little easier the next time.

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin's!

Turkey Chili with lots of toppin’s!

Turkey Chili
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 medium White Onion, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper, finely chopped
1 lb Ground Turkey
3-4 Tbsp Mexican Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Ground Raw Cacao
14 oz can Whole Tomatoes, crushed with your hands
14 oz can Kidney Beans
14 oz can Pinto Beans
2 cups Chicken Stock
Fresh Chopped Cilantro to top
Shredded Cheese (Sharp Cheddar, Jack, or Jalapeno Jack) to top
Plain Greek Yogurt to top

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add garlic and peppers. Continue cooking and stirring. Add turkey and chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Stir. Add the ground cacao, tomatoes, and beans. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes and then add the stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with cilantro, cheese, and yogurt.

Here’s a quick dinner idea Grant came up with one night before the holidays. It is very southern and quite delicious. Catfish has become our main fish of choice down here in the South. As far as safe sustainable seafood goes, it’s a pretty good choice for this region of the country. There are a couple of places we have found in town that we can get locally, or at least, regionally farmed catfish. (This seafood watch list is a great resource.) And, catfish is tasty! Give it a try.

5- Pecan Catfish
Pecan Crusted Catfish
Serves 2
½ cups roasted Pecans
½ cup flour
1 tsp Paprika or Chili Powder
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp Fresh Thyme
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley leaves
2 catfish fillets, cut into 4 pieces each
2 cups Buttermilk
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 375. Roast pecans in a skillet or on a cookie sheet until fragrant and lightly toasted. In a little food processor, grind the pecans with the flour, spices and herbs. If you do not have a food processor, you can just chop everything extra-fine and mix together well. Place the buttermilk in a bowl and then soak catfish in buttermilk. Place the ground pecan mixture in a separate bowl. Place olive oil in the bottom of an iron skillet and bring up to medium heat on a stove.  One by one, remove catfish pieces from buttermilk and roll into pecan mixture to coat and fry until golden brown (approx 4-5 mins per side.)  Drain on paper towels for a minute and serve.
6- kale

One of our favorite, easy salads these last few months has been this raw kale salad. It makes me feel so good and totally energized! It is a perfect side salad for winter, too, and goes nicely alongside soups or casseroles.

Winter Kale Salad
1 bunch Kale, washed, center veins cut out, and thinly chopped
1 Apple, cored and chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
¼ cup Currants
small handful of fresh Parsley, chopped
Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
½ cup chopped Toasted Hazelnuts
optional- a small wedge of Blue Cheese

Place the kale in a big bowl. Sprinkle with salt and gently massage the kale a few times. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Mix in the apples, carrots, currants, and parsley. Sprinkle in a small drizzle of vinegar and oil, season with salt and pepper, and then toss the nuts on top. Also nice, is to crumble some blue cheese on top.

I have a few other recipes for favorite greens coming out on Dolan Geiman’s blog later this week. And if you visit, be sure to check out his newest art. 2013 might be a good year to broaden your art collection! He has some amazing pieces.

I am looking forward to all the exciting music adventures 2013 holds in store. One friend of ours who has a new album coming out real soon and whose musical future I am anxiously awaiting to unfold before us is… Sturgill Simpson.

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

Sturgill Simpson January 2012

I was trying to hold off mentioning him in my blog until his new album has been released but dang if I just can’t wait any longer. By golly, he’s the real deal. As he said so well at his last live show I saw, “If you think you don’t like country music then maybe you’ve never heard real country music.”

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

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

He is from Kentucky and has this amazing old-school voice that falls somewhere in between Ralph Stanley and maybe Waylon Jennings. It is very unique and powerful. He writes some great songs, too. He’s opened some shows for Jamie Johnson and just recently, he and his band have opened for Dwight Yoakam. His new album will come out in June. I hate that the world has to wait so long to hear it but I’ve heard it and let me tell you, it’s worth the wait. For now, you can check out this song he has on the old youtube. It’s one of my favs.

OK… back to hibernation for the winter.

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Real Country Music and Yummy Fall Food

So,  Nashville just finished celebrating the Americana Music Association’s annual hoo-haw. I always enjoy this week in Nashville as many of my favorite bands and musicians are in town and out and about. We were so busy this week that we actually missed most of the festivities. I did make it out to the Station Inn for the celebrated album release of Jon Byrd’s, Down at The Well of Wishes. It’s a damn fine album so be sure to check it out.

Jon Byrd with Eric Brace and with whole band, Station Inn, October 11, 2011.

And, we went to Grimey’s Americanarama party outside, behind the record store! What fun!

Derek Hoke, Nikki Lane, Chris Scruggs, Paul Burch, and Rose!

Americana is a fairly new term in the world of music genres. It seems to include all of those bands I once termed, “Alt. Country” but also welcomes some other roots sub-genres. I understand the ease of having one umbrella label to lump all these tiny categories in together but I’ve noticed many times lately that a favorite new song I love will be labeled Americana but yet is so obviously country. I realize this Americana label probably benefits the artist in that many people who have distanced themselves from “new country” now run screaming from the country label. But, I don’t want to roll over so quickly and relinquish the term “country”. I think it makes more sense to rename all the new country. Let’s just call it, “Suburbia.” Then we can take the term country back.

I missed the awards show this year but apparently, you can hear it all here. There were some great nominees this year, as always. Justin Townes Earl’s song, Harlem River Blues, won Best Song. This performance with Jason Isbell on David Letterman awhile back was pretty awesome.

The weather in Nashville this weekend is perfect right now. Fall is in full swing. It is my favorite time of year.

There’s a light breeze rustling through the slightly turning leaves and the temperatures have dropped to the 50’s and 60’s. All the Fall produce is ripe and beautiful.

I made some pumpkin bread this week. It was nice. I kept wishing I could remember to bring home some cream cheese to smear on top.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup all purpose flour
½  teaspoon of salt
1 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
½  cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
¼  cup melted butter
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I keep it frozen and then use a microplane to grate)
½  cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin puree, melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and spices together. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and then stir in the nuts. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until the center of the loaf comes out clean when a cake tester (or toothpick) is inserted. Turn the loaf out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

And we roasted up a bunch of pumpkin to make a soup. It was pretty tasty with parmesan croutons! Here’s the recipe I came up with…

Roasted Pumpkin & Caramelized Onion Soup

1 pie medium pumpkin
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic (place in oven with pumpkin for last half hour)
2 ½ red or vidalia onions (I had a variety of both), chopped
4 cups stock
1-2 tsp herbs de Provence (I added a little extra fresh rosemary)
seat salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin into pieces, clean out seeds (You can reserve them and wash them and dust with sea salt and bake on a cookie sheet later to make roasted pumpkin seeds!!!), rub with olive oil and roast in oven for about 45 minutes (until it forks done). Meanwhile, heat olive oil in stock pan. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn light toasty brown. Once pumpkin is done, cool and scoop out of the skin. Place roasted pumpkin in a blender and add a cup or two of the stock. Blend until smooth. Add the pureed pumpkin and roasted garlic to the onion pot, along with the remaining stock. Add herbs de Provence and salt and pepper to taste.

You could also top with a little creme fraise, grated cheese, or pumpkin seeds. We served this soup with a nice salad of beets, tamari pumpkin seeds, and Rogue River Smoky blue cheese. Yum!

Also, we enjoyed the leftover soup with some chicken Andouille sausages. Grant sauteed the sliced sausage up with some garlic and then added it to the soup!

And, I’ll end with this simple pie recipe that my friend Brad helped me come up with a couple years ago.

Pear Apple Gruyere Pie

2 dough balls (please never use store bought pie dough!) *
mix of 5-7 pears and apples, pealed, and sliced thin
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup (+ 1 cup for dough balls) cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1 egg white

Roll out dough ball and place in pie plate. Mix pears with sugar, flour, cinnamon and pour into pie shell. Sprinkle the Gruyere on top. Roll out second dough ball and lay on top of pie. Trim edges and use your index fingers and thumb to pinch edge. Cut a few slits in top to let air escape while pie bakes. Brush top of pie with egg white. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then lower oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 35 minutes.

*For the pie dough-
(This recipe was given to me by a friend of ours in Seattle who was a pastry chef.  They key to a good pie is in the crust!)

Makes a double crust for a ten inch pie, or 2 ten inch tart shells.

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (I use White Lilly)
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I use organic butter)
1 cup finely grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
1/2 tsp sea salt
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, butter, and salt in food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse 24 times.  (I just use my hands instead of a food processor and it works just fine!  You get a good work out and there’s less to clean up.  If you use your hands, be gentle- your objective is to make the butter into little crumbs or grains, not to mush it all together, do not over mix.)  The largest pieces of butter should be the size of grains of rice.  Transfer mixture from food processor to large bowl.  Lightly mix in cheese. Sprinkle with 6 T of ice water.  Make your hand into a claw as if you are trying to grab a basketball one handed, and using your rigid claw hand, stir dough briefly until the liquid is incorporated.  Squeeze a handful of dough in your palm.  It should have just enough moisture to stay together.  If it seems dry and crumbly, add more water a teaspoonful at a time until you can squeeze it into a ball that doesn’t crumble when broken apart. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.  Roll out onto floured surface as quickly as you can.  Balls of dough can be stored in fridge for a week or you can also freeze them.

It seems I’ve fallen behind on my posts. I sometimes run out of time to put all the recipes and photos together. I have also been guest blogging on our good friend, Dolan Geiman’s blog. Dolan is a great artist. Check his site out here and buy some art here! (Art is good for our souls, makes our world a prettier place, supports talented, creative people, and makes awesome gifts!) And, you can read all my guest posts here.

I’ll end this post with this new country song from Pistol Annies. These women have it going on!

Happy Fall Y’all!

Summer Veggies Are My Salvation!

This summer is hot. For real. Its been a weird week- kind of busy but no energy and feeling blah. I get the sense everyone is feeling it, not just me. The two things that have kept me going this week (besides Grant and the doggers), though, are… fresh summer veggies and good music!

Last weekend we had a whirlwind of a road trip as we went to our friends Ali Marie & Dolan’s wedding celebration in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia really IS for lovers. We had an amazing time with so many nice people and good food. Nothing says summer celebration better than welcoming the Solstice in with bluegrass tunes by a campfire with good friends! Oh, and our good friend George Dickel, he’s always fun at a party! We pitched our tent, had a quick night’s sleep, and were awakened by the most beautiful little chirping birds and the sight of these amazing little blue wildflowers! (Then on the way home we found. . . bum, bom, bohh. . . . . FOAMHENGE! See photos below!)

Last Saturday before we took off, we realized we had a bag of the most beautiful red and green okra I had found at The Turnip Truck earlier in the week. It had to be eaten. For the last couple of years, we have grown our own okra and always meant to pickle some but never did. This day, we realized just how easy it is to do so. Grant found a simple recipe online that went something like this:

1 qt white vinegar
1/2 cup sea salt
dash of organic raw sugar
1 cup water
fresh okra
dill
hot red peppers
hot green peppers (we used Anaheim)
garlic cloves

We sterilized the jars in boiling water, put the garlic, peppers, dill  in, stuffed them with washed okra, and then poured the water/vinegar mixture (which had been heated with salt and sugar) over top and sealed them up. The jars are in the refrigerator now and in one week, we can see how they taste. I was a little sad that the red okra lost most of its color when we poured the warm mixture over it but they still look beautiful!

I get so overwhelmed looking at fresh summer produce. There are so many possibilities and it all has so much potential. I’ll admit it, I am a food nerd. I often buy things because they are pretty or interesting looking and I think they will photograph well. I always eat it and it never goes to waste. This year, probably because of the blog, I have been buying more vegetables I am less familiar with. It becomes a challenge to try to figure out how to cook it. That’s sort of what happened with these baby turnips I got this week. They were so cute and perfect in shape. I also jumped on the yellow wax beans just because I rarely see them. I started to explore cookbooks and recipe sites to find the perfect recipe for either or both together but got lazy and kept it simple. I just used what we had and this is what I came up with (as I rediscovered my love for Lyle Lovett’s, The Road to Ensenada)-

Baby Turnips & Waxed Beans with Tomato Relish

small bunch of baby turnips
small bag of yellow wax beans
1/2 basket of cherry tomatoes
hand full of fresh basil from the garden
our first green pepper from the garden
1-2 tbsp good olive oil
1/2 tsp unsalted organic butter
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt

I cleaned and steamed the turnips for about 5 minutes and then added the beans. I steamed them for another 5 minutes maybe and then threw them in an iron skillet with a little olive oil and the butter on medium high heat to get them a little browned. I did not cook them long, maybe 5-10 minutes (both were still firm and crisp, the turnips seemed very potato-like). While these were cooking, I chopped the cherry tomatoes, green pepper and the basil and mixed it together with olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and sea salt to make a little relish. I poured the turnips and beans in a bowl and topped with the relish. It was so simple yet tasted so fresh and delicious. We ate it with some baked lemon garlic chicken Grant concocted and it was perfect together. The next day, I had the leftover turnips & beans cold and it made the perfect healthy salad. Grant put some in a wrap with turkey. Ahhh… summer at its best!

That is all I have for now. But, I have lots and lots of fresh berries in the fridge and I plan to make many pies this weekend. The first Red Barn Round-Up of the season is on Sunday- the perfect mix of Southern cookin’ and old school country music!