So Long 2010, HELLOOO 2011!

Holiday cookies go nicely with whiskey cocktails!

Good Bye 2010! As I sit here on New Year’s Eve at home with the doggers, it seems a good time to reflect on all I am thankful for, send good thoughts to friends and family who I miss, those who aren’t doing so well, and reflect on the past year. Earlier in the week, I was actually gearing up for finally experiencing Lower Broadway on NYE but as is usually the case, Grant was offered a gig which took him into another direction. It’s a good night to have a guitar gig for sure. I was going to tag along but then suddenly realized I might have more fun staying at home catching up, being introspective, and relaxing than surrounding myself by people partying it up a little too much. These obligatory holidays make me want to hibernate and save up my energy for more random celebrations when the rest of the world isn’t looking. So I have traded in my cowboy boots for some slippers tonight but no worries, I have Dale Watson cranked on the hi-fi and cookies in the oven! Oh, and just so you know, 2011 is the year I learn to dance! Watch out world! The Red Barn Round-Up seems the perfect place to practice so I need to get on it during these winter months so I will be ready for Spring. Which reminds me- our last Round-Up of 2010 was fabulous with the super talented artist and musician, Julie Lee, and the amazing Paul Burch, both with stellar bands.

Tomorrow we’ll be cooking up a mess of black-eyed peas and collard greens along with a pan of corn bread but it occurred to me that with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I have fallen way behind in my cooking posts. All these photos of our meals that Grant so patiently waited for me to take are piling up. I need to catch up. So here it goes…

We made a yummy turkey soup with vegetables and brown rice with our Thanksgiving left overs which we ate with a pear and blue cheese salad topped with a simple honey vinaigrette. Then I tried my hand at Wonton Soup and found a simple Emeril recipe that gave me the basic idea. I used ground turkey, spiced it up and made the wontons. The soup consisted of mushrooms, baby bok choy, onions and garlic… pretty tasty! Soup is indeed good food, especially in the winter.

So, I’ve been trying to figure out new and exciting ways to enjoy winter squash- squash is good for you. Nutritionally packed and one of the easiest vegetables to digest, squashes are low in calories and high in potassium and Vitamin A. It also helps reduce inflammation. And look how pretty this little butternut squash is…

So, we were craving Mexican food but I wanted to cook and eat healthier so I cubed up this squash and sauteed it with some chopped white onion, several cloves of garlic, a can of green chilies, and spiced it up with some ground cumin, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. We ate it with some veggie re-fried beans, some red rice Grant threw together with some leftover brown rice, and a little shredded cheddar on top! The leftover squash was yummy in a whole wheat quesadilla the next day.

Speaking of Mexican food, ever since our last trip to Austin, where we got our $9 tortilla press, we have been making our own fresh corn tortillas and they are delicious! We no longer get stuck with a stack of stale tortillas- we make as many as we need for a particular meal. And, we found a great high quality corn masa made by Bob’s Red Mill that works great!

On the topic of veggies, it is important to mention one of my favorite winter dishes- roasted root veggies! SO many beautiful colors and packed full of deliciousness and nutrients!

And these roasted sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes seasoned with my famous orange fennel salt and black pepper made the perfect accompaniment to some pan smothered pork chops seasoned with smoky paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. That’s sauteed Red Russian Kale (with cherry tomatoes, a tad bit of fresh garlic and a splash of balsamic) from the Delvin’s farm in College Grove, Tennesse beside it.

There were many pies in the last few weeks of the year… oh what fun!

Mini Me Pies

Pie night with Lindsay & the Brads.

Cherry Pie

South Carolina Christmas Pies

I am ready to put the excess sugar and added calories of the holidays behind me and hoping to start the new year off with some healthy eating… Hello 2011!

Advertisements

Crunkin’ Cornbread

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

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

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

Cornbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuff It!

The summer heat is almost unbearable this go-around. My brain has started to feel like it is turning to mush. Thank God for air conditioning! Yes, it is way too hot to be eating soup in Tennessee but I found a recipe I had to make- thank you Heidi Swanson for your 101 Cookbooks blog. She has a lovely summer squash soup recipe which Grant and I have renamed, Creamy Potato and Summer Squash Soup. I know, way too long of a recipe title, however, I think you can get more people excited about this little concoction with a name change. Grant isn’t a huge squash fan nor does he understand my need to eat soup when it is 100 degrees of sticky, humid heat outside either. Luckily he was starving as he came home the other day and would have probably eaten anything. Once he tasted this delicious soup, however, he declared it his second top favorite soup I’ve ever made! I served it with a spinach salad made with homemade pesto dressing! I rarely ever do this but, I actually followed the soup recipe pretty much word for word so I will not post it here but please check out Heidi Swanson’s blog and the recipe here.

Earlier in the week, I made some homemade corn tortillas and Grant made some yummy Migas Tacos which we served with watermelon margaritas! It was delicious!

Yesterday, I knew I would be cooking dinner as Grant had an afternoon gig so all day, I kept thinking about ingredients trying to decide what to make. I knew we had some chicken breasts, along with some yummy mushroom varieties- portobello and beech, vidalia onions, spinach, a little piece of Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue, and a little wedge of brie. I grabbed some asparagus on my way home and decided to try my hand at stuffing chicken breasts! I looked on the internet just to get the method down and then this is what I came up with:

Smokey Stuffed Chicken Breasts
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small vidalia onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 portobello mushrooms, cut into cubes
a handful of beech mushrooms
some chopped spinach (maybe 2 cups)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened
a few glugs of red wine
small piece of Rogue Creamery Smoky Blue cheese (or another blue), crumbled
small piece of brie, cubed
smoked sea salt (or any sea salt)
fresh ground black pepper
fresh chives, chopped

Sautee onion in olive oil and butter. Add garlic and stir. Add mushrooms and cook for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Add some red wine (maybe 2 tbsp). Turn off the heat and add spinach. Place mixture in a bowl. Place the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and pound with an iron skillet (or kitchen mallet) while you allow the vegetable mixture to cool. Once it has cooled a little, add the cheese. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place in the middle of the chicken breast. Roll the chicken over the mixture as best you can and use toothpicks to secure chicken. Place olive oil in skillet. Place chicken in skillet. Cook chicken, flipping it over once browned. Add another glug of wine to keep chicken from sticking. Add in extra vegetable mixture. Cover skillet to give chicken a little more time to cook through. Remove from heat, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with the delicious wine you used in the recipe!

We enjoyed our stuffed chicken with this yummy Austrian wine we purchased from Woodland Wine Merchants, while listening to Lyle Lovett‘s new album, Natural Forces. (By the way, Lyle’s website is sharp! These are some of my favorite photos. Very inspiring.)

Figs. I’ll end this post with figs.

Our friend Aaron wanted me to come up with a good fig pie recipe. He was really thinking of a pudding pie and for my next fig pie, I will work on this however, with it being so hot and the figs so fresh, I wanted to do something simple. So, while listening to some Justin Townes Earl, I just used a big bowl of fresh figs, 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar, about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I used one dough ball for the bottom crust and another to make a lattice top. I baked it for 15 minutes at 425 and then lowering the over temperature to 350 for another 35 minutes. I think the simplicity was just right for the delicacy of the figs. Pure goodness.

Big weekend coming up with a trip to the Farmer’s Market, pie making, another Red Barn Round-Up party, and some good music next week! Hoping for cooler temperatures.