Harvest Time

It is November and finally getting chilly out, although, we are still pulling green tomatoes off the vines. Late summer and autumn are blending together. The leaves were beautiful but only for a short time this year.

I’ve realized I really need to be more creative and come up with different ways to eat green tomatoes than simply frying them but they are soooo good. We did mix it up and serve them for breakfast with cheese grits, biscuits, eggs, and Billionaire’s Bacon. What’s Billionaire’s Bacon, you ask?! Let me tell you! First of all, I’ll just say up front that we only allow ourselves to eat this a few times a year and usually it is for a special occasion such as a holiday or as in this case, for special house guests. We use Benton’s bacon made right here in Tennessee and known around the world for it’s deliciousness. Pat the bacon dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Then rub the slices with brown sugar! Next, bake in the oven on 400 for 8 minutes on each side. This delicacy is like a party in your mouth. Bacon candy!

With the cooler weather, I’ve been craving comfort food and we’ve already started making soups and chili. I made Mac & Cheese with sauteed mushrooms and onions. The addition of vegetables to Mac & Cheese is my sorry attempt to make traditional Mac & Cheese healthier. I will tell you that mushrooms contain many minerals and vitamins and a great deal of protein. They also stimulate the immune system and help prevent cancer. Maybe not so much when smothered in cheese and layered with pasta, but… And onions are amazing in their health benefits! They help fight infection, regulate blood pressure, and also help fight cancer (at least in their raw food state!). I served it with sauteed spinach and peas to up the vegetable count and increase the goodness. See recipe below.

Mac & Cheese
olive oil
mushrooms, sliced
onion, chopped
2 cups macaroni (I use Montebello brand)
3-4 cups grated cheese (I use combination of sharp cheddar & gruyere)
1 tsp butter (to coat bottom of baking dish)
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
2 eggs
2 cups milk

Saute the onions and mushrooms in olive oil. Set aside. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and blanch with cold water. Cover bottom of buttered baking dish with 1/2 of pasta. Mix in 1/2 of the sauteed mushrooms and onions. Spread 1/2 of the cheese over. Repeat. Beat eggs, milk, and spices together. Pour over. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

We’ve also been eating lots of beans! We had some left over mashed sweet potatoes so we made potato cakes, placed those over a bed of raw spinach, and topped with some Cuban style black beans! I also bought some Adzuki beans. I always see these but wasn’t exactly sure how to use them. I did some research. Turns out these are of Asian origin and most of the recipes I found were for Asian dishes. We decided to make them with more of a jerk style seasoning. Grant cooked them in some homemade chicken stock. He then browned some pork chops and placed on top of the beans and finished them off in the oven. He served them with spinach rice. Delicious. The Adzuki beans are a little nuttier and sweeter than Pintos.

A couple weeks ago, we welcomed a pedal steel guitar back into our house! Grant missed his and has decided to play it again. YAY!

And speaking of pedal steel guitars, we had another Red Barn Round-Up a week ago and were fortunate to have the amazing Chuck Mead provide our musical entertainment! Chuck is a big fan of the Red Barn Round-Up and we sure are a big fan of his.

He had a stellar band, as always, which included Martin Lynds on drums, Mark Miller on bass, and the legendary Carco Clave on pedal steel. Carco is an amazing steel player who has performed with Asleep at the Wheel, BR549, Little Jimmy Dickens, Tex Ritter, Merle Travis, Dale Watson, and so many others. Grant was fortunate to get to play with him down on Lower Broadway when we first moved to town.

Chuck has a new album out. You can hear some of his new songs and purchase the new album here!

We saw another amazing show at the Ryman a couple weeks ago, too- DON WILLIAMS! He retired four years ago but with his new Country Music Hall of Fame status, he decided to come out of retirement for a few shows. Even suffering with bronchitis, he managed to give an excellent performance. The sold out crowd was ecstatic and joined in to help him out on many songs. He is a gentle giant indeed!

I made apple pies for Jamey Johnson (or at least his crew- I never actually saw him eat any) who played a benefit for the Normandy Volunteer Fire Department that our friend Nikki, owner of the River Cafe, organized! GO NORMANDY! And I made some pear pies for the Round-Up. Still working on finding the best cookie recipes and trying to perfect my own buttermilk pie recipe. Meanwhile, I am trying to recover from all those Reese’s cups I overdosed on due to lack of Trick-or-Treaters! Happy Fall Y’all!

Comes A Time

Comes a time for me to appreciate Neil Young. You see, I have never been a big Neil Young fan. In fact, besides hearing friends play his music or whatever I came across on the radio, the most time I had ever spent with Neil Young was watching The Last Waltz countless times. Until tonight.

I knew Neil Young was talented and too many people whose musical taste I share hold him in such high regard. I knew I needed to get to know him better and that once I did, I would understand who he is but the time had never seemed right. I was a little intimidated maybe. His music doesn’t pull me in. It seems more like an acquired taste that takes time and I just hadn’t really wanted to put the time in yet. Until tonight.

Tonight, Neil Young played the Ryman Auditorium, one of my very favorite places in the whole wide world. I felt a little guilty getting to go without being a huge fan although, Grant is and has seen him six times and I knew if I was going to finally get to know Neil Young, the Ryman was the perfect place. Tickets were pricey. I joked all night about spending our summer vacation at the Ryman! But, I have to say that it was well worth every cent.

Neil was a one man band with 2 Martin guitars- one a small bodied with a mahogany top and one full bodied with a spruce top, a black Les Paul, one of my favorite guitars- a Gretsch White Falcon, a piano, a grand piano, his famous pump organ, and a harmonica. He spoke very little but still acknowledged us, his audience, with a quiet disposition. He reminded me of my Uncle Les who seemed on the surface to be a grumpy old cus but every once in awhile, he’d say something and I’d see a twinkle in his eye and get a genuine, warm feeling that he really liked me. Neil went from instrument to instrument and played what he wanted- some acoustic, some full on distortion and it all felt familiar, like we had all been there before. He seemed very comfortable. This was a perfect first meeting.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed, so I tried really hard to remember every moment. I had my tiny camera but could not disrespect the Ryman or Neil (oh, and there was also the fear of being kicked out as they threatened). The rainbow pictured above did appear in the sky just as we were walking to the Ryman.  I’ve also included various photos of The Mother Church of Country Music herself, past and present.

And luckily, I have many photos of our most recent adventures in Normandy, Tennessee. Our friends Nikki & Mike, brother and sister team extraordinaire, opened their new restaurant last weekend and we were fortunate to be a part of it. We drove down Sunday and spent the day- I helped take orders and Grant tended the smoker with Mike.

Normandy is a tiny town in Bedford County, about an hour outside of Nashville, that sits on the Duck River which is known for its pristine waters. The little main street, around the corner from George Dickel’s distillery, was previously abandoned until Nikki found this building and decided to make her dream become a reality. This is the beginning of something amazing, let me tell you! They decided to go ahead and open Saturdays and Sundays as they finish the remodeling and expand the menu and their ideas. For now, you can get some of the best smoked meats in Tennessee and delicious sides- they post a chalkboard menu out front.

June has just begun- many family and friend visits, yummy summer veggies, and tons of music (including this year’s first Red Barn Round-Up!!!) to come.