Eating Lots of Carrots & Thinking about Austin

Carrots

I just love cooked carrots. I know, not everyone does but I can’t help but think those who do not, just haven’t really explored all the taste possibilities cooked carrots have. They are so delicious cooked with onions and a little butter. So savory with a tad bit of sweetness. And they are so good for us, nutritionally speaking. Carrots can be alkalinizing, cleansing, nourishing, and stimulating to almost every system in the body. Carrots are powerful antioxidants which can help prevent and fight cancer in the body. Carrots are also high in fiber and loaded with pectin which can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Don’t fool with those “baby carrots” though, as they aren’t really babies at all, just big ones that have been whittled down to look cute and easy to eat. How wasteful. And I have found that those are never as flavorful as the the real deal.

Here’s a couple of comfort dishes I came up with in the last week. The first one is a risotto. Instead of using arborio rice, though, I found some Italian farro in the cupboard. Farro is similar to barley so it takes a little bit longer to cook and has a little bit more of a chew than rice but it’s pretty yummy.

Carrot Risotto

Roasted Carrot Farro Risotto
Serves 6

  • 5 Carrots
  • ½ Onion, sliced
  • 6 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • ½ Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 cups Farro
  • 1 cup White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • Small Bunch Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Carrots Roasting

The key to cooking risotto is to stir constantly so be sure to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Preheat oven to 400. Slice the carrots very thinly- I like to use a mandoline to get them thin and uniform. Spread the carrots and the onion slices out in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, Italian herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set carrots aside. Heat the stock in medium sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, lower temperature to simmer. Heat butter in large flat pan on medium heat. Add the other half of the chopped onion and saute. Stir. Cook for a couple minutes. Add farro. 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 a little bit of the fresh chopped parsley every few minutes, too. 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 farro will still have some chew to it. The process will take about 45 minutes, as the farro takes longer to cook than rice. Add the carrots and onions in and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Add parmesan to risotto and stir. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh chopped parsley. I served it with a simple green salad.

And then there was this next concoction which would be good served with some greens or roasted Brussels sprouts on the side. It might also make an excellent side dish for some grilled pork chops. I love the sweet and spicy from the maple and bourbon combined with the Tobasco in the grits mixed with the earthiness of the rosemary and Gruyere. Mmm…

Carrots & Onions

Maple Bourbon Carrots & Grits
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup Stone-Ground Corn Grits*
  • 4 cups Water
  • ¼ – ½ cup Buttermilk
  • 1 cup grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
  • Tabasco
  • Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Ghee or Butter
  • 6-7 Carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 big Red Onion, Sliced
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon
  • Chopped fresh Parsley & Rosemary (I used about 2 Tbsp)
  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

I tend to go for a creamier texture for my grits but you can play around with how long you cook them, how much liquid you add, etc. until you find the right texture to suit you. Cooking instructions usually have you soak the grits in the water to allow the hulls to rise to the top so you can skim them off. I always omit this step, opting for a little more grit and texture. Place the water in a pan on the stove. Add the grits and a couple pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to thicken, pour buttermilk in a little at a time and stir, as the liquid starts to all be absorbed and get thicker. Once you get a nice creamy texture and the grits aren’t too tough to taste, add the cheese, Tabasco, salt, and pepper and stir. Total cooking time usually takes about 45 minutes for me.

Grits

As the grits cook… In an iron skillet on medium heat, add the ghee. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften and caramelize. Keep stirring and right when you start to think the carrots are just about done, add the maple syrup and bourbon. Stir and then toss the herbs in. Cook a couple more minutes. Serve carrots over the grits.

Grits & Carrots

*All grits are definitely not created equally. Be sure to use really good quality, old fashioned, stone-ground grits which you can usually find in nicer grocery stores, specialty shops, at old mills out in the country, or online. I really like to use Falls Mills grits when in Tennessee.

Austin

SxSW is coming up down in Austin, TX and we, sadly, are not making the trek this year. Just thinking about it and hearing as our friends prepare to head down has made me crave some good ol’ Texas tacos! If you are headed Texas way, here’s my list of favorite taco joints from a few years back. And then, there’s also this I wrote the following year. I’m sure there are plenty of new places to try but these listed are some of the best that have been around for awhile.

And speaking of SxSW, these two are preparing to take it by storm! They’ve got a slew of shows down in Austin, and at towns along the way, and I am so happy for them.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Walden, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

Cale Tyson & Kelsey Waldon, The Red Barn Round-Up, 2013.

We first met Kelsey Waldon at a $2 Tuesday at The 5 Spot long ago and quite often she will sit in with Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers on Sunday nights at Santa’s Pub. We were instantly drawn to her old school country sound. Kelsey is from Kentucky and just graduated with a degree from Belmont in songwriting. Her songs are thoughtful and honest. It is evident she has an understanding and love of real country music. There is a vulnerability in her voice and her warm, genuine personality shines through her songs.

Kelsey

Kelsey Waldon with Brett Resnick on pedal steel guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donnas, Nashville, 2013.

Here’s a video of her song, Know My Name, that was shot at The Stone Fox in January. This song is the first one from her most recent album titled, Fixin’ It Up. She has a new album coming out real soon. Watch for it!

Cale Tyson is another singer and songwriter who we first met as he led the Ice Cold Pickers at Santa’s Pub. Cale is from Texas and sings slow, mournful yodels with a slight Texas twang. He sings songs about whiskey, being lonesome, honky-tonks, and lost love with a deep respect for the legendary songwriters whose music he grew up on.

Cale-1

Cale with Grant Johnson on guitar, The Music Loft at Mad Donna’s, Nashville, 2013.

His first EP, High on Lonesome, just came out and features some of Nashville’s best musicians. Here’s a video he shot for his song, Old Time Blues, featuring Grant “Big Smokey” Johnson on guitar and the beautiful Erin Rae singing.

Both Kelsey and Cale have voices very indicative of where they are from, seem fully immersed in Nashville’s rich history, and are poised for a very bright musical future.

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Hibernating for the Winter

29- Nesting

Winter is in full swing and all I want to do is hibernate. It’s the perfect time for nesting- working on all those art projects I never have time to complete, trying to catch up on all of our house projects, finally making time to see some art exhibits around town, the books I’ve been wanting to read, the movies I’ve been wanting to see, and lots of cooking. Hibernating requires some good comfort food. I have always taken great comfort in Asian food. All types really. Here are a few of our favorites of the last few weeks.

29- Miso 1

Miso Soup
1-2 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
4 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Tamari
8 cups Broth (I used 4 cups chicken, 4 cups water)
4-5 oz Udon Noodles
1 cup Frozen Peas
1 cup frozen Corn
Fresh Ginger
1-2 Baby Bok Choy, sliced
8-10 Shrimp, peeled with tails left on (optional)
4 Tbsp Red Miso
1 bunch Cilantro, chopped
3-4 Scallions, chopped

29- Miso 2

Heat a skillet and then add the sesame oil. Add the onion and stir. Cook until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic. Stir. Add the mushrooms. Stir. Add the vinegar and 1 Tbsp tamari and then add the peas and corn. Stir. Turn off the heat and let sit while you prepare the broth. Heat the broth in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the ginger and 1 Tbsp tamari. Bring to a boil. Add the noodles. Turn heat down to medium. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until noodles are soft. Add the onion and mushroom mixture to the broth. If using shrimp, add that next and cook only until done (4-5 minutes). Add bok choy. Turn the heat down a little more and add the miso (you never want to allow the miso to boil as it is fermented and the high heat will kill the living fermented goodness and you will lose nutritional value). Once miso has dissolved, spoon into bowls. Top with Cilantro, scallions, and Srircha (or hot sauce of choice).

29- Kale

And here’s another Kale Salad with a bit of an Asian slant to it. It is a nice accompaniment to soup or to one of our new favorite ways to eat catfish- Teriyaki Catfish. Back in Seattle, Teriyaki was a weekly staple and there were so many yummy places to grab some great Teriyaki on the go.

29- Kale & Catfish

Asian Kale Salad
For the Dressing:
1 clove Garlic
2 Scallions
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Tbsp Tamari
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Brown Rice Vinegar
1 Clementine, peel removed
1-2 tsp Honey

Kale or Kale-Romaine mix
Sea Salt
Carrots, chopped
Radishes, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a mini food-processor, grinder or blender. Clean the kale and remove the center veins. Chop the kale leaves in thin bite-size strips and place in bowl. Sprinkle a little salt over and gently massage the kale leaves. Set aside. Chop the carrots, radishes, and romaine if you are using it. Add to the kale. Pour the dressing over and mix.

And about those Clementines- I keep buying those cute little wooden crates filled with them. I usually give a few away and Grant and I both eat a couple a day but there are still always so many that I’ve been dreaming up recipes to incorporate them. Here is another that I adapted from a recipe I found on the internet.

29- Broccoli

Clementine Chicken with Broccoli
Serves 4
For the Sauce:
1 ½ cups Water
Juice + Zest of 1 Clementine
Juice of half a Lemon
⅓ cup Brown Rice Vinegar
3 Tbsp Tamari
½  cup Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
3 Green Onions, chopped
½-1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into small pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Black Sesame Seeds
½ tsp Sea Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
2-3 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
1 small Yellow Onion, chopped
1 bunch Broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

Pour all ingredients for the sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes. Place the chicken pieces into a bowl. When the sauce has cooled, pour 1 cup of it over the chicken, stir to coat, and cover. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Reserve the remaining sauce. In another bowl, mix the flour, sesame seeds, salt, and pepper. Add the marinated chicken pieces and stir to coat the chicken. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides. Place chicken on a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Clean the bottom of the skillet. Heat the skillet (or wok) and add 1 Tbsp oil. Saute the onion, stirring, until it begins to soften. Add the broccoli and stir and then add the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water and then stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over brown rice.

29- Broccoli Chicken

My hibernation has included plenty of tunes on the hi-fi and the low-fi- I’ve been really enjoying Eddie Stubbs’ week night show and listening to the Opry at the Ryman shows as heard through good ole’ WSM 650 AM. I haven’t been out to see as much live music the last couple of months but I hope to catch up soon.

29- Santas

Sundays are my favorite lately for live old school country music. Grant’s been playing with some great young musicians at a funky, smoke-filled double wide called Santa’s Pub. They call themselves Santa’s Ice Cold Pickers and they play 7-9pm. I’ve really enjoyed their sets. There is a whole new group of country music performers and appreciators and I’ve heard some songs I don’t usually hear down on lower Broadway. After their set, Grant and I try to make it over to The Stone Fox where Chris Scruggs holds court with the old timers (and a few youngsters with old souls) he calls them The Air Castle All-Stars. (I have some better photos of them here from when they played at my and Allison’s Red Barn Round-Up party back in November.)

29- Chris & Billy

There we get to hear Billy Robinson on steel playing the same songs he once played with Red Foley, Carl Smith, and even Hank Williams way back in the day. We also get to hear Buddy Spicher on fiddle who has recorded with all the great legends. These guys are the best of the best and that we get to just stop by to hear them play for a little while on a Sunday night truly amazes me.

I’ll close with this fruit nut bread I came up with. It is actually pretty low-fat. I adapted a weight watchers recipe actually, that I found on-line. I love the combination of dried apricots with oats. It is technically a banana bread but came out as a dense fruit bread. In perfect Johnson fashion, we found a way to make it less healthy and enjoyed it the most sliced and toasted with a pat of butter.

29- Fruity Oat Bread

Fruity Oat Bread
1 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 cup Rolled Oats
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Sea Salt
3-4 Bananas, very ripe
1/2 cup Mascobado Cane (or Dark Brown Sugar)
2 large egg whites
¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt
¾ -1 cup chopped Dried Apricots
1 tsp Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside. In medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In separate medium bowl, mash bananas with fork. Add sugar and mixing until smooth. Beat in egg whites and yogurt. Combine wet and dry ingredients together for a somewhat smooth consistency. Mix in apricots. Pour into an olive oil greased loaf pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until baking wire (or toothpick) comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the loaf.