No Need For Blame

Photo 1- Soup

Soup and an attitude adjustment for winter survival!

Here come all the seasonal colds! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard lately, “I’m so mad at so-and-so, they made me sick!” Or this one, “Don’t breathe on me, I don’t want your cold!” First off, no one likes to get sick and secondly, it really sucks for everyone when someone deliberately goes out into the world and sneezes and spreads their germs around. But guess what? We have very little control over everyone else’s snot. Being mad and finding blame does no one any good. It only fosters negativity and hate in your body. What we can do, though, is take really good care of ourselves and build up our body’s defenses through eating well, exercising to keep our bodies in good working order, and finding ways to control the stress in our own bodies so that we will be less likely to catch what everyone else has. I know we aren’t all on the same playing fields and some of us have compromised immune systems or other conditions that don’t make any of this easy but even in those instances, taking good care of yourself can only help make whatever situation you are in, better. We can do this!

Since this is my own personal blog, these are just my own personal suggestions for combating the winter colds that you might be coming into contact with. For starters- don’t forget to drink lots and lots of water. I keep catching myself not drinking as much as I do in the summer but it is so important to stay hydrated. It’s so easy and makes you feel so good. Secondly, breath. I keep getting stressed out over stupid things. Stop. Make yourself take 10 deep breaths. Count them out.

For vitamins, supplements, and herbs, I wholeheartedly stand behind these two brands of products: New Chapter and Gaia Herbs. They both are great companies with superb products made from real- organic in most cases- food and herbs! They cost more but I think they are way more effective so really it is like paying forward on health care. And you can feel good knowing you are giving your money to good companies who give a damn about real food and good health.

apples

Don’t forget to eat simple nourishing food. The winter produce, at first, seems less desirable than all that succulent summer produce but look again. Big, juicy apples are so good for us. An apple a day can do wonders, indeed, to keep the doctor away. There have been tons of studies on how great apples are for us. Google it. I carried one with me the other day and ate it on the plane and it made me feel so good to have selected that over the crappy plane snacks I was offered. I imagined that everyone was jealous of my big red apple, too, and all that goodness I was filling my body with. And what about all those winter squashes and root vegetables, they are packed with vitamins. Eat your greens! Don’t like greens? Then, throw some in with some fruit and yogurt and blend it up to make a smoothie. Juice them or blend some up with veggie stock to make all your favorite soups, rice or risottos. You will hardly even taste them. We need to be eating these every single day. I could go on and on… Mostly, I am writing this out to remind myself to take good care because each time this year, I start to worry and get all kinds of ailments. I start to realize that I haven’t been exercising, I’ve been loading up on carbs to pack on warmth for the winter (knowing I can hide the extra fat behind the bulky sweaters), and one pain or ailment brings out the inner hypochondriac and it suddenly starts to spin out of control.

So I’ve started to get realigned by eating as many fruits and vegetables as I can. I made this really simple Cabbage Soup. I kept putting these ingredients together in my head a couple weeks back and realized there are many variations of this recipe idea. Here’s my interpretation.

Cabbage Soup-1

Cabbage Soup
Makes a big soup pot

Olive Oil
1 White Onion, chopped
½ head of Green Cabbage
2 Carrots, grated 2 cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
1 can Great Northern Beans
5 cups Stock (I used vegetable)
1 cup chopped canned Whole Tomatoes
½ cup Juice from Tomatoes
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp fresh Herbs, chopped (I used Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme)
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
Grana Padano (or Reggiano), grated to top each bowl

Cabbage Soup- 2

So, heat a soup pot on medium heat. Add some oil. Add the onion. Stir. Once the onion starts to be translucent, add the cabbage. Stir. Add the carrots and garlic. Stir. Add the beans, stock, tomatoes, and cook. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Cook for a few minutes so the flavors can combine. Salt & Pepper and add the herbs. Cook a few more minutes. Top each bowl with cheese.

I was certain I was coming down with a cold last week and decided to cook up as many vegetables as I could find in our house and make a big simple stir fry. It wasn’t the best seasoned stir fry, it was a little bland but I wanted to mention it because this simple stir fry had quite a life. It became one of the best uses for leftovers ever. Here’s the series of meals in my leftover makeovers. May it inspire you to create masterpieces from your leftovers! Each dish was tastier and more dynamic than the preceding dish.

Stirfry Veggies

Stirfry to…

Fried Rice to…

Stuffed Peppers…

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

Fried Rice Stuffed Peppers served with Braised Cabbage and Onions.

And a few days later I came up with this healthy salad to accompany a big pot of our favorite Turkey Chili.

Kale Salad w Chili

Winter Kale Salad
Serves 4

Kale, maybe 6 or so big leaves, vein removed and chopped finely
Sea Salt
1 Beet, cut into slices and then tiny cubes
1 Carrot, cut into matchsticks and then tiny cubes
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
1 Tbsp prepared Horseradish
Juice of 1 Lime
Romaine, maybe 2-3 leaves, chopped
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, for sprinkling on top
Toasted Cumin, just a few

Kale Salad-1

Place the kale in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Using your hands, massage the salt into the kale to sort of break the leaves down a bit. This helps make the kale less bitter. Mix the beet, carrot, cilantro, horseradish, lime, and romaine in. Stir. Top with pumpkin seeds and a very small amount of toasted cumin seeds.

And Lord, don’t forget to keep listening to music. Music fills my world with happiness. I’ve been really excited about these recent releases from our neck of the woods- Patrick Sweany‘s Close To The Floor and Buffalo Clover‘s Test Your Love . Both are a little more rockin’ and soulful than I usually suggest for this blog although, I see both Patrick and Margo play more country songs all the time at shows in my neighborhood.

Patrick Sweany

Patrick Sweany at the 5 Spot November, 2013.

Margo Price singing at Country & Western Night at the 5 Spot. Grant Johnson on guitar. October, 2013.

Margo Price singing at Country & Western Night at the 5 Spot. Grant Johnson on guitar. October, 2013.

When not writing songs and spending time fronting her own band, Margo is one of the best back-up singers around, too. And Patrick is one fine guitar player and, when he plays solo, he has the most awesome stomp box. Come on, who doesn’t love to hear that? I first heard someone stomping when I was in college in Athens, GA, where I majored in live music (not really). It was the awesome duo of the Chickasaw Mudd Puppies. That stomping sound just really goes straight to my heart. I love it.

Both of these new cds are really fun and were made with love by really nice folks. And they sort of go nicely together so you should buy both and then put them on shuffle.

Stay healthy! Happy holiday season!

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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.