I wrote this fun little holiday song Candy Cane Kisses quite some time ago and finally brought it back to life with a super talented friend here in Nashville named Shane Hines! I love everything about Christmas and I usually find myself writing Christmas songs by July. I hope you will check it out, share it with friends and add it to YOUR holiday playlist! Click here to download on iTunes!
Only on a Monday in Nashville can you find yourself driving through pounding rain and a tornado watch to take part in a friend’s video shoot for a fun little song you co-wrote. Before I arrived I called to make sure that there was a tornado safe room available should we have to bail on our photo booth concept set and run for our lives. Apparently, Kayliann is a person I would do anything for. She is a multi-instrument playing, voice of an angel-singing, smile-making human and and one of the sweetest hearts around. I snapped a few iPhone photos before we got started shooting. Enjoy yourself some creative Nashville silliness!
Learn more about Kayliann and hear her sing at www.Kayliann.com
I had no idea what Park(ing) Day was when an incredibly talented architect friend of mine asked me what I thought about his firm’s Park(ing) day concept, The World’s Smallest Honky-Tonk. Park(ing) Day came to life in San Francisco in 2005 when Rebar, an art and design firm fed a parking meter and turned its companion spot into a public park. For a few hours anyway. That one act of green kindness turned into a movement that has spread to parking spaces and cities across the country. The mission statement found on the parkingday.org website reads:
The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!
I love this idea, and because its Nashville, my friend and his team’s concept. It was exciting to see lower Broadway in Nashville turned into a sea of mini-parks and one Tiny Tonk. Nashville is booming and every time we locals turn around, another spot of land is being claimed by a condo building or a retail center. In a city noted for having one of the largest urban tree canopies in the nation, little by little, the issue of open space is becoming a more pressing one. I guess that’s the price of living in the most “it”, most creative city on the planet.
Congratulations to Pfeffer Trode Architecture, Jamie Pfeffer and the team for winning Most Creative space and the People’s Choice Award!
To read more about Park(ing) Day and to find out how you can take part, check out their website, here.
I made this cake for a friend’s birthday recently (the gal over at inspireeatrun.com) and because I used an existing red velvet recipe and just substituted GF flour, it was easier than it looks. Making a cake for a table full of people from a recipe you’ve never tried usually spells FLOP, but thankfully this turned out as well as I could have hoped.
I used Cakeman Raven’s Southern Red Velvet Cake recipe featured on the Food Network Channel’s show Sarah’s Secrets, which you can find, here. I made the cake wheat-free by substituting, cup for cup, the flour for a GF all-purpose flour.
I used a traditional cream cheese frosting recipe, which can be found in a thousand different places online. Try this one. I tend to go overboard on the frosting but you don’t have to.
I used a bundt cake pan that was a hand-me-down from my hubby’s grandmother, which gave it an old-fashioned feel and created a great canvas for decorating.
I don’t have a cake carrier so I ran to the craft store and bought a cardboard cake box, cardboard rounds for underneath and some pretty black cake doilies.
The hole in the bundt shape made the perfect vase for some fresh flowers, which I threw on at the last-minute, along with some mini chocolate chips.
If you make one, I’d love to see how it turns out!
There is a large, ivory ceramic bowl resting on the island in my kitchen that is the catchall for the random fruits and vegetables that find their way into my kitchen, but not, immediately, my mouth. There is often a sad clementine at the bottom, overlooked and gone bad that I have to compost, therefore, robbing it of, as my sister says about such things, “its chance to live out its destiny.” Thanks to her sentiments I feel like I have to prepare a memorial service for each bit of produce that I let go bad before using.
Last week, I looked into this bowl and observed a pretty random group of produce all on the verge of checking out. I had a small butternut squash, a green apple, a sad-looking sweet potato and an onion. I decided to make all their dreams come true and put together a soup (with the help of the Vitamix blender) that I think may have become a new standard in my house. I used spices that I picked up on my travels earlier in the year and I would like to say, with no boasting intended, only excitement, HOLY WOW! This soup turned out better than I imagined. I forced a taste-testing on two co-writers who were over working on some new tunes and it got great reviews.
Here is the “recipe.” Enjoy!
Random Roast Vegetable Soup
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into pieces
1 green apple, peeled, cored and cut into pieces (you can keep skin on as well)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into pieces
1 onion, cut into large chunks
Carrots (I had some carrot slices in the refrigerator that I threw in at the last minute. No particular amount.)
3-4 cups free range organic low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt (I used a pink Hawaiian sea salt that I purchased in Kauai.)
1 teaspoon of spice that you like and have around (I used Baharat spice that I picked up in Dubai earlier in the year)
-Combine all chopped vegetables in a bowl and toss with olive oil and the sea salt.
-Place vegetables on a tin-foil (oiled or sprayed) covered pan in a single layer.
-Roast the vegetables at 400 degrees until they are tender.
-Remove from oven and place them in the Vitamix. (or whatever you use to puree)
-Add 3 cups of broth and the spices.
-Put blender on soup mode and let it do its work.
-Add additional salt to taste.
This serves 4-6
Do you have any random recipes that you’ve come up with using random ingredients? I’d love to know.
Wheat-free baking can be overwhelming. I’ve found that it’s the recipes that make creating a decent wheat-free cake or other baked goods a nightmare. I would probably rather drive in Nashville rush hour on a rainy day on a Friday with a dead iPhone for company than use a recipe that calls for 3 types of flours and at least 2 ingredients I don’t recognize. Xanthum gum? I think I bought a pack of that in Japan once? Nope. It’s not an exotic chewing candy, but just one of many ingredients that tend to terrify the novice wheat-free baker.
I mentioned in a post some months ago that I’ve been wheat-free for 17 years. Before it was hip, I suppose. Back in the day (when my mom still cooked for me), it was impossible to bake a wheat-free cake without having to mail order the ingredients from the north pole, visit a shaman in the forest for the conjuring up of a non-existent recipe, followed by at least 10 attempts to make that recipe not taste like a box of tissues.
I get asked a lot about how I make my wheat-free recipes, because most people can’t tell the difference between the WF and the regular. Some I make up on a whim and some I get from standard recipes that I modify. I’ve put together some tips and ideas and I hope they help you avert the truly disgusting and tragic wheat-free cooking errors I’ve made.
Wheat-Free Baking Tips
1. Have a box (or bag) of all-purpose gluten-free flour in hand; one that doesn’t require the addition of xanthum gum. (For example, Bob’s Red Mill is expensive already without having to purchase the xanthum gum required to use it.) I like Glutino All Purpose Flour.
2. Pick recipes that naturally don’t require a lot of flour. For example, one of my favorite desserts is apple crisp. There isn’t a lot of flour in most recipes for apple crisp, so it’s an easy substitution. Usually just a tablespoon or two for the apple mixture and roughly the same for the topping, maybe a bit more. And if you want to avoid modifying at all costs, you can not fail with a flourless chocolate cake.
3. Make it easy on yourself and use your favorite recipes. You don’t have to spend hours researching recipes (unless, unfortunately, you have other allergies that make baking near impossible) that fit the wheat-free mold. Simply replace the flour in your favorite recipe with an all-purpose GF flour. If you want a red velvet cake? Use your favorite recipe and subsitute the flour. That has been a no-fail method for me so far.
4. Use pre-made mixes when you can. For example, I make wheat-free lemon bars and use a pre-bagged sugar cookie mix for the base. (Pamela’s Products, found in most grocery stores.) That makes the process much easier. And since you already have the GF flour on hand, you’ll have what you need to make the filling which usually (depending on which recipe you use) only calls for a tablespoon or two. The same goes with brownies. I use a basic wheat-free brownie mix then add whatever into it that I feel like at the time. Toffee chips, peanut butter chips, mint chips and nuts are all things I’ve added.
5. If you find that that what you’re making is a bit dry, it’s ok to add a tablespoon of water. Or when appropriate a few tablespoons of prepared coffee.
6. Make sure to grease or non-stick spray the hell out of your pan when baking wheat-free.
7. Don’t be afraid to experiement and fail.
I’d love to know more tips myself, so if you have some, please share!
The last days of summer are here. Fresh garden tomatoes are ending their run making way for the gourds and other fall dirt candies that crop up in the farmers’ markets. A friend had brought me some of those summer tomatoes from her sister’s garden earlier this summer and I wanted to see where these insanely tasty gems came from. I couldn’t imagine a garden the way my friend described it existing in a backyard in an urban Nashville neighborhood. I certainly didn’t believe that there were 60,000 bees living there either, so I went and observed it for myself.
Toney Baily, the next creator in my Creator Series, a massage therapist and Qigong practitioner who teaches local stretching classes, graciously allowed me to explore the organic garden, bee hives and property that she has created and maintains in the middle of a busy Nashville neighborhood; mostly off the grid, by the way. Nashville Electric Service pays her for the excess power created on her property by the solar panels installed on the roof. Her home is kept at a constant comfortable temperature both in summer and winter thanks to a geothermal system. Toney is a great example of living a more sustainable existence no matter the location.
Toney’s Tips For Beginner Gardeners
-Plan the size of your garden and what you want to plant.
-Determine what and where your water source will be. (Water barrels and how close are they to the garden.)
-Find the best sun spots for what you will be planting, keeping in mind some plants require lots of sun, while some don’t.
-Make a plan for what you will do with the produce. Will you sell it, keep it and preseve it, give it away? My small garden produced tons of tomatoes.
The bees were the most fascinating part of the day. I will admit that I was a bit nervous stepping into the hive area to snap some very quick photos. I asked Toney if she had ever been stung, because that should be anyone’s first question, really, when stepping into the home of 60,000 Italian (read feisty) bees. Her answer was surprising. Once. It was during a time when the queen had died and the hive was in transition. I learned that bees are incredibly social insects and that once, after seeing a fellow bee had died and fallen from to the ground, two workers moved him away from the hive. Apparently, in addition to being a good thing for our planet, backyard beekeeping is a fascinating lesson in behavior. Not only are they good for us, but as Toney said, we can be good for them:
“A benefit of backyard beekeeping for the bees is that we can give them a safe home so they can work. I’m thankful for the honey and the pollination of my plants.”
Interesting Facts About Bees and Backyard Beekeeping
-American bees have disappeared almost completely, for a variety of reasons, one being the use of pesticides.
-You can buy many types of bees to start your hives, including Italian and Russian bees.
-Backyard beekeepers strengthen the bee gene pool by adding healthy local bees to the mix.
-Eating local honey has been shown to relieve symptoms in allergy sufferers.
-A honeybee population in your garden has a positive impact on not only your garden, but surrounding areas because of their nectar-gathering range.
-Because of the diminishing bee population, even one hive can make a difference.
Check out Toney’s stretching class offered at 9:30 pm on Tuesdays at the Tusculum Presbyterian Church on McMurray Dr.
You can book a massage with her (I’ve had one so trust me you want to) by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a Nashvillian, you’ve probably overheard at least once or twice in the past two years, in whispered tones, fellow locals utter nefarious-sounding statements like, “So, did you get them?” or “I’ll do or pay whatever, just get me some.” These conversations are not happening on street corners. They’re happening in churches, schools and over business lunches. I’m not talking about a community-wide collective addiction to something unseemly. What I am speaking of is the urban legend-level rumors regarding the securing of reservations at one of Nashville’s most well-reviewed restaurants, The Catbird Seat. (Your best bet, I’ve heard, is to stay up until midnight when the online reservations open for the next 30-day period to try and get your preferred date.)
Almost three years into its existence and one executive chef change, I finally experienced the Catbird Seat myself on Saturday (thank you, Mr. Van Cleave.) I now understand fully why The Catbird Seat restaurant has helped solidify Nashville’s growing reputation as a destination worth the food alone. Not only are Nashvillians clamoring for a seat at the u-shaped table, but so is the rest of the country.
There are so many things I loved about the experience and in an effort to not make this post novel-length, I’ve narrowed the list down to my Top 5.
Top 5 Best Things About The Catbird Seat
1. The decor, or lack thereof. At one point in our nearly three-hour experience we
we had a conversation about the lack of art, decoration or anything, really, hanging on the walls.
The focus is solely directed at the food. The Catbird Seat is vibey without trying. The staff,
the food, and the chef were enough to draw and hold our attention for the entire
2. The non-alcoholic beverage pairing. For those who don’t drink, it’s often difficult to find
anything interesting and different on the beverage menu. Not so at The Catbird Seat.
The flower tea, barley soda with Tennessee honey and the smoked Oolong apparently out-
tasted a few of the wines on my dinner companions’ pairings.
3. The lack of a menu. More specifically, the menu comes at the end of the meal. Everything is
planned before you get there. All you have to do is show up. Part of the fun of The Catbird
Seat is the tasting menu concept and not knowing what’s coming out next. It’s exciting and
worth the wait in between the ten or so courses.
4. The open kitchen. By the end of the night you’ve met everyone involved in creating each and every one-of-a-kind
5. This is the most important part of this list. My favorite thing about The Catbird Seat is
executive chef Trevor Moran. He is funny, un-pretentious, Irish and so talented. His food is
not overwrought or tortured. It is inspired and simple. I left The Catbird Seat looking forward
to seeing him again as much as I was to coming back for the amazing food.
Visit the Catbird Seat website, here, for news, reservations and FAQ’s.
Cheap thrills. Ignoring other, less seemly and less meaningful definitions of the phrase, I’ve made up my own.
Cheap Thrills (noun, pl.): Inexpensive ways to brighten up life, house, soul, office, etc. that cost little and bring joy, beauty and the enjoyment of one’s surroundings.
Cheap thrills in my life involve the adrenaline-fueled joy I feel when I happen across a perfect vintage dress in a thrift shop for $8; find a new use for something I already own; or, like I did today on an otherwise gloomy Sunday, buy $4 bunches of gladioli.
Fresh flowers are seen as a bit of a luxury item to many, but they don’t have to be. I love flowers. They are my most frequently photographed Instagram subjects. They brighten a sad space and can be a fantastic tool for instant redecoration. No budget to get new everything? Throw a vase of fresh flowers in the middle of your coffee table and enjoy the fresh, new scene.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s recently started stocking gladioli again. Trader Joe’s is a go-to for me when buying flowers. (If I can’t get locally grown flowers from the farmer’s market, I head over there for inexpensive bunches.) With extra long stems, beautiful colors and costing only $4 they are a statement that costs little to make. These flowers are no shrinking violets. Just ten stems makes for a huge centerpiece, which after adding a vase, nears three feet in height. They are simple and dramatic at the same time and I love that.
My sister (a beauty, a mother and a wonderful flower arranger ) gave me a helpful hint on how to make flowers last longer. When you get them home, cut the stems and dip the ends in alum. It is something you can purchase in the spice department and is often used in pickling recipes. The hydrangeas from her garden last weeks using this trick.
A beautiful gladiolus sure makes me glad. I hope you get to enjoy some soon.