30 July 2010

Ahhh Nashville: FREE Gelato on Saturday!

A flurry of Nashville blogs have featured a local shop, Bravo Gelato. Ok, three that I found, but that's plenty! That is enough reason to check it out... Maybe I'll see you at the Village Green location on Saturday. (12-3pm)


Bravo Gelato: Free this Saturday. | StyleBlueprint
Bravo Gelato | Erin's Food Files
Chef'n Giveaway Winner (and Oh My Gelato!) | Love & Olive Oil

28 July 2010

Nashville Food: The Garden Brunch Cafe

This year for Mother's Day, we decided to go out for brunch on Saturday to avoid crowds. I was browsing through my emails when I saw a restaurant in my airline-mileage-dining-club-thingy. I had never heard of it before so I did a bit of clicking to discover that the Garden Brunch Cafe in Nashville had great reviews. Former patrons had discovered the owners (Karl & Jennifer Carpenter) to be really friendly and attentive, even serving and visiting tables themselves. What struck me, however, was the opening paragraph of their web site that states they serve "seasonal variations on pancake delicacies" and they have a "healthy take on Southern favorites."

Well, that did it for me. I was in, and my husband was excited to try something new. We discovered at the restaurant that they serve local organic eggs (from Mamushi Nature Farm in Franklin, TN), turkey sausage/bacon in lieu of pork products, whole wheat toast, and fresh organic produce whenever possible.

images: gardenbrunchcafe.com
The atmosphere was pleasant... Housed in a quaint bungalow on the North side of Jefferson Street, the cafe has a history you can read about as soon as you walk in the door. Colorful paintings decorated the walls, fresh wildflowers were placed on each table, and friendly people greeted us. There was a certain urban, jazz appeal about the place, even in the daytime. 

As for the food, it was certainly very tasty. What I appreciated the most was the comfort in knowing the food was prepared with the intention of supporting healthy living. There wasn't a ton of grease, and the flavor wasn't compromised by the lack of pork fat. Hey, I love me some bacon on occasion, but this particular experience was all about the healthy attitude a Southern brunch can have.

Give them a try! You'll be supporting a local small business that supports other local small business!

Click here for a bonafide article on the restaurant.

Oh yes, and this weekend they are having a special event. I can't make it, but if you happen to go please come back and leave a comment.

* * *
An Evening of Wine & Art
Enjoy sumptuous wine tastings while meeting
and sharing with the artists with art displayed at The Garden, 
along with Live Music by Singer/Guitarist John Richards.
The admission price of $20.00 will include 
varied appetizers, desserts, coffee, and our fine wines.
924 Jefferson Street
Nashville, TN 37208
* * *

Patio Garden Experiment: Part II

L to R: Green Zebra, Yellow Cherry in bowl,
Yellow Pear, Riesentraube, Roma, Cream Sausage
The other day (as I cut up these beauties from our patio garden) I told my husband that summertime is one of the best times to cook because it's so colorful and fun. It wasn't until we signed up for our first CSA box (with Avalon Acres) that I realized tomatoes came in such wonderful varieties in color, size, and flavor.

Sure, I should have a general knowledge of produce as a California native, but somehow it got lost in all of the modernization of food. If you're in for some great information on how that happened, check out some books by Pollan or my current fave, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

So far our patio garden experiment has proven to be less than ideal. Of course, the potted plants bring the ease of watering and harvesting. It's the productivity that we've been disappointed in, as well as the amount of ants that seem to invade the plants as soon as the fruit begins to ripen. With the amount of rain we've had, the fruit has been cracking. Some crack and mend up (see Green Zebra in the photo), and some crack open to be eaten alive by the ants. These tiny black boogers actually bite!

Yesterday I was harvesting what I could from Sophie's Choice, Arkansas Traveler and Yellow Pear. As I was holding a bunch in my left hand and picking with the right, I suddenly felt little ants biting in between my knuckles. They were obviously upset that I had disturbed their meal. Rarrrrr!

Here's the 4-1-1 on potted tomato & herb production (as far as our patio goes). I'll save seeds and replant the ones in bold:

* Sophie's Choice: short plant ideal for pots, slow to ripen, ideal for ants 
* Cream Sausage (aka Banana Cream): VERY productive, no cracking. 
* Japanese Black Trifele: very productive, sweet and full of water. The ants get them before they turn black.
* Cherokee Purple: little to no production. Seriously disappointing! Native plant that probably wants really badly to be in the ground.
* Arkansas Traveler: strong, sturdy looking plant with only a handful of fruit. Again, the ants love it.
* Green Zebra: not much fruit, but the cracked skin mends itself better than the others. We'll give it another try next year.
* Riesentraube: decent production, but not necessarily prolific. Great fruit, hardy skin and tasty.
* Yellow Pear: ridiculously productive! Even with the cracking and ants it produced enough for us all to enjoy. 
* Sweet Genovese Basil: who doesn't use fresh Genovese in just about everything, all summer?
* Lime Basil (our new FAVORITE!!): a definite YES to this plant. Amazing flavor, aroma and growth!

Grilled Free-Range Chicken with Fresh Garden Tomatoes & Lime Basil Salad
I'll let you know how the saving of the seeds goes. Something else I need to learn and grow with! Exciting.

26 July 2010

Livin' La Vida Verde

Green! Honestly, I never realized how much I loved GREEN until I started to see things pop that match my new stuff. I chose these items as my favorites in Anthropologie as I was browsing on the last day of a visit from my friends. I didn't know my pals were fishing for my preference for a reason!

ceramic measuring cups and magnetic timer
Maybe you can relate to, or just imagine, having friends that are so close they are family.

The lines get blurred in my family's culture. I can't count the number of times I've heard the question, "are you all related?" If you spend enough time with someone you start to look like them. Not just hair, clothing, and make-up (all of which has happened over the years)... I'm talking about expressions, mannerisms and vocal intonation. Likes, dislikes, opinion, conviction. What I'm trying to say is that there are people in my life that fit the bill, and I was SO blessed to have them for 5 wonderful days.

I certainly can't describe the feelings of that bipolar final day together. What I CAN tell you is that I walked away with a fabulous weekend stash! Ok, I really was quite emotional, but I didn't want to let the violins eek on for too long. 

The goods...

The Game of Things
A new Game of Things! Thanks, Matt & Lani, for introducing us to this game...and for making me laugh so much, it literally hurt.

Thanks, Trish, for the invaluable advice on the garlic olive oil. Seriously, this has totally changed our lives. Those Vinni bags were amazing, thanks for bringing the wine! I'll look for that yummy Frascati, but I'm not holding my breath. 
My lovely husband took a trip to the superT and got me the large Green Pan skillet. Oh, sweet man... Another thing to make my experience in the kitchen even better! (Glad you got the pans, Jen & Priss. Pretty sweet, right?)

See how perfect this timer looks on my fridge, Jannell? By the way, those cute little van Gogh deals are souvenirs from my sister's latest jaunt to Amsterdam.

Thanks, Jen, for the cute denim dress. Thanks for driving so far by yourself with the kids – and you never complained about being in that tiny room with both of them all weekend. Dude, you're a rock star mom.

The darling "California mission tile style" measuring cups (from Lani) sit just above my sink. I can be reminded every day of my home state...and my homies.

Thanks for an amazing weekend, girls! 

Smokey eyes, here I come.

Well, I hope I can at least meet you halfway this morning. Then magically, you'll just be awesome on my eyes.

I do have those "lidless asian eyes," you know. Not much of a crease, barely any lid. Most of the time my eye shadow's main goal is to give the appearance of a deeper crease and larger lid. Why? Well, because that's what the modern world says looks good. I think. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind having these eyes.

Maybe Smokey Eyes will help make me look more awake than I'm feeling?  

Did I mention that I have a sleepy eyelid?
When I wink in type I'm actually just representing my standard smile. Sheeeeesh, this may prove to be more difficult... more than I bargained for. Well, I didn't actually have to do any real bargaining, but I did GET a bargain.

Smokey Eyes set of 5 colors (mineral shadow & liner) plus bamboo eye brush: $12.  

my new EM stash
In addition to the brushes and EM collection I already have, I got a few more things like pressed powder and summer bronzer, threw in a couple of murumuru lip balms... then qualified for a FREE full size pink shimmer and black shimmer eye shadow. Sweeeet! Like I told you, Everyday Minerals is worth a try.

At least I can sleep well knowing I'm putting safe make-up on my face and eyes. That's worth much more than I paid. ;-)

Note: I'm an not getting paid to write this post. I just love the product!

24 July 2010

Yo, Vinni...Who you callin' a wine bag?

This has to be one of the best travel buddies of the year. Imagine inflatable water wings for your wine... Thanks to Trish, we saw the Vinni bag in action this last weekend. She brought us some fabu Frascati, originally sampled by her trusted palate, in Italy. I swear it was one of the greatest white wines I've tasted, and not just because it came out of this rad bag.  

22 July 2010

Treat Your Face Well

Everyday Minerals promise
A couple of years ago I was visiting my "girlfriend-slash-cousin" and she gave me some mineral make-up that didn't match her skin tone. Lucky me, I was a match! She also mentioned that if I went online to the web site of Everyday Minerals I would be able to try samples of any color, for FREE.

"Whaaat? For mineral make-up? Isn't that so popular right now?"
I had to give it a try.

So, here's my Top 10 Reasons you should try Everyday Minerals:

1) The products are organic, all natural and cruelty free. (Yes, even the lip balms and lipstick!)
2) The mineral base actually helped my sensitive skin to "normalize" after a period of dealing with really frustrating dry, irritated spots.
3) It has great coverage without making me oily or breaking out.
4) They sell amazing bamboo brushes that work fabulously.
5) The color selection is pretty great.
6) It doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
7) The products last a long time.
8) You can buy large or mini sample sizes, or simply try out colors for free in sample size (that still last quite a while).
9) They always have good promos that include free samples, new colors or products, and discounts with a certain dollar amount.

(Screen shot of Everyday Minerals site)
I had tried so many different products, but this one really worked for me! Go to the About menu and hit Everyday Tools. Then click on "Let us help you get started" to find your color. You'll receive free samples and you'll just have to pay for shipping. After you figure out your color(s) you can buy the full sizes, which only cost around $12 each. Seriously.

10) They are a part of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. Know what you put on your face.

Shout out to Jen and Trish... They're givers. Thanks for introducing me to EM!

12 July 2010

Quesapita for lunch?

What's quick and easy, healthy and gone in 5 minutes or less? Yup, you guessed it.... Quesapita! I'm certain that I am not the only mom that makes this for their kids' lunch, but I still wanted to share it. That's what this blog world is about, right? Share the health.

I made this Quesapita with my Green Pan in about 2-3 minutes. Take one whole wheat pita (sans partially–or fully–hydrogenated anything) and cut it in half. Spritz both sides with olive oil (or use butter, whatever is your pleasure). Take one slice of meunster cheese (melts nicely) and cut diagonally into 2 triangles. The triangles fit perfectly into the 2 semicircles you just cut the pita into. Lay the pieces into your pan on medium-high heat and flip over after a minute or so. Cook until golden or until the cheese is melted, cut with a pizza wheel and serve!

Have the kids help you and they'll have fun with the shapes!

09 July 2010

THE bread.

I promised I would blog about the bread in the burger post, so here goes!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingA couple of years ago my husband handed me an article he found in Mother Earth News. This article was an interview and recipe from the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day... 5 minutes??! Wow, I was ON BOARD. Turns out it took me a few more minutes to really get the hang of it (I was not an accomplished dough handler, mind you), but now that I have the master recipe memorized, it takes just a few minutes! 
Lemme 'splain to you...

Jeff & Zoe's master recipe is water, yeast, salt, and flour
Here's how simple it is:
* I stir 3 cups warm water with 1-1/2 Tbsp yeast and 1-1/2 Tbsp salt in my stand mixer bowl with a spoon (you could use just a big bowl and a spoon if you don't have a mixer... you'll be buff by the end of the year).
* I add 6-1/2 cups of flour, then turn the mixer on (with a dough hook) just until the flour is totally wet.
* I put a piece of plastic wrap on the bowl loosely.
* Done.

Well, for 2 hours. Then, I either transfer the dough to a lidded container and stick it in the fridge, or use it right away. This is the recipe for the master boule and from this comes any number of things in the book, which is AMAZING! My buddies gave me the book for my birthday last year so that I could have the treasury of endless possibilities. It has recipes for practically everything you love and never thought you could make at home. I've made bagels, cinnamon rolls, ciabatta, pizza, sourdough, and the beautiful peasant loaf that's on the cover of the book. Seriously, I wanted to cry the first time I opened up the oven and saw the golden, criss-crossed, crackling crust of my peasant loaves. Soft, chewy inside... Crispy shell on the outside. Oh yeeeeahhhh.

Oh yes, and here's how to make the ciabatta
(in my own words, per Jeff & Zoe's FAQ):

If you have a pizza peel, dust it with flour fairly liberally. With wet hands, grab and cut off a baseball sized chunk of dough with a serrated knife. Smoosh it with both wet hands, then pull the dough around -- with my left hand I hold the dough, with my right hand I pull the top to the bottom then rotate. Basically you pull in quarter turns so you're kind of making a "round square." I know, but it's true. Try it!

Anyway, place the dough on the floured peel and dust the top with more flour. Put your pizza stone and boiler tray in the oven and turn it to 450ºF. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then slide your bread onto the hot stone. Since it was so wet you may have to use a metal spatula to move it from the peel to the stone. Just before you close the oven door, pour about 1 cup of lukewarm/room temp water into the hot boiler tray and shut the steam in quickly. Bake for 20 minutes and, voilà! Golden, chewy ciabatta rolls for your eating pleasure.

06 July 2010

Patio Garden Experiment: Part I

We used to have a raised garden on the sunny southeast side of the house. Then my husband decided to dismantle it for the house's short stint as rental property. After we moved back in we decided to try something new. As mentioned in a previous post about Swiss Chard, we have planted vegetables in our existing flower beds. This has been tricky since our flower beds are finally lush-ing out and providing those shady areas that we were starving for in years past! One of our solutions has been to attempt a patio tomato and herb garden. We realize that tomato plants generally do better in the ground, but why not try? 
Someday we'll have the beautiful ceramic pots, handmade by local artisans...but for now, hand-me-downs will do! Reduce.Reuse.Recycle, right? 

You may see more than a few blogs about tomatoes since I'm just so excited about the variety we're trying! Angie Ott at Birdsong had such an amazing list to choose from. We had to limit ourselves to 8 pots! Here's the list of heirloom and open-pollinated plants that we are experimenting with this year (8 tomato, 2 basil). We went for variety of color, size and container-friendly:

* Sophie's Choice
* Cream Sausage (aka Banana Cream)
* Japanese Black Trifele
* Cherokee Purple
* Arkansas Traveler
* Green Zebra
* Riesentraube
* Yellow Pear 
* Sweet Genovese Basil
* Lime Basil (our new FAVORITE!!)

I'm going to let you know which ones faired best – which tomato made our favorite list for flavor, and which plant gave us the production for canning. As a bonus, I've included the photo of our volunteers in the compost pile. Yes...they are going to be the best producers in our yard! This IS the Volunteer State, you know.

05 July 2010

Burgers, buns and more... Homemade heaven!

This year we finally joined millions of Americans and began the backyard grilling season. For 7+ years we've put off buying a grill, but for our Memorial Day BBQ we decided that we needed something to BBQ on! This year we are savoring the smokey, char-grilled summer veggies and perfectly spiced meats on a regular basis. Yes, we are charcoal grillers. It does take a little extra time, but boy is it worth it.

With my grass-fed beef "value pack" (Dixon Family Meats), I received two packages of 5 oz. hamburger patties. We season with just salt, pepper, garlic, onion and maybe a sprinkle of Emeril's essence. Yum!

A perfect accompaniment is homemade Ciabatta. This combo is so good that we had it Friday AND Sunday! The buns are SO easy to do – I keep a basic boule (dough) in the refrigerator and we have buns baked and ready in 40 minutes. Come on back...I'll post on the Artisan Bread boule this week.

The tomatoes in the photo were flavorful, fresh from Mike O.'s garden. In addition to the onion, squash and zucchini pictured with the burger, I found some lovely little peaches at the farmers market this week that went into a simple peach-blackberry cobbler (oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon, agave and a touch of brown sugar). We enjoyed that this morning with our coffee on the patio...a lovely idea that my husband had. Summer goodness!

01 July 2010

The Little Seed: Organic Baby

For those parents out there interested in organic fabrics, you'll be happy to hear that The Little Seed can be found at Target. I was browsing the baby aisles today and found them on an end-cap, away from all of the other clothing. It was one of the only areas in the store that had clothing WITHOUT useless graphics on them. When I'm looking for basics, it's tough to find them, but The Little Seed delivers. My 6-month-old bought himself some new bibs! (he has T$, you know) 

Read an exclusive interview with The Little Seed about their Target release on Petite Planet.

image: Petite Planet