Thursday, June 30, 2011

Taking a break . . . sort of

After a whirlwind winter of promoting HHOFD, I dove straight into creating my proposal for my next work - And for Breakfast.  After experiencing success as a self-published author, I made a pivotal decision to try my hand at the 'traditional route'.  It goes without saying: The publishing world is going through a revolution.  For you musicians, think of the iPad, Kindle, and Nook as the ProTools/iTunes/Napster for publishing.  Quite frankly, the climate out there is in a stage of 'unrest'.  There are both pro's and con's to the self-published and traditional route, and I think it will take a few more years to see where the chips fall.  For now, I'm giving the traditional route a go.

Nevertheless, for those of you unfamiliar with the traditional publishing process, it can be pretty exhausting, if not frustrating altogether.  Thankfully I've got a killer agent who has stood by my side throughout this entire course of action.  I'll admit though, I'm starting to feel a bit like Miles from Sideways these days . . . i.e. drinking quite a bit of wine to ease the pain of rejection.  To be clear, It's not all that bad - in fact the outlook for my next project is very promising.

But, the fact of the matter is I'm tired. 

Rejection doesn't worry me.  In fact, bring it on.  I've seen everyone in an industry reject a piece of work only to embrace it once the public and critics say otherwise.  

I suppose this post is to let everyone know that I'm going to be 'absent' for a few weeks while I get refreshed and re-energized.  Don't think I won't be working hard!  In fact, I'm headed up to the beautiful island of Prince Edward Island Canada to perform and cook for one of the largest music festivals in Canada.  Combining food with music = my passion.  I know I'll be putting in long days and nights, but I couldn't be more excited.

So that's that.  I'm laying it all out there.  Don't take my absence as a surrender.  Rather, know that I'm taking a bit of a break so that I can come back to everything with a fresh perspective - in work, health, relationships, and faith.

The best is yet to come!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Athens, GA

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Athens, GA is one of the best towns in America.  For all it's quirkiness, character, history, and tradition - this small college town located an hour plus east of Atlanta has never shied away from the national spotlight.

There are the easy associations that make this town famous:  The University of Georgia, REM, The B52's, Widespread Panic, etc.

Yet in my opinion, Athens has never lost it's independence, even with such acclaim.

The independent spirit that's put Athens on the map as a music town is also alive and well in the food world.  Though I was saddened to see my favorite spot, Harry Bissetts close it's doors, there's a wealth of great chefs and restaurants in this town.  The best part?  It's a college town, so you are likely to get a four star meal at a two star price.

Leading the pack for several years is chef Hugh Acheson - click on the link and you'll get an idea of his high caliber reputation.

Basically, I don't have enough time today to discuss all of the ins and outs of Athens, GA and why it's the greatest town in America.  Why no time?

Because my ass is headed east bound and down this afternoon for a weekend of great food, music (Athfest), and cold beers with friends.  That's right - I'm headed back to paradise.

And that picture?  See if you can spot me?  Pretty hilarious - we look like a pack of frat-dawgs more than a band.  But, we had some cred to back it up at the time, regardless of our lack of having a 'stylist'.  Throw us a bone and download a few tunes from my earlier days! 



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Building a Better Burger

It's officially summer!  Head over to The Art of Manliness and check out my guide to grilling up the perfect burger.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Southwestern Style Scramble

Today, I'm not following protocol.  After all, it's Friday and I'm already posting my typical Saturday breakfast special.  Sorry to push the weekend on you so fast.

In any event, my mind is already on the weekend.  I will not be in the kitchen, I will not be working, and I will not have my phone.

What I will be doing is enjoying time in the great outdoors!  25 miles canoeing/fishing on the Duck River.  Camping, cooking out, drinking cold beer, and trading stories with friends.  Count me in.

I plan to bring along my cast iron skillets for a shore-lunch/dinner - just hoping I've got some freshly caught fish to pan fry!

In the meantime, here's today's breakfast.  I highly suggest you give this flavorful gem a try.  It was outstanding, quick, and easy.  (Serves 2)  You know, for the girl who stayed over last night!

Southwestern Style Eggs with Black Beans

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
6 Large Eggs
¼ Teaspoon Cumin Powder
½ Teaspoon Chili Powder
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Cup Canned Black Beans, drained at room temperature
1 Tablespoon Salsa
1 Tablespoon Sour Cream
1 Tablespoon Green Onion Tops, thinly sliced
Hot Sauce, if desired

Preheat a 12 inch non-stick pan over medium high heat; add butter.  Meanwhile, crack eggs into a bowl and vigorously whisk until combined and frothy; season with cumin powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  When butter begins to foam, add eggs to pan, waiting to stir until eggs have set; the runny portion should remain on top of the cooked portion.  Quickly use a wooden spoon to scramble and lift off the cooked portions while allowing the uncooked eggs to reach the heat.  When there is no longer any runny portion that remains, remove from heat.  Divide the eggs amongst two plates and top with equal portions of black beans, salsa, sour cream, and sliced green onions.  Serve.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Comfort Cooking

Ahhh . . . Comfort food at its finest.  To be brutally honest, sometimes after a long hard day the last thing I feel like doing is cooking - after all I am human.  Though cooking typically allows me to relax and unwind from a stressful day, sometimes I'm - well - just over it.

As you well know, I'm not a casserole kind of guy.  They are typically filled with processed ingredients, loaded with fat and preservatives, and generally not healthy.

But, I'm also realistic.  This is a classic dish, Chicken Rotel that you'll find 1,000 variations with just a simple Google search.

There's something to be said about preparing this in advance, pulling it out of the freezer, and popping it into the oven after a hard day.  Probably not the best thing for my waistline, but certainly good for my soul.

Everything in moderation, right?



Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farm to Table

Let's be honest, the food world is definitely marked by its culinary movements.  From food trucks, to sustainable farming, to eco/green cooking, organic, farm to table, etc.  It's all pretty exhausting, huh?

I suppose the moral of the story is what I always emphasize in all of my writing:

Great meals start with using great ingredients.  

Simple as that.

You don't have to go to Wholepaycheck to purchase all of your groceries.  True, organic and wild/humanely raised products are easier to find at such places, but you are often paying a premium.

Fortunately, I live right across the street from The Nashville Farmers market.  Each day, there's dozens of stands open featuring fresh and seasonal ingredients.  But on Saturdays, I can stock up on anything from butter beans to goat cheese, to rabbit, to seafood, to cupcakes.  It's truly amazing.  The best part?  It's cheap.

The next time you are paying $5.00 per lb for 'vine ripe tomatoes', put down your basket and head over to your local farmers market.  I'll bet you'll find tomatoes at half the price, with twice the taste, and maybe make a few friends in the process.  Farmers are friendly folk.

Better yet - grow it yourself!  (More on that later)

Anywho, here are a few pics from my stomping grounds.  I'm off to WI for the weekend - land of Sausage, Cheese, and Beer.  Ah-mazing.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Entertaining with Herbs

This is not a post about the joys of hanging out with friends, listening to the Grateful Dead, and eating brownies.  

Rather, I was fortunate to snag some fresh herbs from momma's garden before heading back to Nashville after a long weekend at the lake.  So, what's a man to do with so many great (free) ingredients?  Throw a dinner party, right?  Lame, I know.

Top Left Clockwise:  Oregano, Thyme, Mint, Basil

The truth is, I hate letting things go to waste.  A few days passed by before my guilty conscious started to get the best of me.  After all, I knew I had to put these herbs to use.  I decided to pull together a gathering of some of my closest friends for an evening of great food, wine, and Southern hospitality.

Because the temps outside are hovering around 95 degrees F, I wanted to create a relatively 'light' meal.  Greek inspired cuisine immediately came to mind.  Thus, welcome to my fresh herb explosion dinner.  I promise that if you follow these recipes, add in some red wine, some fresh herbs of your choosing, and about 5 of your best looking friends, it will surely be a hit.

Prep Time:  30 mins
Cook Time: 1 hour
Wine:  Pinot Noir/Beaujolais
Soundtrack:  Ryan Adams & The Cardinals III/IV

Let's get to work!

Tzatziki - a refreshing sauce with plenty of fresh mint.

Tzatziki Sauce
2 Cups Plain Greek Yogurt
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup Cucumber, grated
1 Lemon, juiced
3 Tablespoons Fresh Mint, minced
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Add the first six ingredients into a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.  Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Cover, and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

Prepped Lemon + Oregano Potatoes in Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

Lemon + Oregano Roasted Potatoes
1 lb Gold, Purple, Blue Potatoes, quartered
1/4 Cup Fresh Oregano
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  In a casserole dish, add the first four ingredients and mix until combined.  Season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.  Roast in oven until tender and slightly browned, 45 - 50 minutes, stirring on occasion.  Serve. 

Finished product: Lemon + Oregano Roasted Potatoes

Tomato + Cucumber + Red Onion + Feta + Basil Salad
4 Large Vine Ripened Tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 Cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 Medium Red Onion, thinly sliced
4 oz Crumbled Feta
1 Handful Fresh Basil Leaves
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper

Add the first seven ingredients into a serving bowl and mix until evenly coated and combined.  Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Mix, cover, and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

Tomato + Cucumber + Red Onion + Feta + Basil Salad

Beef + Chicken Kefta

Beef Kefta Patties

1 lb Ground Chuck
1 Small Onion, grated
3 Tablespoons Fresh Mint, minced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Lemon, juiced

Chicken Kefta Patties

1 lb Ground Chicken
2 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme, stems removed
1 Tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Allspice

In separate mixing bowls, add ingredients for beef and chicken and mix until well combined - wash hands.  Make chicken patties - wash hands - make meat patties.  Heat separate cast iron skillets over medium high heat, add extra virgin olive oil to coat pans.  Cook patties for 4 - 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Serve.

Ready for service:  Beef + Chicken Kefta Patties 

And just like that, dinner is served.  Enjoy the fresh flavors of summer!

Entertaining with Herbs