Friday, May 28, 2010


It was a challenge for me to figure out what to bake for the Sweet Relief bake sale. 1) I'm not much of a baker and 2) I wanted to do something vegan. And finding something that was portable, packageable and non-perishable that was not a cookie or cupcake was difficult. Also, I didn't want to deal with an egg replacer.

So I finally settled on scones. Next challenge? Vegan "butter." I was surprised to see that nearly every margarine available contains whey (a dairy product). What's the point? Seemed my only option was Earth Balance and while it's fine, measuring 3/4 of a cup is kind of a pain since it's not in sticks. Luckily, I remembered Crisco makes sticks and they're over in the baking aisle. Whaddya know...vegan. So, along with my organic sugar (organic sugar is not processed with bone char like most refined white sugar), and soy milk, I was ready to bake! Well, almost. I needed to settle on a recipe. I ended up looking at about 15 different recipes and took the best from all. Because that's what I do (or don't); I don't follow recipes. Anyhoo...

Cranberry Orange Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (plus about 1/2 tsbp)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon orange zest (~the amount from a standard size orange; more is better)
1/2 cup slightly reconstituted dried cranberries
3/4 cup vegan butter (I used Crisco sticks), cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (the juice of a standard size orange is about 1/4 cup; if you have more, just reduce the amount of milk so that the total liquid is one cup)
3/4 cup vegan milk (I used Silk Vanilla Light soy milk)
Dash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Cover the cranberries in water to soak while you prepare the dough.

Sift your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add the "butter" and mix together between your fingertips or cut with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal (or you can dump everything in your food processor, hit pulse a couple of times and you're done). Drain the water from the cranberries and mix in the orange zest and cranberries with a fork. Combine the orange juice, "milk, " and vanilla and slowly pour it into the mixture, tossing with a fork until moist clumps form.

Form a ball in the bowl and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it briefly to mix the dough well (add more flour if it's too sticky). Form the dough into a ball and pat down into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Use a large a knife to cut into 8 equal wedges. Place the scones as far apart as possible on the lined baking sheet (for crispy sides). Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops of the scones are golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Let the scones sit on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

For lemon poppyseed scones, substitute "lemon" for "orange" above (you may need extra lemon juice or lemon extract, which I think would be a wonderful idea but I really LOVE lemon flavor) and replace cranberries with 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds.

So how are they? Well, they're a tad dry and not sweet enough...which means they're perfect (I was reminded of why I'm not a huge fan of scones; they're never sweet--you know, because they're really just flavored biscuits). The taste is really good and Mr. Eats liked them a lot. The Crisco helps get a nice crunch on the crust, I think. All in all, I think they're a huge success. So much so that I just pulled a muscle patting myself on the back.

Two and a half dozen of these little guys will be for sale (for a small price!) tomorrow between 1:30 and 4 at 1100 Forrest Avenue (The Green Wagon) in Nashville. Come on out and buy some and support the Second Harvest Food Bank!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet Relief

The Great Flood is still a topic of conversation for most people. It's become its own measure of time When did we see them last? Well, it was before the flood. And any time you see someone you haven't seen since well, before the flood, you ask how they fared.

Most people I know are fortunate and sustained little or no damage, but there are still a lot of people who need help and will need help for a long time. So more fun fundraisers!

Lindsay over at Love and Olive Oil sent out a tweet  about interest in a bake sale. A bunch of us signed on right away. She worked hard putting it together--got us this sweet poster and even a place to hold the sale! So won't you come out and buy some sweets this Saturday to help out the Second Harvest Food Bank? Some of Nashville's best amateur bakers will be there! I've decided my entry will be vegan, too. Scones! Check out the Sweet Relief post at Love and Olive Oil for more details.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eat Out for Nashville: The Acorn

Based on all the accounts I've heard, Eat Out for Nashville was a great success with restaurants experiencing a boom in business on what would otherwise be a rather quiet night for dining. There was a really great list of participating restaurants, but we chose The Acorn. I've never had a bad experience there (and even hosted a really great private party there last year) and, well, we know the chef, so it was kind of a no-brainer. Also, despite being on the fine-dining side of casual restaurants in town, it's fairly baby-friendly. We had dinner upstairs on the patio. It was busy enough to have a pleasant din of noise enough to drown out any fussiness from the baby without being so loud as to prevent decent conversation. Perfect.

Dinner started out with one of their new cocktails. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name but it was the one with St. Germain and lemon. SO refreshing. Incidentally, dinner ended with a second one of these cocktails, too. Anyhoo.

The food portion started with a lovely amuse bouche--chopped strawberries with balsamic vinegar, celery leaves and croutons and topped with a bleu cheese (I think--sorry, the cocktail had kicked in by this point). I generally don't like celery, but this really worked. And it's strawberry season in Tennessee; we have the best strawberries on the planet. Dinner started in earnest with the arugula and butternut squash salad. The spiced walnuts and brown butter hollandaise were such a nice compliment to the arugula. I so love brown butter but rarely have it at home any more because Mr. Eats should really stick to his Smart Balance. And brown Smart Balance?...just doesn't work.

For a main course, I chose to have a double portion of acorn squash ravioli. Turns out, this dish typically is served with a pecan pesto and herbed apple cider that has a base of chicken stock. Luckily, chef Andy (er, Andrew) Hunter caught that for me and prepared an alternate sauce with the apple cider. It was delicious. The ravioli had a nice, delicate flavor and the sauce also had a light touch so even though I had a double order, I had no trouble polishing off the whole plate. I was eagerly anticipating dessert (I heard there was a wonderful strawberry dish served with something pretzel-y), but Baby Eats decided it was time to go...good thing I had that second cocktail. Ha!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roasted Carrots

Short version: everything tastes better roasted. I wish I'd known this 35 years sooner.

Longer version:
Last week, one of the local farms had some baby carrots that they'd kept over the winter. They weren't so baby any more, but I bought them anyway. They were cheap and lovely to look at. And I thought I'd see if I liked them roasted. Growing up, I was forced to eat carrots whole and raw. Those were the days before baby carrots and I absolutely hated that bitter center of an "adult" carrot. Just one of a number of ways my mom made me think I hated vegetables. Anyhoo...

I got them home and stuck them in a Ziploc bag so they wouldn't dry out. What I did not know is that I should have cut the greenery off first. Apparently, the greens steal water from the carrots and dry them out. Luckily, I didn't have them around that long.

Then, I set about finding a way to prepare them. On the first page of results, I saw a link for The Pioneer Woman. She'd visited Nashville recently and a bunch of local foodie friends were excited, so I checked out the recipe. It was simple, promised to be delicious, and included thyme. Full of win! I have thyme in the herb garden and rarely have use for it, so this was exciting!

So here's the recipe for roasted carrots. And here's the Cliff's version:
1. Remove any greenery
2. Cut the carrots in half length-wise
3. Coat in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and fresh thyme leaves (and pepper, if you like)
4. Arrange in a single layer in your roasting pan
5. Cook for 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees (they should be wrinkly in appearance and you should be able to spear them easily with a fork)
6. Eat these freaking delicious carrots
The Pioneer Woman's post (actually, Pastor Ryan) is more eloquent, but above is all you need to know. And that you will love these carrots even if you think you hate carrots.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eat Out for Nashville Monday, May 17

Yikes! In my last post, I neglected to mention that through the end of the month, Allium is donating 10% of proceeds from lunch to the Friends of Shelby Bottoms and 10% of dinner sales to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee's Flood Relief Fund.

Another way for people in the area to enjoy a meal out AND help out relief organizations is Eat Out for Nashville this coming Monday (as mentioned previously). More restaurants are signing up every day and Beth over at Eat. Drink. Smile. is keeping a great hyperlinked list that's she's updating every time another restaurant joins in the cause. The list now includes restaurants Hendersonville and Franklin and everything from family-friendly to fine dining to after-dinner treats. For us, it's a difficult decision to decide between Top Chef contestant Arnold Myint's restaurant Cha Chah and The Acorn, kitchen home to Iron Fork winner Andy Hunter. But since we don't have a babysitter, we'll probably opt for The Acorn and hope for baby-friendly seating!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Doing our part for flood relief

We're going to be dealing with the aftermath of this flood for a long, long time. So there really can't be too many fundraisers or too many ways to help. Two of the most important ways to help everyone right now is to donate cash and to conserve water.

Over at Allium, they're doing their part by "importing" drinking water (from what I overheard), doing away with table linens, and using disposable plates and cups. I generally don't love generating so much waste, but it may be quite some time before we have all of our water facilities running. We went for dinner last night and discovered that the food was just as delicious on paper plates! And the new green plate is fantastic--two generous and hearty feta-leek-potato cakes, sauteed Swiss chard and a wonderful suprise--a roasted baby artichoke. I also had their housemade chips for an appetizer. Delicious.

Additionally, local flood bloggers [oops! I meant "food bloggers"!] and writers (the professional ones) are getting together a group of restaurants to participate in Eat Out for Nashville on May 17. Restaurants will donate 50% of proceeds to the Emergency Response Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. You can keep up with the list of restaurants easily by following Eat Out for Nashville on Twitter or "liking" the Eat Out for Nashville Fan Page on Facebook.  What a great excuse to go out on a Monday!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tasti-D-Lite -- Free yogurt for moms on Mother's Day

Once in a while, a little good news lands in my inbox. And I could use some good news right now as Nashville is currently a federal disaster area due to flooding last weekend. You just don't think about floods in a place like Nashville, but there is water everywhere around here. I live within a few miles of two rivers and a large creek (which runs through my neighborhood). I'm on a hill, so I only lost a driveway to waters rushing down, but many people here have lost everything. If you care to do so, please donate to the Red Cross or to the Community Foundation to help these folks. Many don't have flood insurance and those who do are finding out it doesn't cover anything inside their homes.

But on to the good news! This Sunday--Mother's Day--Tasti-D-Lite is giving away a free cup or cone to all moms!
Mom’s Eat Free at Tasti D-Lite

On Mother’s Day (May 9th), frozen dessert concept Tasti D-Lite is encouraging mothers to come in and celebrate the holiday with a free, small cup or cone. Moms can choose from over 100 flavors as they indulge in Tasti’s signature soft -serve, dairy-based frozen dessert, which is also lower in calories, fat, carbohydrates and sugar.

Tasti-D-Lite in Nashville is located at 2418 West End Avenue at Elliston Place by Centennial Park. Visit their website for the flavors of the day!