Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Every year on New Years Eve I feel as if it is a collective moment of sentimental memories of the past year and resolutions for the year to come.  After many failed resolutions including eating better, exercising more, not drinking wine (or beer) during the week I have come to realize looking over the edge of another year is not a reason to think of what may not happen, but most certainly a reason to gaze in wonder at all the possibilities ahead so this year I have no resolutions, I have no preconceived notions, all I have is faith.  Faith in myself, faith in my friends and family, and faith that really I need nothing more.  It is with extreme gratitude that I look back on 2011 for the love and support that has followed me through the year.  It is with incredible optimism that I look into the blank slate that is 2012.  For anyone reading my humble little blog, thank you!  Thank you for appreciating something I hold so dear.  You really mean the world to me!

As I have said before, and will say again, may the most you wish for be the least you get!

Best wishes to you all in 2012 and may it be a wonderfully safe celebration!

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Friday, December 30, 2011


 Having been born and raised in Nashville (actually a 9th generation Nashvillian to be precise) there are just certain places that are forever etched in my memory as perfect and quintessentially Nashville staples.  For example, I cannot remember a time when the majestic stone entryway to Percy Warner Park didn't take my breath away or the remnants of Parmer School didn't take me back to the day I sat on my grandfather's shoulders as we watched the abandoned school burn to the ground.  The old caboose on the grounds of the Parthenon, the ducks in Lake Watauga, running around the historic grounds of the Belle Meade plantation, getting candy from the counter at Bradshaw Drugs, finding just the perfect gift or linens from The Linen Store and seeing the green and red candle decorations on each light post at H.G. Hills in Green Hills....all of these are a part of my childhood, they are a part of me.  Though some are long since gone, much to the dismay of many longtime Nashvillians, some still remain.  One such Nashville treasure is the legacy of Houston and Sue Thomas, that is Sperry's.  Started in 1974, Sperry's has been a fixture in Nashville dining for as long as I can remember.  Every time I think of my first "favorite restaurant" in Nashville, I think of an old picture of the couple sitting at their own table just inside the bar at Sperry's.  This was the ambiance that was, and remains, all that Sperry's is about.  Fine dining in a neighborhood locale.  A place where friends and families gather for special occasions and where, for as long as Houston and Sue sat at their special table, someone would be there to greet you with a welcoming smile and a warm embrace.  This legacy lives on in their children who now own and operate the still thriving restaurant.  It is a place visited by future kings of England, local and national celebrities, and still the place my grandmother likes to go when something special has happened in our family. With a warm fire always lit in the winter and a cool rush of air in the warm summer months, this Nashville landmark has, and will, be a part of me for the rest of my life. 

I recently was treated to a lovely meal at Sperry's with my friends Jennifer and Reed, and Reed's father (aka "Big Reed").  

It was such a fun evening.  A late meal served in the lounge right by the fire, consisting of lobster, steak, smoked salmon, mushrooms sperry's (my personal favorite), shrimp and grits and wine that makes you wish you were in the middle of the vineyard!  

The comfortable atmosphere and timeless service were exactly what we were looking for as we walked through the doors and it is exactly what will await you as you enter this Old Nashville favorite!
Here is a glimpse into our amazing dinner filled with great food and even better company! 
 As many old traditions go, this is something you don't see very often anymore but is a nod to the throwback days when people appreciated the small things that make a big difference. 
 Smoked Salmon....some of the best I have ever had!
It's official, this is my new favorite wine....if only my budget would agree!
 Mushrooms Sperry's....God take me now, they were amazing, as usual!
 French Onion Soup (which Jennifer proclaimed was some of the best she has ever had!)
 Barbecue Shrimp and Grits 
 Broiled Lobster Tail....there are just no words to adequately describe how much I LOVE this dish!
 I know it may just look like broccoli to you but the true secret is that small little side of Hollandaise is truly the best hollandaise I have ever had....Anne, I would like for you to one day PLEASE teach me how your mother made this!
 Filet Appetizer of stone ground grits
 Cowboy Ribeye....damn that is a big steak!
 Then we come to dessert....something you will find in maybe only one other restaurant in town....Bananas Foster made right at your table! 
So there it is my friends, Sperry's........
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This time of year, when you feel like you have been going a mile a minute, cooked everything possible you know how to cook and entertained until you feel like you might actually fall asleep standing up, it is good to get back to the basics.  This is what I was thinking yesterday after two days of feeling brain dead from Christmas and thought of just the meal to make me feel normal again....meatloaf and mac 'n cheese!!  Now I realized that not everyone is a meatloaf fan and I get it....there is something not natural about shaping beef into a loaf form but lets be honest, it is freaking amazing and for me there is nothing better on a cold, rainy day.  As previously stated, my mental capacity for making this was fairly limited and my desire to do anything fancy (like actually look up a recipe) led me to call for counsel from my two favorite meatloaf aunt Marguerite and my friend Libby.  With my grocery list in my head (I realize what a gamble that was) and my stomach already growling I headed off to the store.  After getting a little overwhelmed at the fact that I had three impulse buys in my basket and not one thing that was included in the meatloaf I wanted to make, I quickly rushed to get my ingredients and settled for a box of Kraft Mac 'N Cheese instead of making my own (not a sorry substitute if you ask me).  FInally, my comfort food was in the oven, I was wearing my most comfortable pajamas and I was snugged up on the couch with my puppy.  It was just the night I needed and exactly what I had wanted!!  Since I knew such a craving would possibly hit me again in the coming weeks I opted to make a large batch which would make three small meatloafs, allowing me to freeze two of them for a later "emergency"!

Homemade Meatloaf

2 pounds lean ground beef (as Libby told me, make sure it is really lean otherwise your meatloaf will be far too greasy)
1 onion, diced
1 egg
2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1 jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup ketchup, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Tony's Chachere Seasoning
Combine beef, onion, egg, crackers, mushrooms, 1/2 cup ketchup, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Creole seasoning.  
Mix with your hands.  
Shape into a loaf form in a greased pan.  
Cover dish with foil and cook for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  
Remove foil, top with remaining ketchup and bake for an additional 15 or until done.  
Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve with mac 'n cheese and fried okra for best results!
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Monday, December 26, 2011

French Onion Soup

I must admit it, I cannot pass up French Onion Soup if it is on a menu at any restaurant. I have made it several times but never to my complete satisfaction. It just never quite tasted like the soup at my favorite restaurants so I started doing some research. What I found out was that I was not cooking the onions nearly as long as I was supposed to. Evidently the key is in caramelizing the onions so I got to work. I let the onions caramelize for 3 hours and as it turns out the soup was amazing!!!! Enjoy!!

French Onion Soup

7 onions, sliced thin
4 cans beef consomme
2 boxes beef broth
1/2 cup sherry
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Gruyere cheese
English muffins

Caramelize the onions in the butter for 3 to 5 hours, stirring about every 10 minutes. 
Stir in flour to create a roux. 
Stir for about 10 minutes and then add sherry, beef consomme and broth. 
Season with thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. 
Let simmer for an hour. 
Place English muffin in an oven proof bowl, pour soup over the muffin and top with cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!!!

Driving through my favorite neighborhoods looking at all the Christmas lights, baking oatmeal cookies with my Mom for Santa, taking the presents to my grandparents house with my dad on Christmas Eve, preparing dinner for family and friends, making all the seasonal favorites and spending time with the people I love most are only a few of the cherished traditions and memories I have of Christmas.  As I child my brother and I would spend weeks searching the house for presents that were not yet wrapped to see what we would soon be unwrapping.  The fresh smell of of Mom making chex mix, the entertainment of our family making Egg Nog Cakes and the labor involved (with great reward) in making homemade ambrosia are some of my favorite memories, all to the soundtrack of the chipmunks or Dolly and Kenny's Christmas Album in the background.  As much as I loved the preparation for Christmas it was the actual day that truly makes the season come alive in my heart each year.  

We would start the day waiting in seeming agony while Dad set up the video camera to capture our surprise and excitement over what Santa had brought us the night before.  After all the presents under the tree were unwrapped and the final gifts were discovered in our stockings we would get ready for the day, sometimes after a quick ride on our new bike in the driveway.  Over to Nannie and Granddaddy's we would go!  Our first stop of the day consisted of sharing with our cousins what Santa had brought to each and every one of us and a Christmas turkey that, in a child's eyes, was as big and delicious as the one Scrooge took to Tiny Tim's family on Christmas Day!  

   Tommy Allen and Walker Clayton what seems like a million years ago!
 Admit it, everyone has one...the relative that makes you show everyone your gift....
enters my Great Aunt Pie!
 Everyone would typically end up in the basement playing pool

From there we would travel to Eddie and Kathi's for Christmas with my Mom's side of the family and sit in front of the rip roaring fire my uncle would always build until our backs itched with heat.  It was my favorite spot in the house and every year my cousin Jana and I would claim our spot as soon as everyone started to arrive!  
Our last stop of the day was so special.  We would all pile in the car and head to East Nashville to be with my Grandfather, Pa's siblings and their families.  

 Three generations of "Ruth"s

As you can see we have been gathering like this for years! (that's me in the plaid jumper on the front row with an uncharacteristic scowl on my face)
The kids would pile in the den and watch A Christmas Story for the millionth time while the adults would gather in the kitchen and catch up on what everyone had done since we had all been together for the Allen Family reunion the previous summer.  Towards the end of the night when things were winding down, everyone, kids included, would gather in the kitchen for Christmas Carols.  It was the most beautiful harmony I have ever heard in my entire life.  No church choir can compare to the harmony created when that much love was present.  Every year I would find myself getting choked up by the songs, by the love and the generations who gathered together once again to be with family from all over.  

Over the years our traditions have changed but as always, one things remains the same, our love of one another and being together for the holidays is all that matters.  This year we have an added bonus, it is my nephew Emory's first Christmas.  With Emory and all of my cousins beautiful children another generation gets to experience all that made the holidays so special to me when I was little and I can't wait to see all the memories the future holds!

May the most you wish for be least you get!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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