Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving
Along The Trails of Tennessee!

We have so much to be thankful for along the Trails of Tennessee! Tennessee is rich in an abundance of Fall harvest produce including the ubiquitous and versatile Tennessee Sweet Potato.  To celebrate the auspicious veggie, I prepared Tennessee Sweet Potato Pudding for our Thanksgiving dessert.
           In a popular 19th and 20th century seed catalog, the Tennessee Sweet Potato was praised as the best for pie, which was confirmed in the 1918 listing from The Great Northern Seed Company; "A magnificent pear-shaped variety of fine size, a little ribbed; color creamy white, sometimes striped with green. When cooked it has somewhat the appearance of sweet potatoes, but of more delicious taste; Flesh thick, creamy white, remarkably fine grained, dry and brittle, hardy and productive and keeps perfectly sound until late in the spring."

Enjoy my delicious adaptation of an old Tennessee treat!

Tennessee Sweet Potato Pudding

You'll need:
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Dash of salt
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons sugar (or, *Stevia in the Raw)
2 eggs, separated
Vegetable cooking spray
3/4 *unsweetened orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine sweet potato, brown sugar, butter and eggs yolks in a large bowl; stir well. Gradually add orange juice, nutmeg and cloves; stir well. Set aside. Beat eggs whites (at room temp.) until foamy; add salt and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar, beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into sweet potato mixture. Pour mixture into a 1-1/2 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray; place in a large shallow pan. Add hot water to a larger pan to a depth of 1 inch. Place casserole dish into the larger hot water pan. Bake at 350 degress until the center is set and edges are browned. Remove dish from water; let cool 15 minutes or refrigerate before serving. Serve with whipped topping and nuts. Serves 6-8.

*Author's note: Stevia is an all-natural, zero calorie sweetener derived from the leafy green foliage of the Stevia plant, native to South America. It measures cup for cup the same as sugar and is a healthy substitute.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

                                      Civil War Encampment

I am so excited to be blogging again.......along the Trails of Tennessee! My blog was not working, and well, life happens. But much has transpired between then and now. For the past year I have been working on a book proposal, with award-winning photographer, Jeffrey Stoner, based on Trails of Tennessee, the song. More about this later as the saga continues to unfold.

My husband, Bruce, and I were shopping for winter pansies at The Farmer's Market near the beautiful Bi-Centennial Mall in downtown Nashville recently and were startled by a loud " KA-BOOM!" across the way. As we followed the sound, we discovered Civil War cannons were being fired during a Civil War Encampment with re-enactors dressed in full period regalia. These period costumes made us feel as though we had stepped back in time. Our conversations were present tense as the re-enactors explained the realities and hardships of war, their water and food in short supply, and the loves, lives and deaths of our union and confederate soldiers............along the Civil War trails of tennessee.

Musicians came along side our soldiers to bring a smile to their faces, a 'tap' to their toes, and remind them of home.

Cookin' up "supper" for the soldiers.
This "brick" of black tea was used for medicinal purposes as well for drinking........... along the Civil War trails of Tennessee.

Opening the Promised Land Trail ~ Nashville Train Station.

Along the first road into Tennessee, the Avery Trace, as well the historic Walton Road that ran parallel to Highway 70, many believed they would reach a "promised land" at the end of their journey. One of those pioneers was future President Andrew Jackson.
Pictured above: Commissioner of The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Susan Whitaker, and me at the opening of the Promised Land Trail at Nashville Train Station Oct 11, 2011.  Trails of Tennessee, the song I wrote for this initiative with " It's a slice of heaven in the Promised Land"  a line in the second verse, was inspired by the 514 miles of the historic Promised Land Trail.

Jody Sliger, head of Marketing and Tourism for The White County Chamber of Commerce as we de-boarded the train in Watertown, Tennessee...along the Promised Land Trail. What an honor it was to be invited to share my song at this gala!

Tidbit's For Trails ( Dandridge, TN. cont'd)

       Martha Dandridge Custis Washington was born in

Williamsburg, Virginia June 2, 1731 to John and Frances

Jones Dandridge. And although Martha never actually lived in

Dandridge, Tennessee, the town was named for her as a sign

of respect for her as first First Lady, and in fondness for her

as a native of  Tennessee's neighboring state, Virginia.
      The following recipe, taken from her eighteenth century

" A Booke of Cookery " which lies in the Division of

Manuscripts at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The

Martha Washington Cookbook has over two hundred and five


     One of Martha's favorite dinner desserts suitable in the

year 1792 would be as follows:

Apple Puffs

6 apples ( peeled and pared)
3/4 cup red wine
3/4 cup sugar
pinch grated nutmeg
3 whole cloves
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. grated orange peel

Peel, pare and quarter apples. Mix the wine, sugar and spices, lemon and orange peel in sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add apples and stew slowly until clear and tender. Roll out the pastry and cut into 4 inch squares. Place a large amount of apple mixture in the middle of each square. Bring the corner of the pastry together at the top and press the edges. Place on a buttered baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven until light brown. Any remaining juice may be used as sauce. More wine and sugar may be added if needed.

" I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances." ~ Martha Washington

      *George Washington died at Mount Vernon December 14,
1799. Martha was widowed for two and one-half years until
she, too, died at Mount Vernon May 22, 1802.

Tales From The Trails

Next Stop....Dandridge, Tennessee
and Tinsley -Bible Drugstore
     My family has had a summer home in the mountains of Sylva, North Carolina for years. And for as many years my husband, Bruce, and I drove past the Dandridge, Tennessee exit off  I-40 enroute to and from those Carolina mountains. Seems we were always in a hurry to get there.......and back home to Nashville. But this trip was different. Since writing the song Trails of Tennessee ( my interest in a pilgrim's work of art, a patch-work quilt of hearts has grown. Tennessee is chock full of history and we wanted to check out Dandridge, whose backroads and by-ways were recently dubbed part of the Sunnyside Trail by The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development 's Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways initiative (
     So, this year driving back home to Nashville from Sylva, after sailing over the sensational French Broad River, we took a sharp turn off I-40 at Exit 417 and motored our way back in time to the quaint, picturesque town of Dandridge, in Jefferson County, Tennessee. It was lunch time and we headed toward our chosen destination - the renowned Tinsley - Bible Drugstore. Our mouths were watering for their renowned "Bible Burger!"
     Walking into that drugstore is a stroll back into a simpler more relaxed day and time. Bruce and I slid into one of their original wooden booths - complete with the old-time metal bordered menus -instead of sitting at their lunch counter. With it's authentic chrome trimmed, red-vinyl, single swivel seats it was already crowded with locals and visitors.    
     We discovered that Tinsley-Bible Drug Company has been serving the community of Dandridge since 1911. Founded by the town medical doctor, P.A. Tinsley and his nephew, pharmacist Walter Tinsley, the store has been a favorite gathering spot for generations. When Walter Tinsley died in 1933, pharmacist Lloyd “Doc” Bible purchased his share of the company stock from Mr. Tinsley’s widow. The store became the Tinsley-Bible Drug Co. and has retained the name to date. Pharmacist Don Rose purchased the store in 1986 and continues to operate the store today.
     Enjoying that Bible Burger was almost like having a religious experience, and the friendly staff were angels making us feel right at home. After lunch, Bruce ordered a thick strawberry milk shake for dessert, while I happily savored a scoop of their homemade vanilla ice cream on a crunchy cone. Both were made from scratch and served from their original soda fountain. And off we ambled to savor the sights, sounds and history of lovely Dandridge.
     First settled in 1783, Dandridge is the second oldest town in Tennessee (Jonesborough is the oldest) and the county seat of government. Dandridge is the only town in America named after America's first, First Lady, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. Later, in Tidbits For Trails I'll provide a recipe from The Martha Washington Cookbook for a Perfect Picnic Place dessert. In the meantime, let's continue with more Tales From The Trails
     Dandridge is alive with historic buildings and landmarks that offer a glimpse into history. The Jefferson County Courthouse built in 1845 houses a museum containing many historic photographs and is the same courthouse the legendary Davy Crockett entered in order to obtain his marriage license.
     Beautiful Dandridge is bordered by Douglas Lake. Formed from the French Broad River and its tributaries of the Nolichucky and Pigeon Rivers, Douglas Lake's 30,400 acres of water surface and 555 miles of shoreline attract more than 1.7 million visitors a year. The Perfect Picnic Place can be found everywhere around Douglas Lake; the crown on the head of regal Dandridge.
     And did you know Dandridge was recently named one of our country's " Dozen Distinctive Destinations?"
     As that old hymn says, "Keep on the sunnyside, always on the sunnyside..." The Sunnyside Trail, that is, running through Dandridge,Tennessee and those backroads and byways where rivers were highways winding ever upward on the Trails of Tennessee.

     And now for that Perfect Picnic Place dessert recipe modified from The Martha ( Dandridge Custis) Washington Cookbook.

Ahhhh, Spring in Tennessee!

   Yes, it's April already and ........burrrrr! It's still chilly here in Middle Tennessee. Even though the first day of Spring was March 20th, we have had some truly bizarre weather. Tornadoes have blown through uprooting hundred year old trees and raging a path of destruction miles wide. Rain has been rather relentless.
    Yet, according to God's timetable, Spring is upon us as are His promises in newness of life. Our Tennessee landscape is alive with deep purple and pristine white Iris', redbud trees in pink blush, with tulips bursting out of their multi-colored coats leaving their faint fragrances in the wind.      
     I'll be traveling the trails and byways to East Tennessee April 19 -21 heading to Loudon County where I'll speak at a ladies luncheon at Tellico Yacht Club. Enroute, I plan to venture off  I-40E, travel a byway, lunch and shop along the way. Back tracking from Loudon County, I'll speak at a ladies luncheon in Crossville, and explore another Tennessee Trail and By-way.

Keeping you posted with more adventures to come - and Rippavilla Mansion, still on my horizon!

Tidbit's For Trails

Oatmeal Cookies
Oats and Spring wheat, Tennessee's 'amber waves of grain' along byways and trails, provide a homegrown base for a bit of something sweet - your perfect picnic dessert.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup organic shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins

Cream sugars and shortening until light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to mixture. Stir in oats and raisins. Roll into logs and chill well. Slice and bake in 350 degree oven 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven. Place on wire rack to cool.

" The greater the prosperity, the deeper the sense of gratitude to the Almighty." ~ Sarah Childress Polk 

James and Sarah Polk are buried in a tomb on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information see 

Tidbit's For Trails (cont'd) 5

Tennessee Blackberry Sweet Tea
Blackberries are truly a southern crop. Yet they produce one of the best jam, jelly, juice, pie, cobbler, tea and wine fruits known to man. Tennessee offers a host of  "u-pick-'em" blackberry farms across our state. And did you know Blackberries grow wild in abundance along many of the trails?
You might make a pitcher of blackberry tea from store-bought tea bags (Lipton makes a good one.) But for a taste that is truly Tennessee, try my made from scratch delight!

3  cups  fresh or frozen Tennessee blackberries, thawed
1 1/4  cups  sugar
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
Pinch of baking soda (to soften any bitter taste)
4  cups  boiling water
2  family-size regular tea bags
2 1/2  cups  cold water
Garnishes: fresh blackberries, fresh mint sprigs, lemon slices.
Combine blackberries and sugar in large container. Crush blackberries well with wooden spoon. Add mint and baking soda ( just a pinch). Set aside.
Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover and let stand 3 minutes. Discard tea bags.
Pour tea over blackberry mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Pour tea through a wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding solids. Add 2 1/2 cups cold water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and chill. Fill thermos. Garnish, if desired.

Noted for her quiet gatherings centered on conversation and fine foods rather than music and dancing, Sarah Polk is particularly noted for hosting the first annual Thanksgiving dinner at the White House, as well as opening The White House receptions to the public.

Tidbit's For Trails (con't) 4

Fire and Ice Tomatoes
Adapted from " Provisions and Politics: Recipes Honoring Sarah Childress Polk"

6 large ripe tomatoes
1 meduim yellow onion
1 green bell pepper
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp. celery
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch freshly ground black pepper

Cut tomatoes into eight wedges each and place in a 9 x 13 glass or ceramic dish. Finely dice onion and sprinkle over tomatoes. Core, seed and remove the ribs of the bell pepper and cut into thin strips ( if the pepper is long, cut the strips in half) Scatter the peppers over the tomatoes and onions.
In a sauce pan, combine vinegar, water,  mustard seeds, celery salt and peppers. Bring to a boil, stirring, and boil for one minute. Immediately pour the hot vinegar mixture over the tomatoes and stir gently to combine. Allow tomato mixture to cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap to marinate for several hours stirring occasionally. Serve on its own as a salad, side dish, or atop some lettuce leaves.

For Sarah, religion was her life and this life was simply preparation for the next and greater life in Heaven.