Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Perfect Biscuit

In the spirit of thanksgiving, before I begin my blog, I want to acknowledge and thank every man and woman who serves in our millitary and every WWII veteran for their sacrificial love of God, home and country in remembrance of December 7, 1941, a day which will live in infamy.....Thank you, all.

The Perfect Biscuit

      I love biscuits. I love to make biscuits. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I have long been in pursuit of making that perfect biscuit. Along the trails of tennessee you'll find biscuit recipes in books, magazines, online, included as part of  King Arthur, Martha White and White Lilly (all southern soft winter wheat flours) flour bags, etc. Yet, isn't the very concept of "the perfect biscuit" an oxymoron? You say "potato" and I say, "potahto?" We all have our individual tastes (if you'll pardon the pun.)

Webster's Dictionary defines "perfect"  as: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be. Yes! This is what I've been looking for in a biscuit! Yet, I discovered the answer to making the perfect biscuit lies where it does in any art form, be it cooking, baking, writing, and learning a musical instrument. Remember the reply to the musician who asked, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The answer was simple, but not easy. The answer was - and is -'practice, man, practice!' So, you'll find the perfect biscuit... not in a recipe (although a 'tried and true' recipe helps.) You'll find the perfect biscuit by actually making biscuits. Like life, it's a process.

I have been too busy to blog regularly. One of the reasons is that I've been 'doing' instead of 'being.' With Thanksgiving a pleasant memory and Christmas a much anticipated celebration, I do want to post a delicious recipe for Salt-And-Pepper Biscuits included in my Thanksgiving Day Menu. This menu yielded some of the most delicious dishes we've experienced - including some Salt-And-Pepper Biscuits!:

Our Thanksgiving Menu
Roasted Turkey with gravy
Classic Dressing
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans Almandine
Salt-And-Pepper Biscuits
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Blackberry Lovers Biscuit Cobbler
Bourbon-Maple Pumpkin Pie
Salt-And-Pepper Biscuits

      I am a long-time proponent of healthy ingredients; in what I eat and with what I put in my food.  Aside from our occasional "date-night" search for a fun, new restaurant (and Nashville has plenty of these!), my husband, Bruce, and I much prefer dining at home to dining out. This way we know what's in our food...namely, no lard in our biscuits, or hydrogenated ingredients in our food. In short, I would rather pay the farmer than the doctor.
      I started cooking the Monday before Thanksgiving Day but made the biscuits "the day of" because I was trying a new recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine... and planned to tweak the ingredients slightly.
One of Bon Appetit's ingredients in this biscuit recipe calls for all-purpose flour. After much "biscuit-making trial and error," having already given up on all-purpose flour with its varying measurements of baking powder and baking soda, I choose King Arthur's Self-Rising Flour. King Arthur Flour is a trusted name, a good, healthy product...and it works! I found sour cream an interesting approach in making "the perfect biscuit."
Salt-And-Pepper Biscuits
3/4 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp. heavy cream, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp.sugar
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups King Arthur's Self-Rising Flour
6 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into pieces
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Whisk sour cream and 3 Tbsp. heavy cream in small a bowl. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt, sugar and butter and, with finger-tips, combine butter until it's resembles the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Using a spoon, mix sour cream mixture into the flour, then gently manipulate (knead lightly) a few times until a shaggy dough comes together. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 3/4 inch thick. Using a 2 inch cutter, cut out the biscuits. Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush tops with remaining 1 Tbsp of heavy cream; sprinkle tops with more kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve. Slather with butter, or, I use Earth Balance, an organic buttery spread made from plants.

*These biscuits were tender on the inside and just short of crunchy on the outside. The kosher saltiness made them interesting - along with the tang of coarse black pepper. I must admit, though, I like my biscuits with a little more " rise." Wish I had taken a picture...

                                                                             Happy Baking!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day

Veterans Day in Nashville
     It is a picture perfect day here in Nashville. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for the annual Veteran's Day Parade down Broadway.

Along with my 'fellow' Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) I decorated and boarded our float as we set out to bless, wave, sing and encourage fellow patriots along the hour and a half parade route.
From our DAR float at the start of the parade heading down to the Cumberland River the famous, old Union Station graces the skyline:

Abe Linclon stopped to chat

Headed down Broadway
DAR float beginning at The Parthenon in Centennial Park

Our soldiers

It was an inspirational and wonderful way to give back to our servicemen and our beautiful city.
Happy Veterans Day along the Trails of Tennessee.....


Monday, September 16, 2013

Abigail Adams Goes To School

Along the trails of Tennessee, tomorrow morning at 10:30 I will share my award-winning song Be Like Abigail (Ode to Abigail Smith Adams) with a delightful class of third graders at one of Nashville's premier elementary schools. I was invited by a teacher friend of mine to share Abigail with her students. How fun!

As you may know, women of Abigail's generation - The Revolutionary War era (1776) - were denied formal education in favor of domestic responsibilities. Among her plethora of honors (one being the wife of John Adams, first vice-president and second President of the United States) I know Mrs. Adams would be pleased to be heralded as a patriotic woman of valor, and heroine of The American Revolution to a wide-eyed group of seven year olds. What a wonderful opportunity to plant patriotic seeds into the hearts and minds of our children.

I will include pictures of "Abigail Adams Goes To School" after tomorrow's adventure. Stay tuned...which, btw, is the mantra of any self-respecting musician :)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tales From The Trails: Adventures in Washington, D.C. and More

We just returned from Washington, D.C. and Daughters of the American Revolution 122nd Continental Congress where my song, Be Like Abigail, won the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution American Heritage Music Composition Award. It was an honor and privilege to write a song about about one of the most beloved women in Americanhistory --- wife of our second United States president, John Adams, and mother of our sixth president, John Quincy Adams --- the one and only Abigail Smith Adams. Please click on the Be Like Abigail link and give my song a listen. I think you'll like it!
With barely enough time to catch our breath, we repacked and left for North Carolina.  I am sitting in a room at the Jackson County Library in Sylva, N.C. where we have our family summer home.
Below, my husband, Bruce, and me at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in D.C. after receiving my award.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Be Like Abigail" - Winner of DAR 2013 American Heritage National Music Composition Contest!

As a Daughter of the American Revolution, Fort Nashborough Chapter, established along the trails of Tennessee, I am pleased to announce my song " Be Like Abigail (Ode To Abigail Smith Adams) " won the National Society DAR American Heritage National Music Composition Award! I received a lovely letter of congratulations from our DAR National Music Chairman, Shirley Brown, April 24th.


I must say, I had a very good feeling about this particular song. Although music is subjective, I sensed it would win. I was right! I thank God for the gifts and talents He gives me.

Through my study of Abigail Adams, patriot, and wife of  John Adams our first vice-president and second president of The United States, as well as mother of John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, I have become more acutely aware of the blood, sweat and tears shed from members of the original thirteen Colonies to wrest from the clutches of the British our beautiful land we call America. Freedom was not handed to these men and women who sacrifificed, life and limb, family, friends and finances to establish this land of the free and the home of the brave.

It's an honor and privilege to travel to Washington, D.C. the week of June 24, during the 122nd Continental Congress - which Abigail's husband, John, along with 55 other partriots initiated in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia September 5, 1774,  to be presented with an award for my song, "Be Like Abigail." All categories in the Arts will be on display at Constitution Hall in the DAR Museum.

I am forever grateful to Abigail Adams and a host of other women and wives, who assisted our Founding Fathers while they traveled back and forth overseas for "The Cause," literally "holding down the fort" (tending to hearth and home, including hosting dinner parties, thereby, insisting the men come together for civilized conversation) thus "helping keep our fragile new nation from falling into fatal partisan discord. "These women made the men behave." (quote from Founding Mothers, by Cokie Roberts (c) 2004.)

I am deeply and forever grateful to my Revolutionary War patriot, Samuel Sunderlin, who was a private, first class in the Continental Army, maybe under George Washington. I plan further research in the DAR Library in Washington, D.C.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Be Like Abigail (Ode to Abigal Smith Adams)"

Whether biblical or historical, some of my favorite songs to write are songs I research.  In 1979, while singing on Nantucket Island, I took it upon myself to visit to the whaling museum to research a song I was working on. My song, eventually entitled Hard to Leave the Island, is chock full of Nantucket Island history set to music. In 1980, some of the faculty of USF in Ft. Myers, Florida who used to come listen to me sing and play my guitar at a fabulous out-door venue asked me to write a song about Sanibel Island. Having spent time on Sanibel (and Captiva), it was my pleasure to dig in and put its history to music simply called Sanibel Island. The Sanibel Island Chamber of Commerce contracted the song from me as "on-hold-music" for their telephone system until Hurricane Andrew almost wiped the island off the map. Thirty years later (2010), I was inspired when, at a Donelson Hermitage Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the Tennesse Dept of Tourist Development showed a video about their "Trails" initative highlighting a "get off the interstates and travel the backroads of Tennessee." Hence, I felt compelled to write Trails of Tennessee. I could hardly scratch the words and melody out quickly enough. I think Trails of Tennessee is my favorite of all my "place" songs, probably because I live here and love here - my husband grew up in Donelson and I married him here. I never could really get the hang of  "country" music. While I grew up listening to all kinds of music and made a living playing it for many years, I just couldn't believe life is all heart break and betrayal. I certainly don't want to sing about this. I always knew there something more... and I was right! His name is Jesus!
Recently, I was invited by my Fort Nashborough Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to write a song for The American Heritage Committee. The theme is: Invest in the Future - Creating Family Heirlooms. I chose to write a song about Abigail Smith Adams, "Be Like Abigal." Abigail Adams was reared in a Christian home in Braintree (now Quincy) Massachusetts. She taught herself to read and write in a day when women were regarded as not needing formal education. Abigail was not just a generation ahead of her time, but centuries ahead of her time. She taught herself French and Latin and then taught her children. She wrote letters daily, leaving more than 2,ooo of them, now in historical archives, for us to read. The articulate correspondence between Abigail and her husband, John, is a legendary love story. I could go on and on.....and do in my song.


I believe I captured the musical essence of the Revolutionary War era using my 12-string guitar, the bass, fiddle and mandolin of studio musician Jason Roller, the simple snare drum sounds of Paul Scholten, and my vocal track. Lyrically, I captured Abigail's sacrificial love and service to our country and support of her husband, our first vice - president and second President of the United States, John Adams, and mother of our sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams. I demoed the song at County Q Studio here in Nashville and will share it at the next DAR luncheon.  I believe Abigail would love her song. President John Adams would be delighted and son John Q. would be pleased! I'll supply a link to the song later this month.