Monday, February 27, 2012

Restaurant Review: Red Pony (Franklin, TN)

Well, in true musician style – we didn't make any reservations for our Valentine's Day dinner the Saturday before Valentine's Day but thought – let's go out.  We had been told by another couple we are friends with to try the Red Pony in Franklin, TN.  So we went there.

When we got there we were asked if we had a reservation, and of course we didn't.   Did they turn us away or tell us there was a 2hr wait?  Nope.  They suggested we go to their second floor because we could sit in the bar/lounge and still get the full menu.  We thought – let's try it.

So we go up there and it was pretty swanky.  We found two seats at the bar and the two bartenders were super attentive.  We had menus lickity split and the bartenders were very helpful in suggesting menu items.

Darren had the 20oz Ribeye (as you can see it was GINORMOUS!) which came with roasted potato wedges and a mushroom slaw like side.  Darren asked if he could replace it with asparagus and they said – no problem.

Isn't this GINORMOUS!!!
As you can see they forgot the asparagus – but not a problem....

I had the Shrimp & Grits.  It was just the right size – and DELICIOUS!  The grits were homemade garlic and cheese with a portobello mushroom sauce – SO GOOD!

When Darren could only finish half of he steak the bartender asked if he wanted a box and Darren said yes.  At this moment the Bartender realizes he forgot the asparagus and profusely apologizes.  When he brings back the box with Darren's left overs in it, there is a full serving of fresh asparagus inside.  A WHOLE second meal.  VERY nice.  

This was the bread pudding we have for dessert.  As I am sure you can assume – it was FABULOUS!
sorry - forgot to take the picture until AFTER it was gone...
Although it was a little pricey – it was a great experience.  Great food – Great service – Great atmosphere.  A great special occasion place.

For more info go to their website:

Latin Black Beans and Brown Rice Confetti

I was looking for a side dish to have one night with a my Latin Grilled Chicken recipe.  I looked in the fridge and the pantry to see what I had and the below was the result.  My thought is cumin is the most fabulous spice EVER made!  I love it in everything Latin flavored that I make.  If you start with Cumin, Olive Oil and Garlic – you can't go wrong.

This is so good you can use it as a side, as a main dish with some cheese on it, as a filling for a burrito – LOVE this stuff and I hope you will too.

Black Bean and Brown Rice Confetti

2C cooked brown rice
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (with onions and peppers) – drained
1 can of black beans – drained and rinsed
½ T cumin
1/4t garlic powder
1/4t onion powder
salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish and toss together until well mixed.  Then put under the broiler in the oven for about 5 minutes.  Then stir and fluff and put back under the broiler for another 5minutes.  Keep doing this for until a lot of the moisture is dried up.  Serve next to chicken or any other latin dish.

I LOVE THIS STUFF!  It is way better than the frozen entree versions and way healthier.  Another Clean Eating recipe, just be sure to read your labels to make sure it's "Clean Eating friendly" if that's what you're doing, that can be a side or a great lunch.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Darren's Mom's Pork Chops and Veggies

One of Darren's favorite dishes is the way his Mom makes pork chops and it also is a way for him to get his veggies in.  

I called his mom and asked her for the recipe and tried it out and it came out super good!  It is easy and also a clean food recipe!  BONUS!  I hope you enjoy it too!

Darren's Mom's Pork Chops and Veggies

4 center cut boneless pork chops
1 cup fresh cut broccoli florets
4 red potatoes – quartered
1 medium onion - quartered
1cup baby carrots
4 slices center cut bacon
1 cup fresh cut green beans
½ cup sliced portobella mushrooms
(you can really use any veggie you have in the fridge but I highly suggest you avoid squash and zucchini - I found out the hard way they get mushy.)

Add caption
In a dutch oven that has a lid – I use my enamel covered cast iron dutch oven for this one, Darren's mom uses one of those electric counter top ones with the glass lid.

Place the bacon in one layer in the bottom of the dutch oven.  Season the pork chops with salt & peper on both sides  and then place in the pot.  Then place the onion around the meat and then all the veggies in the layers you want.  Then salt and paper to taste the top of the veggies.  Cover and bake in the oven for 45mins or until the veggies are tender but not mushy. Serve!

The reason I love this recipe is because it is all done in one pot - so clean up is easy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dirty Mouth? Clean it up! The Singing Tomato goes clean – Clean Eating that is!

I have always wondered about all the stuff that is in the food we eat.  We buy a bag of frozen chicken and you think, “I just bought chicken.”  Have you read the ingredients?  It says things like chicken (expected), salt and flavoring solution and some chemicals – um what the heck is that?  When you buy a mix or a box of something – read the ingredients.  Yes there are things there that not only I can't pronounce but I have no idea what they are – and it's a box of cake mix.  Cake mix!  You think flour, sugar, baking soda not a bunch of chemicals you don't know what they are... 

I just feel like we are seeing a rise in the diseases that are caused by prolonged inflammation in the body and I feel that some of the cause may be that we are eating things we were not meant to eat. I am not making any medical claims or reports – these are just my opinions.  As such, I am choosing a new food journey to attempt to eat things in a more aware and mindful way.

All that said – from what I get, clean eating is eating whole foods like fresh fruits & veggies, lean means – organic or locally obtained meats from local farmers, grass fed not corn fed, and whole grains.  Basically, eating things that are as close to their original form as when they came out of the ground so to speak.  Also, if it is pre package (canned or boxed or frozen, etc) if it has more than 3-5 ingredients or you don't know what it is – don't eat it.  I was surprised to find out that sugar isn't a “whole food” - regular white sugar.  It is a processed food.  Who knew?!  LEARNING!

I told Darren that I wanted us to start doing this as much as possible and of course he thought immediately, “diet food and granola – yuck!”  So I stopped him and showed him some menus I had found and recipes.  He seemed to warm to the idea because he really loves good food – and he realized this way of eating yields GOOD WHOLE REAL FOOD.  The clean way of eating is essentially a back to basics format.  You eat things and make things from whole ingredients.  

It really isn't that hard.  This weekend alone – I went to Kroger (you thought I was going to say Whole Foods or Wild Oats) and if you shop “the walls” you can pretty much keep clean.  The frozen foods and canned veggies sections – just read the ingredients.  If there is anything much more on the back ingredient list than whats on the front of the label then put it back.  Like I compared the labels of regular chili beans with organic and the regular had several other “preservative” type ingredients where as the organic had about 4 things and they were like beans, cumin, chili powder, and things like this that I knew what they were.   Real food.  Granted the organic is $0.30 more than the regular, but I am trying to think of it as an investment in my health.  If I eat healthy now and going forward, maybe I won't have some of the ailments that can steal your quality of life as well as the quality of life of those around you if your health goes.  $0.30 is a small price to pay for that peace of mind and health – don't you think?

I know I won't be perfect.  I know I will “fall” off the wagon and eat junk food every once and a while (I mean I love a great couple cocktails and a cheeto here and there) but – I will start with trying this for a week and go from there.  They say the first step is to use REAL butter again (YAY-HOO!) and then throw out all your salad dressing and make your own.  This is SO easy!  Here's a great recipe to get you started:

Clean Italian Salad Dressing
1 ½ T olive oil
1 ½ T Balsamic Vinegar
1t  Italian seasoning
½ t minced garlic
salt & paper
put all this in a little jar or tupperware with a top and with the top on shake well.  Then pour on your salad – YUMMY FABU & totally CLEAN!

Wish me luck and feel free to share thoughts.  As I travel this journey - I will share finds and things I learn. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Singing for my dinner....

Well, I named this blog The Singing Tomato because I sing and cook.  Both passions go back to my Grandma Rosaria - they called her Sue for short...I am not sure why but it is what it is.  I remember she would stand in the kitchen and cook and sing.  Every Sunday, much like this Sunday, when I make "the gravy" or a bolognese because we are running low in the freezer I am reminded of those days.  I used to think she looked just like Snow White from the Disney movie and sang like her too.

Anyway - since this is the Singing Tomato I guess it's about time I get my voice out there... again.  Well, it's been about 8 years since I have recorded anything.  I will go out and stand in with a friends' band for a song here and there but haven't really gotten back into it for a while - other than teaching my voice students - which I LOVE!  But I guess this is my turn.

It has taken me almost 40yrs to find "my voice".  What it is that I love to sing.   I started in the theatre - then I heard Whitney Houston, God rest her soul.  I knew then that what the kind of music I wanted to sing but there are so many genres...I love R&B and rock - fronted a cover band singing that and it was fun.   But as luck and time would have it - I also love pasta and between that and my slowing metabolism - I got where I knew rock stardom was not in my cards.  So I thought if I didn't care what was marketable - what would I choose to sing.... I figured out I love jazz standards, theatre and "big song and dance numbers."  Like Bette Midler in For the Boys, I love big Diva like songs and I don't care who knows it!

So for my inaugural Singing Tomato number, for your listening pleasure (or your excruciating swimmer's ear like pain -  LOL!) I chose a funny abbreviated number from the show City of Angels.  I love this show because of not only its story line but it's effects.  The story line is about a playwright in the 1960s who has writers block while writing a play about the 1940s film noir type detective an a musical around that and how he gets through his writer's block.  The cool thing is the whole show is done with one side of the stage in color, the side which is the writer trying to write is in color and the other side is what he is writing on paper, it is lit in black and white.  Very fun.  This Song is called You Can Count on Me.  Its sung by both the writer's and the detective's assistant because although she is a nice girl she really can't find the right guy - and she seems to have a crush on the writer/detective but she knows that probably won't work out either.  She is saying you can count on screw up my love life no matter how I try.  I love this and I hope you do too.  Sorry about the production - I cook and sing - I don't do audio engineering.  :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Sunday Dinner at Bella Napoli - My 1st Restaurant Review!

Not from Nashville but want a good spot for a bite that the locals go to?  A local looking for a new cool place that is yummy, great atmosphere and not too pricey – even worthy of a date night for the frugal couple – heck any couple??  

Well, tucked away in the old White Way Cleaners complex on Villa Street between 17th and 18th Avenue just up from Music Row is Bella Napoli.  This locale is totally perfect for this Neapolitan brick oven pizza joint.  Being a former NYer and current Italian, one of the great things about NY I miss are really great pizza and all the little tucked away places in the brick buildings with internal courtyards to grab a bite to eat.  You get both here and more.

The menu has something for everyone, several gourmet pizzas as well as salads, pasta entrees, yummy desserts and a nice wine list.  Don't worry if you are not a wine aficionado because each menu item has a suggested wine pairing that you can totally count on to compliment your entree or pizza perfectly.

I had the Capricciosa pizza (I only could eat half b/c it was SO big with so much stuff on it!).  This pizza comes nicely appointed with imported baked ham, Genoa salami, marinated artichokes black kalamata olives, mushrooms and fresh mozzarella.  It was perfecto!  Such a great savory with a little spice flavor.  Totally topped it off when paired with the house chianti, which is a Ruffino Chianti –  very nice.

Darren, my man, is a purist so he stuck with the Margherita with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil on top of a lovely schmeer of tomato sauce.  He ate the whole thing SO FAST I think I was still on my first 3 bites of mine.  That's how you know it's good.

I highly recommend this place – it would even make a great spot for a Valentine's Day dinner.

...from one tomato to another – Bella Napoli XOXO - Ti amo!

Want more info before visiting – Check out their website: