Sunday Smatterings (The Kerr Edition)

Sunday Smatterings (The Kerr Edition) 7.30.17

Hey, folks! Assistant Amy/The Kerr here. I'm stepping in for my boss, who's off on a well-deserved vacation. Even writers need to unchain themselves from their laptops sometimes. 

We're going to do Smatterings Kerr style today, which means we'll be all over the place. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

What I'm Eating

You know what I can't get enough of? This ridiculously easy cucumber salad. All you need are:

  • cucumbers, chopped
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • red onion, sliced thin
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Mix together and boom. I'd take a picture of it, but I always devour it before I remember.

What I'm Playing

Okay, I have to tell you about my new podcast obsession: Death, Sex & Money, a podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.

If you're a fan of NPR's Morning Edition, you know the best part of the whole week is 7:20 am CST, which is when the StoryCorps segment airs. 80% of the time I'm in tears by the end of the three-minute bit because people are on the segment are sharing some of their most defining moments, and I'm weeping because of the sheer tragedy or hope for humanity I hear. I'm a sap. 

Death, Sex & Money is like an extended StoryCorps segment. I don't know how they find such fascinating people to interview, but the producers do a fantastic job of picking people from all walks of life (the guest could be Alec Baldwin or your Uber driver, you never know) and just talking to them about random things. Break-ups. Student Loans. Incarcerated Spouses. Retired NFL players. Surrogate mothers. Kevin Bacon. If you're into exploring human relationships and what makes people tick, this is the podcast for you.

The show's been a around for a few years, which is great for me because I have a lot of episodes to catch up on. 

What I'm Reading

After whipping through Tom Perrotta's Mrs. Fletcher, I thought I'd try When Breath Becomes Air. Are you reading anything good?

What I'm Watching

Confession: after starting and quitting a bajillion new comedy series, I've decided to watch Cheers all the way through on Netflix. I'd forgotten how hilarious this show is: the writing, the comedic timing. And tell me you don't love the answers to How's life treating you, Norm?

Plus, it has the best theme song ever. You know it's true.

Dog of the Week

When I was a kid, all I wanted was a golden retriever. Though I am now a proud greyhound mama, I still have a soft spot for goldens like Lulu (she's available for adoption here in Nashville!).

Look. At. Her. Face. If you live close by, you should think about getting Lulu or a friend like her from Adopt a Golden Nashville.

That's all I have today, guys. Don't mind me, I'll be sitting over here, shopping for fall décor and dreaming of cooler temps (no joke—I will be putting this up on my front door September 1, I don't care what it feels like outside!). 

The Kerr

J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.

For more insight into her wicked imagination, join J.T.’s email list at, or follow her online at or on Twitter @thrillerchick.

12.18.16 - Sunday Smatterings

Hello, chickens! How was your week? Are you making lists and checking them twice? Holiday prep is winding down at Chez Ellison. The last of my Christmas cards and gifts went out this week. The decorations have gone up. Neither of the cats has eaten said decorations yet. Things are getting a bit calmer, and I'm ready to settle into a quieter week. I don't think I've ever been done with Christmas this early before. It feels VERY nice. 


Here's what happened on the Internets this week:

Do you ever wish you had Hermione's Time Turner so that you could go back and revisit the Christmases of your childhood? I do. Sometimes I miss the magic of Christmas, because I get caught up in the checklists, to-do lists, the calendar of social events, trying to make the holidays happen. My wonderful A WORD ON WORDS cohost, Mary Laura Philpott, gave voice to that ennui this week in the New York Times, in a piece called "Wishing Away the Wishlist." Give it a read, especially if you need to catch your breath trying to make all the things happen.

This is what the holidays are all about: a couple paid off $30,000 layaway charges at a Walmart in Memphis. Pay it forward, y'all.

This time of year, Iceland stays dark for a good portion of the day. So what do Icelanders do to pass the time? Read, of course! This is where they find their books.

Looking for wine to pair with the holiday meal? Vivino's compiled a list for almost anything you're serving. Mmm!

We talk a lot about Parnassus Books here, but there's another wholly independent bookstore in Nashville, and it only features Tennessee writers and artists. Get thee to East Side Story for a fun afternoon with proprietor Chuck Beard. You'll love it, and what a great place to buy Christmas gifts for your Nashville-loving friends!

And closer to home:

Y'all. 'Tis the season for gift giving... but sometimes, you need to give one to yourself, too! Case and point: THE FIRST DECADE ebook is on sale for only $3.99. Includes THE OMEN DAYS, a romantic Christmas ghost story* perfect for this time of year!

*Yes. I said "romantic Christmas ghost story." 👻 💕

If you're stuck on a unique gift for your nerdy loved one or writer friend, check out my gift guide. Three sections, ten books, lots of programs and stocking stuffers and fun things you can still pick up!

Oh, and you need this five-minute peanut butter fudge in your life. Just sayin'.

That's all I have this week. Y'all be good, do nice things for strangers, hang your stockings by the chimney with care, and we'll talk again soon!


The Best Cold Weather Comfort Food

Spaghetti alla Carbonara



  • Fine sea salt
  • 7 ounces thick-sliced flat pancetta or bacon
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more for sprinkling
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut pancetta into ¼-inch batons. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, grated cheeses, 1/3 cup water, and generous pinch salt and pepper. In a medium nonstick skillet, combine pancetta and oil; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 15 minutes. 
About halfway through pancetta cooking time, cook pasta in the boiling water until al dente (ideally pancetta and pasta will be ready at about the same time). Reserving ¼ cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta and return to pot. Add pancetta and its rendered fat; toss to combine. Immediately add egg mixture and 2 tablespoons pasta cooking liquid; quickly stir to combine. Moisten with additional pasta cooking liquid, if desired. Serve immediately, passing cheese and pepper at the table.
Serves 4-6 - or two very, very hungry people... ; )

from La Cucina Italiana  October 2010 The Pasta Issue

New Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli

Via the Acacia wellness blog, a recipe I think I'd like to try. As I mature (cough, cough) my tastebuds have changed dramatically. Things I used to abhor, like hummus and beans, are suddenly favorites. Still hate tomatoes, but love all tomato derivatives. 

Anyway, this looks super yummy. Sadly, I have no beans and am snowed in, or else I'd make it tonight. Enjoy!

Pasta E Fagioli Recipe #20914 @CDKitchen:

3 teaspoons oil
2 pounds ground beef
14 ounces carrot -- slivered
12 ounces onion -- chopped
14 ounces celery -- diced
48 ounces tomatoes, canned -- diced
2 cups red kidney beans
2 cups white kidney beans
88 ounces beef stock
3 teaspoons oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons pepper
5 tablespoons fresh parsley -- chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
48 ounces spaghetti sauce
8 ounces dry pasta shell macaroni


Saute beef in oil in large 10 qt. pot until beef starts to brown. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 min. Drain and rinse beans and add to pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce and noodles . Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 min. (45 minutes is never enough to get carrots tender. I'd say a full hour at least.)

Makes 9 quarts.

Divine Au Gratin Potato Recipe

I tried this out for Thanksgiving, and it was was so delish - sorry, Rachael - that I've been bragging about it for days. Several people asked for the recipe, so here you go.

Sweet Onion Potatoes Au Gratin
(original by Rachael Ray, adaptation by moi)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (plus 1 stick butter)
  • 1 large or 2 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, dried
  • 48-52 oz Honey Gold fingerling potatoes
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (I prefer the four cheese blend from Publix with Asiago)
  • 1/2 pound brick Gruyère, shredded

Heat a small skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt (I like course ground sea salt), the ground thyme and bay leaf and cook until very soft and sweet and lightly caramelized, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and discard the bay leaf.

While the onions cook, put the potatoes (don't bother to skin) in a medium size pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then salt the water and cook until tender, 20 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the hot pot. Mash the potatoes with the cream and Parmigiano Reggiano and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add stick of butter for perfect creamy consistency.

Pre-heat the broiler.

Arrange the mashed potatoes in individual gratin dishes or one shallow casserole dish. Top the potatoes with the onions and Gruyère cheese. Place the dish(es) on a sheet pan and brown under a hot broiler until bubbly, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.