Friday, July 26, 2013

Cheese Grits

I remember the first weeks of college, having such fun getting to know great people from all over the country.  Friends on my hall were from Chicago, Colorado, California, Michigan, rural Tennessee, and New Jersey.  Being in Tennessee, my home-state, for college I had the opportunity to be part of introducing friends to some southern customs, foods and practices. 

One of those was Grits.  Many friends had never heard of them. Some have never tasted them, and others were leery of them.  Kind of like the Salmon Cakes I wrote about this spring, grits can span from “down home” to high class ­– from Cracker Barrel Restaurant served as a side with the bacon and eggs breakfast platter to upscale restaurants serving them to accompany grilled shrimp.

I like grits simply served with a little salt, pepper and butter.  But cheese grits, well, they are an altogether different thing.  They are fabulous.  They are great for breakfast as well as a side dish.  A local BBQ restaurant serves grits of all flavors- each day offering Grits of the Day as well as their always–available Garlic Cheese Grits. 

To those of you who are fans of cheese grits, this recipe is a keeper. To those who have never had the privilege of having them, this is worth the try.  It is my mom’s recipe that we have served for brunches and special breakfasts for years.  Recently, with our love of Shrimp and Grits, I have made them for dinner (served with shrimp).  Another night we had Cheese Grits with neighbors when we grilled pork tenderloin and chicken (and had those Quick Sour Cream Biscuits).  For my family I have halved the recipe because it makes so much.  Dave prefers that I make a full recipe so that he can eat the leftovers for breakfast.

This recipe is soufflé–like in that it has eggs in it and is baked in a casserole dish, so it fluffs up a bit.  It keeps well and even freezes well.  The original recipe calls for Velveeta cheese, which I resist because it is "processed cheese spread" by their own admission.  However, it does melt so nicely.  That's its benefit.  I like to use 1/2 Velveeta and 1/2 sharp cheddar cheese.  You can experiment and find the cheese(s) you like best.

Cheese Grits
Yields 9 X 13 pan

1 1/2 cups dry grits
1 stick butter (or less)
1 lb. Velveeta Cheese cubed or combo of cheddar and velveeta, or your choice - equaling 5 cups grated cheese
2 tsp. hot sauce (Tabasco, Cholula, etc.)
3 eggs, beaten

Cook 1 1/2 cups grits as directed on package.
While hot, add butter (cut into slices to make it easier to melt), cheese, tabasco, and eggs.

Pour into a casserole dish coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350˚ or until fluffy and golden.

(You can freeze grits in the pan and bake them later).

Ready to stick in the oven

If you want to make Shrimp and Grits, use raw (uncooked) shrimp.  I buy it frozen and thaw it in a bowl of water.  Peel shrimp.  Toss in some melted butter and sprinkle with garlic powder and coarse salt.  Place on a hot grill pan or skillet.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Turn over.  Cook other side.  Remove and plate with Cheese Grits.  I like to serve with simple tossed greens, sautéed green beans, or roasted asparagus.

Whether you're going for down home or high class, find a way to incorporate some cheese grits into your menu planning!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Quick Sour Cream Biscuits (You Must Make Them)

In contrast to the Kale and Spinach recipes and Dinner Salads of recent posts, today I want to tell you about these amazingly delightful, buttery sour cream biscuits.  They are made from only 3 ingredients stirred together and dropped in a muffin pan.  Seriously!  They are not healthy, nor did they come from the ground, but they are creamy, salty, buttery and embarrassingly easy.

I got this recipe from a mentor of mine from middle school, Jani. I think she maybe gave it to me when I got married (almost 18 years ago).  There was a season early in my marriage when I made them often.  Now it's been several years since I have.  I don't know why I forget about this recipe.

When we were having our neighbors over for dinner a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to serve some kind of yummy homemade rolls.  I vowed to keep the meal simple and to not let it get too involved.  So, I knew making yeast rolls was out of the question.  Then I remembered these treasures.  I made a double batch and served them with butter, honey and peach preserves.  They are ridiculously easy and oh so yummy.  We had a few leftover and I had an egg white and sliced tomato sandwiched inside for breakfast the next morning.

These biscuits have stayed on my mind.  This week was my snack-bringing week for church, so I decided to try mini versions of them to serve a crowd. I made 48 minis and they were gobbled up before I could get one.

Quick Sour Cream Biscuits

2 cups Bisquick (pancake & baking mix)
1 cup sour cream
1 stick (1//2 cup) melted butter

Mix ingredients together and spoon into greased muffin pan.  Bake at 400˚ for 15-20 minutes or until golden on top.  (Makes about 1 dozen regular sized biscuits.)
Stir ingredients together

Bake until they begin to golden on top

Flip them out onto a cooling rack

The Bread Bible taught me to cover baked goods with a clean dry tea towel when cooling
so as to prevent the bread from becoming stale, while giving it a cover with breathability.  

This past week when I was making them, I realized I didn't have enough Bisquick for the double batch.  (I bought the small box of Bisquick when I made them a couple of weeks ago, because of the infrequency of my use of it, limited pantry space, and wanting to avoid it expiring before I made them again.)  So, thanks to Google, I found a "recipe for Bisquick".

Make-your-own-Bisquick: (for 1 cup)
1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 T. shortening or oil.  Mix all ingredients until well combined and shortening is cut in.

This is good to know, if you don't want to buy Bisquick, or don't have access to it (hello Laurel, Ashley and Melinda across the globe)!

(Remember: you would double these amounts for this biscuit recipe since it calls for 2 cups of Bisquick).

In addition (if that wasn't enough butteriness in this treat),  I was trying to think of a
simple way to serve the biscuits with butter and jam when making these to take to church.  I decided to make Ina Garten's Marmalade Butter that Amy G. recently introduced me to...thank you very much! It's Orange Marmalade mixed with softened butter.  It is a zippy butter that is a delightful addition to just about anything.  Consequently, people could have butter and jam all rolled into one smear from this jar of Orange Marmalade Butter.

My advice to you is to find a reason to make these. Pronto. Don't delay. Don't just pin it on some lost board and then forget it (the modern equivalent of me having a recipe card hidden in my recipe box).  Pin it and make them.  Or just go in your kitchen today and whip them up.  And make sure that you grab one for yourself before they disappear!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Eating our Greens (and lots of Ice Cream)

In enjoyment of the produce of summertime, and to offset the junk food that is inherent in summer eating, I have been cooking lots of veggie-driven meals.  Corn on the cob, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini and melons have played a leading role our table.

Kale is one of the “super foods” I have been playing around with in the kitchen as well.  

My friend Melissa mentioned this Kale Salad that she makes and I tried the recipe. It is super simple and just what I want for a summer lunch.  I have been craving it so much that I have made it 4 times in the last few weeks!  I also think it’s great as a side with a piece of grilled chicken or fish for dinner.  One day I stirred in chunks of grilled chicken and feta and had a meal in a bowl.

Here's how simple it is:

Chop about 6 cups of Kale in the food processor until it is fairly finely chopped

add 1 cup cooked quinoa

and 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

and 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Toss all of these together.

In a measuring cup make the dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and a pinch of coarse salt and ground pepper.  

MIx well and pour over the salad, stirring and adding as much as needed.


It keeps well in the fridge for a few days.
Feel free to tweak the recipe as you like, putting more or less (or different ingredients) to make it the taste that you like.

The other thing we like to make with kale is Kale Chips.

They are one of my 9 year old's favorite treats. They are simple to make and are a tasty way to “eat your greens”.  I follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. So simple and yummy.

Smoothies are another almost daily request in our home and to get some good spinach nutrients into my kids, our featured smoothie has been the SNOT smoothie.  (Aptly named for the beautiful green color. I usually give a big, dramatic "Ahhhhhhhh Choo!" as I am about to plunge the straws in to serve the smoothies to my gang!)

The smoothies contain: fresh spinach, frozen bananas, frozen mango and vanilla yogurt.  If it’s too thick to blend, I add some cold water to thin it.  They are so delicious and beautiful too. (Much more beautiful than snot).

Another healthy thing we are trying
to make sure we add to our "diet" is SMILING!

I saw this message at the Frothy Monkey a couple of weeks ago and had to take a photo to hold onto this reminder!

And in case you think we are super-food, super-healthy all the time, DO NOT BE DECEIVED! We have been eating lots of tacos and guacamole, burgers, egg and cheese wraps, and we have been eating our fair share of ice cream.

Blue Bell Ice Cream has been on sale at the grocery, so of course we have had to get it!

And we have been making floats- rootbeer/vanilla ice cream; and Sprite/rainbow sherbet - a family tradition in my growing-up-home.

And we finally took our kids to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for the first time.
(We had been holding out because it is the cost of a meal for our family to each get a small ice cream there.)  But as a prize for their summer rewards plan, we did it.  
YUM! Buttermilk Strawberry, Salty Caramel, Chamomile, Toasted Coconut, Milkiest Chocolate in the World, Brambleberry Crisp... this is some splendid ice cream!

Hoping your summer is filled with some farm-fresh produce as well some sweet treats!