Growing up in the Southern United States, grits were a staple in my family. My mother included a casserole of grits with cheddar cheese – and sometimes bacon – at every holiday brunch or special occasion. She loved them – I did not. As a child, grits ranked on my food list right above brussel sprouts, scalloped oysters and liver. They were to be avoided at all cost, which I proudly did for more than thirty years.
It wasn’t until my sister’s wedding two years ago that I began to re-examine my staunch ‘no grits – ever’ mentality. Her very Southern reception featured an entire food station dedicated to the stone-ground white corn. I was shocked. How could she serve grits at her wedding? And then – only because the shrimp looked really good and I had consumed a few glasses of wine – I tried them. What had I been missing all of these years?
When I returned home, I vowed to try new grit recipes. Yet not surprisingly, grits are not easily found at the average Ontario grocery store. I quickly forgot about the gastronomic delight. It wasn’t until the same sister gave me the Skinny Taste Cookbook by Gina Homolka for Christmas this year that my interest was peaked again.
So this week, while visiting my parents in Florida, I decided to try Homolka’s recipe. I was anything but disappointed. In fact, I already have grits in my suitcase ready to take home.
This recipe is a keeper! Here are the directions – slightly adapted by what I had on hand. It took about 45 minutes to make and is completely doable for a weeknight meal with kids.
For more yummy – and healthy eats – check out her blog at skinnytaste.com.
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup quick cooking grits
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup Havarti cheese – grated
- 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese – grated
- 1/2 tbsp butter
Prepare the grits first. Add milk, water, salt and chicken broth to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir in grits and return to a boil. Cover grits and reduce heat to low, stirring every few minutes for 30 minutes. Stir in butter and cheese. Remove from burner and set aside.
- 1 lb fresh gulf coast raw shrimp (any shrimp will work), peeled and deveined
- Old Bay Seafood Seasoning
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup shallot, minced
- 2 slices centre cut bacon, crumbled
- 3/4 cup canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2/3 cup chicken broth
- chopped scallion for garnish (optional)
- hot sauce (optional)
While the grits are cooking, cook bacon and set aside. Once complete, add extra-virgin olive oil and heat on medium-high. Add shrimp and sprinkle with Old Bay Seafood Seasoning. Cook for one to two minutes and turn, continuing to cook for two minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Add shallots and cook until golden. Add crumbled bacon, tomatoes and chicken broth. Cook until liquid is reduced. Add shrimp to re-heat.
Serve one cup of grits topped with 6 shrimp, add chopped scallion and drizzle with hot sauce…enjoy!
A few years ago my Facebook profile read, “family CEO, cook, chauffeur, cleaner, party planner, yoga enthusiast and volunteer.” I was part-time communicator and a full-time mom. Life was busy, messy and most of all…fun.
Fast-forward five years and my profile, if written honestly, would’ve read “full-time communicator, ATM, takeout queen, family cryer, extra-curricular chauffeur, wanna-be volunteer, and armchair chef.”
Gone were the simple days of preparing meals at home, baking homemade muffins after school or discussing the day over dinner. Ordering takeout or picking up a meal on the way to the next activity became the daily norm.
There’s no denying that the cost of a takeout lifestyle for a family of four was outrageous, but the health ramifications and the example set for my children carried a far greater weight. I knew we had to make a change when I asked my seven-year-old, “What are whole foods?” Here’s her response:
I can cook— that was never the problem— but my culinary toolkit did not include healthy 30-minute meals suitable for the weekly dinner rotation. My biggest concern, what could I prepare that my extremely picky first-born would actually eat? Should I buy organic? When would I find time to cook with a busy career and activities every night? Could I really hit reverse on our drive-through lifestyle?
I met with a naturopath and decided to cut the gimmicks and the timelines. Instead, I would focus on a simple whole foods – most of the time—with five rules the entire family could adopt:
- Limit healthy takeout to once a week
- Purchase a weekly fruit and vegetable box —and use it!
- Say no to soda…most of the time
- Replace margarine with butter
- Read labels: If you can’t read it – don’t eat it!
It’s been six months since we began our whole foods journey – I’m now a full-time mom and part-time communicator. I collect cookbooks, subscribe to a weekly produce box and pine over beautiful meals; however, I am still searching for that perfect weekly meal plan that everyone will enjoy, and the kids (and sometimes the parents) still negotiate for drive-through for our weekly takeout.
Yet, I realized just how far we’ve travelled. During a recent birthday party, a child asked for a soda. I immediately responded, “We don’t drink soda in our house. Can I get you water, juice or milk?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I thought, “God bless your heart…you are now one of those prissy, proper – no lollipop for you – moms.”
And while I’m not a prissy, proper mom by any stretch, I now know that small steps work work best for my family. We are on our way to a fresh, whole foods lifestyle – most of the time. Next up – reducing sugar. Wish us luck…and send sugar-free recipes, PLEASE!
Whether you’re looking for fresh eggs, vegetables or poultry, Prince Edward County in Ontario boasts an abundance of local options – from farmer’s markets to road side vegetable stands.
After spending two days in ‘The County’ with my husband, we picked up chicken, asparagus and greens from local farmers, planned a simple menu, and enjoyed an easy – and fresh – dinner with the family.
– Baked chicken drizzled with lemon and fresh herbs
– Asparagus with organic butter and sea salt
– Fresh Ontario greens with strawberries, blue berries and goat cheese with balsamic vinaigrette
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
- Handful of basil and parsley, chopped
- 20 stalks of asparagus
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 2 cups lettuce, shredded
- 2 cups strawberries, sliced
- 1 cup blueberries
- 3 inch slice of goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/8 cup + 4 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt and peppercorns
Place chicken breast, oil and herbs in a ziplock bag. Shake and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Pre-heat skillet with two tablespoons olive oil. Sear each side of chicken breast for two minutes. Move to a baking dish and cook for 35 minutes, or until juices are clear.
While the chicken is cooking, wash and shred greens, slice strawberries and crumble goat cheese. Place all ingredients in salad bowl and set aside.
Wash and trim 20 pieces of asparagus. Place in roasting ban and drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
Remove chicken and set the broiler to low. Cook asparagus for three minutes. Stir and continue place the dish back in the oven for three more minutes.
While the asparagus is cooking, whisk balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, a tbsp of dijon mustard, remaining herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with salad.
Serve together and enjoy!
Last week, my husband and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary. With busy careers and an over-scheduled calendar, we were excited to find a night that we could both get away. But where would we go? We needed a destination that was close, but also wanted something remote. A place where we could slow down, visit local farmers and explore our new whole foods mindset.
We went through the usual list: Niagara-on-the-lake, Collingwood, Muscoka and Stratford. All are great local destinations, but we’ve been there, done that. A colleague suggested Prince Edward County – referred to as ‘The County’ by locals. Just two hours east of Toronto, were were hooked after reading about the local wineries, farms and eclectic villages.
Where to stay
The meditation garden—located just outside of our front door—was a surprise and proved the starting point for our adventure.
At the end of the day, The Hubb Eatery and Lounge, – located in the main house – offered a cozy and eclectic atmosphere for a nightcap.
Pomodoro Trattoria, an Italian eatery located about 10 minutes from Angeline’s Inn, is rated among Trip Advisor’s best restaurants in the area.
We kicked off our meal with homemade Caesar’s loaded with freshly grated horseradish, followed by the strongly recommended Fritto Misto appetizer. A combination of lightly battered calamari, shrimp, scallops, green beans, peppers and polenta, this dish was full of fresh flavour.
Our main courses – homemade Lasagne and Veal Parmesan—were topped with local cheese. Yum.
The tasting rooms
Prince Edward County boasts 34 local wineries and breweries, and frankly, we had no idea where to start. After a few recommendations, we narrowed down our visits to Karlo Estates, a vegan winery, and The Country Cider Company. Both were excellent.
Fresh from the farm
Whether you’re looking for fresh eggs, vegetables or poultry, ‘The County’ boasts an abundance of local options.
Before we headed home, we picked up chicken, asparagus and greens. Now we just need recipes…suggestions welcome.