good eats, grits, real food, recipes, seafood, shrimp, southern cooking

Kiss my grits! Gina Homolka takes grits from meh to marvelous

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.

Ingredients

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Grits

  • 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.

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Shrimp:

  • 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!

good eats, real food, whole food lifestyle

Five simple ways to cleanup your weekly meal plan

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:

  1. Limit healthy takeout to once a week
  2. Purchase a weekly fruit and vegetable box —and use it!
  3. Say no to soda…most of the time
  4. Replace margarine with butter
  5. 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!