Tag Archives: cheese

Baked Cheese Grits

With the arrival of fall I have a sudden yen for comfort food, which translates to Southern cooking. This weekend I was invited to a multicultural potluck and decided it was the perfect opportunity to trot out one of my family’s favorite special occasion dish: baked cheese grits. As always when I serve this dish outside the South, the first person through the line pokes at it, takes a small spoonful to be polite, takes a bite and starts to rave. Other people take bigger spoonfuls, the first few people go back for seconds and I get to score the potluck victory of taking home an empty casserole. Being somewhat waistline and wallet conscious, I’ve worked to cut calories and scale back on the more expensive ingredients from the original recipe. Not surprisingly, the first thing I cut was the crumbled breakfast sausage my aunt always served on top, though you non-vegetarians who are looking for a splurge should definitely consider it. And while grits are delicious for breakfast (think of them as a savory oatmeal or cream of wheat), they’re great for dinner, much like polenta, often served with ham or shrimp. Personally, I like it as is with a greens salad for dinner or fruit for breakfast.

Baked Cheese Grits

  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup grits or cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs

Lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish (I use a 9×9) and preheat the oven to 350F.

Bring the broth and garlic to a boil, then whisk in grits. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in milk and all but 1/2 cup of cheese until cheese is melted and thorough combined. Next, whisk in butter and eggs until mixture is smooth. Pour into prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Pour into prepared casserole and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cheese on top is bubbling and brown.

Serves 6.

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Pizza Pasta Salad

Lately I’ve been going through a wee bit of a pizza fixation. But eating that much pizza even with whole grain crusts can’t be all that healthy, plus cranking my oven up to 500 F at the end of a hot day is sometimes a bit much. So in order to enjoy those pizza flavors, increase the vegetable quotient, and avoid heating up my entire house, I came up with this pasta salad recipe. I should warn you that my pasta salads tend to be heavier on the salad and lighter on the pasta, so if you want a more traditional dish, double the amount of pasta. Also, for you meat eaters out there, this would be really tasty with pepperoni or prosciutto. The banana peppers give it a little bit of a kick, but if you want more heat, try peperoncinis. Not a fan of any amount of spiciness? Use 2 tbsp red wine vinegar instead.

Pizza Pasta Salad

  • 6 ounces short pasta (like penne) cooked and cooled
  • 1 large tomato diced, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 4 baby zucchini or squash, thinly sliced (you want the smallest squash you can find)
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, diced or shredded
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pickled banana peppers, drained & chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano or 1/2 tbsp dried
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to refrigerate for at least one hour before serving so flavors can meld. Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish.

Enjoy!

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Zucchini Pizza

Apparently pizza is now my go to dish for when I have friends over. Homemade pizza is impressive but easy to make, can be topped with whatever you feel like, and only takes 10 minutes in the oven. If I’m feeling ambitious, I set out a bunch of sauces, cheeses, and toppings, and it becomes a make your own pizza fest. This weekend, we kept it simple and topped it with the last of last year’s marinara, local mozzarella, oregano from my garden, and thinly sliced zucchini from the farm. I was surprised by how much I liked the zucchini, it didn’t get mushy and instead added a bit of crunch and a really fresh flavor. This crust recipe is adapted from my boyfriend, Mark Bittman, and resembles the crust from an upscale pizzeria. It makes 2 pizzas and serves 4 to 6 officially, though with 4 people I only had 1 slice leftover.
Basic Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all purpose or bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • additional vegetable oil or cornmeal
  • additional flour

Mix first four ingredients. Stir in water until a slightly stick ball forms. (This would be a great place to use a mixer or food processor) Set in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Allow to rest until doubled in size, ~1 to 2 hours. Divide dough into 2 even parts, flatten into discs, put on wooden cutting board sprinkled with flour and cover with the kitchen towel. Allow to rest for ~20 minutes, and preheat the oven to 500 F. If using a pizza stone, sprinkle with cornmeal, if using a cookie sheet sprinkle with cornmeal or coat with oil (I like the cornmeal better). Roll out one crust at a time, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking. Transfer the first crust, top as desired, then bake for 10 minutes.

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Beet and Beet Green Gratin

One of my favorite vegetables is the beet, and 90% of the time, I eat them boiled or roasted, sliced up and topped with a little salt. But, I’m trying to get out of a culinary rut, so I did a little Googling and came across this recipe for beet and beet green gratin from my beloved NY Times. The ingredients are simple so the beets really shine, is only 170 calories a serving, and makes great cold leftovers, which are my favorite. It served as a great light supper, but would also make a good side dish to roast chicken. Not surprisingly, I made a few tweaks to the recipe due to what was in my refrigerator and my innate laziness. The prep is a little time consuming, but but you can cook the beets and prep the greens a few days before.

Beet and Beet Green Gratin

  • 2 bunches beets (6-8 beets) with greens attached
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces parmesan, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • pinch of salt
  1. Cut greens off beets 1/4 in from the base, and set them aside. Roast beets in 400 F or boil until fork tender, ~30-45 minutes. Once beets have cooled, the skins should slide right off, remove top, then slice horizontally.
  2. Rinse greens, cut off and discard stems, and chop leaves coarsely. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, ~2-3 minutes. Add leaves, cover, and cook until tender, ~ 5 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole. Combine last 5 ingredients, then fold in greens and beets.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until dish is set and golden brown on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

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My Little Luxuries

I’ve seen a few bloggers posting lists of the things they splurge on, so I thought I’d join in and share my necessary luxuries.

1) Tea. I prefer to drink high quality, loose-leaf tea, since I’m one of those snobs who swear they can taste the paper on the tea bags. Fortunately, I often get this as gifts or I can buy it in bulk at the Co-Op for not too much. $5 or $6 worth can last me 2 months. My boss makes fun of me for having a tea drawer in my desk: a variety of black and green teas, sugar, local honey, a tea infuser, and a tiny saucer to leave the infuser on. I just tell him he’s lucky I’m not hooked on coffee or espresso or I’d be driving him up the walls.

2) Good Cheese/Dark Chocolate/Red Wine. Once a month, I buy a hunk or two of good cheese, such as goat, blue, aged parmesan, feta or manchego, the list goes on. I like to use it sparingly to really enjoy the flavors and make it last. Similarly, I always have a bar of dark chocolate in my refrigerator and have a square every couple of days. Finally, I grown beyond two buck chuck, and when I can find something decent in my price range, I don’t mind paying for it.

3) Sunscreen. If you’ve ever seen my I Complete You Challenge list, I clearly am not loyal to any one skin-care item. The only exception is my Shiseido sunscreen. Y’all, the queen of cheap shells out $35 a bottle for this stuff and have yet to regret it. It doesn’t make my skin oily, doesn’t cause break-outs, doesn’t have a scent, doesn’t wear off in water. As a pasty white redhead, I have to wear sunscreen everyday and this is the only formula that makes me actually willing to do that.

4) Living Alone. I own a two-bedroom townhouse and spend half my limited student budget on my mortgage and HOA fees. Yes, I have space for another person and it would cut my housing and utility costs in half. Why don’t I do it? Because, I’m the crazy roommate. I hate picking up after myself, and when I finally do, I decide the entire place needs to be spotless. I’m very picky about my possessions (touch my kitchen knives and die) and love decorating my home just so. Finally, I’m an introvert. The ability to come home, take my pants off, and not have to talk to anybody is completely priceless.

What little splurges do you find absolutely essential?

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Savory Bread Pudding with Kale

I just love coming across recipes that use exactly what I’ve got on hand. Thanks to my latest delivery from my CSA I had a bunch of kale and a dozen eggs. Then on Saturday, my loaf of bread failed to rise, leaving me with a loaf of whole wheat bread that wouldn’t be the greatest for sandwiches, etc. So, when the New York Times published a recipe for Savory Bread Pudding with Kale (and Mushrooms) I knew what I’d be eating for lunch this week. It’s a delicious mix of the creamy texture of bread pudding I love with the savoriness of stuffing. Of course, I had to tweak the recipe to use what I had on hand, but I’m pretty proud of what I came up with. I threw the fried onion thingies on top since I had half a can left from Thanksgiving and wanted to use them up.

Savory Bread Pudding with Kale

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch kale, destemmed & chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 lb whole wheat bread, cubed (about 1/2 of my small loaf)
  • 4 ounces Gruyere or Parmesan, grated (~1 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • fried onion pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 2 quart casserole (I used my Pyrex 9×13).

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onions and garlic, cook until soft, ~5 minutes. Add kale, salt & pepper, and sautee for 5 more minutes.

While the onions & kale are cooking, mix bread and cheese in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs and milk with another pinch of salt & pepper. Pour over bread and cheese mixture, and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes so the bread can soak up the egg/milk mixture.

When kale & onions are done, fold into the bread mixture. Pour into prepared casserole and top with friend onion deliciousness, if desired.

Bake at 350 for 40 to 50 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean and the pudding is puffed and brown. Serves 4 to 6.

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