Gouda Grits with Smoky Brown Butter Shrimp

I am totally a grits girl.  I grew up eating grits for breakfast.  Sometimes as a snack after school.

If you didn’t think I was Southern before now, that should prove my Southern roots.

And my favorite kind of grits growing up:  cheese grits.

Lots of cheddar cheese melted into a bowl of piping hot grits.

Last night I took my love of cheese grits to a whole new level with Gouda Grits with Smoky Brown Butter Shrimp.

Applewood smoked gouda was whisked into the grits until they become a dreamy bed for the browned butter shrimp.

The shrimp (local, wild caught) were seasoned with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder and cumin.

The shrimp are cooked in a bath of melted butter that browns as the shrimp cook (I had to cook my shrimp in two batches – you don’t want to overcrowd the pan).

On top of the shrimp and grits – sauteed corn.  This was the last of the summer corn that I had frozen back in July (oh, how  I’m going to miss having that on hand).

In the bowl, ladle in a good amount of gouda grits.  Perfectly creamy.  On top, smoky browned butter shrimp and sauteed corn along with a sprinkle of chives.

A bowl of Heaven.

I seriously could eat gouda grits for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.

Bacon-Blue Burgers with Arugula and Quick Jalapeno Jam

I know that I shared with you my Fall Bucket List yesterday and that I should be posting a pumpkin recipe or a soup recipe but I can’t bring myself to not share with you the most incredible burger recipe.

After a gorgeous weekend, Big Guy and I wanted to end the weekend {and summer} with something “totally summer.” It didn’t take us long to agree that burgers were for dinner on Sunday.

This burger isn’t anything “fancy” – in fact, it’s a little messy.  But messy equals delicious.

The burger recipe is from my newest obsession, “Seriously Delish.”  After featuring it on a Friday Favorites post as my “Favorite Drool” I ordered the book that same day.  I just had to have it.

And now that I have it, I want to cook allthethings.  It’s full of incredible recipes that will make you want to go to stay home and dirty up every single dish you own.

Bacon and blue cheese are usual suspects when it comes to burger toppings.  However, this burger becomes something special when you add a homemade jalapeno jam.

Four jalapenos were deseeded and diced (I actually used a mini food processor for this step as to avoid having jalapeno hands all night) and then simmered with a combination of water, brown sugar, a little apple cider vinegar and honey.  Once cooled, it comes a delicious spread for the burger.

Another key component – quality beef.  We used an 85/15 mix of grass-fed beef.  The beef was gently mixed with salt, pepper and olive oil before being formed into patties.

Instead of a cast iron, we grilled our burgers to a perfect medium.  Juicy and tender, the burger would have been amazing on it’s own.

Piled high:  bottom bun, jalapeno jam, burger, blue cheese crumbles, bacon, arugula, top bun.


The flavor combination was unreal!  Sweet and savory – each bite was perfection.  Pungent blue cheese was balanced with the sweet jalapeno jam and the bacon.  But bacon makes everything better.

On the side, a simple tomato salad and a glass of Petit Verdot that I savored with every sip.

Goodbye, summer!  I’m counting the days until you return…


Fall Bucket List {2014}

Fall is officially here.  And instead of wishing that I was still wearing my white jeans and drinking mojitos, I’m going to fall in love with fall.

Visit a pumpkin patch and carve the pumpkins with Big Guy.

Bake a pie.

Have a fire pit and just enjoy the crisp air (and perhaps a glass of wine).

Make homemade cinnamon rolls.

Clean out my closet and donate things I haven’t worn in the past year.

Make a batch of chili.

Update a room in the house with new pictures or prints.

Pumpkin beer tasting with Big Guy.

A total football Saturday at home – with no other plans.

Host a Sunday brunch.

What would be on YOUR fall bucket list?

Spicy-Sweet Chicken Lettuce Wraps {and a green goddess dip}

Football season is here and that means I’m whipping up a lot of “football food” in my kitchen on Saturdays.  Because let’s be honest, while I’m a huge ECU fan, I’m more of a food fan.

The term “football food” covers an array of food – everything from veggies and dip to messy ribs.  To me, the food depends on where you are – whether it be outside of the stadium in 40 degree weather or inside your living room.

But one thing is for certain, if we’re watching football, I’ve made something to nibble on.

Last weekend we had an away game at noon with plans that Saturday evening.  So I decided to keep the “football food” light.

The menu:

Spicy-Sweet Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Green Goddess Dip with veggies

chicken wraps

The chicken used a little help from the grocery store with a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  In a saucepan bring the following ingredients to a boil: apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, jalapeno slices, salt and garlic.  This is the spicy-sweet part of the recipe.  Allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 minutes and then remove from the heat and add in the grated carrots.  Let those soften for about 10 minutes and then add in the shredded chicken.  Once the chicken as “soaked” for about 5 minutes, drain and discard the remaining liquid.  Simply divide the chicken among the lettuce (I used romaine but I really wanted to use Bibb lettuce) and top with cucumber slices and peanuts.  The recipe called for mint, which I have growing abundantly outside, but I totally forget and did not remember until the plate was empty.

I thought the preparation was so weird for these chicken wraps but they ended up being delicious.  Super light with a little bit of sweet and a kick of spice with each bite.  The peanuts were the perfect amount of crunch while the cucumbers provided some freshness to the sweet-spicy chicken.

green goddess

And because no football food spread is complete with a dip – a Green Goddess dip.  The dip is so incredibly easy to make and would make a perfect salad dressing or condiment for so many dishes.  I chose to serve mine with a variety of dippers.  In a food processor, simply blend together an avocado, green onions, lemon juice, vinegar (I used white balsamic), water, EVOO, basil, parsley, chives, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add more water to thin out the dip.

I love this dip for so many reasons!  Not only was I able to use a variety of herbs from the garden but this dip is dairy free which means it’s safe to leave out on a table for hours without worrying about it going bad.  This is crucial if you’re outside tailgating on a hot day in the early months of football food season.

If you wanted the Green Goddess dip to be more Mexican-esque, add in cilantro instead of basil and use lime juice instead of lemon juice.  Use the herbs you have on hand – you really can’t go wrong!

Tomorrow’s tailgate scene is going to be a little different than the one above.  We have a home game which means we’re going and we have family coming into town to go to the game.

ECU vs UNC in 2010

Here’s the menu for our tailgate tomorrow:

Mimosas (duh).  Beer.

Chicken Salad (the same as the last time we played UNC – it seemed to have brought us luck)

Game Day Turkey and Cheese Sliders

Masters Pimiento Cheese

Ham Biscuits (thanks to the in-laws)

Smoked Salmon Dip (I’m really making this for myself – so good!)

Veggies and Crackers for dipping

Brown Sugar Dip with Fruit Kebabs

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix (now this is specifically for my MIL and my sister-in-laws!)

Coconut-Cashew Oatmeal Cookies (I made these last weekend to repay someone for a favor and Big Guy was not happy that I only saved him three.)


Happy Football Food Eating!!!



Roasted Tomato Grilled Cheese

Imagine one of the most classic combos – grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Now combine the two and you have an ooey-gooey roasted tomato grilled cheese.    

This is officially my favorite grilled cheese sandwich to date.

And I loved using up some of what will probably be the last of our tomatoes (yep, they’re still growing and producing) in this summer-to-fall transition.

The sandwich couldn’t be easier to prepare but you do need a little bit of time in order to roast the tomatoes.

Simply halve and deseed a handful of plum tomatoes (I used 6 of our homegrown plum tomatoes).  Toss with garlic and olive oil and roasted at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the mayo, cream cheese and cheddar cheese.

Once the tomatoes have roasted, pulse in a mini food processor along with fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper.

I veered off from the original recipe and I added the tomato mixture to the cheese mixture and mixed.  I then slathered 1/4th of the mixture onto a slice of bread and topped with another slice of bread.  (p.s. Udi’s Gluten-Free Millet-Chia bread is amazing!!!)  Cook the sandwiches on a panini press until toasted and all the cheese was melted.

This sandwich has all the flavors of your favorite soup and sandwich combo in each and every bite.  I loved the roasted tomato flavors with the sharp cheddar.  And the fresh basil gave the sandwich freshness.

I typically don’t like hot soup unless it’s cold out so this is the perfect sandwich for when you want the comforting combo but it’s “too hot out.”



One Bowl Carrot-Apple Muffins

Baking can be intimidating.

I’ve messed up a plenty of recipes in my kitchen because I just don’t like how precise you have to be in baking.

But this one bowl muffin recipe is fool-proof.  Seriously.

And they’re gluten-free.  And packed with goodness.

These carrot-apple muffins are full of texture from the grated carrot and apple and loaded with natural sweetness.

I served my muffin with a big spoonful of peanut butter – because that’s how I roll.  But these are great for breakfast on-the-go or a quick afternoon snack.

The muffins will make your house smell amazing and they kind-of-sort-of got me in the mood for fall.  I’m not quite there but these helped.

The warmth of the cinnamon and the nuttiness of the walnuts were perfect for a cooler morning.

Some changes I made to the recipe:  Instead of the flax egg, I used a real egg.  I also mixed my walnuts into the muffins so that they wouldn’t fall off – no one wants to lose their walnuts.  And I went the real apple route and grated the apple on a box grater and for the sweetener, I went with agave.

Go whip up a batch of these one-bowl muffins – it won’t take you long and you’ll have breakfast prepped for the rest of the week.

And the best part – there’s only one bowl to clean.



Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

It’s beginning to feel like fall and I find myself wanting a hearty meal.  Stroganoff is one of those meals that is ultra comforting.  It makes you feel like you’ve been wrapped up in a blanket.  Warm and cozy.

Beef stroganoff can be heavy though.  And despite wanting it to be hearty, I’m not a fan of heavy meals.

Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff is not heavy at all.  The beef tenderloin is seared to perfection and then added to a silky smooth sauce that’s made from a combination of beef stock that’s thickened with cornstarch and them made creamy with sour cream (I actually used 2% Greek Yogurt).  You will think that this sauce is full of cream but it’s not.

I loved the addition of mushrooms and leeks in this stroganoff – the mushrooms gave it an even more meaty taste without the heaviness.  I used gluten-free noodles that were thin and reminded me of the traditional egg noodle that you would serve stroganoff over.

They secret to this recipe is really good beef tenderloin.  Big Guy purchased our beef from a small butcher shop in Durham called Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop.  The minute you start buying quality meat (and cheese and eggs) you won’t go back to the mainstream products.  You can actually taste the difference.

We served our beef and mushroom stroganoff with an incredible red wine that enhanced the smokiness of the paprika in the dish and really brought out the flavors of the beef.

Dinner is served.