Shrimp and Grits Casserole

January 7th, 2012
by: Blue

Shrimply delicious!

I decided to make this dish mostly because I had all the ingredients on hand and did not have to make a trip to the grocery store.  My limit on grocery shopping is about once a week.  More trips than that makes me grouchy because that means I’m going after work (UG!).  I hate going after work.  And besides, sometimes the fun of cooking is figuring out the perfect dish using what is in the pantry.

Key thoughts on this dish:

I love grits, but I’m picky about them.  I only buy Bob’s Red Mill coarsely ground grits (also labeled as polenta).  Yes, I’ve said that before.  This dish would be good with any grits, but Bob’s Red Mill grits take it to the next level.  GET IT! GOT IT? GOOD.

I used large shrimp, so big that I was concerned about the cook time – so I butterflied them.  The added benefit of this is they cooked up beautifully (which is typical of butterflied shrimp – they are just prettier and make a better presentation).  I also used about 2 pounds, which was on the verge of excessive, because I wanted it to be extra-shrimpy-licious. Und it vas (said in my very best Dr. Everett Scott voice – yes I’m a Rocky Horror Picture Show dweeb).

Whatever you tweak in the recipe – don’t mess with the corn!  I realize it may sound bizarre to you, but it’ s fantastic bit of crunchy sweetness that is perfect on the palate.  A recommended tweak would be to add chopped Hatch green chiles or chopped fresh jalapenos.  Or chipotle peppers.  Do we see a pattern here?

Tweaking recipes is fun.  This dish started out as a kind of standard recipe that I found (ironically it was a healthy, light version – but it certainly wasn’t after I was done with it).  My tweaks were based on one of my favorite recipes in the whole wide world, Sue’s Kickin’ Grits.  Make those and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven (we also call them the Virgin Mary grits because one bite will make you see the face of the Virgin Mary).  Giving due credit to my Dad, he is the one who blessed the grits with the Virgin Mary nickname.  Gotta love it.

And finally, do yourself a favor and buy a high quality smoked paprika, it’s much tastier than the standard paprika.  I use La Chinata.


2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Worschester sauce
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
3 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 – 2 cups frozen corn
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 – 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, butterflied
Cooking spray
3/4 cup panko
Smoked paprika


Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine milk and broth in a medium heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Gradually add grits and salt to pan, stirring constantly. Cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Worschester sauce, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter, and cream cheese.

Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter over med high heat for 5 minutes.  Stir onion, celery, garlic, frozen corn, parsley, and lemon juice into grits.  Let the grits cool for 15-20 minutes, then add egg and shrimp. Mix well.

Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with panko, remaining 1/4 cup parmesan, and sprinkle liberally with smoked paprika. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until set. Serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Green Chile Queso Blanco

November 16th, 2011
by: Blue

32 ounces white american cheese, cubed (get this at the deli counter)
8 oz shredded monterrey jack
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced green chiles (I used a cup becauce I’m nuts for green chiles)
1/2 finely diced onion
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or to taste)

Saute diced onion until soft and browned a bit.  Add remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until cheese is melty and you see the face of the Virgin Mary when tasting it.

Add more heavy cream if needed to thin it out a bit.

If you don’t have green chiles you can substitute Rotel tomatoes for the diced tomatoes and add some chopped jalapenos (saute with the onion).  Use whatcha got baby!  That’s what my Mama told me ;-)

Blackberry Spice Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

November 10th, 2011
by: Blue


 This cake turned out far better than I expected – I had two peeps at work request a spice cake for their birthday in the same week (what are the odds!).  This is what I came up with.  The blackberries are the perfect complement to the spice cake and the jam soaks into the cake layers making it moist and delicious (I recommend making this cake 1 day before you need to serve it).  I actually got a little lazy.  Which is no surprise.  I made a double recipe of the spice cake on a Saturday and froze the layers after they cooled.  The day before I brought them to work, I whipped up the frosting, removed the layers from the freezer, and fancied the cake up with jam, frosting, and fresh blackberries.  Kathryn is a dear friend of mine, and for her cake I dipped maraschino cherries (with stems!) in chocolate and added them to the top of the cake.  Just because she loves them.

This cake received raves, and it’s honestly one of my new favorites!  But enough of the rambling, time for the good stuff:

Cake ingredients:

2 cups brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk

Blackberry Jam (I used 1.5 jars of Smuckers, 12 oz jars – so around 1/2 jar per layer)
1 recipe Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Use my favorite shortcut and spray the pans with Bakers Secret (loooove this stuff). OR – Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Cut 2 (9-inch) parchment paper rounds and line the pan bottoms. Grease and flour the parchment rounds.

Cream the brown sugar and butter. Add the oil in a steady stream with the mixer running. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a bowl. Alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the batter, mixing well. With the electric mixer, in another large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold them into the cake batter. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake until the center springs back when touched, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. After the cakes have cooled, invert them onto sheets of parchment paper. Slice each cake in half and set aside.

Spread a layer blackberry jam over 3 layers of the cake. Place the layers of cake on top of each other and top with the fourth layer of cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  Garnish with fresh blackberries.

Frosting ingredients:

16 ounces cream cheese – COLD!  Trust me on this.
10 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used 2)

Frosting directions:

Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat. Stir in the  cinnamon. This keeps, refrigerated, for about 1 week.

Texas Style Cornbread

November 3rd, 2011
by: Sue

This cornbread contains all three of the primary tastes that Texans love: savory (bacon grease), sweet (creamed corn), and spicy (chipotle peppers). If you don’t like spicy leave out the peppers, but you are missing a way to jump start your metabolism if you don’t use peppers. You are also missing the way the your brain starts firing “WOW” messages to the rest of you.

1 cup stone ground cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or sea salt)

1/2 cup canola oil (or bacon grease if you have it)
14 ounce can cream style corn
2 eggs, whisked until smooth
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp cheese (cheddar)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
two chipotle peppers, chopped small (optional)
crushed black pepper for top (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put iron skillet in oven and add 2-3 Tablespoons bacon grease or oil. Heat until hot but not smoking.
Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together to distribute evenly. Add oil, whisked eggs, creamed corn, sour cream, cheese, cayenne and chipotle peppers. Whisk together just until blended. Pour batter into heated iron skillet, top with cracked black pepper, then bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes, and remove from oven. Coat top lightly with salted butter, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

This recipe will also make wonderful corn muffins!

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

September 29th, 2011
by: Sue

Today, I had some beautiful pattypan squash which I’ve never cooked with before, and after surfing the web a bit, I created my own recipe:

4-6 large pattypan squash
1 pound hamburger
one onion, diced
salt & pepper to taste
garlic powder (optional)
1/2 cup green chili, fall roast
2 slices parmesan pepper bread, diced small
3 slices bacon, cut into lardons and slowly cooked in skillet over low heat
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
Slowly brown hamburger until done, salt and pepper the onion and add to the skillet. Cook until onion is throughly cooked, and turn off heat. Add bread cubes, green chile, and season to taste. Set aside and cook squash.
Wash squash, and place in a large cooking pot, add three inches of water, cover, and cook on medium heat until squash are fork tender. (10-15 minutes) Remove from water, and place in a baking dish. With a paring knife, cut out inside the “crown” of the top of the squash, remove the top and scoop out the seeds. Fill squash with stuffing, top with parmesan cheese and bacon. Bake at 350 until cheese melts. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


Buttermilk cheddar biscuits

September 27th, 2011
by: Sue

I found this Ina Garten recipe on Food Network, and after reading a lot of reviews, modified it slightly, adding soda where Ina did not call for soda and decreasing the salt because the cheddar has a lot of sodium in it already. These are the best cheddar biscuits I’ve ever eaten!! It makes eight huge biscuits, but you can cut them smaller if you like. The square corners are nice and crunchy. You can eat these cold the next day they’re so good.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken (more if needed)
1 cold extra-large egg
1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk
Maldon sea salt, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with small handful of flour and, with the mixer still on low, add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined.

Dump out onto a well-floured board and knead lightly about 6 times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 by 5 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

August 13th, 2011
by: Sue

Buy the freshest most naturally raised chicken you can find. Organic, free range, are preferred. Buddy’s chicken in Texas is a large commercial source but if you can’t find Buddy’s try to find a local source for chicken. Wherever you get the chicken, rinse it carefully after you take it out of the packaging, and wash your hands before, during, and after handling the chicken.

Home fried chicken is so much better than anything you can buy.

Start with:

1 large frying chicken, removed from packing and washed with running water

Cut into frying pieces, reserving the bony pieces to make stock.
Place pieces you’ll fry into a large bowl, cover with water, and add 2-3 tablespoons salt. Soak the chicken in the briny water for around 30 minutes. The brining step will result in tender juicy chicken with a good flavor. Drain water off the chicken, rinse again, and dry with paper towels. Put pieces back in bowl, and pour 1 to 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk over the chicken. If you like spicy chicken, add cayenne pepper to the buttermilk before pouring over the chicken. Place in refrigerator and let soak in for one hour to overnight.

Place in a paper bag:

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
two teaspoons salt
pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
nutmeg to taste

Shake paper bag, mixing together the dry ingredients. Remove chicken pieces with tongs three or four at a time from the buttermilk and place in the flour mixture. Shake the bag well until chicken is well coated. Place on a rack and let air cure for about twenty minutes. Repeat with all the pieces of chicken. The air curing will allow the flour to be absorbed into the buttermilk and prevent a lot of flour messing up the grease.

Get out your 12 inch iron skillet. Pour about two inches of cooking oil (peanut oil preferred because it has a high smoking point) into it, and heat the oil over medium high heat to 360 (I like to use my thermopen to measure the temperature). Gently place chicken pieces in the oil using tongs and lowering each piece in by one edge then slanting the piece down so it won’t splash grease on you. Check chicken browning often and turn when the bottom is golden brown. Continue cooking to 165 degrees (use the meat thermometer or thermopen). I like to cook the big pieces first then place them in a 250 degree oven in a foil covered glass pan while I cook the remaining pieces in order to insure the chicken is cooked through on all the pieces.

Chicken stock:

Place bony pieces and trimmings into a stock pot. Cover with water (you can use a couple of quarts of water) , add a peeled carrot, cut up, some celery, garlic powder, onion, and salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for several hours or overnight. Try not to boil, just simmer. When finished, pour into colander with a bowl underneath it to catch the broth. The broth can be frozen to use later, and you can make dumplings in the broth right away, taking the meat off the chicken bones.

This broth will make the canned version taste like salted water to you!

Lip Smackin’ Ribs

June 19th, 2011
by: Blue

There is just something about ribs – I love them. But they have to be moist and fall off the bone tender.  As of this date I haven’t been able to perfect the traditional slow smoked ribs (which are delicious but require much time spent monitoring temperatures, and smoke, and coals).  Probably I haven’t been able to perfect it because I’m a lazy cook.  I didn’t even recognize this completely until someone special in my life actually told me that.  I wasn’t even offended – I was just like – YES!  That’s what I am. Most of the food that I cook is low maintenance, like me.  I like delicious food, and I like it to be easy.  Most of the time.  There are occasions when I spend hours in the kitchen tending a dish, obsessing over one thing or another.  These ribs are not one of those occasions.

Over time I have found that the basic secrets to great ribs are pretty simple:  start with a slow braising of some sort, and finish them off on the grill.  That’s it.  So let’s get to it.

Slow braising

There are 50 ways to skin a cat, and there are many ways to slow braise ribs.  I don’t recommend slow braising a cat though.  Yuck. 

There are lots of cooks that choose to slow braise ribs by boiling them in water.  I tried this technique in the beginning (yes, like “IN THE BEGINNING” 20 or so years ago).  What I don’t like about this technique is I think you lose much of the concentrated flavor of spices and seasonings.  So if you use this technique (which I don’t talk about here) – I would recommend really kicking up all the seasonings to a level that seems like overkill.

My preferred technique depends on how much time I have to spend on the braising part.  If I have 3-4 hours I’ll slow braise the ribs in the oven.  If I have 7-8 hours and need to be out of the house or working on other stuff I’ll slow braise them in a slow cooker.  The technique only varies in the length of cooking.

Take your ribs and season them liberally on all sides with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and about 2 teaspoons of Stubbs liquid smoke per rack of ribs.  If you are braising them in a slow cooker cut the ribs in sections small enough to layer and fit in the cooker.  Wrap each seasoned section (or the whole rack, if you are doing them in the oven) in heavy duty aluminum foil and seal tightly.  The idea here is that the ribs will release moisture as they cook into the sealed packet, so they will have braising liquid, but they will also have exposure to a high concentration of seasonings.

For the oven:  cook the ribs at 300 degrees for 3 hours.  Check them at this point.  You want them to be veeery tender and close to falling apart, but not quite.  If they are not ready cook them a little longer.

For the slow cooker:  cook the ribs on low for 7-8 hours. Check them at this point.  Repeat:  You want them to be veeery tender and close to falling apart, but not quite.  If they are not ready cook them a little longer.

When the ribs are tender to your liking, you can remove them from the oven or slow cooker to cool.  You could even do the braising the day before you plan to grill them.  So many options here.

The grilling

Not much to talk about here.  You want a medium to medium high heat.  You want to get a nice grilled crust on both sides of the ribs without burning them.  I don’t put bbq sauce on them until they are already nicely marked up from the grill since bbq sauce burns easily.

When the ribs are nicely browned (and usually at the point that I am concerned that they will burn on the grill), I place a section of aluminum foil on the grill, place the ribs on top, and slather them with bbq sauce.  I may slather them two or three times on both sides.


You could do a packet of soaked wood chips on the grill.  Delicious.  Just make a packet of soaked wood chips with aluminum foil.  Poke some holes in the packet with a fork and place the packet directly on top of the coals or gas flame.  Wait to put the ribs on the grill until the grill is visibly smoking with the lid down.

You could skip the grilling part, depending on your day (or in my case, my laziness level).  No matter what, you need to brown the ribs at some point.  This could be before you slow braise them, or after.  To brown them before braising place the seasoned ribs on a cooking sheet in a 425 degree oven until browned.  To brown them after braising place the ribs on a cooking sheet under a broiler until browned.  One advantage of browning ribs before is that if you have some particularly fatty ribs (sometimes beef ribs can be fatty) the pre-browning cuts down on the fat since some of it will be released while it browns.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you *could* brown the ribs in the oven, braise them, and grill them.  I may have try that next.  That just might be the rib trifecta.

BBQ Sauce

My favorite BBQ sauce is my Grandpa’s, the recipe is here.  But in a pinch I also love Stubbs BBQ sauce.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

May 22nd, 2011
by: Blue

These were *really* good. I got the basic dough recipe from the King Arthur Flour website and modified it a bit to suit me. Mostly because I can’t follow directions (I’m a rebel like that when it comes to cooking). The rolls are not screaming with pumpkin flavor but they DO scream with deliciousness, with a beautiful rich color and flavor.  Your house will smell amazing while they cook!

1 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup lukewarm water*
1/4 cup soft butter
4 1/4 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast

*I wound up adding an additional 1/4 cup water – the dough was too dry

1/2 cup softened butter
2-3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
1/2 – 3/4 cup brown sugar

1. Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients together — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until you’ve made a soft, fairly smooth dough.

2.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 hours, until it’s almost doubled in bulk.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface. Roll it into a 14″ x 22″ rectangle; the dough will be thin.

4. Brush the dough with milk or heavy cream. Spread the softened butter on top. Sprinkle alot of cinnamon on the dough.  I didn’t measure the cinnamon (sorry!) but I probably used at least 1 tablespoon, and as it turns out I wished I had used more.  Then sprinkle 1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar over the cinnamon.

5. Roll the dough loosely into a long log and pinch to seal the seam.

6. Slice the log into about 1 1/2 inch thick rolls – the dough is soft and it’s best to use a serrated knife for this.  This recipe made 20 cinnamon rolls for me.

7.  Put the rolls into a greased pan. I greased my pans with butter (as if there’s any question on that).  I used two 13×9 pans (8 rolls each) and one 9 inch cake pan (4 rolls).

8. Cover loosely with greased saran wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

9. In the morning, let the dough sit on the counter about an hour, until the rolls start puffing up a bit.

10. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes


1 cup powdered sugar
Heavy cream

1. Add heavy cream a bit at a time and mix until the glaze is still thick, but thin enough to spread easily.

2. Spread the glaze over the cooled rolls.

Eat! And enjoy!

Creamy Brussel Sprouts and Noodles

May 12th, 2011
by: Sue

It’s spring and I am hungry for vegetables. A trip to the supermarket brought beautiful brussel sprouts to my attention, along with sweet yellow bell peppers. I thought about combining these veggies with bacon and noodles in a creamy sauce and here is what I came up with:

6 slices Wright’s peppered bacon, diced and slow cooked in skillet
12 ounces medium home style egg noodles
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow bell pepper, rough diced to bite sized (3/4″)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups brussel sprouts, quartered lengthwise
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup pasta water
4 ounces cream cheese
salt & pepper
shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
fresh basil, rolled and cut into chiffonade strips

Cook noodles according to package directions. When done, drain but retain a cup of starchy water. Drizzle olive oil and/or butter over the noodles and lightly salt to taste.

In large (12″) skillet, cook bacon until fat is rendered. Salt and pepper all the chopped vegetables. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and add all vegetables except garlic to pan. Cook on medium high heat until brussel sprouts turn bright green and onions and peppers are tender. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and chicken stock and enough starch water to produce a medium thick sauce, stirring until sauce forms and fond is dissolved.

Plate and top with Parmigiano Reggiano and basil chiffonade. Enjoy!