Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fresh Homegrown Grits For Nearly Any Diet (Gluten Free, Organic, Vegan)



Call it what you will - cornmeal mush, polenta, or good old Southern grits - this humble little meal deserves its props.

Last summer, I chanced upon a bag of home-grown, non-GMO, home-ground, heritage cornmeal for an insanely good price sitting next to the register at a local greenhouse. I bought one bag. Of course, had I know how yummy it would be, I'd have bought a lot more.

Good coarsely ground heritage corn has a complex, nutty flavor you'll never find in a box of instant Quaker grits. They are truly two different foods; it's starkly obvious how blank processed food becomes when you compare real corn vs. fake agribusiness corn.

Last night, I cooked up a simple meal of fresh grits, Trader Joe's no-nitrate apple chicken sausage links, and french-style green beans, served with homemade yogurt and chunks of mango. The grits made the meal, and we've been enjoying them for breakfast again today.

I know home-grown local corn can be harder to find outside a rural area, particularly in the winter when Farmer's Markets are quiet, but there are a couple brands on Amazon I'd recommend. Bob's Red Mill organic cornmeal is a larger, well-known producer with low prices and large availability. Palmetto Farms is a smaller producer whose corn can offer a more unique flavor than the larger producers can.

Here's our recipe for grits.

Ingredients

8 cups water
2 cups cornmeal
salt to taste

Dinner is Upon Me and I'm Unprepared Directions (takes about 20-25 minutes until ready to eat)

Combine cold water and the cornmeal in a pan on the stove top; stir until smooth.
Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to boil.
Add a little salt. Cool a spoonful and taste. Repeat until it's salted how you like it.
Turn the heat to low and allow it to simmer until it thickens to the consistency you want. It will get thicker the longer it cooks.

I'm Actually Thinking Ahead This Morning Directions (Slow Cooker - 5 minutes of hands-on time, but takes 6-8 hours until ready to eat)

Combine warm water and the cornmeal in the slow cooker crock; stir until smooth.
Turn slow cooker on high for 1 hour, then stir. Add a little salt. Taste and repeat until it's salted how you like it.
Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for another 6-8 hours or until it's the consistency you want. It will get thicker the longer it cooks.

Some people like their grits salty (that's us!) but others swear by sweet (maybe with real maple syrup if you're into that sweet grits thing). We added a big old fat pat of butter on each bowl of grits and a little extra salt at the table. Yum!

And because this dinner was so affordable, I'm going to lay out my prices for a change. These were my prices for my family of four.

Grits - 1/10th of the $5 bag of cornmeal so 50 cents.
Butter - 1/8th of a $3 pound so 48 cents. (Homemade from skimmed cream was about the same price for me.)
Chicken sausages - all of a $5 pack, so $5.00
Green beans - all of a 80 cent scratch & dent can, so 80 cents.
Yogurt - 1/10 of a $5 gallon of milk plus a $1 yogurt starter pack, so 70 cents.
Maple syrup to sweeten the yogurt - 1/20 of a $7 bottle so 35 cents.
Two mangoes - 50 cents each at produce discount so $1.

Total meal cost for family of four (with grits left over for breakfast): $8.83 or $2.21 per person.

Not too shabby, although as you can see, the chicken sausages comprised the bulk of the cost. We had bought them as a treat a few nights ago, but normally we would have had eggs with this dinner. Our eggs are free right now - I haven't bought feed in months but we're still getting eggs daily from our free rangers (with a little feed added in that a neighbor gifted us).

Free eggs would have brought my cost down to $3.83 for the family or 96 cents per person! It's hard to believe we can have an enjoyable, filling, well-rounded dinner for under $1.00 each, especially with all my exacting food requirements. But there it is - the humble grits. A good choice for local foodies, organic connoisseurs, frugalites, and gluten-free folks alike. Or anyone who likes to eat good real food.

**Let's talk affiliate links. The only affiliate links I have on this blog are Amazon Associates links. Amazon Associates allows me easily link to the products I want to share with you since Amazon has  nearly everything. If you happen to follow one of those links and buy the product, they give me a few cents to help me feel like my blogging is time well spent. I only suggest products I like and would recommend to you in person. Always.**


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oven Crispy Kale

Five years ago, I had never tasted kale. Add five growing seasons, 2 CSA seasons, and countless vegetarian potlucks, and kale has become one vegetable that is a staple of my kitchen garden. Why? Oven Crispy Kale. This simple side dish has to be the fastest, yummiest way to cook kale - ever. When your kids are begging for "more kale," you know the recipe is a keeper!

Ingredients

Kale
Olive oil
Sea salt
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

Cut the kale into small pieces - kitchen shears work perfectly for this - and discard the stems. Lay the kale pieces on a baking tray in more or less a single layer. No need to be exact.

Drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and parmesan cheese, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the kale become crispy. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Maple Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

This sweetly addictive fruit dip can be whipped up in less than five minutes with only three ingredients - none of which are refined sugar.

Ingredients

1 8-oz package of cream cheese
2 Tbls maple syrup (or honey, but then we'll call it Honey Cream Cheese Fruit Dip)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Combine all ingredients until smooth. Serve with fruit.

Friday, July 12, 2013

almond coconut macaroon bars (gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free - WOW!)

I still can't get over how much I love, Love, LOVE, these bars. How can something so simple, with only 5 ingredients, be so delicious and addicting, stabilize my blood sugar for hours, never give me the foggy-head feeling, and fit about every single friend's diet in my group of friends? Yeah, WOW.

Try them! After you get the basic ratio, mix them up. Put in exactly what you like. This paleo-style recipe will be a go-to for years. My preparation instructions use a food processor, because that is how I make shortbread (and countless other things), and the process here is just like shortbread.

Ingredients

1 cup finely shredded non-sweetened coconut (if you can't find finely shredded, shred it more finely in your food processor before adding anything else)
1 cup almond flour (we get ours at Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
4 Tbls maple syrup or honey
1 pinch sea salt (optional)

Preparation

In your food processor, combine the finely shredded coconut, the almond flour, and the sea salt, if desired.

Pulse in the coconut oil or butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add the vanilla and maple syrup or honey and pulse until the mixture forms a ball.

Press into an ungreased pan and bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the sides lightly brown.

Store in the refrigerator and they will become chewy, sweet, and very macaroony.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

easy hummus

I think I've mentioned before how my large-capacity food processor is one of my top 3 kitchen must-haves. Here is yet another reason why. What follows is a super easy recipe for hummus, blended in a food processor (a blender will work too).

Traditional Mediterranean hummus calls for tahini, which is basically sesame butter - think peanut butter but made of sesame seeds instead. In our house, we rarely have tahini around, so I've experimented with many different nut butters. Each has been successful, and lent its own variation to hummus. Whatever nut butter you have at home, try it!

Ingredients
One 15-oz can of chickpeas (or "garbanzo beans"), undrained
The juice of one lemon 1/4 cup tahini, almond butter, peanut butter, or other nut butter 
One raw garlic clove, minced or crushed or three cloves roasted garlic
1 Tbls olive oil
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste  

Directions
Drain the chickpeas and reserve the liquid.
Combine in your food processor or blender: the chickpeas, the lemon juice, the tahini or other nut butter, the garlic, the olive oil, and 1/4 tsp of salt.
Add 2 Tbls of the reserved liquid and pulse several times. Continue to add the reserved liquid a Tbls at a time, pulsing between each addition, until the hummus is your desired consistency.
Taste and add more salt if needed.

Garnish with olive oil, paprika, and/or olives.
Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, potato chips, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, and/or fresh, sliced kohlrabi.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the ultimate shortbread crust

While I was looking for the perfect pumpkin bar recipe this week, I surprised myself with a long-sought find: the perfect shortbread crust. My crust had some variations on the original recipe (big surprise!) and I'm sharing them here along with my superfast shortbread method.

After I made these bars and tasted that crust, my mind was adrift with all the yummy things you could put on top of the shortbread layer. Pecan pie, melted chocolate, chocolate and caramel, chocolate and peanut butter, cheesecake. Yum...the possibilities are virtually endless.

My girls and I look forward to developing many shortbread-crusted creations (And yes, the pumpkin bars made a great start. Pumpkin pie on top, shortbread on the bottom, frozen pumpkin from last autumn finally put to good use.)

Ingredients

1/2 cup almond meal (this is something I stock from Trader Joe's and often have on hand, but you could also use coconut flour or mild-tasting finely ground unsalted nuts that you happen to have on hand. I think peanut butter would be a little too strong in taste)

1 cup unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 stick butter cut into 6 or 7 pieces

1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp molasses (I never have brown sugar on hand so I always add a little molasses to white sugar instead)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract

 Superfast Directions

In your food processor, combine the almond meal, flour, salt & sugar.

Pulse in the butter chunks until the mixture looks like small crumbs.

Add the molasses and vanilla or almond extract and pulse until the mixture starts to cling together like a dough.

Press into a pie pan or a 9 x 9 (give or take) baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to set the crust before adding your topping.

Pumpkin Filling Ingredients
Just in case you're curious what I did for the pumpkin filling, read on!

In my food processor, I combined:
2 cups cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cream (I had to use evaporated milk this time)

I topped the lightly baked shortbread crust with this mixture and baked for another 30-40 minutes.

Friday, April 20, 2012

amish leftover oatmeal coffee cake

While I can't attest to whether or not this recipe is actually Amish in origin, I can attest that is darn good and darn useful! My children always leave some of their oatmeal in their bowls when I make it, so I love having a recipe to use up the extra.

Ingredients

2 cups leftover breakfast oatmeal
2/3 cup fruit (apples, raisins, blueberries, blackberries)
3/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar (or use my usual trick - 1 cup white sugar + 1 Tbls. molasses)
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla 

Directions

After water has boiled, add the fruit to the water. If using dried fruit, let the fruit sit for 10 minutes. Add the oatmeal to the water and stir until smooth.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Make a small well in the center. Pour in the brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and oatmeal/fruit mixture. Mix just until combined.

Pour into a greased and floured 9" x 13" baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.