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.


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.

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