on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits

One week ago, I wrote about my father’s hospitalization. In the days since, the outpouring of well-wishes and prayers for my dad — and for me and my mom — has been overwhelming. I may not have responded to each and every comment or message, but please know that I read them all at least once, and often more than a few times. Each message meant so much to me.

Thank you all so very much for being there for us.

My dad’s surgery on Monday went well. While my mom and I waited patiently – and sometimes not so patiently – a team of neurosurgeons removed a benign tumor from my dad’s brain. The tumor had bled, causing acute swelling of that area, which led to all of his symptoms and inability to walk without falling over. After spending three nights in the intensive care unit and another two nights on the regular neurosurgical floor, he was discharged to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday. Because the cranial nerve controlling balance on the left was destroyed, he will undergo intensive physical therapy to learn to be able to walk by himself, without falling. He is definitely on the path of healing.

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting by my dad’s hospital bed this past week. Much of that time he dozes on and off, occasionally rousing to ask a question about my kids or about my husband. Or about college sports. Or to complain about the hospital food. Even though I’m not physically doing much to care for him — the very patient and kind hospital staff are doing all the heavy work — I go to bed each night completely wiped out. My brain and body have hit their limit this week.

Stress makes me crave my kitchen, and comfort food is what I want to make under those conditions. For some reason, maybe because I live in the south or maybe because I’ve seen two recent blog posts that had me inspired (this one by Kelly and this one by Tami), I wanted to make grits. I wanted to eat grits.

Today my desire for grits was fulfilled. I generally use whatever brand of stone ground grits I can find in my specialty grocery. Nine times out of ten, it’s Charleston Favorites. I always rinse the grits first, pouring off any sediment that rises to the top. Some combination of milk and water – and of course, butter – makes these grits creamy and smooth.

I am not a fan of cheese grits, but I think it’s because most cheese grits are made with cheddar cheese. I’m not particularly fond of cheddar, or any yellow cheese for that matter. I added just a touch of finely grated Manchego cheese to this dish, and it gave it a nice subtle flavor that upped the power of these grits.

For lunch today, I topped the Manchego cheese grits with a sauté of chicken sausage and cherry tomatoes. I may or may not have had two servings. My cat, Mitzi, licked the dish when I was done. She highly approves of these grits.

I feel better already.

Yield: 8 side dish servings

Manchego Cheese Grits

I always rinse stone-ground grits to remove any sediment. To rinse them, put the grits into a bowl and cover with water. Any loose sediment will rise to the top. Pour off as much of the water (with sediment) as possible, and you're done. These grits are good at any time of the day - for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


2 cups water
1 cup milk (at least 2%)
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
1 cup white stone-ground grits, rinsed
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper


In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring water, milk, and half-and-half to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the rinsed grits. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Turn heat down to medium-low and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Simmer, stirring often, until grits have reached the desired thickness, 20-30 minutes. Add the Manchego cheese and stir well until the cheese has been fully incorporated. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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24 Responses to “on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits”

  1. 1
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — February 6, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    I’m so glad things went well with your father. He sounds like an amazing guy.

    This grits looks phenomenal. We don’t see it very often up here in New England… but I have a lot of family in the South and they love making it for me when I visit.

  2. 2
    Jason PHelps — February 6, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

    Certainly positive news indeed. I spent more time than I wanted at the hospital before and after my dad’s bypass surgery in November 2010. He is on the mend now and everyone’s support was a bright light for me too.


  3. 3
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — February 6, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

    MJ I am so glad that your dad (and your family) is on the path to healing. I bet that spending some time in the kitchen has helped calm your mind. I love that Mitzi loved the grits too 🙂 Still sending and thinking postitive healing thoughts your way xoxo

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  5. 4
    Macaroni Mama — February 6, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

    Bravo! Today I vacuumed and it was very theraputic.

  6. 5
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 6, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

    Love that you used Manchego in these. I hope your dad continues to get better.

  7. 6
    Jersey Girl Cooks — February 6, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    Glad things went well with your dad’s surgery. Prayers going his way that he recovers and heals quickly.

  8. 7
    Gail — February 6, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    Know so well what you’re going through.
    Gruyere cheese and polenta is a viable alternative, too.

  9. 8
    Mac — February 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    Hear, hear! Glad to know your dad, you and your family are all on the path to recovery!
    Adore grits! So happy you got back into the kitchen this weekend.
    Continued prayers for you all. Take care!

  10. 9
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — February 7, 2011 @ 6:38 am

    I so glad that although exhausting, your family is on the mend. Comfort food is perfect for a time like this and your Manchego cheese grits seems to have struck a great balance between familiar and moving forward into new territory.

  11. 10
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — February 7, 2011 @ 10:59 am

    It is good to hear your news; the worry of your Dad getting through the surgery and now being with him while he is recuperating is undoubtedly exhausting and I remember so well how simple and soul satisfying grits can be.

    Continued prayers for his recovery and your strength through it…and thanks for a lovely reminder of those special years when I lived in the south.

  12. 11
    Evil Shenanigans — February 7, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    So glad that your dad is on the road to recovery. I will continue to keep him in my thoughts. Also pleased to see another recipe for grits. I think they are my favorite food at the moment. Manchego cheese has such a robust flavor, I bet it is GREAT with grits!!

  13. 12
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — February 7, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad is recovering! I’ve been thinking about you and your entire family lots, and I’ll continue to keep you in my prayers!

    These grits look delicious… I rarely get to have grits (not real popular here in PA), but I might have to give these a try. Now I just have to see if I can buy them online 🙂

  14. 13
    Liz the Chef — February 7, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Pass the grits…It’s been a long week for me too at hospice. I seem to crave spicy Thai. Best wishes to you, dear one

  15. 14
    Joy, The Herbed Kitchen — February 7, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    That is absolutely wonderful news about your father. He sounds tenacious which will certainly help him through the rehab.

    I’d have to agree with Mitzi. You have a smart kitty there.

  16. 15
    Prerna@IndianSimmer — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    So glad to hear that your dad’s doing better! Its these tough times that shake you up and tell you what’s actually important in life. Sending good vibes your way and hoping for your life to be back to normal soon, very soon!
    I’m sure these grits would have helped bring back that comfort a little bit! Lovely post!

  17. 16
    SMITH BITES — February 7, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

    am so, so happy that surgery went well for your dad and that he will recover; i’m also glad that you can escape to your kitchen for something comforting – something you can make for yourself, to take care of yourself, to nourish yourself – it’s all good. and grits? about as comforting as it gets. (((hugs)))

  18. 17
    Wenderly — February 7, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    Sounds like you and your family have been through so much! But it also sounds like you are all marching forward! Good for you! And so glad to hear of your dad’s progress!
    These grits look divine.
    Keep up the food therapy. I’ve always believed in the concept of *food for the soul* both literally and figuratively. I’ll be praying for you!

  19. 18
    Maria at Fresh Eats — February 8, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    So happy to hear he’s on the mend, and hope he continues to heal quickly and completely. Glad to hear you found some peace and comfort in the kitchen, too.

  20. 19
    Denise @ Creative Kitchen — February 16, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    What a scary ordeal!! Especially since a day that was planned for family fun turned into such stress and uncertainty. I’m glad to hear that your dad is recovering! Hope you get to Disney soon for that much needed break & down time. We have passes too that are expiring mid-March, and just took our final trip last week. Such an incredible way to spend time with each other. Our family are huge Disney freaks!!

    • 19.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:10 pm

      We adore Disney! I’m really missing that place, but we’re planning to go next month, so I’ll get my fix. 🙂

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