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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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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27 Responses to “my gratitude, and a recipe for key lime cheesecake”

  1. Paula — March 22, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    Hugs and prayers continue for your entire family. Beautiful cheesecake. Enjoy that upcoming and much needed vacation.

  2. Michele — March 22, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    You guys take care of yourselves. I’ll be thinking of you and your family. And that cheesecake!

  3. DessertForTwo — March 22, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

    We’re here for you anytime, MJ!

    Your Mom’s blog post hit me in the gut. I’m thinking of her & praying her lots. I hope she has easy days ahead and can heal.

    PS Is your maiden name George? Mine too!

  4. All that Gisters — March 22, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

    I really hope things get better for you, your Mum and Dad, I really hope you enjoy your holiday tpp because I think you deserve it. I absolutely love key lime cheesecake and I haven’t had it it so long, it brings back good memories from when I was tiny.
    from Emily xxx

  5. Gail — March 22, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

    I haven’t even read your mother’s blog yet, and I’m a weepy mess.

    Sending you big hugs. You know we’re all here for you.

    xo

  6. MJ such a sad, beautiful, hopeful, and articulate post. You are amazing. Sending love and hugs to you all, especially your mum and dad XO As Gail says, we’re all here if you need us.

  7. Kathryn — March 22, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    Thinking of you all, have a wonderful vacation xxx

  8. Cookin Canuck — March 22, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

    You have popped into my mind multiple times since I read the post about your dad’s transition to the nursing home. You are in all of our thoughts.

    Key lime in any form has always been a favorite of mine, and this cheesecake looks like a “must try”.

  9. Michelle Ledesma — March 22, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

    Continuing to keep you, your folks, and family in my thoughts and prayers. May seem odd, but I feel the need to thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories. It’s comforting to connect with someone who clearly loves her dad and mom, but is moving through a difficult period in life’s transitions. I relate. Many can, I’m sure. Know you, too, are not alone. We’re all out here walking along side, holding you up in our hearts.
    Do get some r & r on your vacation.
    Oh, and that cheesecake looks divine.
    Hugs, Mac

  10. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — March 23, 2013 @ 1:39 am

    Your mom’s post definitely resonated with a lot of tough decisions we had to do in our lives as well. Our thoughts and prayers goes out to her, your dad and the whole family during this trying times. xoxo

    That’s a beautiful cheesecake.

  11. cherie — March 23, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    I’m fairly new to your blog and did not read about the initial surgery until today – what a shock all this must have been for you and your mother.

    Prayers continue for you all – hugs too – I agree you both need time to recover from stress before moving forward with other decisions. I wish there were a way to make this easier – it sounds like you’re all doing the very best you can.

  12. jill lucas — March 24, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    There will be so many good memories mingled with these difficult ones. Try to remember the times he offered his steady hand talked about your babies with knowledge and pride. I learned after my dad’s death that, the day before his heart attack, he was pressing a new snapshot of his toddler grandson – our son, now 22 – into the hands of friends at the post office. I took a lot of comfort in that and choose to remember it over details that have become less vivid with time.

  13. Natasha — March 24, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    Time like these are never easy. I will certainly keep you and your family in my thoughts. And I’m sure cheesecake helps, as I know baking for me certainly does. All the best.

  14. Cheryl Arkison — March 25, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    I love that layer of curd!
    And I’m thrilled that things feel calmer, better.

  15. Nutmeg Nanny — March 25, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

    This is such a difficult and heartbreaking time, sending positive thoughts your way. There is nothing like a nice treat to ease things though, this cheesecake looks delicious 🙂

  16. you and your family is in my prayers Merry. I have realized how great it is to be surrounded by blogger community during tough times like this and I am glad baking is your comfort. Take Care.

  17. SMITH BITES — March 28, 2013 @ 7:51 am

    sending much love and prayers your way MJ and i’m grateful for this community who surrounds you with love, am grateful you have this space to share your deepest secrets and fears, am grateful to call you friend (((hugs)))

  18. Donna at NothingChocolate — April 1, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    Oh my goodness!!! Your images are spectacular! My eyes “taste” the creamy tart-ness of this cake! So wonderful!
    And where did you find that nice, moderately high cake stand?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — April 8th, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

      The cake stand came from Crate & Barrel a few years ago. I love it and keep meaning to buy another!

  19. Kammie @ Sensual Appeal — April 3, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

    Wow , I love that there’s even lime curd in there! Amazing recipe! Pinned.

  20. Lucy Henderly — April 8, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    I made this on saturday night for some friends birthday get together on Sunday night!!!! it was a hit! maybe one of the best cheesecakes i’ve ever had!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — April 8th, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

      Thanks for letting me know, Lucy. I’m so glad that everyone loved it!

  21. Lauren @ Dallas Duo Bakes — April 10, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

    Prayers for you and your family! As for your key lime cheesecake…it looks divine. I am a huge key lime fan, and know I will like this recipe.

  22. Aggie — April 11, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    Ok, I’m officially in tears. I love key lime everything. I want a slice of this cheesecake. Love you friend. xoxo

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