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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10 Responses to “feeding oliver, and a recipe: mashed sweet potatoes”

  1. Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon — March 1, 2012 @ 11:13 am

    Mashed sweet potatoes are a favorite at our house. I like to spice them up with a wee bit of adobo sauce from a can that seems to live in my fridge for months on end.

    I’m almost out of my super special Florida honey which makes me sad because I always use it to balance the adobo heat.

  2. JAN HALLQUIST THOMPSON — March 1, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    I love that you won that little battle with Oliver! I woulda fought to the finish myself! My parents felt that way with their children and I felt the same with mine. Today, we’re all pretty considerate, adventurous eaters! How kind of you to follow that with something that you knew would comfort Oliver and let him know all is well, again. I love how you love him!

  3. Macaroni Mama — March 1, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    I love Jan’s comment. I, too, love how you love Oliver by making something he likes.:)

  4. Nelly Rodriguez — March 1, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    I love mashed sweet potatoes but tend to shy away from the cinnamon in it, just because I never had it growing up. I added cream cheese to my sweet potatoes the other night and my husband was outraged. But…they we’re mighty delicious!

  5. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — March 2, 2012 @ 12:55 am

    My mom had just one complain about me as a kid — I was a slow eater. That is all 😀

    Gosh, who doesn’t like a bowl of that mashed sweet potato goodness?! 😀

  6. I am so glad you didn’t cave. I think we can encourage picky eaters if we do. I had one rule; just one bite. If my kids didn’t like it they did not have to eat it but I didn’t prepare anything else just for them. More often then not their hunger won over their refusal to eat and now as adults they seem to have few foods they don’t enjoy.

    They don’t like green bell peppers but as a card carrying member of the ‘Green Pepper Haters Club’ I’m OK with that. 🙂

  7. Paula — March 2, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

    I love that you are firm but fair with regards to the meal eating rules with your kids. I was a very fussy eater as a child and raised in a household where we had to eat what was put in front of us, there was never the option of trying a bite or two, just Eat. It. All. before we we allowed to leave the table.

  8. Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 4, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    A wonderful lesson to teach your children. They’ll thank you one day. You’re a good mom. 🙂

  9. I’m SO with you on the eating thing. What age did you start doing that? I feel like with my 1 and a half year old, I have to get her to eat something, but when she gets older I’ll do the same as you. Or am I being too soft?
    These sweet potatoes look great! Love how they aren’t packed with brown sugar and butter (not that that is necessarily a bad thing–but it is good to have healthier everyday recipes).

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — March 4th, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

      It’s hard when they’re that young, Rachel. I was softer when mine were that age, too. But once they’re two and beyond, it’s easier to do. As long as you remember that they won’t starve, it makes it easier.

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