shrimp and creamy grits

I love grits, as you may remember from this post. Every now and then I get a craving for them, and the grits craving hit me very hard just recently. I must have seen something or read something about shrimp and grits because, for a solid week, I could not get them off my mind.

shrimp and grits

For the grits, I adapted my favorite recipe from Gourmet. Instead of whole milk and heavy cream, I lightened things up a bit with low-fat milk and half-and-half. Honestly, I’m not sure I would notice the difference. Okay, maybe I would. But, in the name of Eating Healthier, I’m sticking with my lower-fat version. Also, I don’t add cheese to my grits, but you could if cheese grits float your boat.

cooking bacon

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The shrimp were local, caught in the Atlantic off the St. Augustine coast and sold by our local fish market. After shelling and deveining them, the shrimp were sauteed in rendered bacon fat and other goodness.

shrimp and grits

The cooked bacon crumbles and some sliced green onions were sprinkled on the top of the dish prior to serving. The combination of the creamy grits, the tender shrimp, and the smokiness of the bacon was just mouthwatering.

shrimp and grits

Yield: Serves 4.

Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients:

Ingredients for the grits:

2 cups water
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup white stone-ground grits
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for the shrimp:

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2- inch pieces
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
3/4 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Directions:

Prepare the grits:

Bring water and milk just to a simmer in a 4- to 5- quart heavy saucepan. Meanwhile, cover grits with water in a large bowl and whisk vigorously. Let the grits stand for 30 minutes then skim off any chaff that has floated to the top. Drain grits well in a fine-mesh sieve and whisk into the simmering milk mixture.

Reduce heat to low and simmer grits, partially covered, stirring often with a heatproof rubber spatula until the grits are tender and thickened to the consistency of loose oatmeal, approximately 1 1/4 hours. Stir more towards the end of cooking. If the grits thicken before they are tender and creamy, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup hot water to thin the grits.

Stir in cream, butter, and salt. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered, until ready to serve.

Prepare the shrimp:

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and crisp and the fat has rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet and place back on heat. Add olive oil and increase the heat to high. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to the pan with garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Saute until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove shrimp to a plate. Pour the garlic oil from the skillet through a fine-mesh strainer, and reserve the oil to drizzle over the finished dish.

Divide the grits among 4 bowls and top each with some of the shrimp. Drizzle the top with the reserved bacon-garlic oil, and sprinkle some of the cooked bacon bits and sliced green onion over the top.

The grits were adapted from this recipe in Gourmet and the shrimp recipe was adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe here.

my favorite slow-cooker steel cut oats recipe

I’m a big fan of oatmeal. I grew up on Quaker quick cooking oats, which I still like well enough, but over the past year I’ve developed a real love for the steel cut variety. When prepared well, they have a great taste and texture – slightly chewy and with a bit more nutty flavor than quick-cooking oats. The only downside of steel cut oats is the time it takes to make them.

making slow cooker oats

There is a solution and it’s called…the slow cooker! You know that I’m a big fan of my ancient slow cooker, and for making steel cut oats, it’s the only way to go. Not terribly long ago, I found a recipe on Food 52 that has now become my favorite way to prepare them. The basic recipe is here, and it’s so simple to follow.

making slow cooker oats

The only change I make to the recipe when I prepare the oats is to use skim milk or 1% milk (depending on what’s in the fridge) in place of the one cup of whole milk.

making slow cooker oats

The toppings are entirely up to you. This time I used honey, golden raisins, and a dash of cinnamon. I’ve also used dried cranberries and maple syrup, but my favorite topping is honey and banana.

making slow cooker oats

And one of the best parts of making steel cut oats in the slow cooker is that there is always leftovers, perfect for a quick but healthy breakfast as I’m trying to get out the door during the weekday mornings.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours (or overnight)

Slow-Cooker Steel Cut Oats

This recipe slightly adapted from ying's, on Food52, here. I encourage you to visit the Food52 site yourself - it's a great one for finding community-sourced recipes. Serves 3-4, depending on appetite.

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1 pinch kosher salt
toppings of your choice - sliced banana, raisins, honey, sliced almonds, etc.

Directions:

In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, stir together milk, water, oats, and salt. Place in a large slow cooker and add enough cold water to come about half-way up the outside of the glass measuring cup which holds the oats mixture. Turn on low for 8-10 hours (overnight).

In the morning, stir oats well – it should be very creamy. Mix in your choice of toppings prior to serving. Enjoy!

strawberry-almond cream tart

At an intersection just down from my neighborhood, there is a white canopy-style tent set up on the side of the road. The tent is the home of a fruit and vegetable stand, and, while it probably should be a temporary thing (city ordinances and all that), the fruit stand and the guy running it are always there. Pretty much every day. He usually sells Plant City strawberries, and occasionally the sign will read “beefstake tomatoes.” I never buy the tomatoes, mostly because I’m perpetually annoyed that he can’t spell beefsteak. I do buy the strawberries, however.

strawberry almond cream tart

Plant City is in Hillsborough County, about 25 miles east of Tampa. Plant City is most known for strawberries, and there is a big festival each year – the Florida Strawberry Festival – honoring and celebrating that fact. And those strawberries are good. Really, really good.

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So, since we’re overrun with fresh strawberries, I decided to put some to use. And, since I try to at least consider eating healthy (whether or not it actually ends up happening), I pulled a recipe from one of my favorite food magazines – Cooking Light. It was also a great chance to try out my new tart pan.

The crust is a graham cracker crust, and I followed the recipe instructions exactly. However, when I poured it into the tart pan and pressed the graham cracker mixture into place, there were some bare spots in the pan. It was easy to fix. I made another batch of the crust and just used what I needed to fill in the holes.

graham cracker crust

I also used the light cream cheese called for in the recipe. You could use regular cream cheese, but honestly? I don’t think you need to. It was plenty rich and creamy without the extra fat from regular cream cheese.

The strawberry puree glaze was wonderful, and the recipe actually makes about twice as much as is needed for the tart. I saved half of the glaze with the intention of using it over ice cream, or perhaps stirred in some steel cut oats.

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The strawberry-almond cream tart was so delicious that it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively healthy. It took us a handful of days, but the four of us managed to polish it off without too much difficulty.

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Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

This recipe makes a thin crust. Feel free to double the crust ingredients to modify the thickness of the crust to your liking.

Ingredients:

Crust:

36 honey graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons water
Cooking spray

Filling:

8 oz light cream cheese, softened (or feel free to use regular if that's your preference)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Topping:

6 cups fresh strawberries, divided
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare crust, process crackers in a food processor until crumbly. Add the sugar, butter, and water; pulse until just moist. Place mixture in a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides to about 3/4 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell.

To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor; process until pureed. Combine strawberry puree, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Combine 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon half of the glaze over the berries (reserve the remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the edge of the tart. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine