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Vegan Grits & Stewed Vegetables

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2012 was a year of big changes for me, especially in the eating/activity departments. While some of those changes were chronicled here, most of it happened outside of the blog. Dan and I drastically cut down the amount of meat, dairy, sugar, refined carbs, and processed foods that we eat. We were already focused on homemade whole foods and real foods, and this year pushed is further in what we think is the right direction.

Now, I don’t plan on going vegan (or vegetarian) anytime soon, but cutting down on these foods has forced us to get creative with our cooking and eating. This recipe, which was a response to cooking dinner for a vegan family, got me thinking about how we could adapt some of our favorites to fit our “weekday” eating plan (weekends are for sometimes foods, like chips and queso or chicken biscuits).

Last week I ran a 21 mile trail race through the Croatan National Forest, which was amazing and excruciating and taught me so much about myself. This weekend I’m at Disney with the Turcottes watching the nieces while Megan and John race the half marathon, which is incredible. I have had many moments of reflection and amazing conversations with family and friends during the past months about nourishing our bodies, spirits, and community. I think we’re on the right path.

Vegan Grits & Stewed Vegetables

4 cups almond milk
1 cup grits
1 small sweet potato
1 cup soaked black eyed peas
2 cups whole peeled tomatoes
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
Salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of chipotle
Olive oil
Bunch of collard greens

In a medium bowl heat drizzle of olive oil. Toss in chopped garlic. Add chopped onion. Peel and chop sweet potato, add it to the pot. Add tomatoes and peas. Stir in spices. Let simmer until peas and sweet potatoes are softened. Break up tomatoes with a spoon as they cook down.

Heat almond milk. Add a dash of salt. Stir in grits and stir over low heat until thickened.

Chop and sauté collards in olive oil with a clove of diced garlic. Sauté until wilted.

Serve with collards and vegetables on top of grits. Enjoy a delicious vegan meal high in calcium, fiber, and protein.

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Sparkling Old Fashioned

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Last week while we were all home in Durham for the holidays we threw a bridal shower for my sister, Lauren, who is getting married in May. The shower was held at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill and was a wonderful gathering of friends and family to celebrate Lauren. Not to mention a super fun shower followed by an awesome after party. We know how to entertain in this family, if I do say so myself.

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The theme of the shower was “Bourbon and Barbeque,” a play on the “Wine and Swine” theme that sounded delicious, appropriately Southern, and did not make people think the word “swine” at the same time they were thinking about a bride. We chose A Southern Season because it’s known for it’s impeccable taste, wonderful food, and atmosphere. Their restaurant, Weathervane, was incredibly accommodating and even agreed to make a signature bourbon cocktail for us- Sparkling Old Fashioneds.

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To be honest, this family has become old hats at the whole wedding game. Starting with my shower in May 2009 we’ve had at least one family wedding a year, if not two. We ya-ya’s went into planning Lauren’s shower knowing we wanted it to be something special, different from those we’ve thrown, but with all the flair and sophistication we could muster (and all the knowledge we’ve gained in the past few years). We settled on two activities, the first being a banner decorating station where guests wrote a note to Lauren and her fiance, Bradley, on the back and then decorated the front of letters that spelled out “Lauren & Bradley May 17, 2013.” It turned out beautifully and will hopefully be a momento that they can hang in their home (after we roll it out for a few more wedding events, of course).

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The second activity was a game that MaryCatherine came up with, a shopping game that took advantage of our location. Guests were split randomly into teams and each team had to shop for a present at A Southern Season that fit the theme they were assigned. The themes ranged from “something in the wedding colors” to “a food Bradley has never tried.” I shadowed my sister Genevieve and my Aunt Lori whose theme was “something for the honeymoon.” The above picture is one of my favorites, ever, where the women helping us in the shop realized why we were asking where the chocolate sauce was located. Then, after all the presents were gathered on a table, Lauren guessed which presents went with which theme. She was 10 for 10. It was, I have to say, a great game.

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The food was amazing. Going with the theme we had barbeque sliders on pretzel rolls with cole slaw. They provided three regional sauces- Eastern NC’s vinegar sauce, Western NC’s tomato and vinegar sauce, and SC’s mustard based sauce. We also had vegetarian eggrolls, stuffed tomatoes, fried pimento cheese balls (these were HEAVEN), and a fruit plate. Followed by the amazing chocolate cake and paired with the bourbon cocktails? Incredible. We couldn’t have asked for better food.

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In the end I think we pulled off something really special for Lauren, and I think she was happy and felt loved. I cannot wait for her wedding in May and I am so thrilled to call Bradley my brother.

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Lauren & Bradley’s engagement photos

Sparkling Old Fashioned
Source: Rachel Ray

makes 6 servings

1 cup bourbon

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole allspice berries

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 24 ounce bottle  nonalcoholic sparkling apple cider, chilled

6 thin strips lemon peel, plus 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a large glass measuring cup, combine the bourbon, cinnamon stick, allspice and nutmeg; let stand overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the spices and discard. Stir in the cider and lemon juice. Garnish with the lemon peel.
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Grits Bowl

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This past Sunday, on our way out of Durham, we stopped in to Watt’s Grocery for brunch with my friend Julia. I’d not been to Watt’s (cue long list of amazing Durham restaurants we can start trying now that we’re back in NC) but my Mom had given us some of their coffee for Christmas and it was delicious, so I felt confident about the decision. Good coffee is a staple of any brunch. Followed closely by good bloody marys and good breakfast meat.

grits bowl 5 Dan ordered their breakfast tacos and Julia and I each ordered the grits bowl. Basic premise- bowl of grits and a list of toppings to choose from. I ended up with salsa, cheese, avocado, sausage, and a fried egg. It was delicious. The frothy cheesy grits and all the toppings came together into a filling brunch that left nothing to be desired. I just kept thinking this would be great for a dinner party.

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My favorite kind of dinner party to throw is a make-your-own style party. Whether it’s personal pizzas, grilled cheese, or tacos this easy method of throwing together a base and then providing a ton of toppings makes for a fun AND simple party. And grits bowls definitely fit the mold.

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Last night (and again today for breakfast) Dan and I tried it for ourselves. I made a big pot of spicy cheese grits and then put out salsa (fresh from the market), chicken sausage, cheese, avocado, and fried eggs. Perfection. Grits are an awesome base but for some reason I always think of them as a dish- shrimp and grits, chicken and grits, grits squares, what have you. This got me thinking about all the possibilities for all the things you could put on top of grits- black beans, corn, barbeque, roasted sweet potatoes, anything! I see this becoming a regular dinner option as well as a party in the new kitchen. Once we make friends in Wilmington, of course.

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3 parts milk

1 parts grits

1 parts cheddar cheese

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt

Red pepper flakes

White pepper

Heat milk. Stir in grits and spices, slowly. When the grits have thickened add in cheese and lemon juice. Continue to stir until they’ve reached your desired thickness.

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