gritfaced

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If there is one thing you should know about me (if you don’t already), it’s that I adore breakfast.  I tend to lean savory–eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter–but I am also a sucker for the sweets; namely blueberry pancakes and sticky buns.

Another thing to note is that I am a born and bred northerner. Which, among other things, means I was introduced far too late in life to the glory of grits.  Those buttery, creamy, cornmeal dream clouds that I understand folks in the south eat quite regularly.

Despite my instant love for them, I was intimidated at the concept of making them myself.  Admittedly my frame of reference for cooking up grits at home was having minimal. I think I saw Paula Deen make them once on the Food Network with an entire stick of butter and heavy cream.  While I do not shy away from indulgence…even I have limits.

So the internet and I debated on how best to go about making grits that wouldn’t immediately stop my heart.  I consulted Ina Garten (obviously because her word is gospel to me), and a few others and came up with a perfect bowl of morning joy.  And then when I couldn’t finish them (embarrassing though that is for me to admit) I was gifted a second magical meal by baking them off and adding a little spinach.

Conclusion: Grits deserve northern love. They are worth it.

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Grits for 2 (+leftovers)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Just before it’s rolling, add salt and the grits slowly.  Bring heat down to a low simmer and stir consistently with a wooden spoon until grits thicken (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the butter and milk and stir to combine.  Cover the grits and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the grits reach your desired thickness…I like mine fairly loose but the longer they cook the more they will firm up).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese (this also thickens the consistency). Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as desired.

FOR BREAKFAST: with poached egg and crumbled bacon highly recommended…but with chives or scallions to garnish or just straight up won’t disappoint.
FOR DINNER: I put the leftovers in a dish and baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then topped them with sauteed spinach and yet another poached egg. I’m an egg monster.

 

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gritfaced

farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon

It’s true, there is yogurt in this pasta. Your first inclination might be to think that is not quite right, but think again my friends. Everyone secretly loves a creamy, cheesy pasta dish, but it inevitably makes you feel super bloated and full for about 2.37 days. Greek yogurt is the solution.IMG_6082Tangy is Greek yogurt’s most widely recognized characteristic, and it definitely brings that to the table here. But paired with a tiny bit of cream cheese, a healthy dose of salt, and the brightness of lemon zest–it really works.  And it’s just creamy enough to give that element of comfort minus the food hangover.
IMG_6074Rainy spring nights are the perfect setting for a heaping bowl of pasta, and thankfully (albeit slowly) vegetable isles across the northeast are once again showing signs of life. Grated zucchini is a pop of color and a subtle flavor that melts right into the mix and doesn’t event require additional cooking.  Frozen peas add a sweetness that offsets the zing of the yogurt and lemon. Someday I will swap them out for fresh peas…someday.
IMG_6083Important note to leave you with: feel free to get heavy handed with that parmesan cheese. It’s for your own good.

farfalle with zucchini, greek yogurt, and lemon
…slightly tweaked from Al Forno in Providence, RI via Food & Wine
serves 4-6

1 pound dried farfalle pasta
1 cup frozen peas
2 large zucchini, grated
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tbs plain cream cheese
2 tbs unsalted butter
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnishing
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until just cooked.  In the last minute throw in the frozen peas to flash cook. Drain (reserving a cup of pasta cooking water) and set aside.
2. In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then turn off the flame. Add in the yogurt, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Incorporate the zucchini, peas, and pasta.  Stir together, incorporating reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if desired.  Add the parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning, add additional salt and pepper if needed.
4. Serve hot with extra cheese (see note above).
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farfalle with zucchini greek yogurt and lemon

snacks! (cheese & zucchini sticks)

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Snacks are a part of life. They get a lot of press around the holidays, the Super Bowl, and Oscars viewing parties, but in reality the time for snacks, is always.

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Behold two variations on one concept: sticks. zucchini and mozzarella.  One baked, one fried, and both tasty.  Everyone loves finger foods.

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The mozzarella recipe is a riff on Giada De Laurentiis’, and the zucchini evolved out of a google search that lead to the YummyHealthyEasy blog‘s recipe. They were both a huge hit dipped in marinara sauce, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try the zucchini in a ranch dip either.

There is something to be said for making your own snacks.  It’s so satisfying to snack on something that has no mystery ingredients and was not pre-packaged in plastic.

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zucchini & mozzarella sticks

2 large zucchini
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
marinara sauce and/or ranch dip for eating

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1. Cut the zucchini and mozzarella in thin sticks (1/4 inch thickish).
2. In one bowl, beat the eggs and add a dash of salt and pepper.  In another, have the milk. Mix together the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, and then divide evenly between two separate plates.
3. For the mozzarella sticks: Dip sticks in the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture, then repeat the process a second time so each is double breaded.  Place on a baking sheet, cover, and freeze.  (Freeze for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.  I froze them for 6 hours and that worked like a charm.)
4. For the zucchini: dip each stick in the milk, then in the other plate of breadcrumbs.  Be careful to really press the mixture into the zucchini so they are well coated.  Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. (These need to get baked immediately, so if you are making both variations you may want to do this prep after the mozzarella sticks have been freezing for a while.)
5. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Spray the tops of the zucchini with cooking spray to help them brown, and cook for 25 minutes.  If they brown too quickly, cover the top with foil. Serve immediately with either aforementioned dip.
6. In a heavy bottom skillet, heat some vegetable or canola oil over medium high heat.  Working in batches, pan fry the frozen mozzarella sticks for about 30 seconds on each side (or until browned), rotating so each side has time in the oil.  Serve immediately with marinara sauce.

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snacks! (cheese & zucchini sticks)

micro salad

This salad is micro both for its petit size, and its use of micro greens. However, the real secret gem ingredient is sugar snap pea tendrils. They are tendrils…that taste like sugar snap peas.

the most petit lunch
the most petit lunch

They are these beautiful green curlicues that grow along with the leaves and pea pods.  In season now, they are irresistibly playful, and tasty too.  It is the perfect touch of sweetness in this baby salad.

 

pea tendrilling
pea tendrilling

You could absolutely beef this up with some other lettuces, or perhaps the addition of some seasonal fruit, but just as it is it perfectly suits a midday appetite (particularly on the weekends when you’ve had a massive breakfast and know you’re eating an early dinner but still can’t ignore the afternoon hungries).

Don’t be intimidated by its simplicity, it just wants no muss or fuss.  But not surprisingly, it does want a side crouton.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

CLOSE UP
CLOSE UP

1 bunch pea tendrils

1 box micro arugula greens

¼ cup chives, chopped

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

goat cheese

1 demi baguette, sliced & toasted

balsamic vinegar

sea salt & pepper to taste

  • Slice baguette, toast for 5 minutes or until just browning on the edges in a 350 degree oven.
  • Slice chives, combine with other greens in a large bowl.
  • Over medium high heat, toast almonds. They are done when they become fragrant and just begin to brown, it should take about 5 minutes. Move them around in the pan periodically so one side doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
  • Spread goat cheese on the toasts. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
  • Add almonds to the greens, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Sprinkle everything with balsamic vinegar to your preference.  And might I suggest just putting the salad right on top of your toasts for eating.
salad. on toast.
salad. on toast.
micro salad

pizza pizza.

It’s basically sacrilegious to go to New Haven and not have pizza. I still haven’t worked out how this small slice of southern Connecticut became the hub of Italian thin crust, but it did. So on a recent visit I did some investigative research on the offerings.

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Pepe’s plain cheese

There are several places there making really delicious pies, and everyone seems to have an opinion about which is the best. So using my siblings as tasters, we decided to explore the breadth of options.

We went for two of the most well known spots, Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s, and ladies choice (the lady being my younger sister who currently lives in New Haven): Café Romeo.

From Pepe’s we got a plain cheese pie, after an intense debate about whether or not we would try their famous white clam pie, which is often imitated but apparently unmatched. Something about seafood on pizza is for me slightly unappealing, but people love it (clearly, because it’s become quite famous). But the plain lived up to the hype.

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A passionate taste tester evaluating Pepe’s

The proportions of the sauce to the cheese to the crust were spot on, but the sauce was what really shined. The center of the pie got a little flimsy but the crust was charred and chewy.

Sally’s is famous for their tomato pie, so we got a small one of those and small plain cheese (to have a true point of comparison). The tomato pie was good, but maybe I’m just a sucker for the classics, because I loved the cheese pie. It just edged out Pepe’s with the crust upholding a bit better, and the flavor was amazing. It had that certain something that made it almost impossible to stop eating. If I lived in New Haven, I’d be a glutton for Sally’s. Easily.

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Sally is actually short for Salvatore. Fun fact.

The Café Romeo pizza was really just something we wanted to try, having heard good things about their mashed potato situation. A white pie liberally covered in mashed potatoes, pieces of bacon, and sliced red onion, it was quite delectable…but one slice was more than enough. I would certainly recommend it though.

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Cafe Romeo mashed potato pizza

Moral of the story is there is nothing quite like this in Massachusetts. Sure we have good pizza, but there is something unique about these super thin, flash cooked Italian pies. But rumor has it Frank Pepe’s is planning to open up a shop in Boston…here’s hoping.

 

pizza pizza.

cure for the hungrybored.

5 best things to nosh when you’re hungry bored:

cereal. it is shockingly satiating. try the trader joe’s maple frosted wheat square things for a dessert like treat.

cheese. justified when eaten sans carbs or crackers. cheese sticks. blocks of cheese. slices right out of the bag you just brought home from the deli counter. sticking your hand in that bag of shredded cheese and sprinkling it into your mouth. admit it, you’ve done it too.

ice cream. dangerous to keep around the house. fantastic for pretending you’re being good by just having one spoonful, useless when you repeat this several times within a short time span. it always happens that way.

apples and peanut butter. or nutella. or both. AND it’s a fruit, huge win. or forget the apple and go at the peanut butter/nutella jar with a spoon. let’s be real, that’s a strong option.

pistachios. doubles as an activity because you have to crack each one open. or in theory nuts of any kind. salty nuggets of delicious. and kind of healthy? probably not when you eat an entire bag.


is there a cure for being hungry bored? maybe the cure is more cowbell.

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