Tag Archives: breakfast

Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Cake

Hey, y’all.  I’m trying to bake around workmen in my kitchen and I’ve got way to much on my mind.  My cousin’s wife underwent her second surgery this morning continuing her battle with cancer.  Prayers, please.  Also, I learned earlier today that a dear, dear friend from our first college days suffered a major heart attack and is having major bypass and open heart surgery.  Both fabulous women are too young and healthy for this.  So I bake.  I listen to comfort music which, today, is Puerto Rican salsa, bomba and plena.  My mind wanders as I murmur the lyrics to the song streaming, one of my favorite songs ever, “En Mi Viejo San Juan”, In My Old San Juan.  It’s a terribly sad song but fits my mood.  I reassure myself with drifting thoughts of old neighbors who lived on my grandparent’s street close to the University of Puerto Rico.  Sonia, who lives catty-corner across the street, and hosted us for finger sandwiches and champagne.  Those were lovely afternoons spent in her gorgeous Spanish style villa laughing, gossiping and sharing our plans for the future.  Dona Angelita and Don Juan Orta lived next door to us and had Cynthia and me over for dinner often.  They were okay but the person in their household I adored was Tata, the housekeeper who was more like a servant considering the way they treated her.  I loved Tata!

My beloved Tata in her younger days.

She told me a story of a typical idyllic Caribbean morning which found her sweeping the Orta’s back courtyard, birds were singing and lemon yellow alamandas were in full bloom, rambling up the back wall of the cottage where she lived… she was lost in her thoughts.  Out of the blue she heard a small but happy voice from above singing and calling out, “Hiiiiii! Hiiiiii! Hiiiii!”.  Tata looked up to the second floor of our house and told me she saw two fat little hands stuck out of the window waving madly at her.  It was me.  In my crib.  And that’s when we fell in love.  She was the sweetest thing.  She always made certain I was included when all the little girls played fairies and witches.  When serving at the table, Tata always took care not to put any beans on my rice…just sauce and the only way I would eat them.   Her hugs were strong but gentle and I liked it when she sat down and allowed me to climb in her lap.  Today that gives me quiet comfort.  It’ll all be okay.  Everything will work out.  Joy comes in the morning.

 

 

 

This is a super easy breakfast cake that is truly forgiving.  Fresh or frozen blueberries may be used.  If y’all haven’t tried Costco brand frozen blueberries you’re in for a treat.  They’re harvested in Canada and they’re just like the blueberries you find in Maine… small, juicy nuggets bursting with fresh flavor.

Blueberry Lemon Breakfast Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt, plain, full-fat (buy an individual serving cup if you don’t need a large container) or buttermilk, full fat
  • 2 cups blueberries, divided, fresh or frozen
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Cover an 8X8-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.  Cover the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, spray paper and set pan aside.
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  3. In a medium size bowl add butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add egg,  vanilla, lemon juice and zest and beat until well combined.
  5. To the egg mixture add half the flour and mix until just combined scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. Add the yoghurt or buttermilk and stir in until combined.
  7. Add the remaining flour and stir until just combined.
  8. Gently spread 1/3 of batter over the bottom of the baking pan.
  9. Scatter 1 cup of blueberries evenly over batter.
  10. Gently spread remaining batter evenly in pan, making certain to cover corners.
  11. Scatter second cup of blueberries over the batter and, with the palm of your clean hand, gently press the berries into the batter.
  12. Bake 45-50 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean from the center of the cake.
  13. Cool on rack for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from baking pan and continue cooling on rack for 30-40 minutes.
  14. Cut in fat squares and serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

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Bacon Gravy…omg!

This is the week before Mother’s Day and plans need to be made for all the glorious Moms out there!  My wonderful mother died three years ago and I’ve got to tell y’all, not a day goes by that I don’t think of her throughout the day.  She taught us so much beginning when we were small and instruction and advice ended the day she stopped speaking.  She was positively brilliant, wise, just, scrupulously honest and incredibly kind.  Even now, when I find myself in a pickle, I think to myself, “What would Mama do?”.  Funny, because I always know in my heart what she would have done.  To get her point across she would often tell me a story of something which happened when she was a girl on her father’s farm in Puerto Rico.  Growing up she lived in the country, outside of the town of Fajardo, with her parents, four sisters and five brothers.  My grandfather’s property sprawled down to the ocean, easily containing a cooling stream for the children to play and the boys to fish.  My grandmother had, I’ve been told, an exquisite rose garden.   My grandfather had horses and rode extensively to inspect his holdings.  The five boys all had horses and dogs but not the girls.  Oh my no! No.  The girls had china dolls, paints, smocks and easels, poetry…sigh.  That’s how it was in that household.  Anyway, Mama said when she was a little girl she was inside the house, standing next to an open window, simply looking out, longing to run free.  It was a glorious day.  The sun was shining brightly and fat bumblebees hovered over sweet meadow flowers giving Skipper, Swallowtail and Harlequin butterflies a run for their money.  Mama was stuck in the house with nothing fun to do while the boys were out having life altering adventures.  She stood quietly, staring out when, from around the corner of the house, came little Antonio, skipping along as happy as one could be.  Antonio was the youngest son of Pedro and Angelina, who lived on the farm.  Pedro drove my mother and her siblings to school and back everyday in my grandfather’s coach.  After dropping the children off, he continued into town with a list of items needed that my grandmother had drafted earlier in the morning.  Mama watched as her little friend pranced and hummed oblivious of any eyes on him.  He, too, was captivated by the beauty of the morning.  And then my mother thought, “Oh! I would give anything to be Antonio!”.  She watched as the boy disappeared into the meadow.  Minutes later she was still staring out of the window when she saw Angelina, Antonio’s mother, coming around the same corner of the house.  She, however, wasn’t happily ambling along.  No.  Oh, no.  She came angry and red in the face.  Her back was up and her blood was boiling.  In her hand Angelina slapped a brown leather belt while she bellowed, “Antonio!  Antonio!”.  Mama knew Antonio was going to get it and get it hard.  Her first thought was, “Oh, thank you, God, that I’m not Antonio! I don’t want to be anyone except myself!”.  And then Mama told me you never know what’s around the corner for other people, you never know what life is going to throw at you, be it good or bad  so be happy in your own self and with your life.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson, Mama, and I thank you for this one and so many others you’ve shared with us.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

This is an old Southern recipe used when there’s no sausage to make gravy.  It’s heavenly!  Serve it over biscuit or country fried steak.  In the photos I made home fries topped with thick, broiled tomato slices.  There may have been fresh mozzarella melted on the tomatoes:)  Over the cheese I heaped flash sautéed fresh spinach, I covered the spinach with a fried egg and finished with a liberal pour of bacon gravy.  Sounds like Mother’s Day brunch to me!

Bacon Gravy

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 10 thick cut slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 small onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  •  2 cup half and half plus extra if needed to thin out gravy
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Cook bacon until crispy.  Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Reserve bacon drippings separately.
  2. To a heavy bottomed pan add two tablespoons of bacon drippings.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the flour and whisk thoroughly for a minute or two so the flour is cooked.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of half and half and continue whisking until the gravy has thickened.
  6. Continue adding the half and half in 1/2 cup increments until the gravy has thickened almost to the consistency you want.
  7. Crumble the bacon into the pan and whisk in.
  8. Continue whisking the gravy until it reaches the desired consistency.  Or if the gravy is too thick add a tablespoon or two of half and half and whisk in until the gravy is to your liking.
  9. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Nothing says southern hospitality more than hot biscuit straight out the oven, especially when you have a house full of people.  Buttery and fragrant, these biscuit can be the foundation of a great southern breakfast.  They’re not the easiest…then again, I wouldn’t say they’re hard to make either.  I guess the best description would be messy.  Yes.  They’re a big, fat mess but well, well worth it.  While testing this recipe I found out several things. 1.  If you eat too many biscuit you’ll get sick of them and never, ever want to eat them again.  At least for a day or two.  2.  If all your ingredients and tools are in place this recipe is infinitely easier.  And 3.  If you are the least bit fussy or persnickety, making these biscuit will most assuredly help you lose that type A mantle we all sometimes wear.  The messy part is when you gently mix together the flour and butter with the buttermilk.  You DON’T want to over mix the dough yet it seems impossible to mix as it all clumps up on your hands.  I’m here to tell you, it’s okay!  When I couldn’t mix the dough anymore because it was stuck like a big, heavy ball on both hands, I squeezed it off each finger, back into the bowl it went and onward I mixed…gently…almost coddling the dough.  After that it was pretty smooth sailing.  Here are some tips I wish I had had prior to baking these nuggets of love.  Believe me when I say, freeze your butter.  You’ll use a box grater to grate it into the flour and you don’t want it  to melt while you grate.  Clear off your counter.  You’re going to need more room that you think.  Do not use parchment paper.  For some reason the bottoms of the biscuits kept browning waaaay too fast when I used it.  I used a large, non-stick, light-colored baking sheet.  Have it out and placed next to the area you plan to roll out the dough.  Generously flour the area where you will be rolling out the dough with all-purpose flour, not self-rising flour, along with your rolling-pin and bench knife if you have one.   If you don’t have a bench knife then grab a sharp chef’s knife.  Keep your flour bag for dusting close at hand.  Have a ruler close by to measure the rolled out dough if you can’t eye-ball it.  I can’t.  I have to measure everything so I keep an old, thin ruler in a kitchen drawer.  It also has all the presidents on it ending with President Clinton so I like to impress myself with all the presidents I’ve forgotten.  Could you identify President A. Johnson?  Didn’t think so.  It’s my favorite as it’s plastic so it can quickly be washed then stored.  I think the last tip would be to move as quickly as you’re able to maintain a cold dough.  Wait, one more tip.  Never twist the bench knife, knife or biscuit cutter while cutting the biscuit dough.  Cut straight up and down and you’ll have lots of pretty layers.   I prepared 3 sweet butters  to serve with the biscuits.  Cinnamon butter which consisted of butter, confectioners sugar and cinnamon.  Blueberry butter made with blueberries, butter and confectioners sugar.  And the last was strawberry butter prepared by finely chopping a few strawberries and mixing them into butter and confectioners sugar.  Add to this breakfast some thickly sliced bacon prepared in the oven for easy clean up,  some spicy Southern sausage, a beautiful, freshly made fruit salad and you are a belle of a hostess!

As I mentioned above I baked these biscuit on a light-colored, non-stick baking sheet.  If a dark-colored baking sheet is used make it a point to keep a close eye on the biscuit bottoms as they will brown much faster.  You might want to consider baking them at 400° so as to avoid rapid browning.  I haven’t tried it with these so I’m not certain what the outcome would be but it is a suggestion.  These biscuit don’t color up much; the tops remain blonde so don’t go by overall color in terms of how done they may be.  I cut this dough into squares in order to have fewer scraps to re-roll.  Feel free to use a round or square biscuit cutter, just make certain it’s sharp.  A soft wheat flour will make all the difference in your biscuit.  White Lily is my all-time favorite but King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill are perfectly fine.  Try to find buttermilk from a local or small dairy.  Whole Foods has a great one by the name of Lazy Meadows.  It’s whole, not homogenized, non-GMO and from north Georgia.  Good stuff!

Southern Buttermilk Biscuit

  • Servings: 30-35 biscuit
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 5 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups ice-cold buttermilk
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour and salt.
  3. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the butter directly over the flour.
  4. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is coated with the flour and the butter is in lumps the size of peas and smaller.  If you have naturally cold hands you may use your hands to cut the butter into the flour.  If they’re naturally hot, as are mine, use either the pastry cutter or fork because the heat from your hands will melt the butter.
  5. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in the cold buttermilk.
  6. Using your hands gently mix the ingredients together, scraping the dough off your fingers when you need to.
  7. When the buttermilk is almost incorporated into the flour transfer the dough, with your hands, to a floured board or counter.
  8. Gently fold the dough over and over, maybe 7-8 times, then gently roll out or pat into a 11″X9″ rectangle.
  9. Cut off any rounded edges and set the scraps aside to re-roll if using a square biscuit cutter or cutting the dough with a sharp knife.  If using a round biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuit and set the scraps aside to re-roll.
  10. Place the cut biscuit on a baking sheet, close to each other if you like an all-soft biscuit or 1″-2″ apart if you prefer crispy corners.
  11. Bake 13-15 minutes or until golden on the bottom.
  12. Serve immediately.
  13. To re-heat, warm in a 225° oven for 10-15 minutes.  These biscuit are warm and tender again after re-heating.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

Thickest, Richest Hot Chocolate

 

Nothing better than breakfast in bed for yourself and your lover!

Do you recall your first truly spectacular cup of hot chocolate?  Not the kind that comes out of a packet but the first cup you ever had that was so thick and luxurious you almost had to eat it with a spoon?  Well, I remember mine.  It was on my first trip to Europe with my parents and we were in Germany where Daddy had to do some business.  We stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast which served a typical European breakfast, i.e. croissants served with jam and butter and all the water, coffee, juice or hot chocolate you can drink.  Mama was always a chocolate addict…she didn’t care if it was a 25¢ candy bar from the corner gas station or a sumptuous, elegantly ribboned box of bonbons straight out of a fashionable Parisian confection shop.  It was all great  to her and she loved every bit of it.  Mama and I went down to breakfast, Daddy was already off with his people, and sat outside at a pretty little table on a patio surrounded by a riot of Old Garden Roses, all in bloom, sharing their heady perfume to our surprised pleasure.  Being on holiday we ordered a pot of coffee and one of hot chocolate with plans to enjoy several cups of each.  I only remember the chocolate which came out hot, steam pouring out of the spout.  Mama poured then we settled in to plan our day.  At first sips our eyes met and widened with astonishment.  This was not like any hot chocolate we had ever had before, dense and smooth with none of the watery, chalkiness the powdered stuff always imparts.

Layer after layer of mysterious but most pleasing flavors went on and on overwhelming our senses.  This hot chocolate was silky and velvety yet earthy.  And, get this, it came with a side of freshly whipped cream.  Oh, man!  After that there was no stopping us.  We ordered hot chocolate at every breakfast, in every country we visited and not once were we disappointed.  Back in the States I promptly forgot about our newly found breakfast drink and it has remained in the deep, dark recesses of my forgetful mind.  Probably safer that way.  It’s not exactly slimming.  For me, this is a once-a-year extravagant indulgence.  This hot chocolate is a dream of creamy, chocolate joy.  It’s like The Moldau symphony in a cup.  Evocative and enigmatic, it will transport you.  I wish you a magnificent journey!

Dark and rich, this drink is worth every calorie.  It’s very easy to prepare but because there are so few ingredients you really should try to use the best chocolate available to you.  I have been able to locate only one whole powdered milk at the grocery store.  I don’t want non-fat powdered as it takes away from the full-flavor you’re working towards.  On the boxed milk aisle you’ll find a yellow labeled tin of powdered whole fat milk called “Nido” by Nestle Corporation.  Dark chocolate is a must but be adventurous an experiment with different kinds.  You get what you pay for so if this hot chocolate is made with cheap chocolate chips, well, that’s just what your drink will taste of…chemicals, fillers and artificial “things”.  Trader Joe’s has a super 1 pound block of 72% cacao dark chocolate that is not only loaded with flavor but super inexpensive.  I believe it’s $5.00.  The bar is huge and you’ll get quite a bit of baking out of it.  A small whisk is needed to ensure all the lumps are taken out.  If you don’t have a whisk, grab two or three forks, place them back to  back, wrap a rubber band tightly around the handles and whisk away.  It can also be gently reheated the following day by placing in the microwave on the defrost level and warmed in 2 minute increments, stirring between each increment.

Thickest, Richest Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 3 1/2 generous cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 cup whole-fat powdered milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered milk, sugar, cornstarch and espresso powder.  Set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pot bring the milk to almost to a boil, whisking often.
  3. Add the dark chocolate a little at a time, continually whisking.
  4. When the chocolate is almost completely melted, take off the heat and whisk in the powdered milk mixture.
  5. Continue whisking to desired thickness.
  6. Serve immediately.
  7. Cover any remaining hot chocolate with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

Apple Pie Oatmeal

I have been preparing Apple Pie Oatmeal for my son, James, for 24 years.  My 94-year old father requested some the other day so I made up a huge batch, warm and fragrant with cinnamon, apples and vanilla.  I packaged them up in individual portions and popped them in his freezer ready to be heated in the microwave and enjoyed for breakfast or a nutritious snack.  I made an even bigger batch for my niece, Meg, and her brother, Christopher, as part of their Christmas presents.  Both are students at University of Florida, living off campus in apartments and probably starving all the time.  While chopping and stirring James passed through the kitchen and asked, “What ‘cha makin’, Mama?  Sure smells good!”  “Why, apple pie oatmeal, son.  Here, have a taste.”  He had always loved it and asked if I would make some for him to take to his office.  Please!  Why would I ever stop now?  I started making this when he was a baby and he loved it from the first bite.  When he could feed himself I pulled a chair up to his high chair and read to him, often from the A. A.  Milne boxed set of “The World of Christopher Robin” and “The World of Pooh” that Mama gave me when I was just a little girl.  Never leaving our little house in Victoria Park, we traveled to London often, sometimes India and occasionally  Spain.  Enjoying his oatmeal and sneaking sips of my cafe con leche,  James loved it all!  We read poems of naughty children and grumpy kings, of traveling down the Amazon and the glory of butter.  We laughed at runaway balloons and big, red india-rubber balls.  And always, always delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red).  Here’s to you, boy!

“FORGIVEN”   by  A. A. Milne

I found a little beetle, so that Beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same.  I put him in a match-box, and I kept him all the day……………………………………………………………………………..  And Nanny let my beetle out…………………………………………………………………….  Yes, Nanny let my beetle out……………………………………………………………………..   She went and let my beetle out………………………………………………………………..   And Beetle ran away.

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This is an incredibly healthful yet mouth-watering recipe.  I use only organic apples, organic oats and almond milk instead of cow’s.  For sweetening I use stevia and a bit of honey to cut any bitterness the stevia may impart but all of these ingredients may be substituted for conventional products.  I freeze individual portions in baggies, just make certain all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag,  then transfer the oatmeal to a microwave safe plastic bowl to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I add a cap of almond milk to the defrosted oatmeal to thin it out a bit.  I don’t peel the apples but feel free if you don’t care for the peel.  I love this recipe…I even like it cold.  I mean, really…it’s apple pie!

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Apple Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 pounds apples, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 4 cups almond milk or conventional milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • stevia or sugar to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Add apples, milk and water to a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil.  Drop the temperature to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes or until apples are firm but fork tender.
  2. Add the oats and mix in well.  Simmer the oats for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3.  Add the stevia or sugar, cinnamon and vanilla stirring well.  Taste for any adjustments needed.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of milk.
  5. If freezing allow to come to room temperature.

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Shrimp and Grits…yes, please

Last week we had a monstrous hurricane bearing down on us and after getting the house and yard storm ready all I could think of was the enormous amount of beautiful dolphin, wild caught shrimp, grass-fed beef and organic chicken lounging in my freezer.  We lose power in our house about the time a storm picks up off the coast of Africa.  It takes nothing for us to lose power.  I hate it.  A car can drive by and all of a sudden, flicker-flicker, and flat silence descends.  No sound, no light, no cooling ceiling fans and no AC.  The worst!  And then, of course, things start thawing and dripping in my freezer.  Not knowing if we would get a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, and I thank God everyday that we did not, I figured I’d cook up a large portion of my frozen treasures and we would eat like kings for a few days.  Here in south Florida we are blessed with a type of shrimp called Key West Pinks, so sweet, succulent and, yes, pink.  And although their season peaks in June, they’re still quite easy to find in seafood markets.  I quickly steamed a few pounds in a spicy lemony broth and set them aside for us to enjoy cold with cocktail sauce.  I had all kinds of food items in my refrigerator that I was loath to toss.  Bacon, peppers, milk, cream, butter, cheese…what’s a girl to do?

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Well, I’ll tell you what this girl did.  I prepared for dinner the most luxurious, creamy dish of Shrimp and  Grits this side of heaven.  I always have grits on hand, good grits.  Slow cooking, stone ground grits.  Not that highly processed, quick or instant, grocery store mess.  All watery and bland.  No.  I like coarsely ground grits, loaded with texture and full of corn flavor that easily stand alone on their own merit.  In fact, these are the grits you almost want to eat without anything on top but then I think of the sweet Pinks.  I daydream of the bacon seasoned sauce puddling on top of creamy, white grits and I’m back on board.  Oh, and by the way, Trader Joe’s store brand grits are really super if you don’t have a grist mill down the street.  The shrimp will be gone in two seconds flat but you’ll probably have some grits left over.   It can be gently warmed again the following day and eaten as is with nothing added but a quick grind of black pepper.  The grits will take about 30 minutes to prepare so don’t start cooking your shrimp until the grits are almost done.  If the grits get too thick it can be thinned out with a little warmed milk, half and half or cream.   Pork is usually included in the shrimp mixture.  Bacon, andouille sausage and Tasso are typically put into service.  My first choice is bacon as its saltiness really brings out the sweetness of the shrimp.  Andouille is good but I find its taste completely overwhelms the delicate flavors of both the shrimp and grits.  Tasso is wonderful but it’s also strong plus can be difficult to find.  This, Gentle Reader, is comfort food at its best.  As there is such a difference in wild caught shrimp versus farmed so is there a vast difference in stone ground grits as opposed to highly processed, quick or instant.   Make the effort to find wild caught shrimp and stone ground grits.  You’ll be positively delighted at the difference they make in your dishes.  I hope you enjoy these two recipes as much as my entire family does.  They’ll do ya proud!

Creamy Grits and Collards...it's a natural!
Creamy Grits and Collards…it’s a natural!

Shrimp and Grits

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Grits

  • 1 3/4 cups stone ground grits
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  1. In a large, heavy pot bring the water and salt to a boil then reduce the heat to low.
  2. Using a whisk or large wooden spoon, stir the water in a circular motion while slowly pouring in grits and stirring constantly.
  3. When the grits begin to thicken add the milk, cream and butter.  Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until grits are tender, stirring often.
  5. Add the cream cheese and mix until the cheese has melted into the grits.
  6. Cover, set aside and keep warm on low.

Shrimp

  • 5 slices thick sliced bacon, cut into matchstick size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
  • 2 pounds wild caught uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • serve with Tabasco sauce or Crystal Hot sauce on the side, optional
  1. Place the bacon pieces in a medium size skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, 6-10 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside in a small bowl.  Leave the bacon drippings in the pan.
  3.  To the bacon drippings add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the onions are clear and soft but not brown, about 5 minutes or so.
  4. Add the butter and stir until melted.  Add the shrimp, lemon juice and white wine.  Stir well to cook evenly.  Cook until shrimp just turn pink.
  5. Quickly add reserved bacon and stir well and remove from heat.
  6. Spoon warm grits in shallow soup bowls.
  7. Using a slotted spoon top grits with shrimp
  8. Pour remaining sauce evenly over shrimp and grits.
  9. Serve immediately.

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Colossal, Gooey Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Rolls

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These Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Rolls are the stuff dreams are made of.  They are a twice a year indulgence.  These are the cinnamon rolls you fantasize about serving Christmas morning but are too exhausted from all the hustle and bustle to actually make them.  But I’m going to tell you how you can.  Huge, soft clouds of sweet golden dough are perfect to sop up the rich caramel sauce and barely tangy glaze.  I don’t know what made me want to make them.  I enjoy baking; I love working with dough.  But I’ve got to tell ya, I had to make these over and over again.  Without thinking I dumped cup after cup of flour into the mixer bowl and suddenly thought, “Wait…how many cups was that?”  Into the garbage went butter, egg, sugar and who knows how much flour.  Now, you can buy ready-made dulce de leche but let’s at least start out with homemade.  Over and over I’d realize mid-way through baking the caramel that I had forgotten to cover the pan tightly with tin foil.  Or I forgot to put the pan with the condensed milk into a larger pan filled with water.  Or I just plain forgot what time I put the pan in the oven and cooked the milk way too long and, again, had to trash it.  I didn’t remember the butter chunks had to be added to the top of the rolled out dough until the pans had been baking for a good 10 minutes.  It went on and on like this.  What could be so important that I couldn’t count 5 cups of flour?  My boy.  That’s what.  My boy will be 25, twenty-five tomorrow.  How did that happen?  I’ll tell ya how.  We blinked.  Yesterday I was yelling at him that if he made me late for work ONE MORE TIME I was going to leave him at home and he would have to take a cab to grade school.  A cab.   When he was six.  As if.  Now he leaves for work in Miami and takes the early train, never late for that!  Nuh uh.  So the years have sped by…flown by actually.  I’m certain all parents feel this way but when he was born we knew he was special.  And there was nothing, NOTHING, I wouldn’t do for that boy.  When it was snack day for us in Pre-K I agonized over what I would bake.  Lemon muffins with a key lime topping and seedless grapes?  Or would chocolate chip granola bars and apple slices be better?  And I know some of his classmates parents thought we were the meanest parnts on the panet.  We didn’t take him to Disney World until he was in, I don’t know, first grade?  Awful, huh?  No video games in our house, either.  No, tennis, baseball and friends were priorities.  And reading.  Jimmy and I would get our cocktails and we took turns reading out loud to James.  We read fabulous British and French story books, hooting and hollering all the while at the atrocities committed.  Pirate fights, naughty children getting spanked and the odd child losing both parents at sea to be reunited months later in a Paris bistro were our favorites.  Jimmy had James surfing the web at two years old.  Our boy was expected to participate in the oratorical competitions at church…all of them.  As a result he grew up relaxed and comfortable speaking before large groups of people and, to this day, holds his own quite well in all social settings, from the homeless shelter to Harvard’s Kennedy School.  James embraced his Greek and Puerto Rican roots even when some of his classmates ridiculed him.  As a parent it’s so easy to dismiss any schoolyard taunts by telling your child, “Oh, honey, just let it roll off your back.  Don’t pay attention to them.”  Now I know that boy’s not perfect but he held his head high and that’s not easy.  He never started a fight but he never ran from one.  And after all that school ridiculing he speaks Greek and Spanish.  Jimmy teases me and says I’m James’ biggest cheerleader and guess what?  I AM.  I am so proud of him.  He gives of himself unconditionally.  He gives time to his elders.  He respects and appreciates their opinions.  He’s curious about the world and wholeheartedly receives other cultures with open arms.  We pushed him to discover other countries and off he went.  We’re just plain crazy about him.  We like him and he likes us.  So when my boy wakes up tomorrow, on his 25th birthday, he’s getting these decadent, crazy good cinnamon rolls.  Happy birthday, boysie!!!

A few of James' favorite things along with everyone's favorite...the tender, gooey center!
A few of James’ favorite things along with everyone’s favorite…the tender, gooey center!

There’s nothing like the scent of caramel and cinnamon baking to make you smile and be glad you’re alive.  These pillows of sweet delight can be almost completely assembled the night before and, while they’re chilling in the fridge and you’re asleep, they’ll also be rising, ready to be baked the following morning.

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These rolls can now rise overnight covered in the refrigerator or in a warm corner of your kitchen for 20 minutes.  In one of my kitchen drawers I keep a thin, plastic ruler to measure dough, the size of pans etc.  This is my favorite ruler because it has measurements on one side and the presidents on the other.  I know… geeky.  Anyway, mark off your dough so that all the rolls are the same size thus baking evenly.  This recipe yields 12 colossal cinnamon rolls or 24 regular servings.

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And this is the only way I cut them.  With unwaxed, unscented dental floss.  Any knife you use, I don’t care how sharp it is, will smash the soft dough and, to add to your woes, force out the dulce de leche filling.  After lightly scoring the dough to mark your 12 or 24 portions, slide the dental floss under the dough “log” and align the floss to the first marking on either end.  Cross both ends of the floss as if you were going to tie a knot but instead of looping the floss to tie it continue pulling both ends and the floss will slice the dough cleanly  and evenly.  For the dulce de leche, it may be store-bought but it’s so simple to make that I strongly suggest you try it, if you haven’t already, and then you won’t be giving your family all those chemicals we all like to avoid.  A quick recipe is in the archives.  Just put in “dulce de leche” in the search box toward the upper right of this page.  When the rolls have finished baking and have cooled just slightly, slide them whole, not pulled apart, out of the baking pan onto a large serving tray, preferably on with a lip.  Drizzle the glaze all over the hot rolls and let it ooze down the sides.  Heaven!  To re-heat after they’ve cooled completely 10-15 seconds in the microwave will have them tasting as though they just came out of the oven.

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Pumpkin and Dulce de Leche Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: 12 colossal rolls or 24 smaller single portions
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 2 (1/4 ounce) sachets of yeast
  • 1 cup warm water, 110°-115°f
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin, plain
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dulce de leche
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, more if you like
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  1. When ready to bake pre-heat oven to 350°.
  2. Place yeast and warm water in a small bowl and allow yeast to bloom or “foam”, 5-10 minutes.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or stand-up mixer cream the 1/2 cup butter  and pumpkin until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the sugar and beat well.
  5. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.
  6. Add the salt to the flour and mix well then add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.  Beat well.
  7. Knead the dough with a dough hook or by hand until it’s smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes.
  8. Lightly butter a large bowl, place the dough in it, cover and allow to rise in a warm corner of your kitchen for 1 hour or until double in bulk.
  9. Punch down the dough and, on a lightly floured counter, gently roll the dough into a 24″X12″ rectangle.  It doesn’t have to be perfect but you do want the height to be even and flat.
  10. Spread the dulce de leche evenly over the dough leaving a 1″ border around the rectangle.
  11. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the dulce de leche followed by the cold cubes of butter.
  12. Working from the long side, tightly roll up the dough.  Pinch the dough to make a seam along the loose length.
  13. Measure and mark your dough.  Cut with floss into even pieces; either 12 or 24.
  14. Place in a buttered 9″X13″ pan, 2 buttered 9″X13″ pans if you’re making 24 rolls.
  15. Loosely cover pan/pans with wax paper and allow to rise in a warm corner for 20 minutes or place, covered, in the refrigerator to rise overnight.  Let the dough warm up outside the refrigerator 15 minutes or so prior to baking.
  16. Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and fully baked.
  17. Remove from oven and, in pan, cool on rack for 10-15 minutes.
  18. Transfer from baking pan to serving tray and pour glaze over the tops of the rolls allowing to spill down the sides.

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  1. With a whisk, combine cream cheese, butter, milk, vanilla extract and salt.
  2. Add confectioners sugar and whisk until completely smooth.
  3. Glaze recipe may be doubled if baking two pans.

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