I’ve avoided grits my whole life. I didn’t necessarily look down on them, but they couldn’t ever best my silky sweet cream of wheat. I didn’t even try them for the longest time. Why would you want to put salt and butter in there? I didn’t get it. When I finally embraced the South and dared to try this salty breakfast item that should be sweet, of course oh didn’t like it. I sure wouldn’t waste a meal at a restaurant on grits, they couldn’t be good. I got a side at a breakfast place after my astonished friends found out I still hadn’t had them. They were runny instant grits. They didn’t stand a chance. I probably spit them out.
I would sample them again every so often when I’d be in the mood. Always the same result though. Nope. And I still wouldn’t like those grits today. A runny mess that’s tasteless besides the salt and butter added to it isn’t good food. My opinion was slightly adjusted when I got some shrimp and grits, that was on special, at a pretty nice restaurant. At least a little effort was put in while making these, and it showed. They were actually good. Huh, who knew.
Recently, I decided to get some at Another Broken Egg Cafe while at brunch with my girlfriend. I was totally blown away. I got them as an appetizer, but they were the main focus. They were so luscious and creamy, almost like risotto. The crumbled bacon, fresh tomatoes, and crisp green onions were perfect. Reluctantly I shared them.
I had to have them again. So, I set out, not to recreate it exactly, but to build on it. I’m not sure if it’s sacrilegious or whatever to do this, but I think the results are very much worth it. I made a cheese sauce to add to the grits instead of just adding cheese straight in. It’s creamier and doesn’t run the risk of the cheese breaking and ruining the grits. Much better.
1 cup stone ground grits
3.5 cups half and half
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 oz goat cheese
2 oz smoked Gouda
2 oz cheddar
2 tbsp bacon fat
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
6 slices thick sliced bacon – chopped
1 medium heirloom tomato – diced
2 green onions – chopped
1.) Cook the bacon and set aside. Keep the drippings.
2.) Over low to medium low heat, bring the half and half to a simmer.
3.) Stir in the butter, salt, and pepper.
4.) Slowly whisk in the grits, and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until done.
5.) While the grits are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce.
6.) When the grits are finished cooking, mix the cheese sauce in.
7.) Serve with the tomato, green onion, and bacon sprinkled over the top.
1.) Heat the bacon fat over medium heat.
2.) Stir in the flour to make a roux.
3.) Cook the roux for a few minutes, being careful to not let it burn.
4.) Slowly whisk in the milk. Break up any clumps.
5.) Cook for a few minutes, or until it starts to thicken.
6.) Mix in the salt, pepper, garlic, and nutmeg.
7) Stir in the shredded cheeses. After the cheese is fully incorporated, the sauce should be very smooth and creamy.
* If the grits still have some time to cook and the sauce is finished, turn heat to very low or warm and stir the sauce every minute or so.
For a long time now I have tried to eat absolutely everything put in front of me. Actually I’ve succeeded. There’s very little I won’t try and nothing has escaped yet. Now, I’m not talking about bull penis, eyes, or other fear factor stuff, that might still put me off. I’ve gone out of my way to eat weird and strange things and guess what? Not only did I try everything, I liked it all too. Where did this come from? I enjoy eating these things, when I would have spit them out 10 years ago. Well, blue cheese was up near the top of the gross food list. Maybe not the top spot, but definitely top 5. I really don’t even remember if it was texture, taste, or general yuckiness that put me off. I distinctly remember being very upset when I was a kid, because my cheese puffs contained blue cheese. I read the wrapper and was mortified, I think I stopped eating them even. Now, I’d search those out. Also, I remember being bummed out when restaurants would only serve blue cheese dressing with wings. Ranch is fine with me, I don’t turn my nose up at it, but blue cheese dressing is so much better.
What I like to do now is retry things that I didn’t like previously. Scallops, zucchini, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, even fish were all on my list of items I wouldn’t touch. I know some if it is just an evolving palette, but there were still things that I avoided. I can see a pattern where I’m liking much more bitter foods. I’ve heard that it’s something that happens as we age, and I really see it. I like it too. I also see some of my friends or family members not changing their palettes, so maybe I’m just a little more adventurous and open to the change. My son will eat most things if they’re not spicy. It’s great, I love when he requests vegetables. Brussels sprouts in particular are his favorite, I get that request about once a week. I hope his tastes don’t change too much when he gets into the teenage years.
Blue cheese is one of my favorites from my old avoid list. I can’t get enough of it now. The tangy taste just pairs so well with many things. Blue cheese with sweet strawberries on a salad or with red meat are my favorites currently. It goes great with burgers as well. Give it a shot. I like a diner style burger, cooked on a griddle rather than one cooked on a grill. Change it up as you see fit, but they do taste much different. I think its easier to cook on the griddle or pan anyway, so I get my burger fix all Autumn/Winter,
Makes 3 hamburgers.
Slice onions and cook with some oil or butter over low heat. This will take a while, but go slow. 30 – 40 mins later and you’re done. Scrape up any bits that stick or deglaze with a bit of wine at the end. Cook the bacon and set aside. keep the drippings though. Separate beef into 3 1/3 lb patties. Cook over Medium to Medium-High heat on a griddle or cast iron skillet. You may need to adjust heat, based on cooktop. You want a pretty good sizzle though. Cut buns in half and toast them or fry them in a small amount of the bacon fat. Get the other ingredients ready and assemble with bacon and blue cheese on top. Pickles, onions, tomatoes, and greens on bottom.
As a kid, I remember going camping most summers. It was just car camping for the most part. We drive up to the campground, pitch our tents, and go out on the boat or whatever activity we were doing. I have very fond memories of our trips, they were great. I even look back on the parts I hated and smile. Who doesn’t like waking up covered in sweat in a tent that feels more like an oven? Even as a kid I always felt like there was something missing. It was just too easy and convenient. I’ve been wanting to get into what I feel is more “real” camping for years now. Like anything new, I had apprehensions and a couple false starts. I didn’t really know where to go around me. You search got camping and you get car camping or RV lots. I finally figured out that I needed to use the term primitive camping when trying to find a place. Places start to show up if you look for them correctly. There are tons of places to go around me.
I started off just hiking. My pup has been out on the trails since he was a tiny puppy and loves every minute he’s out there. I’m not sure if it’s usual for Great Danes, but he’s a fantastic trail dog. He always can find the path, and he’ll find the easiest way guaranteed. Gradually, I started getting into running, so I began running the trails as well. He’s getting older now and can’t keep up, especially in the heat. I would usually take him hiking first, then go back and run. If he saw me putting on running clothes, there was no way he’d let me leave him. My son was the same way, been coming since he was stable, but he likes his toys a little too much. So I got pretty comfortable on trails and being outside eventually.
My gear had been accumulating and I finally made it a point to go spend some time in the wilderness. I had most of the things I needed, why not go finally? I picked a date and asked my brother Josh to come. We’d hiked the Walls of Jericho near the Alabama/Tennessee border a few weeks before. Great hike, but too recent. I choose one of the longer trails in the Sipsey Wilderness. Kind of on the way from Huntsville to Birmingham. I’d been through it to pick up some photographic equipment from a craigslist post, but that’s it. I do all my research and make arrangements, then I get the news that my brother has to work late and might not be able to go. I would go alone, but my imagination runs wild and I’d be creeped out without some experience. Luckily, my buddy David was free so he saved me from that experience.
We took a half day that Friday and headed out. We’d planned about an 18 mile hike, so I left Ulthrex home. He would love to come, but that’s a little much for him at his age. David’s Irish Setter pup had more than enough energy, so he came along. Turns out Josh was going to try to make it with his stepson after all. He planned on meeting us after he got off. There’s no cell coverage for a while down the road, so we couldn’t really hash out a plan, just meet us down the trail and we’d have the camp set up. Of course that didn’t work out. David and I arrived and headed down the trail. We were going pretty fast at first, but then decided to just take it easy since they would have to catch us. We let the urgency drift away and just took in the sights and sounds. The wilderness was great! The rock formations and cliffs are beautiful. I didn’t expect there to be so much in that area. We lost the trail after a while and decided to walk through the river until we picked it up. It was relatively warm, so the cool river water felt awesome.
We decided to wait for the others around mile 5-6. David and I both had hammocks, so we were set up in less than 5 minutes. Wood gathering duty was next on the agenda. A few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to start a fire out there. I moved in to a new house in July that had a firepit built into the deck in the back yard. It took me weeks to get a “one match” fire going, but I could do it pretty easily after I had some practice. Out here, it was rough. Most of the wood was damp and there was no dry tinder. I didn’t bring my hatchet, because well, it sucked. The bigger dead trees stayed intact. The small branches on the ground would have to do. David wanted to try his magnesium block and striker, so he tried that for a while. No luck. I used a petroleum jelly soaked paper towel and the stack went up.
Dinner time. I’m definitely going to have to experiment and get better at cooking in the woods, but i did alright this time. I ate some little kid food and it was awesome. Boxed macaroni and cheese, repackaged of course. I brought a little coconut oil for the mac and cheese, but also my oats the next morning. I put my boiler on the coals and waited. While that was going, I boiled a smaller cup and made a coffee. The Starbucks Via instant coffees are actually pretty good and are perfect for backpacking. Just add to hot water and you’re set. There’s nothing like a hot meal at campfire in the woods. I just love it, and the hammock makes a great seat. As it got dark, it was evident that Josh wouldn’t be coming through. If we would have been able to talk to him, we could have told him we slowed way down. We found out later that they turned around after a couple of miles, thinking we’d gone 9. Oh well, next time.
Going to sleep was a bit rough. I don’t have a summer sleeping bag, but i didn’t want to buy a new one, so I used what I had. Which is a 15 degree bag. Whew was I hot in there. Better to be hot than get attacked by mosquitos though, so I toughed it out. I had a bit of a scare as I was drifting off. Cooper thought it would be a great idea to dash over to me and nuzzle me, I guess to play. It was actually pretty terrifying, but I came to my senses quickly. It took me a bit to fall back asleep after that. I probably got a good 5 hours of sleep, good enough.
Now my breakfast I spent a little more time on. Rolled oats, chia seeds, sprouted sunflower seeds, pb2 (dried peanut butter), dried blueberries, dried cranberries, cinnamon, coconut oil, and a bit of brown sugar. I don’t eat sugar in my oats at home, but they really need it out here. This could have used a bunch more. David had the good idea to add some yogurt trail mix to the oats. Awesome idea. The oats were delicious after that. We packed up and headed out after a while. A mile or two out, we started hearing thunder. There was a 0 percent chance of rain Friday and only 5 percent on Saturday when I had checked, so it kind of caught me off guard. I had a jacket, but we were close enough that it wouldn’t have mattered.
It began to rain pretty good when we were near the exit. The canopy protected us for the most part. Not 2 minutes after we got to the truck, it broke open. Hard driving rainstorm. I felt bad for the people we ran into that were staying another night in there. We were good though. On the way in, a greasy catfish place caught our eye. In my mind, those are always the best places. Definitely hitting that place up for lunch. They had a fried green tomato special posted on a neon piece of paper. Now, I try everything and usually like it, but i haven’t had fgt that I liked yet. These were pretty good and changed my mind for sure. I had to try everything. I got an order of the tomatoes, a cheeseburger, a half catfish plate with slaw and tomato, and an order of hushpuppies. I ate it all too. Absolutely satisfying. The cheeseburger was one of the sorriest burgers I’ve ever seen, but looks can be deceiving. It was actually one of the better burgers I’ve had in a really long time.
It was a really cool trip, and I got some great pics with my gopros. I was still trying to figure them out, so I didn’t get everything perfect, but I’m happy with the results. I left my big camera at home to save on weight and bulk. I might have to bring it next time though. There’s just so much you can do with a little camera.
Next up – Damon, Threx, and I have an adventure for the ages in the same wilderness the next week.
Even though I’ve been through a few times, I’ve never stopped. I never even really paid attention when I did drive through. I didn’t even really want to come this time. I’d heard some good things about Chattanooga, but not good enough it seems. My mother wanted to take a short little day trip with the family to see the aquarium. I agreed to go finally and hopped in for the ride. I looked up a few places for us to eat and settled on a Neapolitan style pizza place. I haven’t really had many chances to eat it. Huntsville has a surprising number of cool places and restaurants, but lacks many as well. We just stopped in for a few hours, but I’ll have to drop back by soon. Chattanooga is a cool little city from what I saw.
The aquarium was much different than I thought it would be. I haven’t been to one in years though, so I don’t know what I was expecting. More interactive? It was fun though and the little ones had a great time running to each exhibit. My son had the tendency to want to skip ahead to the next cool thing even before he really saw what was at each location. We stopped for a bit at the “petting” tank though he was too scared to touch anything. He wanted to so bad, but every time a shark or ray swam up, he’d pull his hand out. His favorite was the crab viewer. I guess it’s not limited to kids, but I only saw kids in it. In the tank where the big crabs were, there is a column in the middle that you can enter and view the tank from the inside. Looked fun. I didn’t get the butterfly room, but whatever it was interesting.
I’m not sure if it was fatigue or if the ocean side is just much more fun than the river/lake side, but we ran through the second section. I was ready to eat and Damon was ready to play in the water. The 15 min walk with wet shorts on my neck wasn’t that awesome, but walking through the city was pretty fun. Definitely need to see more.
The restaurant was in a nice location. I came in a side door I guess and it was kind of awkward having to walk through the restaurant to the host stand. They had a semi open seating area I would have loved to sit at, but our party was too big. The lighting inside wasn’t very awesome for pictures, but it was nice otherwise. Damon and I got to the restaurant a little early, so I got him a gelato. He chose cookies and cream. I don’t know if they had coffee flavored cookies or just mixed up the flavor, but his gelato tasted like coffee and he didn’t like it. He made sure to let our server know when she came back. She brought him a birthday cake flavor instead. He absolutely loved it. Without prompting, he told me it was the best ice cream he’d ever had. It was very awesome. This place has two styles of dough, New York and Neapolitan. I had to get the Margherita. My mother and grandmother got the sweet fig. Both of them were the Neapolitan style and were seriously good. The fig pizza was one of the better pizzas I’ve eaten. Prosciutto, olives, fig jam, goat gouda, and gorganzola. All topped with arugula and olive oil. Crust was awesome as well, just the right amount of char. The New York style wasn’t as good in my opinion. It was greasy and seemed overcooked. Maybe it was the toppings, but I just didn’t like it. I’d have to try a plain cheese to really tell though. Apparently they have a policy that you absolutely need an ID to order alcohol. No matter how old you are. My mother might not like this place so much for that reason. She forgot her ID in the car and they wouldn’t give her a beer no matter what. It was pretty funny that both of her sons were able to enjoy a nice beer, but not her. Beer selection could have been better though. Not really anything local, besides the larger craft brewers. Pretty awesome place overall though.
I had a great time and I’ll definitely be back. I need to travel around a bit more, I just forget to sometimes.
This doesn’t seem real. I’ve been too busy to watch anything on TV, listen to sports radio, or read any articles these last 2 weeks. I think it’s just now hitting me. The Super Bowl is today! My Seahawks are playing in the Super Bowl today! 2nd year in a row. Let’s do it again! Go Hawks!!
Every time I go to Seattle, I try to get a smoked salmon chowder. I didn’t have time when I went a few weeks ago, but this will make up for it.
There was a soup cook-off at work this last week. I don’t make soups all that often, so I was thinking about what to make. I can make a good split pea, but I didn’t have a ham bone handy. Tortilla? Maybe. Clam chowder? Sounds like a good idea. Wait a minute. When I think of clam chowder, I think of New England clam chowder. Our opponent in the Super Bowl is New England. Yeah, that’s not happening. So I decided to make a Pacific Northwest/Seattle style soup. Luckily I have a salmon hookup. My uncle Stu lives in Alaska. He catches and smokes salmon then sends that magical stuff on down. Thanks to my mom for letting me use it all too ;).
So yeah, I blow up all my stove elements the day before and have to use a portable electric skillet to cook this in. Oops. Little bit of a challenge, but I’ve got this. I finished and wow was this good. I didn’t want to share :). But I had to represent the PNW down here. All of the soups entered in the competition were good. In the end, I pulled out the victory, hopefully like my Hawks will do today!
I like to use a good potato soup as a base. Really wish I would have had some fish stock, but it was awesome anyway. Play with the amount of salmon you add before to get it right.
Anyway, its a perfect day down here for Seattle football. Cold and rainy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Go Hawks!!!
Set the cream and milk out for an hour before cooking. Cook bacon until crispy, set aside. In a large pot, cook carrot, celery, onion, leek, garlic, and potatoes in bacon fat over medium low heat until tender, about 10 minutes. In another pot, melt butter over low heat and slowly stir in flour to make a roux. Slowly stir in the cream and milk, incorporating it. Add the clam juice, stock, and white wine. Add vegetables to dairy mixture. Break up most of the salmon into small pieces. Save some salmon and green onions for topping the soup. Add the salmon and half of the green onions to the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 20-30 minutes on medium-low or low, make sure potatoes are tender. Serve in a warm bowl, topped with the onions and salmon crumbles.
This is going to be different kind of Thanksgiving than I’m used to I think. A touch of innocence lost or maybe it had been lost long ago and just concealed rather. New family members not so new any more, perhaps they’ve lost their shine. Someone that should be there but isn’t. This is life though, I’ve been riding a high for a while, now its time to experience the other side. Without the low points, we’d get bored, it’s our nature. I think the goal is to keep the lows as short and shallow as possible though, and that’s what’s going to happen. I’m not going to let my life be affected by negative people, they’ll bring you down with them and love it. Actually, I’m doing great relatively speaking. There are some great things going on as well. And I know what works for me now, if I get into a funk.
I’ve realized I’ve been getting stressed more and more the last few weeks. I finally noticed the pattern, I had not been eating so clean, and I hadn’t been nearly as active. I try to be as active as I can, not busy, just active. Of course I get too busy sometimes, everyone does. But usually I go to the gym in the morning, maybe punch the heavy bag for cardio one day, maybe do interval training on the bike. Running the dog after work almost every night. Yoga every Monday and Wednesday, maybe more if I need to de-stress or stretch my back. Trail running every weekend. I stay tired, but its a good tired. I feel fantastic. I look better than I ever have before. And…I have to keep doing it. All of it.
I’m not on a diet, this is how I’ll always eat. There’s no going back to eating fast food or processed junk. Now don’t get me wrong, I crave a greasy fried chicken sandwich or pizza, but I can’t eat it any more. Not only does it make me nauseated, but it really makes me feel terrible for days. It’s very hard to break out of the cycle of eating bad and feeling bad as well. Just recently, I forgot my lunch. Usually that would mean a salad from the cafeteria. Yeah, it’s overpriced, but its fresh and healthy. I had 2 beers the night before when I had gone out with a friend, so I felt a little bad from that. I just wanted something bad for me. I got chicken fingers and onion rings, with ranch and mustard respectively for sauces. So amazing, just what I needed. Then dinner came around, I didn’t want to eat healthy. I mean I already had some shitty food, what’s a bit more going to hurt? This basically continued for a week and a half. Of course I didn’t want to exercise when I ate bad and felt terrible for doing it. So, I didn’t. I don’t remember feeling so bad overall in my life. I really had to concentrate on not eating bad and making myself go running or whatever. But, I was able to pull myself out and get back into what I want to be doing. No, it wasn’t easy. And I still had moments where I did eat something I shouldn’t have or didn’t exercise when I should have. I just had to not worry about it. It’s a slow process, but eventually the sugar/salt cravings will subside and I’ll crave arugula again haha.
Sorry for the rambling nature of this post. It’s been a while and I’ve had things I’ve been wanting to talk about.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite things to eat and will be on the table for every Thanksgiving going forward. This dish has converted more people to liking something than anything else I make. In this case, its Brussels Sprouts. Almost everyone I know that has had them cooked right, loves them. Most people haven’t though, so they hate them. Yeah, they can be a bit bitter, but that is what makes them good. I’m a recent convert as well. I didn’t really know what to do with them. I got some while on sale once, cut them in half, sauteed them, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. And they blew my mind. A vegetable. Definitely try this out.
My favorite part of this dish is the textures. The crispy Brussels sprouts, the crunchy nuts, and the tender pasta come together perfectly. The taste is rather amazing as well. Butter can be substituted for the bacon fat, but why? Haha, honestly, I make it without bacon usually. It is sooo much better with it though.
Cut the stems off of the Brussels sprouts and peel back as many leaves as you can. Cut a bit more stem off when the leaves get harder to pull off. When you can’t easily pull off leaves, set the heart aside. When all of the sprouts have been processed, roughly chop the hearts and add to the leaves. Chop the bacon and fry in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Remove bacon when cooked, set aside. Remove excess fat from pan, but leave enough to fry the sprouts. Add the leaves to the bacon fat and cook for a couple minutes over medium – medium high heat, tossing every once in a while. Add pasta, nuts, breadcrumbs, and bacon to pan and combine. Cook for a few minutes and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper then add the cheese.