Monday, July 24, 2017

Creamy Shrimp and Grits

Gerald and I had a delicious dinner date - at home! - the other night. The kids were gone somewhere, and he asked me out to dinner! Instead, I had him pick up some nice shrimp at the fish market on his way home. I took time to set the table, and in the end, it was way better (and way cheaper!) than going out.

I've been making shrimp and grits a long time, and I have several ways to do it. But I had a couple of new things I wanted to try.

First, this is a smoked gouda cheese that I found at the deli section in Walmart. It is delicious! It's melts like butter and has a subtle smoky flavor that is divine. I use it on grilled cheese sometimes. Yumm. I'll tell you about the other new thing in a minute...

I grated a cup of this cheese on my fine grater. Be sure and grate the rind into it. This isn't like a red waxy cheddar rind, but more of a smoke ring from the curing of the cheese. It adds so much flavor.

I use Jim Dandy quick grits. NOTE - a true Southerner would NEVER use instant grits. And since Mama has always used Jim Dandy, I know I must be right! I cooked them with milk, not water, to add a little more richness. Be sure to add more salt than called for at the beginning. I usually double what the instructions call for. You can't ever add enough salt to cooked grits. Do it right the first time!

I stirred in the cheese until it was melted. I cooked my grits as I prepped my veggies for the shrimp. I covered them, and it was fine. If they thicken a little too much, add a little warm water and whisk over low heat.

This is a new ingredient I got while we were in New Orleans a few months ago. 

We tried all kinds of new places while we were there, but our favorite (we ate there twice) was The Creole House, next to our hotel. The manager was so friendly and actually brought us several things to just try! She and I swapped some recipes, and she's the one who told me about the Magic Shrimp Seasoning. I picked some up at Central Grocery while I was there.

I began by prepping my veggies. I chopped one stalk of celery, cut up a red bell pepper into strips, cut a small onion into strips (cut it pole to pole) and chopped a lot of garlic. Probably about three or four large cloves. All this needs to be done ahead of time.

Next, I peeled my shrimp and patted them dry. Then I liberally seasoned it on both sides with the shrimp seasoning. Set aside.

I chopped two slices of bacon and sauteed it in a large non-stick pan.

Break it up as it cooks.

When the fat is rendered and it is beginning to get crispy...

add your veggies and shrimp.
Saute for about four minutes or until crisp tender.

Add 1/4 cup of flour...

and stir until coated.

Add two cups of half and half and mix well.

Stir continuously over medium high heat until it thickens.

Plate and serve immediately.

This is a little different from the brown gravy recipe for shrimp and grits. It's very rich and oh, so creamy! It was delicious. Next time, I will add even more of the shrimp seasoning. It's not hot at all. Just flavorful. But the sauce was so rich, it sucked it all up. It can definitely handle more!

Later this week, I'll finish up with the recipe for the crawfish cornbread we had with this meal. You can see it on the side a couple of picture up.

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Seafood Dinner for Two Tablescape

We recently found ourselves alone - without the kids - and decided to take advantage of it! Gerald asked where I wanted to go to dinner, and to be honest, I couldn't think of anything that sounded good...or worth the time and money! So I had him pick up some shrimp at the fish market on the way home, and we just ate in.

The rattan placemats are some of my favorites. I use them all the time. They add texture, plus they can easily be dressed up or down. The white plate on the bottom is "Heritage" by Pfaltzgraff and is one of my latest thrift store finds at .50 cents a plate! 

The bowl on top is "Mosaic Shells" by Oneida. You can see the coffee cup above. It (along with the plates) has a shell pattern. I bought these years ago at the outlet mall near the beach.

My everyday flatware is "Austen" by Yamazaki. I still love it's simplicity after nearly 18 years! 

The blue tea glasses came from Service Merchandise forever ago. I don't remember the name of the pattern.

I made the napkins a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving.

I have had this rope-accented jar forever. I think I bought it to go on my deck. I placed a short pillar candle inside. The net came from Hobby Lobby and cost next to nothing with my coupon. The shells all came from the Alabama Gulf Coast. We have been collecting them ever since we married. Some came from Gerald's collection even prior to that!

I used a lot of the same stuff a couple of years ago for Jewell's birthday dinner (above) when she asked for a shrimp boil (thus the newspaper on the table). You can read more about that night here

It literally took me less than ten minutes to set the table. In fact, I did it while I cooked! It's nothing expensive or extravagant, but it made our dinner a little more special! It worked nicely with our meal - shrimp and grits and crawfish cornbread. Recipes coming soon!

When's the last time you took a few minutes to set a special table for the one you love?

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bug Juice Punch

You have to have punch at a party. It's a rule. So - I was looking for a fun "boy" punch, and I found the perfect thing...Bug Juice Punch! Here's what we served for Brack's 12th Birthday party.

TIP - I love these labels. As you can see above, they're $3.99, but I got them when all the chalkboard stuff was half off at Hobby Lobby. I figured they'd be a one and done kinda thing, but I have used them three or four times now, and haven't had to throw them out! Gotta love that!

The recipe for the punch is simple. However, let me say that I wanted to buy lime sherbet. BTW - everybody calls it sherBERT, but it's actually sherBET. Who knew? Anyway, green would have made a prettier punch, but they didn't have any at Walmart that day.

I brought home all my juices and put them in the fridge a couple of days before the party. They were ice cold that night!

I used a small scoop to drop the sherbet into the bottom of the container. Next I added half the pineapple juice (be sure to shake it really good before opening it), half the Hawaiian punch and half the ginger ale.

By the way, these "Mason jar" dispensers are the perfect size - one gallon. I have a couple that hold two or three gallons each. They're great at Halloween or Thanksgiving, but since I was serving two beverages, these were just right. And did I mention they were $5 each at Walmart? I got them last summer, but they still have them.

The ice cream melted a little when the juice hit it, so I stirred it and let it sit for about 5 minutes. It was the perfect consistency and came out of the spout with no trouble!

TIP - Mix and match your sherbet flavors and Hawaiian punches for difference colored punches.

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Campout Tablescape - Brack's 12th Birthday

Brack's birthday is actually the first week in May. It was the first week of June before we could have his party. I wanted to at least get this post written the first week in July, but, oh well. You get the idea. 

We were pushing it with the weather in early June, but Brack decided he wanted to camp out in the backyard for his 12th birthday. We have had a wet, and for the most part, cooler summer, so it all worked out OK!

In fact, I think the weekend of his party was when the wet weather first settled over our area. I decided to keep the food inside, but they did sleep outdoors! Luckily, the weather held. 

The chalkboard above is one I've used many times. Even though it's white, I didn't think it was "girly". I literally pulled the bug spray off the shelf in the garage as I was setting the table! I did wipe it down a little!  I sent Brack out to pick up pine cones for me that afternoon. (Keeping the yard and flowerbeds pine cone free is one of his jobs. And a never ending one, at that!)

I began my tablescape with a couple of my black tablecloths. I used two because they're not quite big enough for my dining room table. I found the PERFECT red plaid fabric on the remnant table at Hobby Lobby. Didn't even hem it...

The light's not great, but here's a look at the whole table.

I bought aluminum pie-plates at Dollar Tree for us to eat on! The yellow napkins, also from Dollar Tree, pick up the yellow in the red plaid tablecloth.

I make really good baked beans, but I start with a canned bean. When I was making them, I kept a can for the forks. I carefully rinsed and dried it. Pretty cute, huh?!

The pie plates are three for $1. Can't beat it! I've used them to serve build-your-own-nachos, too.

Usually I cook my baked beans in the oven, but I made them on the stove in my Dutch oven this time. They went straight from the stove to the table!

The cute wood chips came from Hobby Lobby. They were less than $5 a bag. Don't forget your 40% off coupon!

"Wood Chips" were served in an aluminum casserole tray, also from Dollar Tree.

TIP - I keep lots of these aluminum containers on hand. They're great for making casseroles ahead of time to freeze for when you need to take food to someone at the last minute. They're cheap, disposable, and they come in a million sizes.

So maybe this is a little "sappy", but what else would you serve with wood chips? This is the simple chip dip I served at Mother's Day. You've probably got the ingredients on hand!

To cover all my bases, I made smoky sliders and pigs in sleeping bags. The sliders are ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Montreal steak seasoning. Brack doesn't like the sweetness of an Hawaiian roll, so I found these little slider buns by Pepperidge Farm. They're a lot like a dinner roll.

Costco's all-beef wieners are our favorite. I wrapped them in a crescent roll and baked them at 375 until they were warmed through and the crescent roll was golden brown. 

I pulled out a thermos and a coffee percolator for looks, but I actually served my "souped up" Countrytime lemonade and Bug Juice punch. More on that later.

I laid out the makings for Smore's, of course, and we had them later that night.

I found these cute and colorful (and amazingly bright!) flashlights on Amazon. Each boy got one to use and then take home.

What's a campout without classic oil lanterns? They helped to authenticate my tablescape. Well, them and all the fun plastic bugs from Dollar Tree. I mean, it's not a campout until someone gets bitten, right?

Ever helpful, Possum stood guard as I set up my tablescape.

These boys were so sweet and they had a blast! Between outdoor Nerf wars, and playing Zombie Apocalypse tag, they stayed busy just about all night. I'm so glad Brack is blessed with such good friends!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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