Sausage, Peppers, And Cheese Grits–Weeknight Dinner for a Crazy Day

16 Apr

We’ve had a busy, post-Spring Break week, and dinner each night has been a thrown-together affair as I try to get some traction against the overflowing to-do list. My dryer latch broke last weekend, and though the fix was easy, I had to wait until the appliance parts store opened on Monday to do so. You know what that means, right? My laundry pile was left unattended for three straight days, which means it ate my laundry room. It took me an additional three days to dig my way back in.

When things get this nutty, I dig way back into my cooking memory for all of those fast meals I made when I was still working fulltime. I invented quite a few bizarre dishes during my career days, blending the weeknight rush with my desperate attempts to combine the items I had on hand (grocery shopping was hit and miss).  This dish may seem weird to start, but the smoky sausage pairs well with sweet, slightly crunchy peppers, and the creamy cheese grits bring it all together. It could also be a great brunch dish if paired with something a little sweet. Here’s how I did it (with crappy iPhone pics to affirm my crazy day), and I’ll post the recipe with quantities at the end of this post for easy reference:

First, I assembled the ingredients, which was a couple of packages of smoked sausage links, bell peppers, onions, quick-cooking grits, chicken broth, salt, olive oil, and some Velveeta.

ingredients

I immediately set the chicken broth in a sauce pan with a dash of salt to boil, since getting anything to boil takes the most amount of time. I also placed a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and set it on medium-high heat. Next, I sliced the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias:

sausage

Then threw it into the skillet with the olive oil to brown, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, I thinly sliced the pepper and onion:

sliced

Once the sausage was browned, I removed it from the skillet to a paper towel-lined plate. I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, and added the peppers and onions to sauté. While that cooked, I added the grits to the boiling chicken stock, stirring for about 10 minutes until thickened. I know the box says five minutes, but it’s a lying liar who lies. Unless you like watery grits, don’t trust the box; If you do, go make yourself some cream of wheat, you weirdo.

Anyway, once the onions were translucent and the peppers had softened up a bit, I added the sausage back into the skillet and stirred the whole mess together:

all together

Last, I cubed the Velveeta and stirred it into the grits until melted. I then removed the grits from the heat, and let them sit for about 5 minutes to thicken up a bit more, stirring occasionally. If I had served the grits immediately, they still would have been too runny (and hot). Letting them rest for a few minutes tightens them up to the right consistency:

grits

Finally, I spooned the grits onto a plate, and topped with the sausage mixture. The creaminess of the grits is almost sauce-like, but the texture is right on.

final

Smoked Sausage With Sweet Peppers and Creamy Cheese Grits

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of smoked sausage links (whatever kind you like), sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking grits (NOT INSTANT)
  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Place chicken broth in a medium-size sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until well-browned. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining olive oil to skillet, then add bell peppers and onions, cooking until onions are translucent and bell peppers have slightly softened.

While the vegetables sauté, add salt and grits to chicken broth, whisking well to avoid clumps. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. If mixture bubbles up too much, reduce to medium-low heat. Add cubed Velveeta, and stir until melted. Remove grits from heat, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally during cooling.

Return sausage to skillet with vegetables, and stir to combine. Spoon grits onto serving plates, then spoon sausage mixture over grits. Pat yourself on the back, make a cocktail, and eat up.

Mission Accomplished–My First Sweater

10 Apr

sweater 3

I just checked off another one of my New Year’s goals by finishing my first sweater. Even though I have been knitting for a couple of years, I’ve always stuck to small projects that never strayed too far outside of my comfort zone. However, this year I decided I wanted to challenge myself in several areas of my life (curse you treadmill!), and build some new skills. Bean, though still in tornado toddler mode, is now a little more manageable, allowing me to spend more than two minutes at a time on a task. So, after finishing up my husband’s socks, I cast on for this owl cardigan and hoped for the best.

sweater

Overall, I loved the pattern, and this was a much easier project than I anticipated. My only pitfalls came from my paranoia about the fit. I was petrified that I would end up with a too-small, too-tight sweater after all of that work, so I went a size up from my measurements to play it safe. I should have trusted the pattern and stayed true to my size, because the end result was just a bit bigger/baggier than I wanted. However, it still is a nice, warm, snuggle-able cardigan that is perfect for a crisp fall day.  My OCD tendencies want to fuss about a few imperfections here and there, but before I can nit-pick the finished product to death, I have to remind myself…I knitted a sweater. That’s pretty cool. Time to tackle another goal…

sweater 2

 

Stupid-Easy Barbecue Ribs…Because Sometimes It Really Doesn’t Have to Be That Hard

30 Mar

I love barbecue ribs, but as with most barbecue (not to be confused with grilling), it seems like a long, drawn-out, finicky process. After all, they have competition shows about such matters in which contestants treat barbecue like a series of impossible secret equations that we philistines can never comprehend. I have spent endless hours trying to perfect ribs, even going so far as to drag out the seasoning-marinating-smoking-finishing hoopla for days. And you know what I got for all of that work? My husband shrugged his shoulders and said, “Meh…”

After a little more trial and error, I finally figured out that good, tender, everyday ribs really aren’t that difficult after all. You just have to back away from the culture of barbecue snobbery and quit overthinking it. With only a few minutes of effort, I figured out a stupid-easy way to cook a rack of ribs that my husband loved, and earned me a happy Sunday afternoon. Here’s how I did it:

Bayou-Mama’s Stupid-Easy Baby Back Ribs

  • 1 rack (or more if you want) baby back ribs
  • Several teaspoons of your favorite BBQ rub (can be homemade or store-bought. I just grabbed some from the store…it was Sunday, people)
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 bottle of beer (I snagged a bottle of Shiner Bock from my husband)
  • Tools: a roasting pan with a rack, and heavy duty foil. You can add a brush if you really want to feel like the Julia Child of Barbecue.

Wow, that’s a whole bunch of stuff, isn’t it? How will we manage?

First, I seasoned both sides of the ribs liberally with the BBQ rub. You can let this sit overnight in the fridge if you have the time, but it’s not necessary. Next, I sprayed the bottom of a roasting pan with non-stick spray (for easier clean up) and placed a baking rack in the pan. This kept the ribs elevated so they would have heat circulating all around them. It also prevented them from basically boiling in their own liquid.

Next, I poured the beer in the bottom of the pan and covered the whole she-bang tightly with foil. I placed the pan in a pre-heated 275 degree oven and let it bake for about 2 to 2/2 hours. When I took it out of the oven, it looked like this:

ribs

Don’t worry, it gets better, I promise. I then liberally brushed the ribs with BBQ sauce, recovered them with foil, and baked them for about 45 minutes to an hour:

ribs 2

So, I had perfectly cooked, tender ribs but I wanted to firm up that sauce for a more caramelized finish. I placed the ribs uncovered under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, watching carefully to prevent those annoying unattended broiler mishaps:

ribs 3

The result was fall-off-the-bone perfection that was far superior to any of my previous attempts at the perfect rib rain dance. The only catch is that it truly takes several hours in the oven, but you just can’t get around that. I said it was stupid-easy, not magic.

Now, if my husband could only streamline his lasagna (but that would probably involve handcuffing our toddler):

ball

Wait…What?

10 Mar

IMG_4343After finishing up a very un-fun work assignment today, I suddenly realized that it is already March…as in, like, third month of the year.  How in the heck did that happen? It seems like just yesterday I was cooking New Year’s lunch, and now I am staring at my husband’s tomato seedlings that have overtaken my kitchen table. Spring is just around the corner, (and spring cleaning is desperately needed in this house), but as much as the past two months seem a blur, we really did have some good times:

weekend

We took a weekend road trip back to our college town…

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IMG_4250We celebrated Mardi Gras…

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We cooked a lot of great food…

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And ate a lot of good food…

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We had a rare Louisiana snow week…

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And I knitted a pair of socks for my husband. I’m also about 2/3 done with a sweater, but that’s a post for another day. The Heathens have also had enough school activities to keep all of us on our toes, so I guess it’s no wonder why I’m left wondering how the hell it’s March already.

So, spring cleaning? Maybe tomorrow.

Holiday Hangover

29 Dec

After weeks of shopping, knitting, sewing, cooking, entertaining, cleaning, our first Christmas in the new house was a success. Here are some of the highlights:

IMG_3877

As I have been known to do, I picked out a Christmas tree with zero foresight or appreciation for spatial reasoning. That’s my 10 year old for scale. And that’s the tree that ate my entire dining room. It only took two vehicles and four neighbors to get said tree into my house and upright.

hat

I made a bunch of gifts, including the above hat that I finished on Christmas night. Note to self–start knitted gifts before November to avoid frantic knitting on Christmas night.

hat IMG_3884

scarf

The final tally of homemade gifts: 2 hats, 2 scarves, 3 pairs of mittens, 6 dishcloths, 3 t-shirt quilts, and 6 bottles of vanilla extract. Not too shabby.

Then, we have just a small fraction of why you will find me living in the gym for the next year:

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FullSizeRender yum IMG_3965 IMG_3964 IMG_3954

Yeah…my jeans may just suffocate me due to Christmas week feasting. If the tenderloin, shrimp, and bourbon meatballs weren’t enough, we also had a giant turducken, about 100 turducken paninis, cookies, cakes, sangria, margaritas and more. In spite of all the busy chaos, we still had fun:

bella IMG_3941 IMG_3935 cycle car bear

Now, I need to sleep for a week, diet for 100 years, and dig my laundry room out from under the pile that has swallowed it.

Battling the Post-Christmas Crash—Or What Happens When a Manic Woman With OCD is Suddenly Project-Less

22 Dec

gifts 2

For the past several weeks, I’ve either been knitting, sewing, or shopping like a maniac. I frantically finished teacher gifts, only to cast on for the final hat I’ve yet to complete. While we are scaling Christmas down this year (in theory anyway), I still found myself more stressed and pressed for time than I had expected. With only two days left, I’ll be cooking, cleaning, and knitting on than infernal hat with the delusional hope that I can finish it all in time.

In the craziness that pervades the Christmas bonanza, I also start thinking ahead to after Christmas. We all have plenty of Christmas traditions, but inevitably still experience that post-holiday crash. The kids are bummed that it’s over, and my project-oriented, OCD subconscious feels cast adrift with no direction or purpose. To remedy this ennui, and help alleviate the kid’s stir-crazy antics, we try to incorporate a few post-Christmas traditions so that they still have something to look forward to once their gift-a-plooza ends. Here are just a few of the small things we do:

  • New Year’s Eve fireworks—This is Louisiana, after all, and it’s our God-given right to blow crap up in the name of celebration. For $20 bucks, we can get the kids enough firepower to annoy our neighbors and keep them occupied for hours.
  • New Year’s Day Meal—This last-gasp feast includes all of those foods that superstition tells us will bring good luck and fortune in the new year. Diets are for January 2nd.
  • The Feast of the Epiphany King Cake—As the official start of the Mardi Gras season,  Epiphany is a great excuse for the first King Cake of the year. If I have time, I make it, but if not, every store around here will have one.
  • New puzzle—Now that our dining room is empty of Christmas decorations, and we don’t anticipate formal entertaining for a while to come, we get a new puzzle to work on throughout the month.
  • Selfish knitting/crafting—Now that I’ve spent months on gifts for others, I’ll cast on for that sweater I’ve been eye-balling in a Harry Potter knitting magazine. I’m a nerd like that.

So, while the next two days will probably still be full of frantic holiday prep, taking time to plan for some type of small, post-Christmas something may help ease the sting that comes from knowing that we all have to get back to the real world next week.

For now, I’m going to make a cocktail. After all, that real world ain’t coming until next week, and I think that I deserve it for the kids’ bathroom I’m about to clean.

At Least I Finished Something

10 Nov

I finished these waffle-pattern mittens yesterday. Sounds boring, right? Considering that G-Man is sick, Bear has a concussion from a scooter accident, and Bean resembles a tornado, I’d say that’s a miracle. Now, if only reclaiming my house from this mess were so easy…

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