Today’s delicious dish – Creamy Cheese Grits
Grits are familiar to southerners and unknown to most others. I’ve been eating grits all my life, and I love them. They are great with butter, wonderful with cheese and spices, and superb with gravy. Grits are a nice addition to my regular rotation of starches that includes potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and polenta.
Grits are actually ground hominy, which is corn. There are regular grits, which take about 30 minutes to cook. There are quick grits, which are more finely ground, and are the most popular because they are almost as good as regular grits, but can be ready to eat in about 15 minutes. And then there are instant grits, which I beg you not to buy – they have been cooked and then dehydrated, and I think they have a weird texture when cooked.
The following recipe will give you a savory and creamy side dish. Feel free to use whole milk in place of 2% if you prefer it. And feel free to use more Tabasco sauce if you like more spice, or omit it altogether if you don’t have it or don’t like it. Sharp cheddar cheese will give you more flavor per ounce than other cheeses.
Creamy Cheese Grits
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup quick (5-minute) grits
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup, lightly packed) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Combine water, milk, salt, pepper, parsley flakes, and paprika in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Stir in grits and continue stirring until the mixture returns to boiling. Turn down heat to low and cover. Cook 8 minutes, stirring often. Grits should be thick and creamy. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, Tabasco sauce, and cheese. Cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Makes about 4 cups grits, or 8 servings (each about 1/2 cup)
Nutritional information (per serving): 169 calories, 8.5 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 6 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams sugars, 1 gram fiber, 28 milligrams cholesterol, 434 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: 42 cents
Preparation time: 30 minutes
What happens next?
Grits can be refrigerated for no more than 5 days, and can also be frozen. They are easy to get ready to eat – needing just a quick warmup in the microwave, although you may want to stir in a splash of milk or cream to make them extra good. Because grits solidify as they cool, I sometimes press leftover grits into a 1” thick layer in a baking pan. After sitting overnight, these leftover grits can be cut into squares and then reheated by sauteeing in butter or oil. This makes a tasty bed for a fried egg.
If I have plenty of yummy gravy, I can eat leftover grits all week long. But I tire of them if I have to keep eating them plain. So I came up with a great way to use some of the prepared grits. In the next recipe, grits are a soft creamy pillow for zesty chili.
Another day’s delicious dish – Cheesy Grits and Chili Pie
I usually set aside 3 servings of Creamy Cheese Grits to use as the crust for a wonderful medium-spicy chili pie. This is a quick chili, not one that simmers for hours (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), so you can get this main dish together pretty quickly, and you’ll have a hearty and flavorful entree that goes well with a green salad.
I like to use 93% ground beef in this recipe, because I don’t want my chili to be at all greasy. But 93% is expensive and can be hard to find, so feel free to use any ground beef you prefer. If you don’t want to use beef bouillon granules or beef base to make up the beef broth, you can use any prepared beef broth. If you are making this dish for people who might not like spicy food, reduce the amount of chili powder and omit the cayenne pepper. Finally, although dark red kidney beans are traditional in chili, I find that the light red ones are more tender and work better in this quick-cooking preparation.
If you like onion, it can be a great addition to this chili. You should saute it with the meat and spices until translucent. You could also add diced green pepper or chili pepper if you like peppers.
If you don’t have any Creamy Cheese Grits set aside, you can still make this recipe. Just cook up 1/3 cup grits with 1 1/2 cups water (or a mixture of water and milk) and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. When done, stir in1 Tablespoon butter and about 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese. Press the mixture into your greased baking pan, and you are ready to proceed with the recipe.
Cheesy Grits and Chili Pie
- 3 servings Creamy Cheese Grits (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon granules or beef base
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound 93/7 ground beef
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained
- 4 ounces (about 1 cup) shredded Cheddar Jack cheese
Turn oven on to 425 degrees.
Warm Creamy Cheese Grits in microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Grease an 8” square baking dish or a casserole dish with ½ teaspoon oil. Press Creamy Cheese Grits evenly over the bottom and a bit up the sides of baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand.
Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
Make beef broth by stirring together hot water and beef bouillon granules or beef base. Set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large skillet. Add ground beef and break it up. Add seasonings. Cook until beef is browned and cooked through. Sprinkle on flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce and stir well. Stir in beef broth and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add can of beans and stir, taking care not to mash the beans. Lower heat and cook another 4 minutes.
Pour chili over grits crust and spread evenly, then sprinkle cheese on top.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional information (per serving): 552 calories, 25.5 grams fat, 12.5 grams saturated fat, 41 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams sugars, 7 gram fiber, 76 milligrams cholesterol, 1373 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: $3.02
Preparation time: 1 hour