The most requested side dish for any holiday or potluck offering from my kitchen is Cheese Grits. Every year about this time I can count on making it at least 3 times – once for our church Thanksgiving dinner which is always the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, again for our family Thanksgiving dinner table, and again at Christmas. Years ago, I usually included it for Christmas morning breakfast, but as our family grew older and larger, I began to make a double recipe for heartier meals. I originally used a recipe from a cookbook titled The Texas Experience, given to me in 1984 from my friend Sondra Skaggs. I make a variation of that recipe now because some of the ingredients it called for are no longer available, and I long ago memorized it. But I still open that cookbook and read Sondra’s inscription “To my very best friend with much love . Merry Christmas 1984. Sondra. Then the book practically falls open to the most used page with its directions for “Zippy Grits.” In my opinion, print cookbooks like this one will never be replaced by online recipes! Thank you, Sondra!
Parker Cheese Grits
1 cup quick grits
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup butter
2 cups shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (may use only cheddar if desired)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Bring 4 cups water to rapid boil, add salt and garlic powder. Add grits, stirring. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Turn off heat. While grits are still hot, add butter and cheese, blending well. Add milk to beaten eggs. Drop a spoonful of hot grits into egg and milk mixture and stir, tempering eggs before adding to pot of hot grits. Stir to combine, then pour into buttered 8X11 inch casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until mixture is set and top is golden brown, 45-55 minutes
With all the cooking happening at our house this time of year (birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving!) a shortcut that is not takeout food can be welcome. There are a number of pumpkin and or squash pasta sauces available in markets and gourmet cooking stores, but the one I used for this recipe came from Trader Joe’s and is my favorite so far. I had part of a jar left in the the frig and decided to turn it into soup. It worked! The results were good enough to repeat. If you want to use the whole jar (4 cups) for a bigger pot of soup, double the other ingredients.
Pumpkin Butternut Soup
1/2 jar or 2 cups Autumn Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce (found at Trader Joe’s)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half and half (more if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Balsamic vinegar reduction for swirl
Add pasta sauce to heavy sauce pan. Rinse out the jar with chicken broth and add along with salt and cinnamon. Heat on low until mixture begins to bubble. Stir in half and half to heat but do not bring to boil. Ladle into soup bowls and add a swirl of balsamic vinegar reduction on top. Serve with toasted French bread.
Pork Tenderloin continues to be one of my favorite choices for a variety of menus. I like to grill it and add interesting sides, put it in my slow cooker, or roast. For this dish, I rubbed the tenderloins with a spice blend combining black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, and basil. Make your own blend if you wish but I used Penzey’s 33rd and Galena rub for chicken and pork. I layered on slices of mango from a jar I got at Costco and added some dried cranberries. This works well with several combinations of fruit – peaches, apricots, and pineapple all work well. The result is a colorful and delicious entree.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mango and Cranberries
2 pork tenderloins
1 Tablespoon Penzey’s 33rd and Galena Spice Rub
2 -3 cups sliced mango
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle tenderloins on all sides with spice and rub it in. Place meat in Pyrex baking dish and surround with mangos. Spead cranberries over all. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until internal temperature tests 145 degrees.. Remove meat to serving platter, leaving fruit in dish. Then dust fruit with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, and return with sauce to oven for an additional 10-15 minutes or until it begins to caramelize. Remove from oven and spoon fruit and sauce over pork.
This rice has become a favorite side dish for our family. Especially this time of year, pecans star in many dishes. Many of the ones we use in our kitchen are locally raised. I am glad I found this recipe that was included with a Recipe.com issue for a chicken dish. I served it with roasted pork tenderloin. If you have little ones at your table who prefer their rice plain, save some for them before adding your rice to the butter and pecans.
Brown Butter Pecan Rice
1 cup Basmati rice, cooked
2 Tablespoons butter (I use unsalted)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
While rice is cooking, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, or until butter is brown and fragrant. Add chopped pecans and toast for 1 minute. When rice is ready, add to skillet with salt and stir to combine. Serve as a side for roasted pork or chicken.