When I started my first year of college, my daddy flew down with me to help me move into my dorm room and provide a familiar buffer against all of the unknowns. Well, that and to get more free checked baggage…
The night before the big “move -in” day, we stayed in a nice downtown hotel. In the morning, we headed down to the continental breakfast to fuel up before lugging duffel bags and suitcases up 11 flights of stairs.
I remember several snapshots from that morning.
It’s silly how memory works: I know exactly what I wore – short jean shorts with an army green tank top and a short sleeve beige cardigan, with a wooden headband holding back my new haircut. I remember putting so much effort to pick the perfect outfit simply to sweat in… but joking aside, I didn’t want my new roommate to think I was lame.
I remember there being a lot of options for a hotel breakfast. Sure, they had cereal and yogurt and a waffle iron… in fact, no matter how good of a cook I ever will be, no waffle will top a hotel waffle. There is something about the beeping that made me so nervous when I was kid, the sheer joy of being able to have a waffle just because I wanted one, and the anticipation to go on to wherever the hotel was a detour from… the nostalgia is better than any recipe.
But again, I digress. Aside from what you might expect, they had eggs and bacon and sausage and…. lumpy grey stuff. The label said grits.
I had heard of these. Deep South grits that for some reason people seemed to enjoy even though the name was inherently unappetizing. But hey, if I was going to make it in the South, I was going to like grits. Here goes bite one as this new Southern Belle. Watch out, Scarlett.
I think I spit it into my napkin.
From that moment, I decided grits were nasty. My later experience in the university dining hall confirmed this conviction. But eventually, when I was talking to a nice Southern man, he told me that I only despised them so much because I never had them the right way. And boy, was he right.
Now I’m in love…
Cheese grits, plain grits, shrimp ’n grits. I love them all. So of course I had to learn to make them.
This is my favorite recipe for my Southern brunch. They are velvety and tangy; they go well with shrimp or just on their own.
I assure you, these won’t end up in a napkin.
Prep Step! Get your grits ingredients ready. No rush on the shrimp part – you have time while the grits cool. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Bring the milk, butter, and water to boil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the grits, whisking them in. For you northerners out there, don’t just dump the grits in. They will clump. Bad.
Cover it, stick it in the oven, and bake, bake, bake. They’ll stay in there about 20 – 30 minutes. But you have to take them out about halfway through to add some wine, so pay attention. Halfway through, stir in the wine, and return it to the oven.
More Prep! Get all that shrimp stuff ready. Chop, chop!
Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté for two to three minutes. Dump in the peppers and tomatoes, and sauté for another four minutes. Now, deglaze the pan with the wine and lemon juice.
What is this “deglazing” business?
Deglazing happens when you add a cold liquid to a very hot pan or pot- it releases the little brown, tasty bits from the bottom of the pan and adds them to the sauce. Om nom.
Add those shrimp and continue to cook until the shrimp are just done – they should be pink.
Take the grits out – add the cheeses. Plate and add the shrimp – serve!
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Southern food. It’s comfort food; what’s not to like?!? But I also laugh a little bit when a nice Southern feast is served – brown, brown, tan, and brown.
It’s easy to feel unhealthy while you feel oh-so-satisfied and full of gravy, grits, and biscuits. Adding this light and yummy salad will trick your stomach into thinking that you are being healthy, and your taste buds will appreciate it too!
Prep all of your ingredients – cut the melon, crumble the cheese, yada yada.
Make your vinaigrette. Make sure that you add the oil SLOWLY!
Is that really necessary? How come these ingredients are having family feuds?!
Oil and vinegar are not meant to mix. When you get all chemistry about it, vinegar is polar and and oil is non-polar. They are not friends. They are not soluble. So you have to confuse them into mingling. This is why dressings (like Italian) settle in the fridge and you have to shake them up before using. Not a sign of something bad, just a chemistry war going on.
Put all those salad ingredients together on a plate and drizzle with your homemade vinaigrette! Voila!
Simple. Tasty. Healthy.
Brunch is the best meal of the day. Period.
You can go sweet, you can go savory. You can go both. You can have appetizers, you can have desserts. You can drink with no one judging you. What could be better?
I first tried biscuits and gravy at one of my favorite brunch spots. But what could be better than homemade? Being from the north, I was very confused about the whole gravy thing. I mean, is it necessary to put carbs on your carbs? One bite of this and the answer is “hell, yea!”
The first time I made gravy, I missed the part about adding the milk slowly. Womp womp. Flop. I ended up with a milky mess. Take two was much better. And it was carby heaven that sent me off to nap time dreams of fluffy and creamy goodness.
Biscuits and gravy is a classic, and this is a simple yet tasty rendition. Be careful with the milk!
First, make the biscuits.
Prep Step! Measure out all of your ingredients.
Mix your dry ingredients. Then, using SUPER cold butter, cut the butter into the flour mix with a pastry cutter (or use your fingers, but be careful because they’re warm).
Mix in the buttermilk, form your biscuits, and pop ’em in the oven.
Now, make the gravy
Prep Step! Lay out all of your ingredients, and set a pan over medium heat.
Add your sausage to the pan. I like to do it in one big lump and then break it up as I go. This ensures that I never get too small of pieces. As a serious sausage lover, the bigger the better!
Now add your flour. Stir it around until the flour coats the sausage. You’re ready for the milk!
Add you milk SLOWLY, whisking it in as you go. Once it’s all in, whisk it around a bit more and let it cook until it is a good consistency.
Turn your heat down to low for the gravy and start your eggs. Serve it up!
I saw a picture on the internet recently that had replaced Mars’ solar ranking with Louisiana. If you’ve even been in the summer, you would agree that it can’t be too far off!
This cocktail is the perfect summer night (or morning, whatever) cool down. It combines sweet, ripe peaches with the earthy and robust taste of whiskey. You can sweeten it up or not all. You can choose a simple sparkling wine or a sweet champagne.
Cocktails technically have recipes, but I say go with whatever floats your boat – this is a suggestion that you can tweak to your heart’s content!
Prepare your ingredients! Separate the mint, chop the peaches, cut a lemon, slice one for garnish, and get your alcohol nearby
Put a few ice cubes in the bottom of the shaker. Add the peaches, mint, and juice of the lemon. Pour the amount of whiskey that is desired, and add any simple syrup that you would like.
Note: You’ll see from my picture that I chose a pretty cheap whiskey. I have acquired a “whiskey snob” taste from my family, but it’s not worth the cost when you’re mixing with flavors that will mask what makes expensive booze good. Save your money on this cocktail.
Shake, shake, shake! Pro Tip: Cocktails mix best when you come up with a dance. 😉
Pour the whiskey mix into a glass of choice (I used a white wine glass – a champagne flute would be much more classy). Fill the glass with your desired bubbly. Add garnishes of mint and peach.
Sip on the porch under a fan and laugh at the weather – it can’t rain on your parade with this drink in hand!
3….2….1…….. LAUNCH THE BLOG!
I am beyond excited to finally share this project of mine with you! Trust me, it has been “in the making” for an embarrassingly long time…
I suppose it all started with the first time I baked a cake. Head over to my page titled “Hi, my name is Mara May…” to read about that er, interesting experiment.
But it really started with a well-tended rhubarb patch and a need for sugar. My dad, who didn’t cook much, made THE BEST rhubarb crunch when I was growing up. That recipe was genius. It was good warm or cold. It was crunchy yet soft and sweet yet tangy enough to make you pucker up. Add a scoop of plain ol’ vanilla ice cream, and you had a perfect summer night.
After learning how to make that a few times, I decided to venture from the familiar. My grandpa always came over for dinner on Sundays, and we would, like clockwork, make a stop at the pie shop to get a treat for dessert. The pies! Classic apple pie – or with custard or crumb top. Fruit pies, cream pies, inbetween pies. Special pies each month. I loved those pies. I was going to make a pie.
And it. was. delicious.
After rhubarb pie, I started throwing all kinds of fruits in there. I dreamed of having a pie shop of my own when I was grown up.
But instead I went to college. I left Wisconsin and entered into the different but exciting experience of New Orleans. I wanted to bake for all of my new friends…. except serving pie in a dorm is tough. I would have needed a whole cart of materials to serve perfect slices on plate to everyone I knew. Hm.
And then…. epiphany! Cupcakes. Mind you, this was before the cupcake craze, so it didn’t seem 100% obvious. This was a way that I could make everyone happy in a small, hand-held, no-forks-required way. Brilliant!
So that’s how it started. Never one to pass up the opportunity for creativity, I soon began writing my own recipes. If I could imagine it, I could make it. Now, I am ready to share these recipes with you! Hooray!
My interests and talent thankfully extend beyond cupcakes, or I would have to roll down the street rather than walk by now. I will share all kinds of recipes with you – please use the archived categories to easily navigate through them and find what you need!
If you ever would like a recipe for something or have a question about how to tweak one you love, ask away! I can’t wait for this to become an awesome collaboration.
What could be better to celebrate the new chapter of cooking life than some simple celebration cupcakes? Whether you have a birthday, an office party, or just a bad day, these cupcakes will put a smile on everyone’s face. They taste familiar, like your childhood birthday parties, and you will love them! Whether you’re a novice baker or you have some tasty treats in your repertoire, these cakes are simple to prepare and disappear of the plate quickly.
I always start off with my ingredients. Prepping ahead makes for easy baking. Now, that’s not to say I don’t ever get an idea and toss something else in. That happens quite a lot, actually. But you can always try to measure first!
A FEW THINGS BEFORE WE GET STARTED.
Prepare all of your ingredients – measure them out and get them ready to go. Refer to the recipe at the bottom for the amounts.
You have probably read many recipes that tell you to let the eggs warm up ahead of time – what’s with that?
Room temperature eggs incorporate more evenly into your batter and whip to a much fluffier volume. So, while this is pretty important for a cheesecake or a meringue, I have not found any dire need to let my eggs hang out on the counter for a while before baking plain ole cake.
Mix those dry ingredients in a separate bowl. A fork is best because, well, that’s what everybody says. Joking aside, you want to keep your flour nice and airy.
Add your butter to the mixing bowl and beat on medium for a hot second. Then, add your sugar in there and mix it up. Mix mix mix.
Add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides in between each egg. Do not over mix at this point, but you do want the eggs incorporated all the way. Then add your vanilla and mix.
Do the eggs really hate each other that much? Why do they have to be alone?
It actually is an important step – mixing into your fat (butter) is not that easy for eggs to do, so adding them one at a time encourages an even dispersion of ingredients.
Now put it all together. Add about 1/3 of your dry ingredients and mix. Then add 1/2 of your liquid. Repeat until done!
Again, these ingreidents are for real picky! Who cares what goes in first?! It’s all getting mixed together anyway!
A cake is a crumb mixture. Which means you do not want those strong gluten bonds forming. The bonds form when flour gets friendly with your liquid. So they need their “room for Jesus,” as they always used to say at school dances, which is what the fat does. By added the dry ingredients first, you are protecting the flour with a layer of fat, which will give you a good crumb in the end.
In the oven it goes!
Now you can start your frosting. It is important that the butter is at room temperature. I always beat the butter first before adding the sugar. Then whip it good! Add the cream to your desired consistency, and there you go.
I use Wilton frosting bags and tips for a special finish. If you just want to top the cakes off with a knife swirl of frosting, that’s totally ok!
Once you cut the bottom of the bag and put the frosting tip in, rest the bag in a drinking glass – it supports the bag nicely so that you can use both hands to fill ‘er up!
Pipe. Eat. Om nom nom.