Monday, June 20, 2011

Cornmeal Anthropology

Today, students, we are going to talk about grits. Most specifically, the Pioneer Woman's Cheese Grits (p. 164).  When a lot of people think of grits, they just think of a mushy, soupy cornmeal mash - and Southern people. And, while grits are a mushy, soupy cornmeal mash, they are exceedingly tasty and have a very interesting history. Enter here Food Anthropology 101.

Grits are made of roughly ground corn, or maize. Corn is something we take for granted. We eat it. Cows eat it. Our cars eat it. Most highly processed foods contain corn in the form of syrup. But corn was not always so ubiquitous. It was domesticated from a grass in Mexico 8,700 years ago, according to National Geographic. Corn is older than dirt, y'all. Well, kind of.

Grits are a form of ground corn that is baked and mixed with a variety of ingredients. The word grits is an English variation of the German word, "grutze," and the Italian word, "gruzzi". And we thought it was just an American word derived from the sound it makes between your teeth. Okay, so maybe all this history doesn't automatically make grits into the high-class food we were trying to persuade you that it was. But, we do promise that this 8,700-year-old food, with a little help from cheese, cayenne and garlic, will hit the spot. Add it to your comfort food syllabus.

We started by boiling nine cups of salted water. To the boiling water we added two cups of quick grits. These took about five minutes to cook.

On the side, we whisked together four eggs, tempering them with small spoonfuls of warm grits. We then added the egg mixture to the large pot of grits.

Then came the butter. Someday we'll lecture on the origins of butter, since we know you've yet to have your fill of food history.

Sharp cheddar cheese was added. A yummy and obscene amount of sharp cheddar cheese.

We stirred until all the cheese melted. Next we added the garlic and cayenne. Ree even suggests jalapenos, green chiles or Rotel. This time we decided to keep it simple. Ree's directions say to place this in a baking dish. We, however, were a bit weary of doing dishes at the time and decided to leave it in the Dutch oven to cook. This tasty mush baked for about 40 minutes, due to the deepness of the Dutch oven.

This recipe is like macaroni-and-cheese, without the macaroni. Or maybe blended macaroni-and-cheese. On second thought, don't try that. Lou was craving mac-and-cheese after her wisdom teeth were removed, tried the blended version and found it to be less than stellar. Too many pudding cups will cause you to try strange things. Especially after anesthesia. But, we digress. All of this to say, the grits are oh-so-mushy and oh-so-good.

The guys roasted two, whole chickens on the grill, we roasted broccoli and cauliflower in the oven and had a feast.

Thank you for your attention. You've earned three credit points and a bowl full of cheesy grits.

Happily full,

Monday, June 13, 2011

You know you're old when... request vegetables for your birthday.

Now, these are no ordinary vegetables. These are a party for your tastebuds.

Mr. Fabuful turned 30 last week. Welcome to the fourth decade, Mr. Fabuful. We celebrated with a small, family shindig this past weekend. It just so happened that the day of the party was his sister's-in-law 23rd birthday.

Per Mr. Fabuful's request, we made the spicy pulled pork tacos (just as great, grand and wonderful the second time around). To accompany this, we decided to make the Pioneer Woman's Pico de Gallo (p. 16) and her Guacamole (p. 20). Her guac uses the pico, so we killed two recipe birds with one stone...or rather, used one potato masher, in our case.

We began by dicing red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos. Lou and Jo both got to work chopping because we were preparing such a large batch for the party. Thanks to Mr. Fabuful for manning the camera during our 10 years hard labor. Teehee.

These ingredients were mixed together along with some lime juice.

Pico: straight forward and delicious. A party in your mouth.

Next, we sliced avocados and removed the pits. Please admire Jo's manicure. Thank you, Momma Vickie!

We removed the flesh to a mixing bowl and salted it to taste.

Any stress from the party prepping was resolved with a good avocado mashing.

Next, we introduced the pico to the guac, and they entered the bonds of culinary matrimony. Actually, the ingredients just married really well.

 Lime juice was sprinkled on top to keep the avocado nice and green. A party in your mouth, again.

Here is the full spread for the birthday meal.

After the meal, the pyrotechnic show began. No angel food cakes were harmed in this display.

Happy birthday, Mr. Fabuful!

Happily full,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Youmana, Imana. We all Numana.

Last Saturday Lou and Jo headed up the interstate to McPherson. The gold minivan? We didn't drive her. So we didn't get lost. And Lou didn't navigate. And Jo didn't listen to Lou's navigating. Instead, we ate muffins and minded our own business.

When we arrived at the McPherson College sports arena we were greeted by a large semi trailer parked outside full of food for Haiti.

All of the volunteers were very helpful in getting us to the registration table, the bathrooms (very important) and showing us to our table.

Here we are. Undeniably hawt.

These are the packets that contain rice, vitamins, soy/chicken bullion and dried beans. We took turns with different tasks at our table of enjoyable octogenarians. The McPherson event further proved volunteers can be of any age to donate their time to Numana.

When we arrived at 10:30 in the morning, 50,000 meals had been packaged. By the time we left at 1:00 in the afternoon, 97,000 meals were ready to go to Haiti. The grand total for the day was over 217,000 meals. Way to go McPherson County!

As we've mentioned before, a gong is rung for every 5,000 meals packaged. What a great morale booster.

We had a chance to meet Rick McNary, Numana's CEO, as he went around thanking volunteers for their time and efforts. Mr. McNary shared his passion for feeding the starving. That passion was first ignited by meeting a small child asking to be fed and has grown into an organization that has fed millions in the past year-and-a-half. It was a joy to be a part of such a giving group of folks working for a common cause. If you, your friends or family would ever like to help out or donate to Numana's fight against hunger, check them out here.


Thankfully full,