Pumpkin Grits with Sausage and Onion

This week, the Northeast suffered a MASSIVE weather event. HUGE amounts of snow were predicted from Monday night into Tuesday. “Be prepared,” we were warned. “Stock up!”

Even if it had turned out worse in my area, which only saw about 10-12″ and no power outages (some areas nearby were worse off), I sincerely question any large-scale concern about having enough food. Caring for babies, people with medical conditions, etc.? Yes you need to take precautions. But most of us? So the power is out for a couple of days. Most people’s stock of pasta and peanut butter would last them weeks!

I didn’t have to resort to peanut noodles…though that actually sounds good right about now. Earlier in the week, I had come across a great recipe that could incorporate more of my freezer stash: a half of a package of italian sausage and some pumpkin purée. On Sunday night I transferred the items to the fridge to thaw. The recipe also called for rosemary, which fortunately I had snipped before the bush was buried in snow. Alas, I had power and gas on Tuesday! Once the driveway was plowed, and the work-from-home workday ended, I prepared a rather refined dinner.
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Pumpkin Grits with Sausage and Onion
Adapted from The New York Times Cooking
Serves 2 as a meal

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 bay leaf
3/4 Cup cornmeal grits (or fine polenta, or coarse cornmeal)
water as needed according to package directions
about 2/3 Cup – at least 6 ounces pumpkin purée
1.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
, more as needed
1/2 to 3/4 pounds sweet or hot Italian sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 large onion
, sliced into thin half moons
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Heat your water (3 cups in my case) in a medium pot with salt and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Gradually stir in the grits. Add the pumpkin.

Note: leaving a metal whisk in a metal pot as shown here is not a good idea.

Note: leaving a metal whisk in a metal pot as shown here is not a good idea.


Lower the heat so the mixture is at a simmer. Stir frequently until the grits are tender, about 30 minutes.

While the grits cook, prepare the sausage and caramelized onions.
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Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add your sausage, rosemary and fennel seeds.
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Cook and turn until the sausage is browned and cooked, about 10 minutes.
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Remove sausage from pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. There should be some oil remaining in the pan–if not, add some more. Add the onions and cook on low until they are soft and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
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When the grits are tender, stir in butter and black pepper. Add additional seasoning to taste.
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Return sausage to the onion pan and heat through. Spoon polenta into two bowls. Top with sausage and onion. Garnish with additional rosemary.
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Enjoy the snow while it lasts!

Shrimp and Grits

We’re eating healthy again! Sort of. Matt is in a weight loss competition among volunteer fire department members. So he is counting calories.  And I don’t want him to shed way more than me so I’m going to make a little more of an effort. Sadly, that means less ice cream, and more moderation.

You wouldn’t think that shrimp and grits is a low-calorie option. But I pulled this recipe out of a recent Cooking Light magazine, and supposedly one serving is less than 300 calories!  And Matt loves shrimp and grits, as a rule, so I was excited to make it for him.  The only issue was that I did have to do a bit of actual grocery shopping for it. I did have the the half-and-half hanging around, and the green onions from the farm share. Polenta makes yet another appearance. The shrimp is from a frozen 2 pound bag from Costco that hangs out in the freezer. The mushrooms I did buy fresh.

Shrimp and Grits with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: approximately 6

  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits or cornmeal polenta
  • 1.5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 Cup slightly packed in)
  • 5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

  • 1 Cup chopped white onion
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8-ounces of presliced mushrooms (I used 4 ounces white mushrooms and 4 ounces exotic mushroom mix)

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if you’re afraid of spice, lower the amount to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 Cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

  • 1/3 Cup chopped green onions

Bring 3 cups water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. While heating, make sure most ingredients are chopped, measured, and ready.
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Heat a large nonstick pan and cook bacon until crisp.  While this is cooking, you could whisk the grits/cornmeal into the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until smooth and desirable.
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Remove from heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cheese. Cover to keep warm.

A note about the cheese: the original recipe said 2 ounces, about 1/2 cup. But the size of your grated Parmesan must make a huge difference, because with my trusty kitchen scale I was well over the 1/2 Cup mark on my bowl and had just passed 1 ounce.  It seemed like a lot of cheese to me, so I stopped there.  I didn’t miss the parmesan flavor too much, more so on the second day reheat, so I would say 1.5 ounces is a safe bet.
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Add white onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 8 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown and give off liquid, stirring frequently. (At this point you could sautee a vegetable for the side, like green beans with garlic and red pepper like I did).
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Add shrimp and red pepper; cook 3 minutes.
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Combine half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. A note about the flour: you will see from my final product that the sauce is not quite as thick as I would  like. I used the original recipe, which called for 1 tablespoon of flour, but it did not really thicken up. I suspected that I should have mixed in more flour. My suspicion was proven correct based on this website at least, so I updated the website to specify 2 tablespoons.

I suppose the texture of my sauce could have been affected by the fact that I used lower-protein Better Than Bouillion Chicken Base–which, for the record, I bought because Cook’s Illustrated did a chicken stock/chicken broth test and rated this one of the top choices!
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Add broth, flour mixture, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened a bit.
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Top with green onions. Serve shrimp mixture with grits and green beans.
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Another great thing: it only took about 30 minutes to make this pretty fancy-looking meal!
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