Friday, May 27, 2016

Culinary Pursuits: Shrimp & "Grits" Stuffed Bellpeppers

Where my G.R.I.T.S. at?! For those of you who don't know, G.R.I.T.S. stands for Girls Raised in the South. Southern girls are a special breed, and this southern gal has a super fun and fancy sounding dish that's deceptively healthy and simple to make. Who here likes shrimp and grits?!

Fun fact: Since I was born and raised in South Carolina where shrimp and grits happens to be the official state dish, I know a thing or two about some grits. I loved eating them growing up with sausage, cheese, or puddin' (Google it if you don't know what that is!), but with my transition to a healthier lifestyle I've all but stopped eating them sans the special occasional treat. Fortunately, I've found a way to partake in this Southern favorite that fits within my healthier lifestyle. Enter my shrimp and "grits" stuffed bell peppers where the "grits" are really pulsed cauliflower (shhh, don't tell the kids). Check out the recipe below:
This is what you'll end up with:) Keep reading to see how I made it!

16 ounces of Green Giants cauliflower crumbles* (see note below)
3 medium sized bell peppers
1 tablespoon of olive oil (toss the shrimp in)
Olive oil cooking spray (I used Pam)
12 oz of medium shrimp with tails, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup of So Delicious Dairy Free unsweetened coconut milk** (see note below)
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of goat cheese for garnish
This is what the packaging looks like for the Cauliflower Crumbles.
Black pepper (see directions for specific amounts)
Sea Salt (see directions for specific amounts)
1/2 tsp of Tony Chachere's creole seasoning

The night before toss your shrimp in a tablespoon of olive oil with Tony Chachere's creole seasoning, 1/4 tsp of black pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. Cover shrimp with saran wrap and let marinate overnight. (If you don't have time for this step just do it for 15 minutes and it'll still come out tasty).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice your bell peppers in half, discarding the seeds and the stems. Spray each half with olive oil cooking spray and then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
Put your bell peppers in the oven and let them roast for 35 minutes.
Add cauliflower, coconut milk, and onions to food processor. Do not cook/steam the cauliflower before pulsing! If you do that, you're likely to end up with a texture more reminiscent of mashed potatoes than of grits.
Pulse in short bursts until it has a grits like texture (3-4 mins).
This is what it should look like.
Remove the cauliflower mixture from your food processor and put it into a pot on the stove at medium-high heat.
Add 1/2 tsp of sea salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and a tablespoon of unsalted butter to the mixture and stir regularly for 5 minutes.

Lower the stove temp to a simmer, cover the pot, and let the cauliflower cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While your cauliflower is simmering, cook your shrimp on medium-high heat (~45-60 secs per side, then flip).
Once your bell peppers are done roasting, take them out of the oven.
This is what the "cauliflower" should look like when your done.
Scoop 1/2 cup of the cauliflower mixture into each bell pepper and don't skimp on the shrimp! I topped each bell pepper half with about 5-6 pieces. Sprinkle ~1 tablespoon of goat cheese on top of each bell pepper half and pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
shrimp and grits

Let them cool for a few minutes, plate, then dig in!

*I got the cauliflower crumbles at Walmart, but I've also seen them at Target. If you can't find them though, no worries. Just coarsely chop a large head of cauliflower and pulse it a little longer to get the grits like texture.

**If you're worried, I couldn't detect any coconut at the end.

You can't beat this meal. It's got veggies and seafood with incredible flavor and it's nice and filling.
Bonus: This tastes even better on day 2 and day 3 (if it lasts that long!) If you have leftovers, I recommend mixing the shrimp in with the "grits" so that the "grits" can soak up some of the creole seasoning from the shrimp.

Happy Friday! Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend:)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A "Spicy" Sunday Brunch

Sometimes life happens. You may plan the meals you're going to prepare for the week and then decide to completely change the menu so that you can feature one spice that you came across while doing some shopping after a Sunday brunch.

In case you were wondering, I'm describing my situation. I went out to brunch with some friends exactly one week ago at a restaurant called Driftwood in Raleigh.

The brunch was fabulous. They do a brunch buffet which is a win for anyone who has trouble deciding on a dish at restaurants (raises hand - ooo me, me!).

The food was delicious and the interior of the restaurant is really cute and charming.

If you live in the area or happen to be visiting, you should definitely check it out.

*Sidenote: Between the Olde Pink House and Driftwood I'm on a roll for picking some amazing restaurants.

Driftwood happens to be in this little outdoor plaza/shopping center that also has a spice shop.

One of my friends knew about it and suggested we pop in. Considering I had heard about the shop before and wanted to drop by, I was definitely game.
The best part about the shop is that you get to smell and taste virtually every spice they have. So naturally, I did. As I made my way through the store, I came across the barbecue and grilling section and laid my eyes on one spice in particular - Georgia Boys All Purpose BBQ rub. I looked at it for a second and something in me said this one will be special. Maybe Savannah was still subconsciously on my mind, or maybe I'm a spice whisperer. Whatever it was, I'm glad for the instinct.

The spice was other worldly. The first words out of my mouth were oh my God. I then preceded to taste it two more times to have a measure of scientific certainty that it was as amazing as the first time. It was. I then preceded to call my friends over to taste it and they carried out the exact same steps as I had confirming my initial findings. This stuff is heavenly. I plan to put it on everything, just everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!

To start with, I kept it simple and used it for baked chicken and roasted sweet potatoes. It was such an incredibly flavorful yet simple meal.

I also bought some black onyx chocolate sugar. If the Georgia boys spice was heavenly, this was devilish. It was sinfully good. I'm not even going to cook with it. I just plan to sprinkle it on hot desserts (think Trader's Joes mini churros), baked goods, and ice cream.

You'll be seeing a recipe with the BBQ rub pretty soon, so be on the lookout.
Happy Sunday!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Savannah Style: Day 2

Here's a look at what I wore for day 2 of sightseeing around Savannah.
Funny story about these last few pics. We were walking past this gated building and my sister mentioned that it would be a nice backdrop for some pictures. Totally. Only one problem - it's gated. Feeling adventurous, I'm like what the heck, I'll hop the gate. I manage to wedge my foot into one of the holes and get over. Great. We get some cool shots and the mini photoshoot is a wrap.

 Now it's time to hop back over the gate. As I plant my feet into one of the holes, just as I had done before, the gate quickly parts open and I almost bust my behind on the cobblestone. 

There was a brief pause to make sure nothing other than my pride was bruised, and then my sisters and I burst into laughter. It never occurred to me to check to see if the gate would open. It was like a scene straight out of a movie (think Bridesmaids when she climbs the fence and as she's straddling it the gate slowly starts to open).
 Life lesson - sometimes life is simple. 
I loved this look. It felt nice and breezy as we walked around, but still put together with minimal effort. Adult onesies for the win!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Savannah Style: Day 1

I thought about combining the two outfits into one post, but I loved these looks so much that I wanted to give each one its time to shine. Both outfits came from Target and were under $30 a piece. #Targetforthewin:)
Dress: Target, Shoes: Steve Madden via Macy's, Bag: Ralph Lauren via Macy's, Bangle: Thrifted, Assorted Rings: Old Navy, Fan: World Market

Outfit 2 coming up soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sister Summit in Savannah!

Last weekend my sisters and I went down to Savannah to celebrate my oldest sister's birthday. It was the first trip that just the three of us had taken (I think ever) so I dubbed it our "Sister Summit in Savannah." It was nice for us to be in a different space, just the three of us, and relax. We're at a stage now where we hang out because we genuinely like each other - who knew?! I'm so grateful for the relationship we have now. It takes work, and we definitely still fight, but my sisters are my day ones:)

Where we stayed
Our accommodations were top notch. We stayed at the Olde Harbour Inn in the Riverview suite. Every afternoon hotel staff came around and brought an ice cream treat for the guests, in the evening there was a wine and cheese reception in the hotel lobby, and they offered a breakfast buffet each morning. It's not your big box hotel, so it has a cozy and charming feel to it which I loved. As far as location, it's right in the heart of things, so we were able to do a good bit of exploring without having to move our car. This turned out to be a good thing as the streets were completely lined with cobblestone - great for taking pictures, not so great for driving or walking in heels. We actually saw one girl in heels who took two steps from her car and then immediately turned right back around.

The View
We were right by the water and it was beautiful. As the sun set you could see headlights from cars illuminate the bridge off in the distance. 

The Shops
When we went exploring around the hotel there were a bunch of little touristy and specialty shops selling food and other trinkets. I picked up a couple incredible smelling soaps, some jams, two fans, a brass minute glass with pink sand, and a shirt that changes colors in the sun:) I wore it yesterday and couldn't stop grinning while I was out running errands. I felt like a secret agent sitting on classified information that no one around me knew. (yes, I'm a dork - I own it).

The Food
I filled my belly with some delicious food during our trip. For my sister's birthday dinner, we ended up going to a restaurant called the Olde Pink House, which is an actual old pink house. It was walking distance from the hotel which was perfect.

Caramelized vidalia onion sweet potato ravioli with oyster mushrooms and a savory pecan cream sauce.

I love going to restaurants in the South because "bread basket" means biscuits and corn muffins. They were honey biscuits guys. The kind that you would pay for on their own and they were giving them away for free. The corn muffins were literally knock your socks off good. The food would have been amazing if it ended there but it got even better. We all sampled each other's dishes and between the three of us we ordered the crispy fried lobster tails, a sweet potato ravioli, and some pork chops. The MVP of the night in my opinion was the fried lobster tails. I could tell it was masterfully seasoned before I even started chewing the lobster. A runner up was definitely the mac and cheese. They had to have gotten the recipe from someone's big mama. This is the type of restaurant that I'll have to hit up anytime I'm in the area. There were a bunch of other items on their menu that I must try like the "Southern sushi" and goat cheese fritters.

We also hit up a couple of Asian and Asian fusion spots that did not disappoint:)
"Spider Roll" with tempura crab

I found a couple of new snacks too that I'll be featuring in the next segment of my snack easy series so be on the lookout for that next month.

Check back later in the week to see a recap of my Savannah style:)