Grits with Bacon 1

Creamy, smokey, sweet, spicy. How do you like all four of those adjectives in one dish? Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Now what if I say grits? Wait…wait…don’t click the back botton on your browser. Feel better if I say polenta? If not, you still are going to wait to stay on this page. Because this isn’t your standard cheap, instant grits served at some greasy diner, that have the character of cardboard. No, these are grits that are taken to the next level – to dare I say main course status. Bacon. Hatch Chiles. Fresh Corn on the Cob. Do I have your attention now?

Stone Ground Grits

Choosing the Right Grits or Polenta
You need to start by choosing the right type of grits. You don’t want instant. The best choice is stone ground. I like the stone ground grits from Bob’s Red Mill, easily found at most supermarkets. You can tell it’s stone ground if the pieces don’t look uniform as in the above photo. This means better texture and flavor. Also you want it to say on the package keep cold or refrigerated. This means that the grits contain the whole grain, which can spoil if left out at room temperature. The whole grain has more health benefits. So don’t cheap on the grits. Get the good stuff. Your body and taste buds will appreciate it.

Whole Foods Black Forest Bacon

The Bacon I Chose
Pick your favorite bacon. The bacon I picked was a Black Forest bacon, made in house at my local Whole Foods Market. I do recommend finding a store that does make their bacon in house and sells it in bulk, so you can get the freshest product and get exactly the amount you want. The bacon I bought was expensive per pound, but I had the option of buying exactly what I needed. In the end I spend as much as I would have had a package of cheap, low quality bacon.

Hatch Chiles

Hatch Chile Peppers
A combination I love is when you add something spicy to something creamy. I first did that in my Hatch Chile creamed corn. Hatch and corn are a great combo. I got my Hatch Chile peppers directly from my friends at Frieda’s Produce. To maximize their flavor potential I always broiled them in the oven first (you can also do it on the grill). I freeze the leftovers to add to dishes throughout the fall and winter. Hatch peppers can vary in levels of heat. So slowly add to your dish until you taste what you are dealing with. If they are too mild for your liking, you can always add a dash or two of ground cayenne pepper or hot paprika. If Hatch peppers are not in season, you can opt for an Anaheim, Poblano, or just chop up a jalapeno and add it directly.

Grits with Bacon 2

While grits are normally seen as a breakfast dish, this is a way to make them your entire dinner. I ate this for dinner for two nights. It did very well reheated. And had all the flavors you would want in a dish.

Grits with Roasted Hatch Chiles, Bacon, and Fresh Corn
 
Ingredients
  • 5 strips of bacon
  • 2 ears of fresh corn
  • 1 roasted Hatch chile pepper (can also use a Jalapeno, Poblano, or Anaheim)
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups stone ground grits
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
Roasting the pepper
  1. *Skip this step if you are using a Jalapeno. They are a little small to be roasting in my opinion
  2. Set your oven to broil. Place your pepper on a sheet pan and into the oven.
  3. Cook until the skin has been blistering and is turning black about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side.
  4. Remove from the oven and place into a bowl. Then cover with plastic wrap.
Cooking the grits
  1. In a wide and deep pan bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Slowly add the polenta, stirring while adding. Simmer stirring often until thick about 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Taste to see if done. If not soft enough, add a little more water and continue to simmer until softer.
  3. Stir in the butter and cheese until they melt.
  4. When finished, keep over the lowest setting on your cook top.
Cooking the bacon
  1. Place the bacon in a cold frying pan. Cook over medium heat.
  2. Once the bacon is browned on one side, flip it over. Cook until crispy. Set aside.
  3. Pour the bacon fat into a bowl and set aside, do not discard.
Cooking the corn
  1. Strip the corn off the cob with a sharp knife.
  2. Put enough bacon fat back in the pan to coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Set to medium high heat and add the corn.
  4. Cook until the corn darkens and color and is browned just slightly. Remove from the heat.
Put the dish together
  1. Remove the skin from your pepper as well as the seeds. Slice and mix into the grits.
  2. Cut the bacon in bite sized pieces and stir into the grits. Then add the corn.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cayenne pepper if you think it needs more heat (optional)

 

Roth Ultimate Mac & Cheese Blend Review (Cast Iron Mac & Cheese Recipe)

in Pasta

Roth Ulimate Mac

Don’t you love it when you see something on sale that you also have coupon for. It’s a double win. I had this experience at Whole Foods last week. I found these new cheese blends from Roth Cheese. They are one of the best cheese makers out of Wisconsin. They are known for their alpine style cheese, Grand Cru. It originally had “gruyere” in it’s name but that was dropped. The cheese is not made in the Gruyere region of Switzerland and they wanted to respect Swiss AOC rules, which are meant to control the designation of origins of a product. This is concept is used a lot in European countries. There are similar things in the U.S. Sweet onions not grown in the Vidalia region of Georgia cannot be called Vidalia onions.

Roth Ulimate Mac

What is in the Ulimate Mac & Cheese Blend?
This blend is made up of three different types of cheese – Grand Cru, Havarti, and Sharp Cheddar. Sharp cheddar is what I typically use in mac & cheese. The sharp cheddar brings the tang. The Havarti is more mild, but is creamy and buttery. The Grand Cru is a rich cheese.
I normally don’t buy already shredded cheese blends, but in this case with the sale and coupon it was worth it. Buying all three cheeses separately would be costly.

Cast Iron Mac Cheese

My Thoughts
Did this mix make the Ulimate Mac & Cheese. I would say so. I have mixed sharp cheddar with gouda before with great results, but this was even better than that. These 3 cheeses worked really well together, each providing something different to the dish. It was cheesy, nutty, rich, creamy, and buttery. In other words, it had it all! Also I found that leftovers with this combo were better than leftovers are normally. When I do just straight up cheddar, the cheese on the leftovers can be clumpy, but we felt when we re-heated this mac & cheese it was smoother. I think it definitely had something to do with the cheeses that we used.

To learn more about the Ultimate cheese blends from Roth cheese, check out their website. The two other blends they have are Ultimate Flatbread (Grand Cru® Alpine-style, Mild Provolone & Fontiago®) and Ultimate Firehouse Grand Cru® Alpine-style, 3 Chile Pepper Gouda & Smoked Fontina.

Cast Iron Mac Cheese

Below you will find my recipe for making mac & cheese in cast iron using this cheese blend. I like the cast iron because it gets the pasta that is touching the bottom and the edges nice and brown, way better than glass pan ever could.

Cast Iron Mac & Cheese
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces pasta (Penne, Elbow, Cavatappi)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • 6 oz Roth Ultimate Mac & Cheese blend
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Instructions
For preparing the pasta
  1. Bring about a gallon of water to a boil in a large pot. Salt the water so it tastes like sea water.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and set aside.
For making the sauce
  1. Melt the butter in pot over medium heat. Cook the butter until it takes on some brown color, but not black.
  2. Stir in the flour and dry mustard. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Then add the milk.
  4. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring regularly. Slowly add the cheese, stirring until it completely melts.
  5. Mix the cheese and the pasta together.
Cooking in the cast iron
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Choose a cast iron skillet. Just before cooking, spray the cast iron with cooking oil, or put a few drops of oil in the center and rub in it with a paper towel. This should help prevent sticking.
  3. Add the mac & cheese to the skillet. Smooth it out with a spatula so it is in an even layer.
  4. Bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cheese has browned.
  5. Remove carefully from the oven and serve.

 

Moon Drops Grapes

in Fruit & Vegetables

Moon Drops Grapes

Attention all conspiracy theorists – aliens from the moon are invading produce departments across the country. They are leaving their “drops” from “the moon” for unexpected customers. These may be the same aliens that brought that weird looking “fruit” the pomegranate. Is this part of their eventual plan to overthrow the earth and enslave us all? Actually you can put your pitch forks and shotguns down. These Moon Drops aren’t part of an alien invasion. They are yet another grape innovation, coming to you from our friends at Grapery.

Moon Drops Grapes

Grapery has been changing the perception of the way grapes taste, which has been clear with their Cotton Candy grapes. They also are changing the perception of the way grapes should look. We think of grapes as being round or oval. Thanks to Grapery, we can now add rectangle to the mix. Moon Drops are here. A black, seedless sweet grape, that has a elongated shape. The grape comes to a blunt end where it has an indentation – kind of like a dimple. The unique shape of this grape gives it an amazing bite. Really crisp. Never experienced anything quite like that in a grape. People who clamor for crisp fruit, will fall in love with these Moon Drops. The flavor of the grape isn’t as unique a flavor as Cotton Candy yet it is still very flavorful black grape. I doubt you will find a better tasting black grape.

Moon Drop grapes

This variety isn’t exactly new this season. Last year it was included in their Witch Finger line as you can see in the bag above. However after feedback from their consumers Grapery felt it was time to give them their own name. They thought originally about coming up with a name to cover all their uniquely shaped grapes. Consumer feedback showed that these grapes were different enough they deserved their own name. Therefore they conducted an online consumer naming contest. They generated 893 name suggestions! The names were then ranked in order of consumer preference and the name Moon Drops was the clear winner. Other finalists included Finger Snaps, Snap Dragons, Firecrackers, and Dimples. I think they got it right with the name Moon Drops.

Moon Drops Grapes

Look for Moon Drops grapes at the same retailers where you find Cotton Candy grapes (see my list for 2015). I found them this year at Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Grapery Vineyard

Availability of these grapes will increase with time. When I visited the Grapery’s vineyards back in March, I was showed some 1 year old Moon Drops vines.

Busch’s Ups Their Local Game

in Where I Buy Food

Busch's Local

Anyone that knows me or read this blog, knows that I am passionate about local food. Not only does it support the community or state you live in, but most the time you are supporting small farmers who need it and in the end you are getting a better product. Sometimes it’s even something you would never get anywhere else (that’s how I have tried as many apples as I have). You will find me at the farmer’s market each and every week during the height of the season. Somewhere else you might find me now looking for local produce, meats, and cheeses is Busch’s Fresh Food Market. In 2015, I have been super impressed with how the company has really upped their local game. Many stores are doing local, some just get their feet wet, but Busch’s is diving head first into it.

Busch's Local

Let me give you a sample of what you might find and why I felt it was worth my time to talk about them today. It’s not everything they have locally, just a few things I want to highlight.

The Produce

Busch's Local

When it comes to local, there is nothing more important than produce. When you enter their produce section they are local signs and stickers everywhere. Plenty of stores do local. It is easy to have local corn, blueberries, or apples here in Michigan when in season. Every grocery store carries those items. Busch’s has those items but they also carry things that other larger chains typically don’t. They had some wonderful local cherries in July that were black as a cherry can get and rich in flavor.

Busch's Local

They have local organic potatoes from one of my favorite vendors at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, Tantre Farms. It’s getting a piece of the farmer’s market any day of the week. I recently heard that their Ann Arbor store on Plymouth/Green Road is going to carry organic garlic from Dyer Family Organic Farm, who I featured in my 1st issue of my e-book series “Fruits of Their Labor“.

Busch's Local

Busch's Local

They have plenty of local greens from kale to salad mixes. I also saw tomatoes, summer squashes, micro greens, onions, fava beans, green beans and more.

I am really excited to see what they will offer as we get into the bounty of the autumn harvest season, particularly apples!

The Grocery Aisle

Busch's Local

As we walk through their grocery department, there are stickers all over the place highlight locally made products. You can find all your favorite local items, as well as many I haven’t seen at other stores like the uniquely flavored peanut butters from the Granola Tree.

Busch's Local

One of the coolest things I spotted was this canola oil from B&B Farms. Most canola oil you find in stores is from Canada and is nearly all made from GMO canola. This oil is made from non-GMO seed and is cold pressed.

Cheese

Busch's Local

Plenty of selection of local cheese available – many of them were on sale during my visit. Farm Country Cheese was one of the featured producers that was on ad. I tried both their Colby and Monterrey jack cheese. Both were cut into small, thin blocks which I liked. Both these cheeses were so good, I came back a few days later to buy some more.

Meat

Busch's Local

As I was heading out the door, I noticed a sign advertising a one day sale on house made sausage. The best part is that the pork was coming from a local source – Valley View Farms in Walkerville, MI.

Big props to Busch’s for really taking the “local craze” to the next level. Check out your local Busch’s to see what local treats you might find. They have stores in Ann Arbor, Saline, Carleton, Clinton, Dexter, Farmington Hills, Livonia, Novi, Pinckney, Plymouth/Northville, Rochester Hills, South Lyon, Tecumseh, and West Bloomfield.

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