Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits with creole

After moving to Austin 7 years ago, I quickly fell in love with this southern staple.  It’s spicy, savory, and makes a hearty brunch or dinner.  I use quick cooking grits (not instant, the ones that cook in 10-15 minutes are so much better!) to make this dish really easy.  Instead of cooking the grits according to the package directions, I substitute half of the water for milk, and add some fresh garlic and jalapeno to give it a kick.  This goes really well topped with my spicy Creole Sauce.


Ingredients (Serves 4):

1-1 ½ lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, diced
½ yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. smoked paprika
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

To make the grits:

1 tbsp. butter
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
¾ cup water
¾ cup milk
¾ cup quick grits
2 dashes hot sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

baconPreheat a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet over medium heat, until chopped bacon sizzles when added.  Cook until crisp, approximately 10 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon.  Remove grease, reserving 1 tbsp. for cooking the shrimp (see instructions below).  Return the skillet to medium heat and add chopped onion.  Sauté for approximately 10 minutes until onion starts to look caramelized.  When caramelized, remove from pan and set aside with crisp bacon.

Meanwhile, mix flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  After peeling and deveining the shrimp, rinse in a colander and pat dry with paper towel.  Place dried shrimp in a bowl with the flour mixture and combine to give it a light coating.  This will give it a nice brown crust when seared in reserved bacon grease.

To start the grits, melt butter in medium saucepan on medium-low.  Once melted, add diced garlic and jalapeno and sauté until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.  Add milk and water, turning heat up to medium-high.   When starting to boil, add grits and simmer on low, stirring regularly.   Cook for approximately 10 minutes until desired consistency.  I like grits to have a decent amount of the water cooked out of them, so when you put a big scoop in your plate they hold their shape, like a scoop of rice or mashed potatoes.    Add salt, pepper and hot sauce and stir to combine.


While grits are simmering, turn skillet back on to medium heat.  Add reserved bacon grease and place shrimp in a single layer and cook until browned, approximately 5 minutes.  Turn the shrimp it the other side and cook another 5 minutes.  Add cooked bacon and onion to the shrimp and toss to combine.



shrimp and grits - no creolePlace a large scoop of grits in a bowl and top with shrimp.  Add Creole Sauce if desired and garnish with green onions.

Enjoy! shrimp and grits with creole sauce

Creole Sauce

shrimp and grits with creole sauceI love this Creole Sauce, and I use it often.  I love heat, and this makes a savory, spicy addition to any dish, whether you are making blackened chicken with rice or  a savory Shrimp and Grits recipe.  I usually make a big batch when I make Shrimp and Grits and there is enough left to freeze 4 or 5 pint size containers.  This freezes really well and makes weeknight meals really easy.  My husband also loves it on fried eggs for breakfast!



Creole ingredientsIngredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
5 ribs of celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 quart carton chicken broth (32 oz.)
creole spices1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
½ tsp. each of: cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, garlic powder, oregano, crushed red pepper
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. butter

Over medium heat, add olive oil to large pot and sauté onions, bell peppers, jalapeno, celery, garlic and green onions, for approximately 5 minutes, or until starting to soften.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes and spices and bring to a simmer.  Let simmer approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are soft and spices are blended.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter.  Serve over shrimp and grits, blackened chicken or something delicious.

Enjoy!Shrimp and grits with creole



Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita

cucumber jalapeno margarita

Inspired by trying some of the best margaritas in Austin, I decided to take my own spin on a classic margarita with an added twist of cucumber and lime to make this fiery but refreshing.  I love all things spicy, so if you only like a little spice, I would just use one slice of jalapeno. In a cocktail shaker, muddle cucumber slices, jalapeno and honey simple syrup together. Add ice to the shaker and the remaining ingredients. Shake well and strain into a martini glass or on the rocks.


2 oz premium tequila (I used Herradura)cucumber and jalapeno
1 oz premium triple sec (I used Cointreau)
1 ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice (1-2 limes)
1 tbsp honey simple syrup (see recipe)
2 slices cucumber
2 slices fresh jalapeno


Honey Simple Syrup

I love to use honey as a sweetener, but have you ever tried to use honey in a cold drink?  It becomes a hard blob that doesn’t dissolve.  Making a honey simple syrup is super easy and makes it much more mixable.   All you do it take equal parts honey and water and heat to combine.  To make it even one step easier, I make it in a glass measuring cup that’s microwave safe.  Heat for 30 seconds and stir.  Repeat until mixture is hot and fully blended.    It can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks and stays perfectly mixable.   This works perfectly to sweeten ice tea, coffee, cocktails or any recipe that needs a little sweetness.

honey and water

honey simple syrupIn the words of the fabulous Ina Garten, how easy is that?


Orecchiette with Italian Sausage, Kale and Lemon Ricotta

Inspired by a recent meal at Italic in Austin, Texas, I wanted to recreate their orecchiette dish at home.  The spice of the sausage and red pepper and the bitterness of the kale were cooled by the perfectly fresh lemon ricotta.  Named after “a small ear,”  orecchiette is the perfect shape to capture all of those flavors working in perfect harmony.



Ingredients (serves 2-3):
8 oz. ricotta cheese
Zest of ½ lemon
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ lb. ground Italian sausage
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
4 oz. orecchiette pasta
¼ cup pasta water, reserved
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the lemon ricotta:Lemon Ricotta

Zest ½ lemon into 8 oz. ricotta and a sprinkle of salt.  Be careful to zest only the yellow part of the lemon, because that’s where the flavor is.  The white part,  called the pith, is very bitter.  Stir to blend.  Set aside while cooking to let the flavors meld together.

Bring pasta water to a boil, salt liberally.  Cook orecchiette al dente according to directions, reserving approximately ¼ cup pasta water when draining.  Pasta water is great because it’s already seasoned with salt and it’s a little starchy, which helps to bind ingredients.

chopped kale

Chop kale into roughly two inch pieces, discarding large stems.  Rinse in colander and remove to dry.

Meanwhile, on medium heat, brown sausage in sauté pan.  Remove sausage from skillet, draining excess oil.  Return skillet to medium heat and add olive oil.  Add garlic and red pepper and sauté for 2 minutes until fragrant before adding kale.  Within a few minutes the kale should start to shrink and turn darker green.  Add reserved pasta water and cook for approximately 5 minutes until kale is cooked.  Give a quick taste before adding salt because the pasta water is already salty.  Add sausage and pasta and stir to combine.

Serve immediately with a big dollop of lemon ricotta.Orecchiette topped with ricotta


Top 5 Margaritas in Austin

Ahh the margarita.  One of the great classic cocktails and a summertime favorite in Austin.  We even get a few eighty degree days sprinkled in January that allows us to love the margarita year round.  I love a good boozy margarita and here are the top five places to get them in Austin.  You won’t find any sour-mix-sugar-bombs on this list.


  1. La Condesa – Margarita La CondesaLa Condesa

Cazadores blanco, damiana, fresh pineapple & lime juice, agave nectar and cactus-lemongrass salt rim.

One of the sweeter margaritas on the list, the classic margarita gets a fresh twist from the sweetness of the pineapple juice and the herbaceous cactus-lemongrass salt rim.



2. Fonda San Miguel – Numero Uno MargaritaFonda San Miguel

T1 Reposado Tequila, Grand Marnier Centenaire, agave nectar and lime juice.  Shaken and served up!

This traditional margarita is served martini style and highlights the T1 Resposado tequila.  While T1 Resposado is more often found on premium tequila lists for sipping, it’s less often found as an ingredient on a signature margarita.  Aged in oak barrels for 6 months, this tequila is a perfect blend of citrus fruit and woody flavors for a premium margarita.


3. El AlmaEl Alma

Frozen Margarita Clasica – el jimador silver 100% agave tequila, triple sec, lime juice, agave nectar.

This frozen margarita is one of our “go-to” margaritas, and for good reason.  The Clasica is strong, refreshing, and best enjoyed on the rooftop dining room overlooking downtown Austin.  For only $6 during happy hour (3-6pm, daily), this is one of the best affordable margaritas in town.



4. Benji’sBenjis – Pepino Endiablo

Corzo Silver Tequila, muddled jalapeno, cucumber, simple syrup and fresh lime.

Although Benji’s lists the Pepino Endiablo on their “mixed drinks” menu and not on their margarita list, the classic margarita flavors of tequila and lime spiced up with muddled jalapeno and a fresh twist of the cucumber, this drink deserves a nod as one of the best margaritas in Austin.


5. El Naranjo – MargaritaEl Naranjo

El Naranjo takes classic margarita ingredients of triple sec and fresh lime and gives you your choice of over 30 tequilas and 20 mescals to choose from.  They are mixed perfectly, but make sure to check the menu for prices.  Some of the ultra-premium tequilas and mescals are better to be sipped only!




Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

Perfectly cooked ribeye

It doesn’t get much better than a perfectly cooked ribeye.  A ribeye is one of the most marbled of steaks, and when cooked properly the marbling in the steak caramelizes and almost becomes buttery.  Steakhouses are able to achieve this from cooking at very high temperatures, much hotter than what most of us can do at home with a standard propane grill.  This method of cooking allows you to have a perfectly steakhouse seared steak with only two ingredients – steak and salt, using only two tools in your kitchen – your oven and a cast iron skillet.  My 10″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet is perfect for two NY strip steaks or ribeyes.  It’s also a great size for making pizza.

For best cooking results, purchase steaks that are at least an inch in thickness.  Approximately one hour before cooking, take steak out of refrigerator.  Salt liberally on both sides.  This serves two purposes.  Allowing the steak to come to room temperature before cooking allows you to cook it more evenly.  Salting the steak helps to draw out the moisture from the very outer layer of the meat.  I know what you are thinking… why would we want to draw moisture out when the steak is supposed to be juicy?  Here is the reason.  Having a dry surface steak allows you to get that beautiful brown crust when it’s seared.  Dry meat sears, wet meat steams.  Only the very outer layer of the steak is affected by the salt and the inside will stay juicy and delicious. Promise.

After an hour or so, the salted surface of your steak will start to look like there is condensation.  This is exactly what you want.  Put your seasoned cast iron skillet in a cold oven and preheat to 550 degrees.  I’ve had ovens that would only go as high as 525 degrees, and that’s fine too.  You just want to cook at the highest temperature you can.  Once your skillet is preheated, give the steak a quick rinse, and dry with a paper towel so you have a perfectly dry surface for cooking. 

liberally salt the outside of the ribeye

liberally salt the outside of the ribeye

after an hour the surface will look wet

after an hour the surface will look wet








seared steak in pan

Once the skillet is preheated, take out of oven, and put on the largest burner on the stovetop on high heat.  Leave oven preheated because you will need it again in a few minutes.  Sear steak on one side for approximately five minutes.  After five minutes, that side should have a beautiful brown crust, flip and sear on the other side for approximately three minutes.


After three minutes, put the steak and hot skillet back in the oven together for one minute.  Remove from skillet and let rest for five minutes before serving.  Depending on the thickness of the cut, you should have beautifully medium rare steak.

perfectly seared steakEnjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Pocas Vale de Cavalos Douro Red 2013

Honey Sriracha Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts have really soared in popularity over the last few years, and it seems like every restaurant has their version of spicy-but-sweet Brussel sprouts on their menu. Here is an easy recipe for those delicious sprouts at home!


1 lb. Brussel sprouts
½ tbsp. coconut oil
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. sriracha
Juice of half lime

Washed Brussel sproutsCombine honey, sriracha and lime juice. Wisk to combine.  Cut stems off Brussel sprouts, slice in half and wash under cold water in a colander.  Let drain.




Charred sprouts

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. When oil is shiny, add Brussel sprouts and cook 12-14 minutes, until slightly charred. Add honey mixture and continue to stir for approximately 2 minutes until slightly sticky.


Enjoy!Finished sprouts



My first post!

Hello! I’m just sitting here working on all of the things that I want to put on my blog. I have no idea what I’m doing and this stuff is harder than it looks. There are a lot of things that go into this… taking and editing photos, linking to social media, writing posts, designing my blog (I have a lot to learn!). I’ll get there, slowly but surely.

~ Karen