learning to cook healthier & without a recipe!

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Cheese Grits

So, I’ll admit… I didn’t change anything in this recipe or do anything to make it healthier… they were pretty delicious just the way the recipe had them! I got the recipe from Food Network’s Alton Brown, you can see the original recipe here. The recipe called for cornmeal instead of traditional grits which judged based on the ingredients list of what I had- Red Mill coarse cornmeal and the instant grits, the cornmeal seemed a lot healthier since the only ingredient in them was well… corn.

Here’s the recipe: (4 servings)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water (may need a little more)
  • 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or if you’re like me 2-4 tsp pepper)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese


Bring the milk, water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium pot or deep pan. For some reason boiling milk is always strange and a little icky to me… but here’s a picture for you, you can judge…

Once the mixture begins to boil add the cornmeal gradually, stirring constantly. I had a hard time keeping mine from clumping, it might not be a bad idea to pour your cornmeal into a small bowl first and make sure there are no clumps in it and break it up really good if it’s been in the pantry for a little while.

Reduce the heat to low and cover. The recipe said to stir every 3-4 minutes and he meant it- make sure not to walk away from these too long! Stir very frequently and let cook until creamy about 25-30 minutes.

Once you’ve taste tested to make sure the consistency is right and the cornmeal is cooked through, remove from heat, add pepper, butter, and cheese and stir together. Serve right away! If you need to reheat them or people are going back for second- you may need to reheat them on the stove with some more water to remoisten them.

Finished product! With BBQ chicken for some reason, it’s what we had…


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Mom’s Homemade Biscuits

Stop 2: Table Rock, South Carolina to see my parents! My mom made us some incredible homemade biscuits this morning! The trick to these biscuits, unlike many other recipes, is to handle them a lot! They were fluffy and perfect.

The recipe:

  • 21/4 c self rising flour
  • 1/4 c cold butter
  • 1/4 c butter flavored Crisco
  • 1-11/4 c buttermilk (you can sub half-and-half for some of the buttermilk if you like)
  • A little cracked pepper

Cut butter into large chunks and work into flour with the Crisco using a pastry blender. Add buttermilk and mix in. Take dough out onto a floured surface and flatten with your hands. Fold into thirds. Flatten and fold into thirds about 6 times. Use a biscuit cutter to form biscuits (push down with the cutter and don’t twist!) Using a pastry brush, brush on a little butter on top of biscuits and top off with black pepper.

Bake at 450 for 15-18 minutes!

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My New Favorite Breakfast

O man, I have been eggs benedict crazy lately! Luckily I’ve found something equally as delicious- to me at least- that is also a good deal healthier! I’ve also learned to poach an egg… which has been fun and interesting!

This recipe idea came from really loving the ‘Sandy Beaches Benedict’ at Metro Diner and ‘The Hippie’ at Ellen’s Kitchen, it’s a little mix of both!

The recipe:

  • 1/2 whole wheat english muffin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 3 thin slices of tomato
  • salt & pepper to taste

Saute the 2 handfuls of spinach in a pan with a little olive oil until tender but not mushy.

Slice 2-4 thin slices of tomato depending on how much you like tomatoes…

To poach the egg: Bring about 4 cups of water to boil in a small pot, enough to cover the top of the egg. Once the water begins to boil add in a tbsp of vinegar (I read that you are supposed to use white wine vinegar but I didn’t have any) this is to help the egg whites stay together.

Crack the egg into a small bowl carefully- make sure you don’t break the yoke! Carefully pour the egg into the boiling water. Let boil for 3-4 minutes, 3 yolk is pretty runny, 4 yolk is hard. The egg whites in mine both times I’ve made them have gone everywhere but have stayed attached. Once you pull the egg out of the water they stick to each other and it looks like a normal poached egg. So, using a slotted spoon or the like, carefully pull the egg out of the water.

Toast the 1/2 of the english muffin.

Layer up! English muffin- tomato- spinach- egg- salt & pepper



Pumpkin Pancakes!

These are my new favorite pancakes. I LOVE pretty much all things pumpkin (btw pumpkin pancakes at Cinotti’s this Friday!!!!) I load up on cans of pumpkin puree during fall so that I have access to it all year just in case I get a craving!

You can find the original recipe for these pancakes here. I made a couple of little changes, using whole wheat flour, apple cider vinegar instead of plain & adding flax.

The recycled recipe:

  • 11/2 c milk
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (+ more for the skillet)
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp flax
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Heat the skillet to medium low and mix the dry ingredients with the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients with the wet ingredients.
Then mix them all together!
Using a 1/3 c measuring cup cook 1-2 pancakes at a time making sure not to burn them. If they are cooking too fast and not all the way through, reduce the heat. These tend to puff up and be a little thick so you want to try to make them pretty thin when you first put them on the griddle to make sure they cook all the way through.
Mmmm enjoy with some delicious butter and natural syrup- welcome fall!!!


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Delicious Baked Oatmeal

If you live in Jacksonville then you know this rainy day is a great day to make some warm, tasty oatmeal! I’m eating a bowl of it right now… This recipe came from Heidi Swanson’s, of, book ‘Super Natural Every Day.’ That was a confusing sentence. Sorry. I followed it by the recipe but I’m excited to try it a couple different ways too.

The recipe:

  • 2 cups of rolled oats
  • 1/2 c of walnut pieces toasted and chopped
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 11/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 c of milk
  • 1/3 c natural maple syrup (or you can use sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled + some to butter the pan
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas cut into 1/2 in pieces
  • 11/2 c mixed berries
the directions:
1. preheat oven to 375 with a rack on the top 1/3 of the oven (this is when I toast the walnuts- I leave them in for like the first 5-6 minutes of the oven preheating)
2. butter an 8×8 pan
3. mix together the first 5 ingredients (oats, 1/2 the walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, salt)  in a bowl
4. whisk together the following 5 ingredients (milk, syrup, egg, cool melted butter, vanilla) in a bowl
5. slice up the bananas and line them on the bottom of the buttered pan
6. add 1/2 your berries
7. add your dry ingredients
8. add your wet ingredients and shimmy the pan a little to make sure they make their way to the bottom
9. add the other 1/2 the berries and 1/2 the toasted walnuts on top

10. bake it! For 35-45 minutes

mmmmm enjoy with a nice hot cup of coffee!
Possible changes that I’m thinking about trying:
using multi-grain cereal and honey instead of rolled oats and syrup… hmmm
also maybe deciding on certain fruits, like mango and blueberry instead of banana and mixed berries- if I try I’ll let you know- if you try it- let me know!!

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Healthy…er… Biscuits & Gravy

I have been determined two find a way to make biscuits and gravy in a way that you still feel like you can finish the day after you finish eating them… I think I’ve found it! Maybe… My friend Meredith found a great recipe on a blog; They are perfect. They aren’t completely whole wheat but it is the perfect combination of all purpose and whole. (The blood work is running to find out if I have a wheat allergy or not… hoping very much for not… but have to make some delicious wheaty treats in the mean time!) The gravy is developed from years of watching Mama Kim, 2 of our really great friend’s mom, whip up some delicious sausage gravy. I found a great all natural sausage in the freezer section made by Jones Dairy that has absolutely none of the crap that you normally find in sausage- preservatives and all the other junk. Ingredients list includes: pork, water, salt, spices, sugar. Yep. That’s it! The problem is it comes only in patties or links so you have to brown it, then chop it up, then continue with your gravy, only like a 3 minute detour, if that.

For this biscuits:

Go to– it’s a really great blog! I really suggest cutting the butter in by hand like she does, it works so well and you know for sure that your butter really is worked in all the way. She has ste  by step instructions with pictures that are really helpful, this was one of my first really successful times with biscuits so her instructions worked!

For the gravy:

1 package of Jones Dairy all natural mild sausage

1-2 tbsp salted organic butter (Costco- whoop whoop!)

about 2 cups of non-homogenized milk (so delicious! I get it from Native Sun, they carry it from a farm in Live Oak which isn’t too far away)

salt & pepper

sifted flour, about 1/2 cup

Sorry, this recipe is all about the ‘abouts’. I need to measure this one out next time. I start by browning the sausage in a cast iron skillet with a tbsp of butter. After it is browned, take it out and chop it up so it looks like typical ground sausage. Add in the milk- I add in enough milk to cover the entire bottom of the pan and fill it about 1/2 in up. Let it cook down for a minute, turn the heat down to medium-low and add salt and pepper to taste. I just got a flour sifter- it is awesome- if you don’t have one go spend $5 at Publix and pick one up! Put about 1/2 a cup of flour in the sifter and begin sifting over gravy mixture. Add a little, stir, add a little, stir. Eyeball and and don’t make it really thick right off the bat, it’ll thicken while it simmers. Add about 1/2 the flour and let the gravy simmer a little bit and if you need more flour- add it in. After I get the consistency right I let it simmer for about 10 minutes, just enough time for the biscuits to come out of the oven! So tasty!

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Gluten-free Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Mmmm quiche. I’ve been trying to consume a lot less wheat and looked up recipes for gluten-free quiche crusts, I found a really interesting one here. It called for cooked brown rice, cheese and an egg. I was pretty sceptical but it turned out pretty well! I based some of the filling and cook time from here. Quiche is nice because you can get some veggies in early in the morning without really feeling like you’re eating a ton of veggies. A great invention by the Germans, yes, I looked that up!

For the gluten-free crust:

2 cups cooked brown rice

1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used Organic Valley sharp cheddar)

1 egg (I got farm fresh eggs from the Wednesday market in Atlantic Beach- if you live in AB you should go get those fresh eggs!)

Stir all of the ingredients together and press into a greased pie pan. Cook at 450 for about 8 minutes. After you take it out reduce the heat in the oven to 375.

For the quiche filling:

about 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of sliced mushrooms, chopped

1/2 white onion, diced

3 big handfuls of fresh spinach

salt & pepper

4 eggs

1 cup shredded cheese (I used the rest of the Organic Valley)

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms until they reduce, then add the spinach, 1 handful at a time, until cooked down. Add a little salt & pepper. Once cooked, set aside. Stir the 4 eggs, both cheeses and nutmeg together, add a little pepper. I added too much salt in mine not thinking about how salty cottage cheese can be. Place the spinach mixture in the bottom of the pie crust then top with the egg mixture. Cook at 375 for 50 minutes. Cover with foil after about 35 minutes to make sure the top doesn’t get too brown.

I also made some potatoes to go along with it. I sauteed some sweet onion (about 1/2) in olive oil and added 8 red petite potatoes, sliced thin. I let them cook for about 10 minutes in the skillet then transferred them to the oven with a little salt, pepper, and rosemary and cooked for 20 more minutes, pretty tasty!