As a mom of 8 beautiful kids I am excited to share some of the recipes that we've enjoyed at family mealtime and the stories that go behind them. "Food is so pleasureful and powerful that it plays an essential role in creating a home that works. For your home to feel solid, meaningful, dignified and warm, you must have the means and skills to produce good, nutritious food, to dream up pleasant menus, and to set the table and serve the food in an attractive manner that is familiar and comfortable to guests. " Cheryl Mendelson Home Comforts : The Art and Science of Keeping House

Monday, December 15, 2014

Southern Style Christmas Brunch

Christmas Brunch Southern Style
Merry Christmas!  This is the most wonderful time of the year for me!  I love everything about Christmas! We have a lot of family traditions and I just started a new tradition in honor of our Southern Living.   I got a phone call from my dear friend Lisa from North Carolina yesterday asking me for a Shrimp and Grits recipe that I made a few years ago for a Christmas Brunch.  It made me reflect on how much I loved living in the South and how many wonderful friends and experiences I had in our 8 years living there.  Life in the South is much different than other places I've lived and I've lived A LOT of different places in my life!  In the South life seems to slow down and that can be a very good thing.  Everyone waves to one another as you're driving or jogging down the street.  You're on first name basis with everyone from Gordon the mailman to 
Adele the Target clerk. You find rocking chairs on almost every porch and people taking the time to relax in them! There are beautiful trees everywhere and flowers and plants around you that seem to "pop" in color.  Not only is the scenery beautiful, but so are the people.
   I will never forget the first day we moved in and between my cul- de sac neighbors and beyond we were well taken care of.  We had neighbors offering us anything we needed to make our move comfortable.  We had our new church family over unloading a monster truck of items in the heat of the summer.  We had a  knock at our door from a neighbor with a full on dinner prepared for us.  (Come to find out this sweet neighbor Kim was battling cancer and having some true life struggles, but took the time to befriend our family and serve us in the midst of her trials.)
  I had a neighbor bring me a list of all the important places, Dr's phone numbers, you name it to make my transition easier.   My back door neighbor became one of my best friends and we spent a lot of time talking and  chatting about life at the back fence.  Our children became best friends and my friends husband built a bridge over our ditch so our kids could hop over the fence to one anothers homes!  We loved sharing a vegetable garden with them as well.  Since we  had no family living close to us during our stay in NC,  our church family also became our family.  We loved getting together for any occasion!  Some of my favorite memories were surrounded by food gatherings, from birthday lunches to Christmas Brunches, to annual formal Christmas parties where the food, ambiance and decorations could have been featured in the Southern Living Magazine!
 Our kids loved catching fireflies, riding and fighting over who would get to ride the John Deere tractor  to mow our acre lawn.  We loved the awesome southern accent and ESPECIALLY the BBQ!  We loved walking into the local BBQ restaurant and the owner coming over to say "Hello" or really " How Y'all doin?!" and even getting the whole restaurant to sing Happy b-day to my kid having a b-day! I loved my  "Zumba" family and enjoyed the friendships that I made at the local YMCA!   I miss a lot of things about the South.  (OK, I DON'T miss the hot, humid summers, but the other 8 months are beautiful!)
So after talking with Lisa, I really reflected on the great experience I had there and instead of me just sending her my recipe I decided  I was going to throw a Christmas Brunch in celebration of our Southern Experience and continue it from here on out!  I love y'all my Southern friends!!!!

Shrimp and Grits Recipe:
The first thing our Realtor did when we closed on our home in North Carolina was give me a cookbook as a gift marked with a recipe for Shrimp and Grits.  She told me that  now I was living in the South so grits would become a staple!  What was awesome is that I'd already grown up on cheese grits because my heritage is five generational West Virginia family line.  I had no problem with adding Shrimp to my grits!  :)
Grits: I double the recipe
 4 cups water (I use chicken broth)
1 cup grits
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated sharp cheese
Nutmeg to taste
Pepper to taste

Add grits, salt and butter to boiling water.  Cook about 10 minutes.  Blend in cheese, nutmeg and pepper.

1 pound shrimp peeled (I used cooked jumbo shrimp)
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms (I love mushrooms so I used a pound)
1 medium onion (I used green for the color)
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp butter
 5-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, reserve drippings
4 tsp lemon juice
Tabasco sauce to taste (I omit)
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/4 cup white wine (I use chicken broth)

Saute shrimp. mushrooms, onions and garlic in butter and 1 Tbsp bacon drippings until shrimp turn pink.  Season with remaining ingredients.  Divide grits into 4 warm plates or bowls and serve.  (I used a casserole dish)

I topped it with more bacon and more parsley.  The shrimp mixture will be runny, but the succulent juices permeate into the grits giving them amazing flavor!   Enjoy Lisa and think of me every time you make them!

I couldn't just stop with Shrimp and Grits, I had to make a few more of  my favorite brunch dishes!

This is my absolute favorite breakfast casserole.  It has more of a bread pudding texture and it is to die for!  It has pecans therefore it's a Southern dish!  :)

Baked French Toast Casserole with Pecan and Blueberry Topping

I  also serve this on Christmas day.  It's the perfect dish since it is prepared the night before and then baked in the morning.  I love how beautiful it looks!
Recipe Ingredients:
1 (16 oz ) loaf French or Italian bread sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter softened (to coat baking dish)  
8 large eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup pecans chopped
1 cup blueberries ( I add Blackberries, too)
1. Spread bread cubes in a baking pan and bake 15 minutes or until dry at 325.  Pull out of oven to cool.

2. Butter a 13x9 baking dish and pack the dried bread crumbs into it.

 Whisk eggs and then add milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour egg mixture over bread crumbs.

Cover with plastic wrap and push the bread cubes into the egg mixture until soft.
 Refrigerate overnight.
Combine butter, sugar and corn syrup.  Stir until smooth

 Add pecans

Bake and Serve:
Preheat oven to 350.  Remove plastic wrap and bake for 45 minutes.
 Remove and add berries and pecan mixture.  Bake for another 15 minutes or until golden browned or bubbling.

I love how the berries go from blue/purple to dark red after baking!  It looks so beautiful and tastes incredible!!!

This is so rich and decadent because of the pecan topping, that  it really doesn't need syrup, BUT  Abby helped make homemade buttermilk syrup that my friend Ava gave me the recipe for  and it is absolutely amazing!  Therefore, of course we HAD to try it on the casserole!
Buttermilk Syrup:
1 1/2 cup Butter
1 1/2 cup Buttermilk
3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp baking soda
Directions: In large saucepan (make sure it is big enough to accommodate the syrup foaming when the baking soda is added, combine butter, buttermilk and sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring regularly
Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and baking soda.  It will foam up at this point.  It is now ready to serve!
This is so delicious!  We seriously dipped bacon in the syrup to taste test!  Oh boy!  So yummy!

Here's my favorite quiche recipe from the Lion House:

3/4 cup green onion
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz cheese (I used cheddar/jack)
1 cup light cream or milk ( I used heavy)
3 eggs
4-6 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled)
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp worcestershire
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Deep dish pie crust.
Saute onion in butter until soft.  Layer onion and crumbled bacon, cheese, then the beaten eggs, flour and spices blended and pour on top.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

I couldn't have done this without Mandi!  She helped me with the table set up, photography and even  made yummy Paula Deen Banana Chocolate chip muffins because Paula is the iconic Southern chef!
I served this with some roasted vegetables which are so easy to make and so colorful!

I also  loved serving pomegranates in goblets!  They are such an amazing and festive fruit and look so pretty!
I had so much fun with my brunch and blog and loved remembering my wonderful friends in NC!
Merry Christmas!