Sausage, Peppers, And Cheese Grits–Weeknight Dinner for a Crazy Day

We’ve had a busy, post-Spring Break week, and dinner each night has been a thrown-together affair as I try to get some traction against the overflowing to-do list. My dryer latch broke last weekend, and though the fix was easy, I had to wait until the appliance parts store opened on Monday to do so. You know what that means, right? My laundry pile was left unattended for three straight days, which means it ate my laundry room. It took me an additional three days to dig my way back in.

When things get this nutty, I dig way back into my cooking memory for all of those fast meals I made when I was still working fulltime. I invented quite a few bizarre dishes during my career days, blending the weeknight rush with my desperate attempts to combine the items I had on hand (grocery shopping was hit and miss).  This dish may seem weird to start, but the smoky sausage pairs well with sweet, slightly crunchy peppers, and the creamy cheese grits bring it all together. It could also be a great brunch dish if paired with something a little sweet. Here’s how I did it (with crappy iPhone pics to affirm my crazy day), and I’ll post the recipe with quantities at the end of this post for easy reference:

First, I assembled the ingredients, which was a couple of packages of smoked sausage links, bell peppers, onions, quick-cooking grits, chicken broth, salt, olive oil, and some Velveeta.

ingredients

I immediately set the chicken broth in a sauce pan with a dash of salt to boil, since getting anything to boil takes the most amount of time. I also placed a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and set it on medium-high heat. Next, I sliced the sausage into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias:

sausage

Then threw it into the skillet with the olive oil to brown, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, I thinly sliced the pepper and onion:

sliced

Once the sausage was browned, I removed it from the skillet to a paper towel-lined plate. I added a couple more tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, and added the peppers and onions to sauté. While that cooked, I added the grits to the boiling chicken stock, stirring for about 10 minutes until thickened. I know the box says five minutes, but it’s a lying liar who lies. Unless you like watery grits, don’t trust the box; If you do, go make yourself some cream of wheat, you weirdo.

Anyway, once the onions were translucent and the peppers had softened up a bit, I added the sausage back into the skillet and stirred the whole mess together:

all together

Last, I cubed the Velveeta and stirred it into the grits until melted. I then removed the grits from the heat, and let them sit for about 5 minutes to thicken up a bit more, stirring occasionally. If I had served the grits immediately, they still would have been too runny (and hot). Letting them rest for a few minutes tightens them up to the right consistency:

grits

Finally, I spooned the grits onto a plate, and topped with the sausage mixture. The creaminess of the grits is almost sauce-like, but the texture is right on.

final

Smoked Sausage With Sweet Peppers and Creamy Cheese Grits

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Ingredients

  • 2 packages of smoked sausage links (whatever kind you like), sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on the bias
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking grits (NOT INSTANT)
  • 5-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Place chicken broth in a medium-size sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until well-browned. Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Add remaining olive oil to skillet, then add bell peppers and onions, cooking until onions are translucent and bell peppers have slightly softened.

While the vegetables sauté, add salt and grits to chicken broth, whisking well to avoid clumps. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring often. If mixture bubbles up too much, reduce to medium-low heat. Add cubed Velveeta, and stir until melted. Remove grits from heat, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally during cooling.

Return sausage to skillet with vegetables, and stir to combine. Spoon grits onto serving plates, then spoon sausage mixture over grits. Pat yourself on the back, make a cocktail, and eat up.

Getting the Heathens to Eat Something Other Than Chicken—Kid (and Husband) Friendly Salmon Croquettes

Living in the land of picky eaters means that I have to tinker with recipes…a lot. In any given culinary experiment, I am usually forced to omit one, if not several ingredients because either the Heathens or my husband will not touch the dish otherwise. I’ve worked hard to get the kids eating proteins beyond chicken, chicken and more chicken. Oh, how I’ve worked, Progress is slow, but they’ve come a long way in the past year. They both embraced sausage, bacon and steak, but seafood is still hit and miss.

I recently stumbled on a new way to make Salmon Croquettes that helped further the cause. You really should try these. They are dang tasty.

Salmon Croquettes

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Here’s what you will need:

  • 1 can (14.7 oz) salmon (you’ll need to take out the bones and junk)
  • 1 pkg. herb stuffing mix
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh dude)

Place the salmon in a bowl, after you’ve removed the bones and anything else that looks weird:

Add all the remaining ingredients:

Mix all the ingredients together with your hands until well combined. Sorry Charlie, but there is really no better way to mix it than with your hands. I’m not a fan of touching stinky fish either, but that’s what good hand soap is for.

Once the ingredients are combined, form the mixture into 8 patties:

Cover the patties with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. If you don’t, they will just fall apart when you cook them, and that sure isn’t fun. Once the patties are chilled, heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Basically, you need enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook the patties about three minutes on each side:

Watch the patties carefully, because they burn easily if you don’t; turn the heat down if they are in danger. Since the salmon is already cooked, you are only heating the patties through and browning the outside. Trust me, three minutes per side should be plenty.

Remove the patties from the skillet and drain on paper towels:


The Heathens eat these with ketchup (*sigh*), but I bet a good Remoulade would be awesome too. My husband saves the extra patties (if there are any extras) and slaps them on a burger bun with cheese for lunch the next day.

An entrée for less than $5 that the kids actually eat? One that’s not chicken?

I call that score one for mom.

School Projects Are No Fun—But Dinner Sure Is Tasty

I’ve been in school-project-hell this weekend. G-Man has a social studies project due in a couple of weeks, which any mom knows means that we all can kiss our free time goodbye until it’s done.

I really, really struggle with school projects, to the point that I truly dread when they come up. I want my kids to do them on their own, because that is the whole point, right? However, in the age of growing parent competitiveness (i.e ridiculousness), I learned early on that some parents’ idea of “helping” their kids is actually doing the project for them. I hate seeing super-slick class projects that you just know were done more by the parents than the child, if not in their entireity. Normally, I shrug it off, but I can’t help wondering if my child’s honest effort will be compared to their peers, and found lacking because I didn’t ensure all that glossy polish by practically doing the final product myself. Further, I don’t want my kids to feel substandard because their classmates’ projects look like professional advertising materials, while ours reflects the true work of a 4th grader. I am in a constant battle to figure out how to help my child be successful, without crippling him by doing too much. I wish I had the answer, but in the meantime, I still bleeping hate school project time.

In semi-related news, I tried a new recipe last night that I found in this month’s Southern Living. This King Ranch Mac and Cheese seemed like just the kid-friendly meal I needed to take the sting off our marathon report-writing session. This was dang tasty, and much faster to put together than I anticipated. The boys raved about it, so you know it’s not just the pregnancy talking.

King Ranch Mac and Cheese (From Jan/2012 Southern Living)

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  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 (16-oz.) package cellentani pasta (I couldn’t find this at Wally World, so I used ¾ of a 16-oz. box of elbow macaroni)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (I used the “mild” Rotel to make this more Heathen-friendly)
  • 1 (8-oz.) package pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

    Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and prepared cheese product; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in chicken, next 4 ingredients, and hot cooked pasta until blended. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 11- x 7-inch baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  3. 3. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.

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By following this dinner with our first King Cake of the season, I got to relish in a little “you’re the best mom ever!” That is, until I announced that it was shower time…then I was back to being Captain Meanie-Pants.

But, I’m cool with that.