Tag Archives: Sauce

Spicy Shrimp and Butter Grits ~ Southern Comfort Food

sg6Author: Cassie Stevens

I am a southern girl, and I eat like it too.  Cornbread, beans, grits, mashed taters, all kinds of gravies, butter, BBQ, etc.  Southern comfort foods, and this is one of them.  Shrimp and grits! YUM! better yet, spicy shrimp and grits! YUM! YUM!

Shrimp and grits started out as a seasonal fisherman’s dish of shrimp cooked in bacon grease served over creamy grits in the south where they were also known as “breakfast shrimp.” The popular cuisine of corn grain provides a new twist in a variety of ways that it can be made. This has caused chefs to try to create new variations of the basic shrimp and grits recipe.sg2

You may be wondering what grits are made of. Well grits, formerly “hominy,” is ground corn that has been mashed. This dish was invented by the Native Americans from the Carolina region. Grits were used as one of the ways for Native Americans and white people to communicate in the latter part of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century before people learned how to speak the same language. An important event happened in 1584, when Native Americans gave some of their grits to Sir Walter Raleigh, and the people who came to live in Jamestown, Virginia a few years later.sg3

The colonists were learning about maize (corn) from the Native Americans, who were well versed in that area. Multiple items quickly became basic food sources for the settlers, including corn and grits. These items had been a normal part of the Native American diet for a long time.sg1

Centuries later, in 1976, grits were  declared as the official state food of South Carolina and are well known for their significant contribution to the culture and economy of South Carolina, and the power of the people who live there. The region stretching from the Carolinas to Louisiana is now called America’s Grits Belt.sg4

For many people in this region, a day without grits is like a day without sunshine. They hate and have no respect for prepackaged instant grits or quick grits. For them, the only way to eat real grits is to cook them the old fashioned way slowly with stone ground grits. However, there are a number of ways to spice up the meal like adding shrimp.

For many decades, shrimp and grits were a mainstay of the diet of the people who lived in and around Charleston, South Carolina.


I live in Tennessee, not far from the origin of shrimp and grits. I love it! Well, in this recipe I used, lemon juice, butter, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, parsley, garlic, and onion powder. Spicy!

I cooked my grits then added a little butter, salt, and cream to my taste. Viola! the best ever spicy southern shrimp and grits. Gotta love it! Good southern comfort food! Enjoy! ~ C


10 to 15 cooked shrimp (depending on size)

Juice from half a lemon

1 tbsp salted butter

1 dash cayenne pepper (or to your heat preference)

1 three finger pinch dried parsley

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

In sauce pan combine all ingredients until heated through. Serve over cooked grits.



Homemade Calzones


Author: Cassie Stevens

A calzone is folded over like a pocket pizza. A calzone has sauce inside, like a pizza. Not to be confused with the Stromboli, which does not contain any sauce and is usually made with Italian dough and stuffed with meats and cheeses only. Were as, the calzone is made with pizza dough hence, a pocket pizza, and stuffed with everything you would put on a pizza.  I love either, meat and cheese wrapped in any kind of dough, sauce or not, and you can count me in.

Start by getting your stuff together. I used the same recipe I use for my pizza dough.  Only, I added another 1 Tbsp of yeast for a thicker crust. Let the yeast sit a few minutes in warm water until it gets foamy.

SAM_1233Olive oil, Italian seasoning, yeast, sugar, bread flour, warm water, salt, and love.  Mix and knead on a flour surface until dough is smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl in a warm oven to let rise for about an hour.

SAM_1242I always turn on my oven to as low as it gets (170) then shut it off once it hits temp.  I place it on a hot pad on a sheet pan so my bowl doesn’t melt in the oven. Once it has a chance to rise, pull it out and divide in half for two large calzones or into four equal parts for four smaller ones.  Egg wash the tops then sprinkle with sesame seeds. I baked them as high as my oven would go 500 degrees F for about ten minutes or so. Keep an eye on them they will brown fast.

SAM_1244My husband and I split one and we saved the other for lunch the next day. There was more than we could eat in one of them. They were very big, and very good.  I didn’t get a chance to take pictures while I was stuffing them. They are filled with chicken, pepperoni, marinara sauce, ham, Colby jack cheese, and mozzarella cheese.

SAM_1257Oh yeah! Looks real good huh! Oooey Gooey Goodness!  Ah, I think your drooling. Ha! Ha! Ha!

SAM_1258Fill them with whatever you like and enjoy! Easy personal pocket pizzas! Sandwich-sized calzones are often sold at Italian lunch counters or by street vendors because they are easy to eat while standing or walking.

SAM_1265As a rule, calzones are usually stuffed with cheeses such as ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone or a type of regional cheese. The dough is folded into a half-moon shape then sealed with an egg wash mixture, or formed into a spherical shape and baked or fried. After cooking, calzones are typically served smothered in marinara sauce or topped with a combination of garlic, olive oil, and parsley.

SAM_1263In the United States, calzones are characteristically made from pizza dough and stuffed with meats, cheeses, and vegetables. Traditional calzone dough consists of flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt. Calzones are similar to Stromboli, but traditionally the two are distinctly different dishes.

SAM_1261However you enjoy your calzones, they are sure to please. So enjoy them with your family for dinner. They don’t take too long to make!

SAM_1248and they are so delicious…..How do you eat a calzone?

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsI’ve become addicted to making things homemade now. It’s truly an addiction. As I’m planning dinner I see an ingredient and think, hmm… I wonder if I can make that? And here’s the thing, I usually can. How have we come to an age where we think there’s no way we can make our own dressings, sauces, and marinades? 

Occupy Easy Food! Lol, just kidding. Kinda. I want real food. I’m crying for real food. Give me things that I can pronounce. Give me comfort food that I can feed my children, without worrying that they will end up with terrible side effects of the very food that has attempted to nourish them all their lives. Let me nourish my family!

So tonight I decided to copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce. Yeah!

But before we get to that, let me tell you something…

Anniversary Flowers :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

It’s my anniversary. 🙂 Hubs and I have been married for 5 years now. Those are my flowers! Swoon… We had big plans to stay in the theme hotel that we spent our wedding night in. But that is all the way in Idaho, and although my mom lives there and could watch the kids, we’d have to get there… 8 hours’ drive. With two small kids and the traveling we did last week, we nixed that idea.  And because we don’t have a fancy restaurant very nearby (and because littlest girl has bad separation anxiety – no sitter), I made us a fancy dinner. We always joke when we go out for dinner that I could have made it better at home.

This is one of those cases.

When we were in Billings, we went to Texas Roadhouse. I ordered a rack of ribs, my favorite!  They were burnt; and I like a little char on my meat. No, they were near inedible. We said this to the waitress, and she did try to fix it by bringing me a new rack (a little better). Then the manager graciously comped us a half rack. I gotta say though, my ribs are way better. And now… they are AMAZING with homemade BBQ sauce. No HFCS. No preservatives. Take that KC Masterpiece and Roadhouse! 😛

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Start by sauteing onions and garlic.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Add the rest of the ingredients, taste, then give it a good zhjuzz (how the heck do I spell that?) with your hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, please, invest in one. I use mine on a daily basis. This is my favorite. I’m waiting for my cheap Walmart one to die so I can justify getting myself an awesome new one. Stainless steel suckah! I’ll take the green one, thanks.

Simmer for a little while so the flavors can marry. Ah, marry. You see what I did there?

Add it to all your favorite BBQ applications. For us, it was a delicious rack of ribs, cooked with my uncle’s finger-lickin’ recipe.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

Littlest girl enjoyed her anniversary dinner. Thanks for getting married mom and dad! She got to chew all the bits of meat off our bones. She happily scraped each one clean. Not hard since the meat falls right off the bone. We handed her a few half-eaten ones to make sure she got to have some of the good stuff too.

Copycat KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I paired these with a side of garlic green beans (simmered for a few hours on the stove with a few cloves of smashed garlic), and basil roasted red-skin potatoes. Mmm! Want the recipe?

Masterpiece BBQ Sauce (from scratch)

1 Tbl oil (olive)

2 cloves garlic diced

½ onion diced

3 Tbl white or apple cider vinegar

1 Tbl worcestershire

1 Cup ketchup

1/3 Cup salsa (one recipe I saw called for 4 Tbl minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I think that this would make a more spicy, warmer sauce. As I didn’t have this on hand, I used salsa, but I don’t think it added much to the recipe as it was mild. Next time I will plan ahead and try the chipotle!)

1/3 Cup brown sugar

1/3 Cup molasses

1/3 Cup honey*

1/8 tsp paprika

Heat the oil, then saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Blend to a smooth consistency (be careful with hot liquids in the blender!).

*This is a sweet BBQ sauce (like KC Masterpiece). You can make it less sweet by leaving out the honey, increasing the amount of vinegar (1 T at a time), add heat by adding chili peppers or red pepper flakes. Make it your own. It’s a pretty forgiving sauce, so play with it!

For the ribs: Cut a rack into even pieces, about 2 bones per piece. Boil in water until the meat is almost falling off the bone (about 3-4 hours on the stove top). I cook mine in my crock pot on high, my 6 hour setting. Remove the pieces, being careful not to let them fall apart, to a sheet pan. Here they will dry out a bit (about 5 minutes) so that the sauce will stick. Brush the sauce on all over. Heat the grill. Add the ribs and cook on both sides just to add some grill marks and grill flavor, about 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on your grill temp. Remove, and add more sauce if you like. Enjoy!

I didn’t figure up the cost of the sauce, but I can bet it’s cheaper than store-bought. It makes a ton. I’m freezing the rest of mine. I’ll tell you how it comes out. But the ribs? Those cost $0.50 per rib. That’s $2.00 per serving, as we like to have about 4 ribs per person. Try to get that at a restaurant! Mama win!

Please let me know what you think. This is a well-loved dinner here. I’m sure your family will love it too!

~Veronica Hilliard

Homemade Chocolate Syrup


Author: Cassie Stevens

Rich and creamy chocolate syrup! If you are like me, you used to buy a lot of chocolate syrup, and that can get expensive. This recipe for chocolate syrup is great for chocolate milk, topping on ice cream, or just about anything else. My daughter love chocolate milk in the morning (I do too).   I think the homemade version tastes so much better than the store bought. I used to buy it for around 3 bucks a bottle, now I would rather buy a container of cocoa powder it makes so much more for the same price. One cup of cocoa powder make about 4 cups chocolate syrup. There is about two and a half cups in a container of cocoa powder, so you get about 10 cups of chocolate syrup for the same price as if you bought a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I like that math! Plus, you know what’s in it cause you made it, and it tastes so much better. So I hope you give it a try!  Here is what I did:

1 cup cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups water

1 tsp vanilla extract  or one bean pod split

That’s it! That’s all the ingredients in it! Simple! I put the cocoa powder and the sugar and the salt in a pan, then mixed it with a whisk. I then added two cups water and set my stove to med heat. You don’t want it to boil cause you will burn the chocolate and have to start all over again. If it comes to a boil quickly remove from heat and turn it down a little, you want it to simmer and slowly release steam.  Cook the water out of it until it thickens up to a syrup consistency. This may take a little while, patients is key. Keep an eye on it and keep stirring it every so often to release the steam. Once it thickens, I added a vanilla bean and let it cool. You can use extract if that’s what you have. I just came across some really cheap beans at a local health food store. once cool place in your container and Viola! Homemade chocolate syrup! You will love it!


Lemon Pepper Sage Talapia with a Lemon Butter Cream Sauce


Author: Cassie Stevens

What a delicious way to eat fish.  Creamy, lemony, light and healthy. This was an awesome dish and I recommend you try this the next time you have fish. I would imagine you could substitute just about any fish you like. We happened to have talapia today. Lemon and fish just work so well together. I love it! Love, love, love it! I wanted something a bit creamy tonight with it so I came up with this lemon butter cream sauce. It was so delicious and easy! I paired it all up with a mix of butter beans, green beans and spinach. OMG YUM!

I used frozen talapia placed out on a sheet pan. I seasoned them with olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and one whole leaf each of sage fresh from my garden. I am a gardener as well. I have to have my fresh herbs. They save me so much money.  Plus, my daughter picks and eats straight off the plants. She loves basil! I have to keep her away from them sometimes or she will strip my plants. Anyways, place the seasoned fish into the oven at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or so. While I was waiting on the fish to cook, I mixed 1 stick of butter with a little bit of salt and pepper to taste, about two tablespoons of dried parsley.  Then added about 1/8 cup of lemon juice and mixed until blended well.  Add in one tablespoon of flour mixed in before it got to hot, then added one cup of cream. I let the cream sauce heat up to a simmer for a few minutes.  While keeping an eye on the cream sauce, I drained the spinach, butter beans, green beans, and put it all in a pot. I added two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of ham soup base (its ham bouillon). Bring the beans to a boil. By that time, your fish should be done. Serve it all up and enjoy the awesomeness of the sauceyness. Ha ha! so good. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Friday’s Flavor: Teriyaki Chicken


Author: Cassie Stevens

So good!

I always use chop sticks when I eat Asian food. Not a lot of people I know can use them well. I remember when I didn’t  know how to hold them properly. Now, I’m a chop stick master, and it is because I made a rule for myself, if I was going to eat Asian food I had to use chop sticks. So, after a little while I got the hang of it, and have just been getting better ever since.  Rice was the trickiest to pickup and I have often seen Asians shovel it in their mouths from the side of the bowl.  Now, I can pick up a single grain of rice.

When I met my husband he couldn’t hold a chop stick for nothing. So, I told him to follow the rule I have with myself and, he would eventually get it.  He tries, bless his heart.  It’s so funny to watch someone who doesn’t know how to use chop sticks. I just love it!  We have been together for five years (married four), and he still would rather use a fork, but he is a lot better at it now.  I’m glad he tries. He is a good role model for our children.  I can’t wait to teach my them now! Oh what fun!

So anyways, back to the teriyaki. I like to try to make what I can from scratch, mostly because I can’t hide the Jew inside.  Made from scratch is cheaper and makes a lot more for the money, but also because, you know what you are consuming! So in ode to that I give you this recipe:

Hope you Enjoy!

Homemade teriyaki sauce and marinade:

2/3 cup Rice Wine

1 cup Soy Sauce

4 1/2 tsp Rice Vinegar

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1/3 cup White Sugar

7 Cloves Garlic (minced)

1 dash red pepper flakes

Black pepper to taste

Hand Made Raviolis


Author: Cassie Stevens

Hand made pasta is one of my favorites.  No shortcuts with a pasta machines. Although, they are nice to have, and can make life a lot easier when making fettuccine and other noodles.  I love the sense of accomplishment I get when I’m looking at my finished product, thinking to myself not a lot of people know or can do that!  Well, I’m here now to share how fun and easy it can be.  It takes a little time, but it is so worth it in the end, when sitting down to enjoy all the effort you made. You will surely impress your family.

Assemble your ingredients:


6 eggs

2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp olive Oil

4 Cups all purpose flour

That’s all you need! Super simple and it really is easy too! It’s just time consuming but, make this one day when you have the time and freeze the rest, and you’re all set to make a simple and easy dinner for another day when you’re pinched for time.


Make a well in the center to mix everything together


Add your salt then your oil


I start with just two eggs and get those mixed


Mix it up a little, then add the other four eggs


Using your hands (your best tools in the kitchen) Mix Mix Mix!


Pulling in flour as needed


Mix Mix Mix and Mix some more!


Eventually, you will get a dough ball you can start to really work


Beautiful! Finished dough.


I cut it into four pieces. Smaller pieces just makes it easier to work with the rolling pin.


This is about as thin as I can get it!


I used my melon baller to divide the filling on to the dough.  There are a few different filling recipes I really enjoy.

Spinach and Cheese: 1 pound (16 ounces) Ricotta, 1/2-1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, salt & pepper to taste, 3 Tbsp heavy cream, 2 Bunches fresh spinach (cook, squeeze out water, and chop.) mix well and fill raviolis.

Ginger and Sage Butternut Squash: 1 large butternut squash cooked and mashed, 2 Tbsp fresh sage, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 Tbsp ground fresh Ginger

Ground Beef and Cheese: 2 Pounds meat (diced), 1 package beefy onion soup mix, salt and pepper, 1 pound (16 ounces)  ricotta cheese, 1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup heavy cream.  Brown meat and add beefy onion soup mix to it. Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Put mixture in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Combine well and fill ravioli.


I used a cap to a baby bottle to press and seal the edges around the filling. It was of appropriate size.


Use a pastry roller to cut the raviolis out.


The next dough piece to get filling is ready to get sealed up


Yum! Just a pretty shot!


Keep working until you have about what seems like a thousand. Lay them out on a dinner napkin or a dish towel to dry for about 30 minutes up to an hour if you are going to freeze them.


Boil some up! It takes about ten to fifteen minutes depending on how thick your dough is!  Pull one out and let cool then check it to see if it is done.  If it is not done it will look raw or dry on the center of the dough when you cut it open!


Put it in a pan with your favorite homemade red sauce and cover.

SAM_0748 SAM_0747

Make sure to give some to baby! She will be pleased!


Yummy messy face! Thanks Mom!!


And there you have it the best raviolis ever and very little money spent to make them.  I just love ravioli night at my house. Please share this recipe with your family for dinner one night.

How do you fill your raviolis?