In this week's The Willowbee Tree story, “Meeting New Friends”, Clancy is feeling nervous about the school's "Winter Festival" and is worried that he might get lost in a group of people he doesn't know very well. When the willow tree takes him to Catahoula Lake in Louisiana, he meets a shy duck from Manitoba and helps her find new friends—and finds his own courage in the process.
Like Clancy, I sometimes get nervous around new groups of people. But you know what helps? Good food!
From time immemorial, people have gotten to know each other better by sharing a meal. There's just something about the shared experience of breaking bread that eases pressure, makes conversation flow more smoothly, and ultimately quite often leaves the people involved just a little bit better friends than they were before.
This week's recipe, shrimp and grits, is inspired by Clancy's trip to cajun country. This simple version of the classic dish is great for kiddos, who might be adverse to spicer flavors. You can definitely add hot sauce to individual portions at the table, though, or—if your crew doesn't mind a little fire—add it to the whole pot, to taste, just as the grits finish cooking.
Whether spicy or mild, this is an easy, hearty dish to share at the table with friends.
Shrimp and Grits (serves 4)
1 cup quick cooking grits (not instant)
3 cups water
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup shredded cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
Combine the grits and water in a medium saucepan. Stirring frequently, bring the mixture to a boil. Then, let it simmer for about five minutes. Be very careful as you stir, as the grits can pop up unexpectedly and burn your hands.
Once the mixture is starting to thicken, add the milk and butter. Simmer the mixture together for about two more minutes, continuing to stir.
Using a fork or tongs, rub the garlic clove all over the pan in the hot oil. You're just using it to flavor the pan. Then, toss in the shrimp and let them cook until they're bright pink with just a little browning.
Spoon the warm grits into big bowls, then sprinkle the shrimp on top. Drizzle on hot sauce if that's your thing. Otherwise, enjoy!
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.