Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Lucky One: Shrimp and Grits

Now that the film version of Nicholas Sparks' The Lucky One is out, it's time to have a go at the food in the book! Reviews for the movie are mixed, and nobody is saying it's great; I keep reading things like "predictable," "syrupy," "lazy," (ouch), "dull;" but I've also seen "sweet," "sentimental," "solid," and "beautifully shot." This is the best review I've seen so far, and even that one isn't all that great. Ah, well, we Nicholas Sparks fans will see the movie anyway. Nick writes his stories for a specific audience, and we eat them up. And there are lots of us. Those Nick-haters, well, they just don't get it. (That said, I will admit that there are one or two Nicholas Sparks books that I've found a little too bland and predictable, and I didn't care for them much; but do you think I'm going to tell you what they are? Not a chance.)

The Story:  Logan Thibault (pronounced "Tebow," like the football player. I think. But I haven't seen the movie yet...) is an Iraq war veteran who shows up in Hampton, North Carolina--which doesn't really exist, although according to Nick's official website, it's somewhere in the Blue Ridge mountains. (The site says "Blue Mountain Region," but that must be a typo. They mean "Blue Ridge," surely.) Have you ever been to the mountains in North Carolina? Beautiful. I spent two summers during college as a camp counselor near Brevard, about an hour's drive from Asheville, and I still have dreams at night about going back to Camp Gwynn Valley. Truly a piece of Heaven.

(Please pardon the interruption; I will now share some photos from our 2005 summer vacation in the North Carolina mountains.)

(And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.) 

 Anyhow, Logan has walked to Hampton with his German Shepherd, Zeus, all the way from his home in Colorado.  He's carrying a picture that he found in Iraq, of a beautiful young woman.  He carries this photo because it seems to have kept him safe from harm when his buddies were getting killed in war and accidents and such.  He's decided to track this woman down because a friend convinced him that she must be his good-luck charm.  He finds Beth, who lives with her ten-year-old son, Ben, and her grandmother, "Nana."    Beth is a teacher; Nana owns a kennel.  Logan gets a job at the kennel, and befriends Beth, Nana, and Ben; and eventually develops a romance with Beth.

One evening during dinner, Nana announces that she's going to visit her sister in Greensboro.  Logan is going to drive her there and oversee things at the kennel while she's gone.  Nana had a stroke a few years back, and naturally Beth is concerned.  Once Nana makes up her mind about something, though, that's it.  The conversation takes place over a meal of shrimp and grits.
I found several recipes on the Internet, and here's the one I picked.



1 cup stone ground grits
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, left whole if small and roughly chopped if medium or large
6 slices bacon, chopped into tiny pieces
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
1 large garlic clove, minced

1.  To make shrimp and grits recipe, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the grits and salt and pepper to taste.  stir well with a whisk.  Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese.  Keep covered until ready to serve.

I thought it needed a little cayenne pepper, too.
2.  Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.  Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned and crisp, then drain on a paper towel.  Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet and saute over medium heat just until they turn pink, about 3 minutes.  Do not overcook!  Immediately add the lemon juice, parsley, green onions, and garlic.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

I think I might have forgotten the lemon juice...
3.  Pour the grits into a serving bowl.  Pour the shrimp mixture over the grits.  Garnish with the bacon bits.
(Source:  Leite's Culinaria)

I doubled the recipe; I was lazy and bought two pounds of frozen shrimp, already peeled and deveined.  The boys wrinkled their noses at the thought of shrimp on top of grits.   They'd never heard of such a thing.  But guess what?  They loved it.  It was delicious, and next time maybe I'll get fresh shrimp, and remember the lemon juice.

Logan drives Nana to Greensboro, fixes the brakes on Nana's truck, and spends more and more of his free time with Beth and Ben.  Still, he doesn't tell anyone about the photo of Beth.  He wants to, but is struggling to find the right timing and the right words.  Will the truth finally come out?  Will Beth be pleased that he has come so far to meet her?  I'm not telling.  You'll have to read the book.  Or watch the movie; although I suspect the book is better.

My camera is in the shop.  It suddenly developed this annoying black shadow across the top of every photo I take, no matter what lens or what setting I use.  Worse, when I try to take indoor photos, they're way too dark even though the flash seems to work.  It will be two weeks at least before I get it back.  Fortunately I have two more food projects I did over spring break; one from The Lucky One, and one from the first Lemony Snicket book.  I hope I get my camera back soon, because I don't want to rely on my phone to take food photos for this blog.  (I suppose I could use my old point-and-shoot camera, the one I used for my 2005 vacation photos, but that one isn't working properly either.  Probably because I let the boys use it.  *sigh*)  I'm praying for a speedy recovery for my trusty Canon EOS Rebel.

Next Up:  Taco Night!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 9


I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see this movie! The Lucky One hits theaters next Friday, the 20th of April. When I relayed this fact to Joe he asked, "We're not going to see it are we?" "Well...I want to..." I replied. "It will eventually be on DVD," he said.

Well. Methinks there just might have to be a girls' night out for this one.

Nick is hitting the talk show circuit this week to promote the film; here's his recent interview on CBS This Morning. (And did you hear the kid in the trailer ask Zac Efron if he likes jambalaya? Well, there are all kinds of things to cook from the book, but jambalaya isn't one of them. I just might have to make some for this blog anyway.)


My dog gets into everything. Seriously. There have been times when my kids could truthfully tell their teachers, "My dog ate my homework." I have been trying to figure out a good place for a fruit bowl for years, where the dog can't get it and where it will be visible. I also have an iron skillet and a wok that I don't have a good place to store. For a while I had them on top of my stove, but I just had to move them around whenever I wanted to cook. Finally I found a corner where I could store both, and my wok could be my fruit bowl. Not ideal, but it works.


Last summer my crazy dog figured out how to open the cabinet under the kitchen sink and get into the garbage can. I found a plastic child safety lock left over from when the kids were little--the kind that's u-shaped, and you slide it through the handles and pull a little plastic thingy across to lock it into place. Well, it took her about ten seconds to chew through that. We're now keeping our garbage can in our laundry room closet (and we have to keep the laundry room door shut tight because she knows how to open THAT closet door, too).

My dilemma has been what to do with our kitchen trash so we don't have to make trips back and forth to the laundry room a bazillion times a day. For a while I was using a Rachael Ray-inspired garbage bowl system that I would empty from time to time, but that was filling up so quickly it was a pain. Finally I took my big pot (which, like my skillet and my wok, needed a storage place), stuck a plastic bag in it, and voila'! Instant trash can, and I can keep it above my stove. And when I need the pot for cooking I just take out the bag and wash out the pot real quick.


This is what my center island looks like on a good day.

If I could just keep my desk in the corner clutter-free, there would be someplace to put all that stuff. *sigh*


Curly's science teacher (the amazing Sister Frances Carol) told her students that right around the spring equinox, and only on a leap year, you could stand a broom on its bristles and it would stay. This broom stayed in our dining room like this for the better part of a month, I kid you not.

Of course, this was my favorite broom, and Curly insisted that no one touch it. I had to use inferior brooms for a while, but I didn't mind. One day Moe needed to sweep and inadvertently grabbed this one, thus breaking the spell.


Every year at school, they have Character Dress-up Day. This year Moe wanted to go as Count Olaf from the Lemony Snicket books. He found a jacket from Larry's old Mad Hatter costume, and a vest Curly had worn last spring when he played Lefou in Beauty and the Beast. I painted a single eyebrow on his face with eyeliner, and drew the eye tattoo on his ankle with permanent marker.

(See my mischievous dog looking for something to get into?)

Soon I'll be inserting food from A Series of Unfortunate Events into this blog. We've already made something from the first book, The Bad Beginning, and the kids got a big kick out of it. Stay tuned!


On April Fool's Day, this showed up in my kitchen cabinet.

Moe designed it on the computer, took a can of beans and replaced the label with this one. Nice, huh? (eyeroll)

I hope your appetite hasn't been spoiled too badly; coming up I'll share that Lemony Snicket fare we put together, as well as some yummy dishes from The Lucky One. See you soon!