Stella's Shrimp and Grits

Ever since we returned from South Carolina I have had a hankering for shrimp and grits. Each of the five versions we sampled on the trip were slightly different - one incarnation included andouille, another featured tomatoes, another a brown bacon-based gravy, and yet another a garlicky wine-based sauce. All were good, but none were the holy grail.

When I got back home, I casted about for the right recipe, but nothing sounded perfect. So I decided to do my own thing, which is the way I prefer to cook, anyway. This time, though, I uncharacteristically took notes. Be glad I did, because judging from the happy noises coming from my crustacean-loving dinner guests, I think this was a hit.

Stella's Shrimp and Grits
(Named in honor of my favorite southerner, who introduced me to the dish)

Timing is important here - you don't want the shrimp to be waiting for the grits to get done. This timeline worked for me:

1. Prepare the saute, but don't add the shrimp.
2. Prepare the grits. When they are done, add the shrimp to the saute.
3. Finish the grits with butter and cream.
4. When shrimp are done, divide grits into four shallow, wide bowls and top with the shrimp saute.
5. Say ooh and ahh and groan alot while eating.

Shrimp saute:

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
3-4 oz. andouille sausage link, halved and sliced
olive oil
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup good chicken stock
pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
pinch dried thyme, or handful of fresh
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt

In a large pan, saute the onions, celery, and garlic in 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes and saute just until they start to break down. Add red and green pepper and sausage and saute another couple minutes. Add seasonings and chicken stock and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Raise heat and add shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 or 3 minutes, just until shrimp curl and loose transparency. Do not overcook shrimp. Serve over shallow bowls of creamy grits.

Creamy grits:
1/2 cup white hominy grits, preferably stone ground. Not quick-cooking.
2.25 cups good chicken stock (home made, preferrably)
2 T butter
2-4 T half & half or cream
kosher salt to taste

Prepare grits according to package directions, but substituting chicken stock for water. Home made stock is far superior in this. Finish the grits by stirring in butter, salt, and enough cream to make them smooth and creamy.

Serves 4 hungry adults.

Recommended side dishes: Fried okra and capreze salad.

For the okra: cut okra in 1 inch pieces, dipped in egg, rolled in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, pepper, and tabasco, and fried. Even an avowed okraphobe enjoyed this dish.

For the capreze - slice fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, arrange on a plate. Top with ripped fresh basil. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt, and drizzle good olive oil and balsamic vinegar over all.


Fairy door sighting!

Tonight at the cafe my sock encountered a secret fairy door.

I've always relied on the kindness of strangers

This past week I have been a victim of many acts of kindness, perpetrated by friends and strangers alike (not to mention strange friends).
Just as a warmup, Deb and Ed brought me this lovely Vermont pewter from the Green Mountain Spinnery.

Bunny buttons!

They must know that I am in a sock knitting rut and need some inspiration to complete a couple of long-overdue baby sweater UFOs.

You probably couldn't help noticing the lovely bit of blue roving. That is ingeo, a natural fiber made from corn. Kim presented this to me at the cafe last week as part of a lovely "welcome to spinning" package. Behold:

Big white ball - Bluefaced Leicester
Little white ball - soy silk
Blue ball - ingeo
Garnet and plum balls - superwash merino (yippee! handspun socks!)
Lavendar ball - merino and tencel, and oh-so-silky

This will keep me busy for awhile. Simply put, Kim rocks.

So those kindnesses were not from strangers. But here are a couple of vignettes for you, in which I am the object of a generous act.

(Art) Fair Weather Friends

If you are from around these parts, you know about the local phenomenon that is the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Actually Fairs, plural, but then I'd have to fix a tricky subject/verb agreement problem in the last sentence.

Anyway, the Fairs, as they are known, are renowned for huge crowds, inpenetrable streets, and bad weather.

So of course we decided to visit the Farmer's Market downtown, on bicycle, with the kids, Saturday morning. After living here 16 years, you'd think I would have a clue. Nope. Sometimes the need for fresh cucumbers moves people to irrational acts.

But I digress. On the way home, in the sweltering heat, Evan started a raging fit on the back of my bike. While waiting at a red light, a hot dog vendor asked if the kid wanted a lollipop. I said no thanks, but I sure could use a drink. In seconds he was at my side with a bottle of cold water. Not exactly the drink I had in mind (note the time, 10 AM), but exactly what I needed. He refused to take any money. The light turned green. The car behind me honked. I pedaled off.

Man, I could go for a hot dog about now.


Crime scene - do not cross

Found on the floor near my spinning wheel. Two guesses who my prime suspect is. Fortunately this was just a scrap I pulled off someone's practice bobbin from the last guild meeting. Still, it gave me the shivers to see a skein of handspun mutilated. I have since moved my handspun to an undisclosed location.

If you've noticed a small addition to my blog template (and no, I am not going to point it out), before you unsubscribe in disgust, I want to hear from you. This is just an experiment, because , I am a pathetic geek at heart and wanted to see what would happen. I am finding it vaguely amusing. But if you feel violated that this one last shred of noncommercial entertainment in your life (however pathetic) has been, well, googlized, at least have the decency to leave me a rant before signing off.

I must be so ronery, so ronery, to be begging for abuse like this. Sad, I know.


I found my thrills....

On Blueberry Hill...

Still life with Michigan blueberries and sock

Oh, to be unemployed in Michigan in the summertime. The days are just packed. Blueberry picking, knitting, spinning, swimming, rinse, repeat.

But the blissfully carefree days of summer will end for me too, too soon. Yesterday I accepted a job, (a real one, with benefits) at my alma mater. I start August 8. I am excited, but also little sad. Dave and I agreed that whoever got a job first would be it, and I won. Or did I?

But back to the subject at hand - knitting. Note I have started another pair of socks, in a blueberry colorway to honor the season. I know, there are other more urgent knitting projects I should be working down, but my gentle readers (that would be you!) didn't seem to care what I worked on next, so I picked my own project. Besides, I was having something of a sock emergency. Dave inadvertently felted the striped socks, so I had to give mom the fair isle socks, even though everyone agreed I should keep those. So I needed to replace the blue ones, see? I knew you would understand.

To carry the blueberry theme a bit further, here's my latest handspun:

Blueberry handspun, mystery wool

I only have about 200 yards. What should I make?


Non-verbal communication

OK, Evan actually has pretty advanced language skills for a two-year-old. But I think he is at a loss for words here, and communicating the only way he knows how.

Another pose, slightly more threatening:

What do you think he is trying to tell me about my spinning habit? Leave me a comment with a photo caption suggestion, and I'll send you a pair of these:

Little beaded goodies

I've gone a bit crazy making these stitch holders. My friend Sue from my old yarn store job just opened a bead store with her daughter - Stony Creek Bead and Gallery in Ypsilanti (no website yet that I can find). If you are into beading and live in SE Michigan, you should go. Hell, even if you aren't into beading and live in Ohio or the UP or the midwest, for that matter, you should go, but beware - the allure of the small lovely bits of shimmery beauty will suck you in and you will never be the same.

Happy 4th of July (belated)

I don't usually do these blogthing tests, but I found this one amusing.

You Are 27% American
America: You don't love it or want to leave it.
But you wouldn't mind giving it an extreme make over.
On the 4th of July, you'll fly a freak flag instead...
And give Uncle Sam a sucker punch!

To make up for that (and keep the CIA off my back), from the Freddyknits archives, here's the sock waxing patriotic 4th of July weekend on the White House lawn:

Patriotic sock, now complete.

My favorite thing about Washington, DC? Some of the buildings remind me of Europe.


Potty talk

We've been having issues with potty talk lately. It started innocently enough, with silly giggle fits involving poo-poo and pee-pee. Then Evan (2) learned he could get my goat by chanting "penis" incessantly. We decided to crack down - no potty talk unless you are actually in the potty.

So the kids got creative. Suddenly they were obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, and asking lots of questions about what comes on a poo-poo platter. They never get tired anymore, just pooped. And the other day in the car Brian (4) asked: "Mommy, what's "european?" Bewildered, I explained that it was someone or something from Europe. A few moments later I heard both boys whispering and giggling "You're a-peein'! You're a-peein'!"

Some parent deal with these situations in a mature way, or at least have the common sense to wash their kids' mouths out with soap. Not us.

Brian enjoying his poo-poo platter

So do we win the immature parents of the year award?

In other news, I finished my summer socks, in spite of the broken needle incident. I took Denise and Kim's advice and switched to metal Inox needles. Putting my needle snobbery aside, I must admit that for $3.75, these are the right answer for summer sock knitting. The cool smooth metal doesn't absorb moisture from my sweaty hands, and they are nice and slippery for the somewhat grippy cotton blend sock yarn I am knitting with. I do occasionally wince at the painful fingernails-on-a-chalkboard sensation, but that's a minor price to pay for these, don't you agree?

Summer socks, 1 skein of Knitpicks Dancing

I got a pair out of one 50 gm. ball. That's a pair of socks for $2.99! Now I am left with another ball. If anyone wants to trade me for a different ball of sock yarn, just leave me a comment.

After three pairs in the last couple months, I might have gotten this mania out of my system, at least for awhile. I really should turn my attention to some must-do projects. What will it be? Finishing the overdue baby sweater (it is the sweater that is overdue - the baby is 5 months old)? Knitting the overdue graduation sweater for Geoffrey? O wise and faithful readers, please advise.

Techno Holster - free crochet pattern

Announcing another freddyknits pattern. I originally submitted this pattern to a certain feminist pop-culture publishing mogul, for her upcoming book. Be glad it was rejected, because now I can share it with you, free!

Model - my hottie neighbor, Stella

This is a brain-dead pattern for learning single crochet, crochet in the round, and button holes. I am a beginning crocheter, and I made mine in about an hour. The model fits my phone, but you can easily modify the design for other phones, ipods or PDAs. Or beg me to - I respond well to bribes. You could also add a flap over the top for more security if you would like.

The holster is designed to hook through a belt loop, over a belt, or around a purse or backpack strap.

Techno Holster

- Partial ball Berroco Suede, color Belle Star (hot pink)
- one button
- size G crochet hook

Doesn't really matter.

For the bottom:
Chain 6 and join in a circle.
Round 1: sc 10, passing hook through the center of the circle vs. through the chain.
Round 2: sc 2 into each stitch, for a total of 20 stitches in the round.
Rounds 3 - 13: sc 1 into each stitch. Secure last stitch and cut yarn, leaving a longish length for sewing on the strap.

For the strap:
Leaving a long tail for sewing up, chain 22
Row 1: Turn and sc across.
Row 2 (buttonhole row): Turn and sc 17. Chain 2. Skipping the next two stitches, sc the last 3 stitches.
Rows 3 & 4: Turn and sc across. Cut yarn, leaving enough to weave in the end.

Sew strap to top edge of holster. I used both the tail from the strap and the body of the holster, for extra security, since this will be holding technology. Sew button on the other side of the bag, very securely. You could sew a tiny button behind the button to make it more secure.

Wearing, and options
Hook around your belt loop or belt, or button to your purse strap or backpack. If desired, crochet a little flap on the top to make more secure. A holster made from one of the more leatherlike colors (tan or brown) might be cool, especially with some fringe, or maybe even a horsie or cowboy boot button.

Crocheted Techno Holster

Copyright 2005, Lynne Frederickson Rago
Do not duplicate or distribute.
Items made from this pattern may not be sold.
You may print one copy for your personal use.


Do you think he is trying to tell me something?

So maybe my obsession with all things fibery is getting to my family, just a little bit. Yes, I know I dragged them to the ends of the earth to tour a llama farm on the family vacation. Perhaps the Saturdays spent fondling rovings and trying out wheels at the Spinner's Flock could be better spent with my family at the lake. Maybe the $9 per hour I make at my LYS , and that is all immediately, um, reinvested in yarn, books, and needles (But I get an employee discount! Summer sale starts tomorrow!) could be better socked away for my childrens' education (which in the next year will cost more than I earned last year). And possibly the Tuesday nights that I hang with the knitin-aa gang could be better spent doing laundry, looking for gainful employment, or paying bills. But really, has it come to this?

When a two-year-old helps you knit, bad things can happen....

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is a broken #1 Clover bamboo double pointed needle you see at the top of the photo, courtesy of my youngest monster adorable boy. During a serious lapse of judgment I thought I would teach my two-year-old to knit. Little did I know he was bearing me ill-will. The tragedy occurred within 30 seconds.

So, what do you think? Is Evan sending me a non-verbal plea for more mommy time, and less knitting? Do I need to reevaluate my priorities? Take the wheel back? Quit the yarn store? Get a real job?

Or should I just switch to metal needles?

Although it does seem wrong, somehow, to knit your own handspun with metal, doesn't it? Behold the ill-formed offspring of my feeble needles:

First creation from my own handspun. I need to spin more to complete it.


Still in Carolina (in my mind)

Well, we've been home for over a week, but I haven't been able to bring myself to blog until now. Not that I've been busy - I just suffer from the old post-vacation ennui. Ever get that?

Not that Ann Arbor is a bad place to be in the summertime. There's lots of outdoor festivals, like Top of the Park (free music and movies, but $14 for ice cream for a family of four), the Manchester Chicken Broil (12,500 chickens! 11 tons of cabbage! The Sounds of Germany polka band!), Elvisfest, the Art Fairs, and the Rolling Sculpture Car Show.

We took in Rolling Sculpture last weekend. Here's proof.

Elvis lives - and he's a knitter!
It finally fits!
another baby sweater...
Not trafficking in baby animals, really
Some days are like that
Restraining Order
American Beauty
weaving class
yarn fairies
Coveting the scarves of friends
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
October 2007
November 2007
March 2008
April 2008
January 2009
My Local Yarn Store
Crack for Knitters