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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Easy & Amazing Shrimp & Grits!

Oh my god, I was in New Orleans 2 weeks ago with my best friend, and I ate shrimp and grits every single day we were there, and it was so, so good. My husband was jealous of all the delicious food I had while I was there, so for Valentine’s Day, we made shrimp and grits.
The first meal I had in NOLA: shrimp & grits! (At the Ruby Slipper). Top is my BFF's meal of egg's benedict.
We don’t make a big deal of Valentine’s Day, we generally cook together and spend the evening at home, which I love. 

I love shrimp and grits, and it’s a pretty simple and filling meal. It’s also a bit rich, which I happen to love. Buttery, creamy grits with spiced shrimp and a sauce made mainly of bacon grease. What’s not to love?

My husband's favorite thing is seafood, and he particularly loves shrimp. He even likes cooking it, since it's so fast! And he brought me flowers, so we were happy and cooking up a storm! 
Gerber daisies are my favorite, and we had them at our wedding!
I like to cook on instinct. I’ll read several recipes and then kind of make it my own by following none of them, I just need to compare recipes and see general similarities.


I used Quaker grits, but not the instant kind, but just the old fashioned grits. My grits came out very creamy and delicious, and I believe the secret to those were that I did not use water in my grits. Also, most grits use cheddar cheese, but I find that mozzarella adds to the creaminess and flavor without making them super cheesy.
Our final product!! So delicious!

Ingredients:
-1 cup grits (also known as stone ground hominy)
-3.5 cups chicken broth
-Half cup heavy cream OR half n half
-1-1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
-2-3 tablespoons butter (to taste)
-4-6 strips of bacon
-1 pound of cleaned, peeled, and de-veined shrimp
-1 clove garlic
-1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-0.5-1 teaspoon of lemon juice
-Seasonings to taste (Salt, pepper, garlic, cajun seasoning mix, adobo)


Recipe:
  1. In a medium saucepan, put the chicken broth and cream on high heat, waiting until it gets to a rolling boil. Add a dash of salt to the liquid. Once that is boiling, add the grits slowly, stirring as you add. Cover it, turn heat to low, and stir every 2 minutes until the grits have absorbed the liquid. Takes 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, spray the bottom with cooking spray (I use Pam with olive oil), and cook the bacon. Once cooked, take bacon off and chop it up into bacon bits, to go on top with the shrimp.
  3. Leave the bacon grease in the pan, and add the garlic, then the raw shrimp. Season as you want. I used cajun seasoning (McCormick Perfect Pinch, Cajun is the brand I have), adobo seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  4. While the shrimp is cooking, add the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to the pan. Mix it around so that the shrimp and the spices and the bacon grease and everything is mixed up together. Taste the sauce to adjust seasonings.
  5. Once the shrimp is cooked, remove from pan. Check grits, they should be about done. Into the grits, add the shredded mozzarella cheese to your preferred level of cheesiness, once that is fully mixed, add the butter a bit at a time to get the consistency you want. Add salt, pepper and garlic (if you want), tasting as you go.
  6. Serve hot with grits on the bottom, shrimp and bacon on top, and add a couple spoonfuls of the sauce from the bottom of the pan! Enjoy!! 
I know there are several places that say 2-3 or 1-1.5, and the reason for the variations are that grits tend to be a thing that people like a certain way. As your grits thicken up, you should taste after every step. Grits can be more coarse, more smooth, more spicy, more creamy, more salty, more buttery. You want it to be the texture and taste that YOU prefer, which is why I have written the amounts this way. 

Personally, I like my grits to be rich and creamy and buttery, but not particularly cheesy, and then I like you to be able to taste the garlic and salt and pepper, so I add more as I go.

Good luck! This whole thing only took about 15 minutes to make! My husband, who rarely cooks, made the shrimp and bacon, and we both really loved this meal. Rich and comfortably spicy, with that very comforting feel of hot southern food.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Poem

I wrote a terrible poem, and since this is my blog and I can post what I want to, here we are.

Pulsing
Gentle yet insane.
Urging
Making yearning known
Hiding
What is timing?

Foolish
Best laid plans;
Time
Holds no consciousness.

Well, there we are, then. 

Life is so interesting. I find working from home to be both awesome and isolating, so far. I feel lonely, yet I speak with multiple clients per day. I was scared I'd be unproductive without the office environment, but I think I'm getting stuff done!

Either way, I was feeling a bit weird and I wrote a poem. What can I say? I'm a word person. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

3 months from Inception to Quitting

I got my first paying client on 10/31/2016. It was a Monday, and I had messaged a few people the week before, wondering if I could get paying clients for writing. I’ve long been a writer, but I hadn’t been getting paid regularly. I had had a couple of paying clients over the years, writing resumes and cover letters, editing academic papers, simpler things like that.

When I started on this journey, I figured the only thing people would pay me for would be blogging, and to my surprise, my first few clients were for website copywriting and editing, and copy for ads.

I then moved to doing interviews and articles, before really settling into a sweet spot that is a combination of content marketing (blog posts and other content, including social media marketing) for clients, and ghostwriting and book editing.

The interesting thing is that I’ve always wanted to be a book editor. I genuinely hope I am able to continue doing this, and build a career in this editing.

Today is Friday, January 27th, 2017. It was my last full time day at my corporate job as a sales and business development professional at a staffing firm in NYC. It has been 3 months almost to the day since I started seriously pursuing writing as a career.

I have decided to stay with my corporate job part time for a month or so, to both assist with their transition, and also to help me. I've never worked from home entirely before, and I need to learn to create a new routine and organization for myself.

I've spent the last 3 months working every night and most of the weekends, and now I'm going to be able to work during the day time hours!

All the stars have aligned and it is the perfect time in my life to able to take this kind of risk. I am happier, healthier, and making more money than ever before, I am in a steady, stable relationship with a guy who is 100% supportive of this new adventure, and has sacrificed time and activities together during these last months.

I want it, and I am willing to work hard at it. I'm already working hard at it and am making money, bringing in clients, and being successful.

Here I am world, hear me roar. :)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Are You Confident in Your Entrepreneurial Journey?

What is the most important part of being an entrepreneur? Confidence. You have to believe with every fiber of your being that you‘re doing the right thing, on the right path, and that the hard work is totally worth it all.

Sometimes I joke about how I’m working 14 hour days, so I must a hustler, but it’s true. I have a day job, a sales career I’ve had for almost 10 years, and have been successful in. I enjoy my career and the opportunities I’ve had within it.

I’ve met some of the most amazing people, learned from the best bosses, and gotten marketing, conference, travel, and training opportunities I never would have had otherwise. I appreciate what I have accomplished so far, and in some ways this transition has been bittersweet.

I’ve been working nights and weekends for a few months now, building my own writing business. Every free moment is spent communicating with clients, research for articles, writing articles and copy for websites, editing, sending it to the client, posting it online, sharing, etc. And if I’m not doing that, my time needs to be spent marketing myself and my services and looking for additional clients, and then following up with potential clients, proposals that are out, checking on invoices, and applying to additional writing gigs.

I am so busy, and it can be exhausting, but it’s also pretty amazing to see what I’m capable of. I may be tired sometimes, but I am also invigorated and interested in my clients and what I’m doing. I am building something from nothing, which is extremely exciting, and also terrifying.

Interestingly, many of my clients are entrepreneurs themselves, so I’m also surrounded by incredibly smart, funny, interesting people who completely understand my journey and are excited to be a part of it.

I’ve also had the very interesting discovery of learning to utilize Instagram as best as I can. I never really used it at all, but I decided to give it a shot, and hey free marketing. It’s been fantastic! I’ve gotten half of my client list from Instagram. I’ve been enjoying posting pictures, engaging with people, and really finding fascinating new people all over the world to follow. It’s a really cool visual platform.

I’m busy, but I am supported and growing and learning and excited and some days I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but I keep learning and researching and I will not stop. I will NOT STOP because I know I can do this.

What’s an important quality to being an entrepreneur? CONFIDENCE.
I am good at what I do, I deserve to do it, and I am bringing great value to my clients. I am completely confident in these things.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Low Carb Broccoli & Cheese Soup with Ham! (keto)

I have never made soups before last week. I have done chili in my crock pot, and I've eaten a lot of soup, but I've never made it.

Last week I received an immersion (stick) blender for Hanukkah! It's so cool, and I imagined myself making fancy soups!

Last week for meal prep, I did a very simple cauliflower soup, and then decided to add cooked ground pork, to make it a bit heartier, and it was my lunch all last week. It was really creamy and good and satisfying!

This week, I wanted a classic broccoli and cheese soup. I used to LOVE going to Panera Bread and getting broccoli and cheese soup and a half sandwich to dip in it.

It turns out that all the recipes online use flour as a thickener, which I can't do.

I decided to just try the exact same cauliflower soup, but adding a lot of sharp yellow cheddar and cooked broccoli. I also decided to go with fresh cauliflower and broccoli. The original soup said I could do frozen, and it tasted great but was a bit watery and took longer to cook.
Celery, onion, cauliflower & chicken broth in one, broccoli in the other!
After blending, adding the cheddar a little at a time. STIR STIR STIR!
Added the cooked broccoli!



I also added ham as the meat, as I know that goes so well with cheddar cheese and again, I wanted a hearty meal. I actually bought cooked black forest ham from the deli counter and had them cut it very thick. I purchased about a pound and a half and ended up using right about half of it. Use as much or as little (or no) meat as you want!

------------------------------
Final product! It turned out really good!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
-4oz butter
-1 medium onion (I used 2 small yellow onions this time, last time was 1 medium white, both work)
-4 stalks of celery
-1 head of cauliflower (if using frozen, 1 bag, 14 oz frozen)
-4 cups chicken broth
-1 head of broccoli
-16 oz sharp cheddar cheese (grate it yourself for better melting)
-3/4 cup heavy cream
-Half to whole pound of ham (depends how much ham you like)


Instructions:

1. Dice the onion and celery (I used a food processor) and put it into a 3 quart (or more) saucepan with 4 oz butter over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes.

2. Add cauliflower florets and chicken broth. Can be done with fresh or frozen. Frozen will take a bit longer to cook but tastes good, though is a bit more watery/thinner, and I found that fresh cauliflower made it a bit thicker overall.

3. Bring this to a boil and then turn down the heat slightly, allow to simmer and cook until the cauliflower is easily forked. If using frozen, this will take 15-20 minutes, with fresh florets, about 8-10 minutes.

4. While thats cooking, cook your broccoli. I cut it up really tiny (not bite size, smaller, like the Panera soup) and saute it in a pan with salt, pepper, garlic, but it is just as easy and delicious to steam it in the microwave, especially since it's going into cheese.
*I have not tried this recipe with frozen broccoli, but if you do use it, simply steam and drain the frozen broccoli and chop it into smaller bits.

5. Once you can fork the cauliflower, grab a stick blender and blend the soup until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, and mix. At this time, add spices. I did italian seasoning, chili powder, adobo, salt, pepper, and garlic.

6. Put back over the heat and slowly add all of the cheese, mixing it thoroughly.

7. Remove from heat. Add the cooked broccoli and cut up ham (mine was pre-cooked ham).


For me, this makes 4 lunches for the week and at least one dinner for 2 people, sometimes.

It's really good and you don't need flour to thicken it!! The cauliflower and sheer amount of cheese thickens it very well!

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017

This is definitely going to be a great year.

I'm building my writing business. As of 1/4/17, I am up to the previously-agreed-upon number where I can quit my full time day job and build my writing business. I'm planning to spend time continuing to build and also on my own writing projects.

I have a half-finished musical, an outline for an entire dystopian novel, and so many poems and songs I can't keep track of them.

I'm learning new skills! I recently took several online webinars in grantwriting, in case the copywriting and marketing writing didn't work out. I am in the process of taking additional courses on SEO, content marketing, Google adwords, and more. I am just continuously building and growing my skills.

I'm getting more involved with social media, which I am finding to be more fun than I thought it would be!

I have met some really rad people through writing and finding clients. I have been exposed to new ideas and it is very cool to learn new things and expand my horizons.

I am more and more comfortable calling myself a writer. It's amazing how supportive my family and friends are, too. They are incredibly encouraging and supportive, and it feels amazing to finally feel like I'm living up to my potential.

My husband's career is going extremely well. He is happy, fulfilled, and works with great people. He is constantly working on huge projects and learning new things, and feeling supported by his company.

Once I'm working from home full time, my husband and I are going to think this year about a possible puppy and maybe a kid. We are going to think about where we want to live, and our goals.

This year, I will see my best friend and my family more when I don't have to worry about PTO days. I will go to Italy with the love of my life and eat so many carbs that I might explode. I will turn 31, I will be an entrepreneur, and I will have more time to volunteer! 

And in 17 days, we have our first wedding anniversary.

It's going to be a really great year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The End of 2016

In a world and US news and politics capacity, 2016 has been an absolute travesty. We are watching as an inexperienced, incompetent, narcissistic low level tyrant put in place misogynist, climate-change-deniers and frauds on his cabinet, in an effort to for some reason actively work against any change or progress we've made. He openly admits his lies from the campaign trail and people still seem to believe him. We've watched as his foundation and university are proven to be fraudulent, as he refuses to show tax returns, as he has contradicted himself under oath, as his family refuses to live in the White House, causing tax dollars to be used on rent and security.

There have been additional uprisings, terrorist attacks, and gun violence this year. We've lost Princess Leia and Prince, and a host of others.

This has been, without a doubt, the worst year I have lived.

However, this has also been unequivocally the best year I have lived.  

In 2016, I opened the year by getting married to my favorite person, got into the Huffington Post in the summer, and turned 30. In September I quit smoking cigarettes after spending half my life as a smoker, in October I went low carb and have lost almost 20 pounds since, and on 10/31/2016, I decided to truly pursue freelance writing and open a business. In November I officially filed as an LLC, and in December I went to my annual physical where my doctor told me I am the healthiest I've ever been.

I have literally never been happier in my personal or professional life, and I have never been healthier or had as much good energy. I love my life and my cat more every day.

Turning 30 has been wonderful. I had a great run in my 20s, making mistakes and falling down, but always getting back up and pushing forward. I grew as a person more in my mid-20s than I ever could have imagined, and I started taking my health more seriously. I built my career, I grew as a professional in so many ways. And turning 30 helped me clarify what is important to me.

It took turning 30 before I took the risk of starting a business, of putting myself out there and risking failure. It took turning 30 to take a serious look at my health and my goals and stop smoking for real, and think about kids and the future.

Like I said, worst year ever and am genuinely scared about the claims of a Muslim Registry (sound familiar? Possibly like the Jewish registry in 1930s Germany?), about Trump, Pence, and his cabinet's history of anti-LGBTQ stances, about his abject disrespect and dismissal of women. I am honestly afraid of Trump and what he will do over the next four years and how long it will take to undo.

But I am also happier, healthier, wealthier, energetic, and have never looked this good.

It's been a weird year.