lela’s grits

True Grits

Grits were born in the 16th century thanks to the Muskogee Native American tribe of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.

Flash forward 400-ish years later and we’re still enjoying cornmeal that’s often served with a seemingly endless assortment of sweet and savory sidekicks.

Because grits don’t have much flavor all by themselves, they are super versatile adopting the taste of their foodie sidekicks like bacon, cheese, onions, shrimp, sausage and more. Butter is a given! I’ve included some ingredient options below, although Lela’s original recipe just called for garlic cheese. Sometimes the simple foods provide the greatest comfort!

My orientation to grits was via the 1970s greasy spoon diner sitcom Alice. I spent many hours watching Flo Castleberry find a delightfully southern and spunky way of telling people to “Kiss my grits!” Here’s a video compilation of some of her sassiest moments:

Truth be told – one bite in and you may just kiss these grits. I enjoyed reminiscing over this dish and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Foodie Tips

❤  Garlic cheese roll? Yeah, you won’t likely readily find it at the grocery store. This good ol’ classic has been discontinued by Kraft but you can score a way to make your own Garlic Cheese Roll at home with this Betty’s Cook Nook recipe (scroll to the bottom for the bonus cheese roll recipe).

❤  This pimiento cheese recipe tastes great in lieu of the garlic cheese roll.

❤  I discovered a recent Southern Living magazine article with some ingredient options to enjoy grits three unique ways: Option 1: Scrambled eggs, cubed ham, shredded cheddar cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, and chopped fresh chives. Option 2: Fried egg, cubed chorizo, cubed avocado, crumbled queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese), and hot sauce. Option 3: Poached egg, crumbled bacon, sautéed spinach, and shaved Parmesan cheese.

i. Time

Total prep: About 25 minutes

ii. Ingredients

3 cups  |  boiling water
1 cup  |  grits
to taste  |  salt
1 roll  |  garlic cheese roll
1 stick  |  unsalted butter (my Grandmother always insisted on Falfurrias brand butter)
|  cage free eggs
to serve  |  cheddar cheese, shredded
to garnish  |  bacon, crumbled (optional)
to garnish  |  green onions, sliced (optional)

iii. What To Do

1. In a saucepan bring the water to a boil.

2. Slowly stir the grits into the boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes until thickened.

3. Add the salt, garlic cheese, butter and eggs and continue cooking until everything melts, about 2-3 minutes. The cheese should cool the grits a bit – you’ll want to make sure you don’t scramble your eggs!

Optional step: We transferred the grits into a buttered casserole dish, topped the grits with the shredded cheddar cheese and baked it at 350°F for 10 minutes to give the grits a cheesy crust up top.

4. To serve (if using): Sprinkle the bacon and sliced green onions on top and enjoy!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

A Scan Of Mom’s Original Grits Recipe Card

Who is Lela?

When I was growing up Lela Swinny lived at 3006 Northridge in San Antonio just 2 doors around the corner from my family’s home at 2927 Trailend.

The Swinny family was a delightful bunch of folks and my family spent almost as much time at their house as our own so naturally “fooding” was a part of the times our two families shared.

Mom’s dear friend “Lela” taught me many things ~ the joy of laughing, how to swim in their awesome pool, and how to cook a memorable breakfast treat called “Egg In A Nest,” which is also posted here at Betty’s Cook Nook.

True family fact: Back in the 1970s Lela was throwing out an old desk that caught my Mom’s eye. A coat of red paint later and it was a cornerstone in my brother Tim’s red white and blue bedroom (it was around the time of our Country’s Bicentennial celebration so red white and blue was extra hot). In the 1990s I painted the desk black and it’s the desk where I author this cooking blog to this day, proving that Lela is still with us, heart and soul!

You’ll find a picture of Lela and me in the “old family photos” tab and you can search for her by name to connect with more of her spirited recipes here at Betty’s Cook Nook.

Cheers to two great friends – my Mom Betty and Lela!


kalua pork

A Kalua Pork Recipe From Betty's Cook NookPerfect Chow For A Luau

I probably overlooked this recipe due to my first hangover in college from an untimely overdose with Kahlúa.

But this recipe doesn’t incorporate the Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur; I discovered it’s actually spelled “kālua,” which refers to a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that utilizes an underground pit oven called an “imu.” We won’t be digging any holes in the back yard for this recipe but I think you’ll find – sans the pit – that its got a delicious and warm flavor that will high five your tastebuds.

This recipe hails from my Cousin Julie’s kitchen. Hawaii held a special place in her heart; in Julie’s later years she would whisk her kids and grandkids to Hawaii for Christmas holiday. Also Hawaii fans, my Mom, “Betty,” and Dad Honeymooned in Hawaii in 1955 just 4 years after it became a U.S. state. So strap on your hula skirt, open-toed sandals, and top things off with a lei – we’re making kālua!

Foodie Tips

❤  Dry sherry vs. cooking sherry? Yeah, I still get confused. Here’s where you can get the 4-1-1 on sherry.

A Kalua Pork Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

❤  My Cousin Jennifer said Julie and the family often enjoyed this dish with taro rolls, which are funky purple moist rolls often served at Hawaiian Luaus. You can score a recipe for taro rolls here. Other great sides that Jennifer said complemented Julie’s meals were a salad, Sister Schubert’s yeast rolls, and mashed potatoes.

i. time

Allow extra time to marinate the pork. I let mine rest overnight but the recipe only calls for 2-3 hours. Total prep is about 6 hours. This is a slow-bake delight well worth the wait!

ii. Ingredients

5 pounds | center cut loin pork roast
¼ cup | soy sauce
2 tablespoons | dry or cooking sherry
large clove | garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon | ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon | thyme
⅔ cup | peach or apricot preserves
¼ cup | chili sauce (hot sauce)
8 ½ ounce can | water chestnuts, drained and sliced

iii. What to do

1. Place the pork in a gallon-sized baggie.

A Kalua Pork Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

2. Combine the soy sauce, sherry, garlic, cinnamon, and thyme and pour over the roast. Marinate the pork in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

3. Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Kalua Pork Recipe

4. Remove the roast from the baggie, saving the marinade. Place the roast on a rack in a shallow baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes per pound (about 2.5 hours) or until a thermometer registers 170°F.

A Kalua Pork Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Why was I using a candy thermometer vs. a meat thermometer? Well, it’s what I had in the drawer. LOL

5. While the roast is still in the oven, in a small saucepan combine the reserved marinade, the preserves and the chili sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring often.

A Kalua Pork Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook6. Brush a little of the sauce over the pork and roast it 10 minutes longer.

7. To the remaining marinade add the water chestnuts and any juice that is left from the roasting pan. Heat this through and serve on the side along with the roast.

Serves: 6-8

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Kalua Pork Recipe Card

A Scan Of Julie’s Handwritten Recipe Card

Kalua Pork Recipe

Thank You, Jennifer!


nanny’s barbecue sauce

Nanny's Barbecue On The GrillA Blast From The Past

After I safely recovered Mom’s cookbooks in 2011, I was quick to notice one thing missing – recipes from her Mom – Nanny. Nanny was the Grandparent I was closest to and she had a few “home run” recipes like her coconut-fruit (Ambrosia) salad, homemade chicken noodle soup and waffles served hot from the press. What’s not to like there?

I’ve been deeply saddened that Mom didn’t have any of Nanny’s recipes in her own cookbook but I find “the closer to home, the less likely you are to write things down.” This is certainly true with cooking as many of Mom’s favorite recipes were in her head – not on paper – so good luck to us all in documenting our family’s tried and tastefully-true recipes!

My family’s recipe void began changing earlier this spring when I visited Julie, who’s my 1st Cousin and our family’s much loved Matriarch. Julie has a mind like a steel trap, so after blogging my way through almost 100 of Mom’s recipes I decided to dig deeper; a trip to San Antonio with the specific culinary reconnaissance mission of recovering a few family recipes I didn’t have. And recover, I did!

In addition to Julie gifting me Nanny’s Iced Tea recipe, I scored the Grandmother-load of all – Nanny’s Barbecue Sauce Recipe (below) which we’ll get to in a moment. Why, in a moment? Well, for those of you who haven’t read most of Betty’s Cook Nook you may be disappointed to hear that I have the gift of gab which translates quite nicely online as I’m also fast-to-type (so was my Mom, Betty). So if you want a “CliffsNotes” version of this recipe, you best scroll down to this post’s “Foodie Tips” section and continue on. If you want to read a free and fabulous story about family and food, read on!

More Of Nanny's Barbecue On The Grill

The Art Of Family Cooking

When creating Betty’s Cook Nook I knew I wanted to weave in family stories along with our recipes because to me, eating goes hand-in-hand with daily living for all of us regardless of geography, culture or perceived socioeconomic status. Celebrating great food and friends was something my parents Betty and Louis absolutely loved to do, so it just felt right to try to honor my Mom’s love for cooking by creating this blog so I could translate her conventional cookbook online for generations to come.

While my storytelling is primarily for my family, I’ve heard from several non-family members – even strangers – who say they love reading the stories so I know the true essence of my effort extends far beyond a handful of my closest family members, maybe even to you! So I want to share a really touching story about something that happened today that directly ties to this recipe in the most fantastic way.

Who Do You Think You Are? (a.k.a. You Are What You Eat!)

For a few years I’ve enjoyed watching the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are.” I’ve seen some incredible stories uncovered through research. Because I lost my parents at a young age I have several family “holes” to fill, so last night after watching Valerie Bertinelli‘s amazing story I finally signed-up for a free 2-week trial at Ancestry.com. No, the folks at Ancestry didn’t pay me to write this post, but they should have. ;)

I was instantly addicted to my family’s online research – I’m quite skilled at online sleuthing, so Ancestry.com fits right up my alley. Within a few hours I had connected over 50 of my family members dating back to 1874. One of the most impressive things I quickly found was the address where my grandparents “Nanny” and “PaPaw” and my Mom “Betty” lived in 1944 thanks to a local city directory listing. Years after I grew-up in San Antonio, lived in Dallas 20 years then moved to Italy and returned to Texas in 2012. I learned they lived just 20 miles from where I live today in Austin, Texas … and I had no clue!

Betty's Austin House Circa 1981

With their home address I was quickly able to find driving directions – even score a recent picture of the house from GoogleMaps.com. The home was a charming stone house, and the more I looked at the online photo I realized it looked strangely similar to one photo among the thousands of family photos that I have. It was well after midnight so I went to bed. At 4am hope and excitement woke me up. I pulled out the family photos and within 10 minutes had found the match for the online photo!

I knew I had to visit the house today. While the Google picture from the front of the street looked relatively the same with just a few modern updates to the carport and entry, I was nervous the house was no more as online records suggested their house had quadrupled in size. Today I bundled-up my two Labs “Boomer” and “Harley” and drove to Nanny’s and Mom’s old neighborhood and was thrilled to find that the house had not been torn down – it was doing just fine – including the two huge oak trees that flanked the 1981 family picture I have of the house (above).

Betty's Austin House Circa 2014

The Way We Were

Standing in front of the house at 1701 Virginia Ave. here in Austin was a bit strange for me. While my feet were 70 years late arriving to the party, I felt an awesome peace; the peace that comes from discovering something special. I pictured the old 1938 stone house with my Mom “Betty” and her Sister “Delores” playing in the yard … then my Grandmother  “Nanny”, sticking her head out the screen door to summon her two girls to dinner.

Today, while I may have arrived 70 years late for dinner, I’m able to recreate one of their family favorites thanks to Nanny’s Barbecue Sauce recipe. So can you!

Foodie Tips ~

  This sauce works well with chicken, beef or pork. Feel the force!

  Julie said my Grandfather Harry would make a basting “sop mop” by wrapping a T-shirt strips around a stick. Feel free to create your own … or use a modern silicon basting brush shown above.

  What are those yellow wrappy-things below? They’re lemon cover stretch wraps and you can find them online or at a store near you! They make juicing lemons a seedless, pulp-less pleasure!

  A nice side for this dish would be one of my all-time favorites here on BCN – California Potato Salad. It’s that good!

Nanny's Barbecue Sauce - Featuring Lemon Stretch Wraps!

i. ingredients

1 cup | shortening
| white onions, peeled and quartered
| green bell pepper, cut into chunks
4 pieces | celery, cut up
1 can | tomatoes (we used a 14.5 ounce can of diced toms)
1 can | tomato sauce (we used a 15 ounce can of Hunt’s)
½ cup | vinegar
2 cups (or more) | water
| lemon, juiced then quartered and everything added, including the peel
3 teaspoons | yellow mustard
¼ cup | catsup
2 teaspoons | chili powder
3 teaspoons | salt
1 teaspoon | fresh cracked black pepper
2 dashes | hot sauce
2 dashes | tobasco
¼ cup (or more) | worcestershire sauce

Nanny's Barbecue Sauce Simmering On The Grill - Betty's Cook Nook

ii. what to do

1. In a large stock pot simmer everything uncovered until it’s all cooked down and reduced. While the original recipe below says “at least ½ hour,” my Cousin Julie was quick to point out that it takes much longer than noted! I think we simmered everything for about 2 hours, stirring every few minutes. 

2. Taste and adjust the sauce as you like, because these measurements aren’t “exactly right!” Gottaloveit.

Nanny's Barbecue Sauce Sop Mop

3. When the sauce is done to your liking, baste the meat on the grill with a sop mop or basting brush. We made sure to heavy-up on the last basting just before removing everything from the grill.

If you want to enjoy this the way Julie said our family did (throw away nothing), save the vegetables and serve them as a side dish for your barbecue meal.

Enjoy!

Family Fun Facts ~

 The vintage “Fire King” measuring cup above is my Mom, Betty’s; it has surely measured-up over the years and can probably tell bountiful stories about the families and friends it has fed! I alone can tell more than a few stories. :)

  Cousin Julie told me that when they lived in the old stone house my Grandpaw Harry worked at the IRS in Austin; turns out he was too old to enlist for WWII so worked this government job instead. What’s even more impressive is that my Mom (Betty) her Sister (Delores) and Delores’ Daughter Julie (my Cousin who was barely 2 in 1944) also lived in the house. It must have been a lively party of five, indeed! Delores also worked at the IRS which Julie said was “filled with women” as most men were off serving in the war.

  Cousin Julie said Nanny and PaPaw (Grandpaw Harry) would hose down the old stone house above in the hot summer days to keep it cool inside; these were days before air conditioning!

  In 2014 I sent a letter to introduce myself to the residents of 1701 Virginia Avenue but sadly they did not reply; still sad about “no reply” to this day (2020).

  Here’s my original scan of Nanny’s BBQ recipe – Cousin Julie said this was Nanny’s recipe penned by Mom’s sister Delores Sutton who is one of the most elegant ladies I ever met. I love her handwriting! The paper? It can tell a story all its own. Click the pic for a bigger view.

Nanny's Original Barbecue Sauce Recipe