Is mac 'n' cheese your downfall? It sure is mine. But now I've found an ally, a healthy substitute. It's a "skinny" pot of grits, conveniently cooked in the slow cooker with sweet potato (or pumpkin or butternut squash) and a little mik, with just a tablespoon of butter stirred in to finish. Good stuff this, really good stuff.
Homemade macaroni and cheese is my downfall – or it would be, if I let it.
What’s the recipe, you ask? It’s low-brow and sinfully good but sorry, the cheese is the highly processed not-really-cheese-at-all Velveeta.
Take it upscale? Yep, I’ve tried fancy cheese, lobster too. Make it healthier? I’ve tried. Throw in vegetables like butternut squash (Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese) and cauliflower (Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese). It’s still my downfall.
But things are looking up because Sweet Potato Grits (and its cousins the Pumpkin Grits and the Butternut Squash Grits) completely satisfies my yen for mac ‘n’ cheese – with zero cheese and a single tablespoon of butter.
Could you add cheese and more butter? Sure, the inspiring recipe did, a half cup of cheddar and 4 tablespoons of butter. But when I taste the grits straight from the slow cooker, to my taste that added richness just isn’t needed.
Mac ‘n’ cheese may remain my downfall but thanks to these grits? I’ve got a new ally.
SLOW COOKER SWEET POTATO GRITS or PUMPKIN GRITS or BUTTERNUT SQUASH GRITS
Time to table: 3 to 7 hours
Makes 4 cups
- 1 pound sweet potato, cooked and mashed to yield about 1-1/4 cups cooked sweet potato (see TIPS) — or —
- 1-1/4 cups cooked pumpkin (see TIPS) — or —
- 1-1/4 cups cooked winter squash (see TIPS)
- 1 cup (160g) stone-ground grits
- 1-1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk (or 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk)
- 2-1/4 cups water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
JUST BEFORE SERVING
- 1 tablespoon butter
If you have one, line the slow cooker with a liner, you still need to stir often but it seems to prevent scorching.
Add the sweet potato, pumpkin or winter squash to the slow cooker. Stir in the grits. A splash at a time, add the buttermilk, incorporating each addition before adding another. As soon as the sweet potato (or pumpkin or winter squash) has loosened up, stir in the remaining milk and all the remaining ingredients.
TO COOK ON LOW Cover and let cook on low for about 7 hours, stirring occasionally.
TO COOK ON HIGH Cover and let cook on high for about 3 hours, stirring often after the first hour.
TO FINISH About a half hour before serving, check the consistency, if too loose, remove the cover and let finish cooking, stirring often. Stir in butter and adjust the seasoning.
Serve immediately. Reheats beautifully, a small portion heats in the microwave in 90 seconds, a full batch heats in the oven in about 30 minutes and puffs up a little, browning nicely on top.
In 2013, I discovered still another great way to cook grits, in the microwave! The microwave moves Microwave Green Chili Cheese Grits to the table fast, in about thirty minutes. But you can also make them in the slow cooker!
Line the slow cooker with a liner. In a bowl, combine 1 cup (160g) stone-ground grits with 1-1/2 cups low-fat milk, 1-1/2 cups water, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt. Transfer to the slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for about 2-1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes after the first hour to minimize sticking or on LOW for about 7 hours, stirring occasionally. (IMPORTANT To minimize sticking, you must stir the grits often. They will still stick, you don't want to skip the liner!) Stir in 1/2 cup grated cheese and four ounces canned green chilies. Let cook for another 30 minutes, stirring often.
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