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Leigh’s (Almost) Famous Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Jun

18

Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 | 1 comment

Leighs_Shrimp_and_Grits_Casserole

 

One of my favorite things is tasting a dish that is so delicious, I must ask for the recipe; and, then every time I make it, I think of the person who now mingles her kitchen with mine. When I had my friend Leigh’s Shrimp and Grits Casserole, I knew it was one of those. It’s easy, a little bit fancy, and diverse enough to serve for brunch or dinner. It’s a turn on traditional shrimp and grits, and if you don’t care for either, well, a) try this and you might change your mind, or b) if you’re a hard-core hater, I feel for ya. (Unless you’re like my friend Holley, who has a worse-than-Will-Smith-in-Hitch reaction to shellfish. She can’t even look at ’em.)

Leigh’s Scrumptious, Easy
Southern Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Lightly grease a 9×12″ baking dish

  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup regular grits (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack pepper cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ pound fresh (or frozen) shrimp, peeled and cooked
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained (Rotel)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring 4 cups chicken broth and ½ teaspoon salt to boil in a saucepan; stir in grits.
  2. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir together grits, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and Monterey jack cheese.
  4. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add green onions, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until tender.
  5. Stir together green onion mixture, grits mixture, shrimp, and next 3 ingredients.
  6. Pour into a lightly-greased 2-quart baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes.

Personal notes:

  • Leigh actually got the recipe from her friend Lisa; clearly good recipes keep goin’ and goin’, Energizer Bunnies of the culinary world.
  • Using half each of a red and green bell pepper make this dish especially festive at Christmas.
  • Depending on how much heat you like in a dish, you might want to use more cheddar and less jack cheese; or, if you want to add more heat, use Rotel’s spicier version of tomatoes. You can mix up the dish with your favorite cheeses, too.
  • This divides well into two smaller casseroles; keep one and give the other to someone who could use a meal!

 

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Storied Dishes || ~ a Grace Table feature ~

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2017 |

GraceTable_StoriedDishes

After we got engaged I couldn’t wait to finally get to choose an everyday china pattern and register for our dishes and gifts. (How in the world was that almost 30 years ago?) I didn’t need to choose fine china; I had inherited my mother’s Malden by Oxford, simple, rimmed in gold, and stunning.

I’m one of those who believes kitchen art begins with pretty dishes.

A spectacularly set table doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy and expensive, but with a little thought and intention – flowers and greenery plucked from your yard, handwritten place cards, a centerpiece created with found objects from your home – you can design a masterpiece. I couldn’t wait to begin our life together, to open our home, and experiment with new-to-me recipes. We didn’t have Pinterest or the internet to mine ideas, but we had magazines and the traditions of our own families, plenty to get us started.

I’ve always been drawn to color, and my first choice for everyday dishes was Villeroy & Boch’s Fruit Basket; predominately green and yellow, it was just so doggone happy. But it was also pricey for an everyday, and sensitive to gift-givers’ budgets, I ended up choosing Poppies on Blue, a popular-in-the-80s Lenox pattern.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 10.41.42 AM

 

We received all the place settings we registered for in addition to serving bowls and platters, the cream and sugar, and I think even the salt and pepper shakers. These were the dishes of our newlywed years, a part of countless meals shared with friends and family, and eventually with our own children.

Right around the time the poppies began fading, my tastes began changing. With a move from South Carolina to Tennessee, I decided timing was perfect for buying new dishes; this time around, I went with a neutral. When I wanted a splash of color, I’d pick up festive placemats. My once-beloved Poppies on Blue was relegated to a box in the attic, waiting for my children to grow up and move into their own home, or the bigger dream, a heart-secret I’ve held close for all these years.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Recently, I enjoyed a girls weekend out of town, and we decided an Airbnb rental would accommodate the space and flexibility we wanted. With many options to choose from, we decided a small, three-bedroom near downtown was best.

Our first night there we planned a simple dinner–wine, cheese, fruit and the like, and we began rummaging through cabinets for the dishes we’d need.

And then God winked. Twice.

 

Do pop over to Grace Table to see why I can’t help but think God is especially fond of me :).
Sometimes He’s kind enough to assure you you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be….

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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 |

robindance_fullypresent_incourage

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)

 

You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?


I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 

Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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God-winks

Oct

21

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 |

robindance_godgenerosity_quote

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

Have you ever found yourself wishing, “If God would just SHOW ME A SIGN…” you would know what to do or whether or not you’re headed in the right direction?

Haven’t we all?

Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to look up and see writing in the sky?

Though answers rarely come as a flashing neon sign – call me crazy – sometimes I sense God’s favor in what others may dismiss as coincidence. Maybe nothing as dramatic as a thunder clap or lightning strike or a rainbow sent right to your front yard, but a kind of mini-miracle that speaks right to the heart of whatever is going on in your life rightnow….

Hold tight to what we’re promised in scripture: God has gifted us with not some, but every, spiritual blessing. In the passage from 1st Ephesians, we learn that in Christ, we are

chosen,

holy,

blameless,

family,

receivers of grace,

redeemed,

forgiven,

and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

God’s generosity knows no bound. 

He is a giver of good and perfect gifts, and what He gave because He loved us (Who He gave)? Should compel us to boundless gratitude. Lord, may I never cease to be thankful, humbled by, and astonished at the wonder, beauty, and cost of the cross.

Last week I was sitting at my kitchen table with two friends. I had invited them over to begin putting flesh on the bones of an idea birthed in my heart a while back. They weren’t the first people I had approached about joining me in this new thing; but after arm-twisting another friend without success for over two years, it finally occurred to me that maybe she wasn’t the one to help.

Sometimes earnestly seeking the Lord means letting go of preconceived plans and ideals. 

This is a lesson on repeat for me, something I’ve been slow to learn.

We began to sense God’s presence in our gathering, oddly enough, in a color scheme. It started with Hannah and Tracey noticing my journal, pen, and espresso cup perfectly coordinating. (How much do I love that friends picked up on such a tiny detail? It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m prone to notice.)

cravingconnectiongodwink-2

 

Intent in our conversation, all three of us jumped when Hannah noticed the shadow of a man at my front door, followed quickly by a sharp knock. I knew what they didn’t–it was simply a package delivery. Our front door is within arm’s reach of our kitchen table, and they aren’t accustomed to that proximity.

traceyrobinhannah-2

Why, yes, we may look like tears were involved…. <3

I opened the door to pick up my package, and immediately realized what it was: an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement. Since you’re obviously an (in)courage reader (smile), you might have seen recent images and teasers about Craving Connections. What makes this book extra special is that it is a first from (in)courage and features 30 authors from both the (in)courage team and community at large. Through scripture exploration, personal testimony, and prayer, the 30-day devotional asks the question, “How could your life be different after prayerfully and intentionally connecting with God, friends, and your community?” (If you’re interested, subscribe to my very occasional blogposts, I’ll let you know when Craving Connections is available!)

I quickly explained what it was to my friends, who remembered me working on my chapter, A Safe Harbor, at the first of the year. As quickly as I placed the book on the table to continue our conversation, we noticed–

Everything was color coordinated….

cravingconnectioncolorcoordination-2

 

We couldn’t miss it, and we didn’t want to dismiss it as coincidence. It felt like a God-wink, a conduit of God’s pleasure with our plans.

Please click to continue God-winks at (in)courage!!

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For school, tooooo cool!

May

03

Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 4 comments

Making an impact quote - Robin Dance

Some of us will make tiny ripples and others will send waves crashing,
but each one will forever change the surface of the water.   ~ Robin Dance

 

It was another one of those “When Harry Met Sally” moments. Not the one in the diner, but that one when Marie, Sally’s friend, quotes an article she read without realizing Jess, Harry’s friend, was its author.

I had barely arrived at a church leadership retreat when Terri said, “I need to ask you something.” It had been a while since we had seen each other, and I had no idea what she wanted to ask.

“Are you a writer?” a question that is still odd for me to answer in the affirmative after all these time (because most people are asking if I’ve published a book), but in this case she explained why she was asking before I could even answer.

Terri is a nurse by profession and I didn’t know she was working at a local elementary school now; her job changed a while back but it was news to me. “There’s a quote painted over a mural on one of our walls, and the author cited is ‘Robin Dance.’ IS THAT YOU??”

She couldn’t recall the exact quote but she described the artwork–a sea motif with a large manatee. Immediately I thought of the DaySpring print that was sold a few years back —

Quote about making an impact - Robin Dance for incourage

 

But even I couldn’t recall the exact quote used for the print. I just knew that whales are ginormous sea mammals, and maybe someone had seen the print and made the connection to a manatee.

What I did remember was that it was about the impact – big or small – everyone makes, a perfect message to send to school children of all ages.

 

On Monday morning Terri texted a picture of the mural, and sure enough, it was the quote from the printable I had wondered about. Terri investigated a little further and discovered one of the first grade teachers had painted it, and either she or another co-worker had found the original quote on Pinterest.

HOW COOL IS THAT? I don’t know anyone else who works at Sonny Carter elementary, and no one there has any idea the mural quote is by someone local.

Day made. I relish the obscurity of it all.

 

* * * * *

Be sure to enter my $100 Giveaway from FTD Flowers and DaySpring!
Entry deadline is Wednesday, May 4th at 1 EST.

 

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A friend in need, in deed, indeed

Feb

19

Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 | 1 comment

Friendship-2

I was seven months pregnant with my third baby in four years and my sciatic nerve wasn’t happy about it. Juggling a part-time job, caring for two toddlers, and all the other demands of life siphoned every ounce of energy I could manufacture. With no family in town, there was little relief.

And then I got pneumonia.

Let’s just say a baby kicking your fluid-filled lungs into your throat isn’t something on anyone’s bucket list. It hurt to do just about anything, but it really hurt to cough.

I felt like a bigger baby than the one I was incubating.

Words weren’t necessary to express how dreadful I felt; my husband knew this wasn’t a cold or even the flu. He also knew I wouldn’t ask for help.

What is it about women that we’re eager to offer a helping hand, but we’d rather come close to dying before admitting we need help?

 

 

God love him, the man knew exactly what I needed. He couldn’t take off from work (any more than I would have wanted him to…), but he knew who to call and what to prescribe.

Isabel showed up with a Coca~Cola and bendy straws, and poured a glass for me over crushed ice. Just like Mama did when I was little, the remedy that always makes me feel better even if it doesn’t actually make me better.

When I needed someone to show up, Isabel showed up. 

Because friendship does.

* * *

I was moving and there were a thousand things to do. Probably more.

Each task was exponentially more challenging with three littles underfoot. Without a shred of ill intent, children can undo hours of work by unraveling their mama’s nerves, particularly her last one.

It’s an emotional thing, digging up roots that have been growing for 14 years, painful, too. Even if you’re transplanting to what you think is greener grass, there’s no way of knowing til you get there if the soil is sandy or rocky or nearly impenetrable Georgia clay.

So it helps to have help. But it was a season in life where everyone was busy and I wasn’t about to ask.

One day Help showed up as my neighbor Michelle. Uninvited, she knocked on my back door with a bucket of cleaning supplies in her left hand and a broad grin painted across her face. “Put me to work,” she insisted; there was no point in arguing.

So I didn’t.

When I needed someone to show up, Michelle showed up.

Because friendship does.

 

{to be continued…}

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