Southern Kitchen Bucket List : Grits

As I continue to knock through my Southern Kitchen Bucket List, I must admit I was equal parts thrilled and scared to death over tackling this one ... GRITS.

I love grits when they are done right. And like many of the "basics" on my bucket list there is such a vast difference between good and bad executions. They're either a sticky mess of a blob OR they are the creamiest, dreamiest grits you've ever had. I truly believe cheese grits were (thankfully) invented in the first place for those who weren't able to master grits.

My husband (thinks he) doesn't like grits so it's not a dish I generally cook in my own home, but something I'm looking to change after making this recipe. To truly master this staple, I teamed up with James Beard Foundation Award winning chef Virginia Willis. She shared one of her favorite basic recipes for "4C Grits" from her Short Stack Edition cookbook, "Grits" and many of her top secret tips with me in the kitchen, and I have them here for you. In fact, the first time I met Virginia she was doing a demo cooking grits at Williams-Sonoma. So I truly couldn't think of anyone more perfect to learn from than her.

southern kitchen bucket list grits

4-C Grits

Serves 4 to 6

The “four c’s” in the name refer to the four layers of corn that form this dish. Unrefined corn oil, fresh corn, corn stock, and lastly, ground corn (grits) take this from a straightforward bowl of country grits to elegant simplicity. This recipe is best in summer when corn is in season. For breakfast, crown these golden grits with a farm fresh egg and to “lift” this bowl to lunch or dinner status, stir in other summer ingredients such as chopped heirloom tomatoes and basil, tender poached shrimp, or even buttery chunks of steamed lobster.

ingredients for making grits
  • 2 ears fresh sweet corn, kernels scraped and reserved and cobs cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined corn oil
  • 1 sweet onion, grated
  • 1 cup 2-percent milk
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow grits
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or to taste
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the corn stock: In a saucepan, combine the corncobs and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the corn stock has taken on a light corn flavor, about 10 minutes. Remove the cobs, strain the stock into a bowl, and set aside.

fresh corn grits ingredients
shucking corn
fresh corn

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about 2 minutes.  Add the reserved corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. 

cutting corn on the cob
fresh corn kernels

Increase the heat of the onions and corn to medium high; add the milk and the corn stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk in the grits. Season with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until tender and creamy, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the butter and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Cooking grits in cast iron
cast iron grits

heirloomed mark

HEIRLOOMED TIPS : (courtesy of chef Virginia Willis)

  • Whisk your grits so "grit rocks" don't form
  • Only use whole grain grits
  • Use local grits when possible
  • Stick to a 1 cup grits / 4 cups liquid ratio (she generally does 2 cups milk / 2 cups water)
  • Don't pound your grits with heavy cream or cheese to let the flavor of the corn be the hero

corn grits with butter and thyme
eating a spoonful of southern grits





Country Apple Coffee Cake for Breakfast.

I am such a fan of holiday breakfasts because they're generally simple but full of flavor and decadent (at least in our house!). To me it's a better time to indulge than at dessert.

Country Apple Coffee Cake recipe card / heirloomed

Country Apple Coffee Cake


  • 2 TBSP oleo
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples
  • 1 - 10 oz Hungry Jack Flaky Biscuits
  • 1/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp whiskey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces


  • 1/3 cup xxx sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 TBSP milk

Using 1 TBSP oleo, generously grease bottom and sides of 9" pan. Separate doughinto 10 biscuits-cut each into 4 pieces. Arrange biscuit point side up over apples. Top with remaining apples. In small bowl combine 1 TBSP oleo and remaining ingredients to nuts, beat 2-3 minutes.  Add nuts and spoon over biscuits. Bake 35-40 minutes or until deep gold brown. Cool slightly, drizzle glaze over cake. Makes 6-8 servings.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe for Thanksgiving.

I must admit I'm a team Apple Pie or Pecan Pie when it comes to Thanksgiving, or any time for that matter. But I'm breaking into our secret stash of Grandma's family recipe cards and sharing a classic Pumpkin Pie for you, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie typewriter recipe card / heirloomed

Classic Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 cups stewed and strained pumpkin
  • 2 cups rich milk or cream
  • 3/4 cup brown or granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix pumpkin with milk, sugar, beaten eggs, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and beat 2 minutes. Pour into pie tin which has been lined with pastry. Place in hot oven (425 degrees) for fifteen minutes, then reduce heat and bake for45 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees).

The degrees in parenthesis were handwritten into this little typewriter card so I can only assume this was a trial and error game here and someone was learning as they went. It looks to be my moms handwriting. This well-loved card was clearly used a lot as it has quite a few stains and a great dark coloration.

Love to know your favorite pie for Thanksgiving #HEIRLOOMED

French Sage Dressing Recipe for Thanksgiving.

When it comes to the most basic Thanksgiving feast, many people have the same staples upon their table - green bean casserole with those little crispy onions, sweet potato casserole loaded with mini marshmallows, cranberry sauce still molded with those little rings straight from the can. But there are few things with quite as much variation as stuffing (a.k.a dressing) and that is generally the dish that "makes" it Thanksgiving, at least in my mind.

cubing bread for Thanksgiving dressing / heirloomed
my kitchen helper / dog in the kitchen / heirloomed
Preparing Thanksgiving stuffing

Straight from the box stuffing, apple + cornbread stuffing for a sweet touch, oyster dressing, and the list continues. In my house, we always had the same delicious dressing and it is a coveted recipe that has been passed down from my Grandmother's side of the family for generations and generations. It is a meat based stuffing, traditionally made with equal parts beef and pork, though these days I must admit I make mine with ground turkey and either chicken or turkey sausage but I truly don't think it makes much of a difference.

cubed bread with measuring cups / Thanksgiving Stuffing prep / heirloomed

The hero in this stuffing is the fresh sage, which I know grow in two large galvanized tubes in our garden, and the highlights of dry, rubbed sage. You almost think it's a typo when you're making this for the first time and you see just how much sage goes into the recipe. But don't skimp on it, it's what makes this a standout dish. And of course the crusty cubes of day-old bread make this a truly juicy and delicious side dish.  One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to have our Stuffing Sandwiches the next day for lunch, with purely white sliced bread, a mound of stuffing and a little dab of cranberry sauce or gravy on top to keep it interesting.

This is the one dish that I can't do Thanksgiving without. To me, it makes the holiday so even if I'm dining out with family or my in-laws each year, I always tend to make a side dish of my Grandmother's French Sage Dressing to bring along for the hostess (and me) to enjoy with our meal. I hope you will give it a try and that you enjoy it as much as I do!

fresh sage and onion for Thanksgiving stuffing prep / heirloomed


French Sage Dressing

The day before : Open a loaf of crusty french bread. Lay out slices on a breadboard to dry overnight. Cube bread in 1/2" cubes when dry and set aside.

  • 2 parts ground beef
  • 1 part ground pork
  • 1 sweet onion diced
  • 3/4 loaf of dried French bread cubes (see above)
  • Salt + pepper
  • Fresh sage leaves (several bundles)
  • 1/2 bottle of ground rubbed sage

In a heavy cast iron pan brown meats and onion. Stir until cooked through and no pink remains. Drain excess fat. Add dried bread cubes, stirring to absorb liquid. Slowly add enough water to get mixture to a moist consistency, but not soupy. Season freely with salt and pepper. Add sage to taste. It will take several bunches of fresh sage, as well as about half a bottle of ground rubbed sage to get the rich taste.

Loosely stuff bird cavities or spoon into casserole dish. Cover and bakealong with bird. Uncover the last 10-15 minutes to get a bit of crust.


classic french sage dressing for your thanksgiving turkey / heirloomed

I would absolutely love to know what kind of dressing you love for your Thanksgiving feast. #HEIRLOOMED

Sasha Nicholas handwritten recipe oval platter

We teamed up with our good Instagram friends at Sasha Nicholas to celebrate the true meaning of the Thankgiving holiday - the traditions, the made-from-scratch recipes, and the heirloom pieces from each of our collections that you are sure to bring out year after year.

Cynthia was generous enough to gift me this amazing Monogrammed Oval Platter that features my mother's handwritten recipe for this French Sage Dressing, straight from the recipe card. It features our last name monogram on the front of the platter and I truly can't imagine anything more wonderful and special to have as a part of our Thanksgiving table each year while serving this dish to our guests around the table. You truly must take a peek over on their site and soak up all the beauty and all of the thoughtful ideas they have for using their dinnerware pieces.

Pictured above is a stack of my Grandmother's recipe cards, and a photo of my Great Grandmother, her mother, who also made this dressing so many years ago. The fact that this recipe has been passed down so many generations is truly special for me, and makes the importance of serving it to my own children even greater.

handwritten recipe printed on oval platter from Sasha Nicholas

Southern Kitchen Bucket List : Pecan Bourbon Pie.

With Thanksgiving only days away, we're into one of my favorite seasons - PIE season.  If you joined in my attempt at mastering Pie Crust last week then you'll love this traditional Southern staple, Pecan Bourbon Pie.

ingredients for southern pecan pie

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to live at the farm with my husbands family for about 9-months with our kids, and the memories we created during that time were so special for us all. One of the most memorable was going out with his Granny, the kids great-grandmother, who is in her 90's and picking buckets and buckets of fresh pecans in the horse pasture at the front of the property. It was one of Wyatt's favorite things to do, and I know Granny enjoyed his company as well. We would then go back to her house and crack them, shell them, clean them and she'd try to pick out as many whole pecans as she could to save for her much-loved Pecan Turtles that she makes during the holidays.

Growing up in Tallahassee, I always loved going up to Thomasville and driving through the rows and rows of pecan trees. There is just something so beautiful and peaceful about the diagonal rows that captivates me every single time. It's a slow growing tree and the "tree to table" process is a long one so I truly appreciate the Southern roots of this special nut and any recipe that celebrates it.

karo syrup for pecan pie

Pecan Bourbon Pie

  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled + cleaned pecans
  • 1/2 cup of pecan halves, reserved for the top layer

Combine sugars, corn syrup, salt, eggs and vanilla, beat on low speed to mix. Add bourbon and melted butter, then stir in pecans by hand. Pour into unbaked 9" pie shell (choose your favorite pie crust recipe here). Use the remaining pecan halves to lay across the top of the pie filling to make a beautiful design.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until you can insert a toothpick and your filling does not coat the toothpick. Allow your pie to rest for at least 2 hours before serving for the ideal consistency.

cracking pecans to make a pie
farm fresh cracked + shelled pecans
pecan pie at the Thankgiving Table / heirloomed

I'd love to know your tips + secrets for making the best Pecan Pie #HEIRLOOMED

{ shop our Pecan Orchard Pleasantries apron, inspired by the rows of pecan trees I so love }