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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Chocolate Mug Cake

This is the fifty-sixth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Are you craving something chocolatey, cakey, and warm, but don’t want to bake an entire dessert? It can be such a pain to whip out all your mixing bowls, pans, and cooking utensils. Instead, you can make my chocolate mug cake recipe, which is ready in under five minutes! What more could you want? This recipe is dorm-room friendly if you have the ingredients and will easily satisfy your sweet tooth!

While cake is an indisputable incredible dessert, it’s also time consuming to achieve the final product. A mug cake, on the other hand, is a single serving of deliciousness. Instead of waiting the long 30 to 60 minutes for the cake to bake only to let it cool for longer, you can make this recipe within minutes. Plus, you can eat it right out of the mug, so there’s minimal cleaning involved! 

After a long day of babysitting during quarantine, I would come home at night with a hankering for something sweet. Mug cakes became my go-to dessert, turning into a nightly routine. Because you can make so many different types of cake mugs, I never got tired of them! Pretty much any type of cake you can think of, from peanut butter to banana to coffee to lemon, can be consolidated into a mug. The world of mug cakes is your oyster. 

Because the baking takes place in a microwave, sometimes mug cakes can turn out to be spongy or rubbery. After dabbling with many different types and measurements, I’ve found this combination for a chocolate mug cake to be perfect. It is fluffy, moist, and of course, chocolatey. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 3 tablespoons milk of your choice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Optional: whipped cream or ice cream for serving

Instructions: 

First, combine all of the dry ingredients together in a microwave safe mug. Stir thoroughly, making sure all the ingredients are well mixed. I like to use a fork rather than a spoon to make sure there are no clumps of sugar or flour. One technique is tilting the mug side to side while stirring, to assure the bottom is especially mixed. Next, add the wet ingredients, and stir again. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Remove and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream on top. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Chia Seed Pudding

This is the fifty-second installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

When people first hear “chia,” they most immediately think of Chia Pets, the little figurines that grow chia sprouts to simulate fur (not very appetizing, right?). In their raw form, chia seeds are tiny, grainy, and crunchy black specs that are bland in flavor. They aren’t usually eaten by themselves, but can be used in a number of ways to enhance a dish, especially nutritionally!

Chia seeds originated with the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America, as the word “chia” is actually the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” The seeds come from the plant, salvia hispanica, which is in the mint family. Tiny and packed with nutrients from antioxidants to vitamins, chia seeds are also a great source of fiber and protein. Because of this, they are often used in many breakfast staples: thrown into smoothies or oatmeal, sprinkled on cereal, or baked into bread. Fun fact! Chia seeds also can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid because of their high soluble fiber content that produces a gel-like consistency. In combination with liquid, they can be used as an egg substitute or mixed with milk to make a pudding.

Chia pudding is one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. It takes 5 minutes at most to prepare and can often be made the night before. Creamy and thick with a gel-like texture, the chia seed pudding is refreshing, tasty, and packed with enough nutrients to give you lots of energy for the day. Like smoothies or oatmeal, there’s a variety of chia seed pudding recipes, and you can always add different flavors and toppings—cocoa powder, peanut butter, yogurt—to change it up. The recipe I’m sharing is a simple but yummy introduction to the chia world. Let the fun begin!

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup milk of choice (almond, whole, oat, coconut)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • Topping of choice (berries, fruit, granola, etc.)

Instructions:

First, pour the milk into a jar or container. I love using almond milk, but you can pick your favorite! Add the chia seeds and honey to the milk. Stir the mixture well before letting it settle for about 3 minutes. Stir the mixture again to break up the clumped seeds.

Cover the container with a lid, and place it in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight if possible. Two hours is just enough time for the chia seeds to absorb all the liquid. I usually make the chia seed pudding at night so I can have it for a quick breakfast the next morning.

After the allotted time, remove the container from the fridge. When the seeds absorb the liquid, they become soft, almost like tapioca pearls. The pudding should be nice and thick. If it is too liquidy, just add some more chia seeds, but make sure to always maintain the ½ cup to 2 tablespoon ratio of milk to chia seeds. Top the pudding with your favorite fruit. This recipe makes one serving. Enjoy! 

Cover photo courtesy of Allison Vuono

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Salmon, Quinoa, and Kale Bowl

This is the forty-eighth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Melt-in-your-mouth, flakey salmon over a bed of warm quinoa and kale—this delicious dinner is an easy go-to whenever you are craving something fresh! I love seafood in all its shapes and forms, whether cooked fish, sushi, or shellfish. At home, we eat A LOT of salmon, because it is easy to find and goes well with so many flavors. My family even has a binder dedicated to our favorite seafood meals, filled with lots of salmon-based recipes, of course.

I come from a family of great chefs, and we all love to help each other out. This is part of what makes our family meals fun and tasty! Growing up, my cousins and I would always hang out in the kitchen, stirring pots or peeling potatoes, whether it was at my grandparents’ house, aunt’s and uncle’s, or my own. 

Over quarantine, I got even more into cooking. Before, I always loved helping in the kitchen with my parents or grandma, but I never really took charge and cooked meals on my own. So, I decided to start. I began offering to make dinner for my family most nights, following whatever recipe my mom would leave out for dinner that evening. My parents were thrilled to have someone else do the cooking. And, I came to love this part of the day: playing music in the background, sautéeing, sizzling, and mixing whatever was on the menu for that night. I’ve found that cooking allows me to step back from the craziness of my day, and take time for myself—something I never really do.

As the weeks went on, I learned how to chop quicker, season better, and became more comfortable in the kitchen. I even decided to make a food Instagram to showcase my new found passion to friends and family. I started following other food blogs and spent my time scrolling through artsy food pictures, finding new recipes to try: quick breakfast foods, baked goods, snacks, and full meals. Even though we have a variety of recipes in our binders and cookbooks, it is always nice to change things up. I wanted to expand beyond them and loved finding new things to try, especially because we were not eating out as much. 

This recipe was inspired by a food Instagram post of a summery salmon dish with a citrus sauce over rice. One night for dinner, I put my own spin on it with ingredients we already had in our house. It is so simple but so delicious that it immediately became a repeat in the Vuono household.

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skin-on salmon fillets 
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 2 cup quinoa
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 onions 
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 bag of organic chopped kale
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Lemon Citrus Salt:

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Instructions:

First, cook the quinoa. To do this, place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse thoroughly under cool water, and drain. Heat 3 teaspoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil becomes hot, toast the quinoa in the pan for about 2 minutes. Make sure to stir the quinoa constantly as you do this! Add the water and a pinch of salt, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes. With the lid still on, remove the pot from heat, and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes. Then, remove the lid and gently fluff the quinoa with a fork. Add the chickpeas to the quinoa and mix. Place the lid on top to keep the mixture warm.

Now, sauté the onions and kale. To do this, peel and finely chop the onions. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1-2 tsp olive oil. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and chili powder to the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Stir this mixture occasionally. Add in the kale, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until wilted. Place the saute on a plate, cover, and set aside.

Next, cook the salmon. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. Over medium heat, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the salmon skin side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Turn the salmon over and continue cooking for 2-4 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque and flaky. 

Next, make the sauce. I found this lemon citrus sauce recipe from Food. In a small saucepan, heat up the wine and minced shallots. Bring to a boil and reduce over medium-high heat.  Only 2 tablespoons of liquid should remain. Lower the heat and whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time. Continue whisking until the sauce is smooth. Add the cream and lemon juice while continuously mixing the sauce. Place the top on the saucepan until serving time so that it stays warm.

Lastly, transfer the kale mixture to a bowl, topping it off with the quinoa-chickpea mixture and salmon. Dizzle as much sauce as you’d like, and serve!

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Veggie Quiche

This is the forty-fourth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Vuono Sunday brunches have always been the highlight of my week. My family and I all love to cook, and ever since I started fourth grade, we have kept up with this tradition almost every other weekend. Most of my dad’s side of the family lives nearby, so we all gather at our house for Sunday mornings full of great food and fun. While the rest of the family arrives by 11 a.m., our busy morning begins at 9:30, with Mom preheating the oven, Dad chopping the ingredients, and my brother, Ryan, and I running down after just waking up to help start the feast.

Our menu is pretty consistent; we always have mouth watering turkey sausage, fluffy scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, hot waffles or pancakes, and, of course, my favorite: the incredible veggie quiche. Our tasks are divided between the four of us: Dad sizzles up the sausage and eggs; Ryan whisks away at the batter; Mom cuts the fruit and jumps up to flip the pancakes or waffles. In the last few years, I’ve mastered the quiche.

Our brunch tradition truly encapsulates our family’s shared love for cooking. My brother and I have always loved helping out in the kitchen, but now we are actually capable of cooking by ourselves. I cherish this family time in the kitchen, catching up on our week, as all our busy lives move in so many different directions each day. And to top it off, we get to share an amazing, home-cooked meal with my cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

The veggie quiche, although just one part of our brunch feast, is my favorite aspect and the one I’ve taken over the last few years. Warm out of the oven with a crisp golden crust, every forkful of this veggie quiche is creamy, soft, and delicious!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cup of milk 
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms 
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ frozen pie shell (I like Wholly Wholesome 9” Organic Pie Shell) 

INSTRUCTIONS

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and remove the pie crust from the freezer. You also can make the pie crust from scratch, but I’ve found that the Wholly Wholesome crust is delish (and a whole lot easier…don’t worry, I won’t tell)! You can also check out an easy pie crust recipe here. Set the pie crust aside and prepare the vegetables. 

A variety of veggies is best, and this is one of my favorite combos. Finely chop the mushrooms, bell pepper, squash, and zucchini. Next, place a medium pan on the stove on medium heat.. Add the olive oil and the vegetables to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are softened and brown. This step typically takes 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.

Next, grate approximately 1 cup of Parmesan cheese over a bowl. To prepare the custard filling, use a whisk to thoroughly combine the eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. 

Now it’s time to assemble the quiche! Place the pie crust on a pie plate and transfer the vegetables to the crust. Add the cheese, spreading it out evenly across the crust. Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust, until it is filled to the brim. Be careful not to over-pour to prevent overflowing and a big mess!

Carefully transfer the cooking tray to the oven. Bake the quiches for approximately 35-40 minutes. To see if the quiches are cooked, insert a toothpick into the center; when the quiche is ready, the toothpick should come out clean. Let the quiches cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. Slice the quiche into wedges for the whole family, and serve! 

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Mucho Gusto

Phoebe’s Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

This is the fortieth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Recipe by Phoebe Drummond
Introduction and Edits by Allison Vuono

This breakfast recipe is my friend Phoebe’s post workout go-to. Here’s her story behind the pancakes that she was so excited to share with Gusto!

Morning miles, sweaty hill sprints, and core sessions that all made a minute feel like a lifetime; this may not have been the ideal summer morning routine, but it was the undeniable reality of my August sunrises in high school. And, not to be forgotten, a key and final item in the typical cross country practice sequel was looking forward to the breakfast coming after.

The last mile went by much faster when my teammates and I brainstormed what we would make or where we would go for breakfast after practice. Popular options were bagels or Playa Bowls (you can never escape them), but during our underclassmen years, none of us had driver’s licenses yet. 

It was this early logistical obstacle that led to the discovery of one of the most epic creations attributed to Google: oatmeal banana pancakes. 

My teammate and best friend Catherine lived one street over from me, so I often found myself at her house after practice or vice versa. Too many times we would be staring into each other’s kitchen cabinets, our stomachs GROWLING, and our brains begging us for something other than Lucky Charms again (no hate, though). 

We eventually took to the worldwide Web to spice up our post practice feast, and as always, the search bar pulled through. This pancake discovery was so good that just the thought of it got me through some of the tough mile repeats I could have easily pulled a “my shins are hurting”—if you’ve ever run cross country, don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about—to get out of.

Even after actually completing an entire workout, Catherine and I would hustle to our houses to make them. And, consider it contradictory, but for two girls who routinely finished long runs before 9 a.m., we could be INCREDIBLY lazy. So, the fact that these pancakes only take 10 minutes to make and have essentially no clean up, is an added bonus. You really just have to combine all the ingredients in a blender and flip each pancake once on the stove. The lack of manual labor after tiring practices was always much appreciated.

This recipe, adapted from Ambitious Kitchen, makes a single serving, approximately 3 small pancakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium banana, preferably ripe and slightly browned
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Oil or butter for cooking

Instructions:

First, put the oats into the blender and blend until they become powder—it should look like off-white flour. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender, and blend until a thin batter is formed.

Turn on the stove to medium heat. Put your desired choice of oil or butter in a pan on the stove. Scoop out approximately ⅓ cup of batter, and pour it onto the skillet. 

When the top of the pancake starts to bubble, and the bottom is solid enough to flip over, quickly slide a spatula under the pancake to flip it. Remove the pancake from the heat after another minute or two, and set aside on a plate. Repeat until there is no batter left.

Serve in a FAT STACK, add syrup and/or whatever toppings you prefer, and enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Traveling Chocolate Cookies

This is the thirty-sixth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Chewy, fudgey, and crunchy. This chocolate cookie recipe has been a family favorite on my mom’s side since she was a little girl. In the 1970s, while my grandfather was serving with the army in Korea, my grandma, mom, and aunt had just moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. A sweet next door neighbor brought these cookies over, and my grandma asked for the recipe. Since then, the tradition has continued of sharing these mouthwatering chocolate cookies everywhere my family goes. 

Growing up as a military kid, I moved around every few years and was forced to adjust to new schools and meet new people. What a better way to make friends than by bringing over a plate of ooey gooey chocolate cookies? Whether in Texas, South Carolina, Colorado, or Virginia, we knocked on neighbor’s doors with these treats. They were always a big hit and gave me comfort by making a new place feel more like home. 

When I was younger, my brother and I often sat at the top of the stairs, listening to my mom clanging pots and spoons, anticipating our job in the cookie baking process—licking the chocolate spoon. After the chocolate chips, butter, and milk were melted, my mom called us down to help “clean up” the mixing tools. Over the years, making these cookies myself has become my go-to whether for bringing in dessert for a birthday at school or just baking with friends. People always ask for the recipe, and it’s so fun to be able to share such an easy dessert with family and friends! 

These cookies are so delicious because they are almost brownie-like, making them perfect for chocolate fanatics. Their deep chocolate flavor isn’t too rich, and each bite leaves you excited for the next. The chopped nuts add a nice crunch but are optional for a nut-free choice. Personally, I recommend pecans, but you can use walnuts, almonds, or whatever you prefer. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cup flour 
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder 
  • ¼ teaspoon salt 

Instructions

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill up the bottom pot of a double boiler with approximately 3 inches of water and place the top pot inside. If you don’t have a double boiler, it is very easy to create a make-shift one! One way to do so is to place a heat-safe mixing bowl inside a pot, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pot. 

Next, turn on the stove to medium-high heat. When the water in the bottom pot begins to boil, mix the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter in the top pot of the double boiler. Continuously stir until a smooth, melted mixture forms. Turn off the stove, remove the top pot, and set aside. Then, add the vanilla and the chopped nuts to the melted mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the melted chocolate mix and stir until it is well mixed. Next, lightly grease a cookie tray with cooking spray. Use a scooper to scoop out teaspoon-size balls of batter. Drop the gooey chocolate balls onto the tray, and place the tray into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp on the outside, and remove from the oven. Let the cookies cool for 2-3 minutes, then serve. 

This recipe makes about 2 and a half dozen cookies. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Pesto Bruschetta

This is the thirty-second installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

In my big, Italian family, we crave our pesto, olive oil, and bread. Pronounced broo-skeh-tah, this Italian appetizer is extremely popular around the world. Bruschetta is actually just a name for toasted bread, but the classic version usually includes tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. 

There is no clear origin, but bruschetta is centuries old, possibly dating back to the Ancient Romans. For years, it was a simple snack, just stale bread and tomatoes, that was eaten by farmers and workers doing intense manual labor. It’s served far and wide across the Italian peninsula today, but the toppings vary in the different regions. For example, in Tuscany, bruschetta is usually topped with chicken liver or kale. In Abruzzo, they use salami. 

My family prefers this pesto version, which has been with us for as long as I can remember. Plenty of cooking and tasting has led us to conclude that these measurements and combinations work best! Regardless of the recipe you choose, the most important part of a good bruschetta is having the right ingredients. The key is using fresh mozzarella, high-quality olive oil, and good bread.

Over the past few years, my cousins, brother, and I have taken over the bruschetta making and mastered it. Whether it’s over holidays, family dinners, or our annual family beach trip, we make this recipe. I truly believe that cooking and working in the kitchen together is one of the best ways to bring a family closer to each other. There are many ways to make bruschetta, but I promise this Vuono classic will not disappoint. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, long
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese 
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes 
  • ½ cup walnuts 
  • ⅔ cup olive oil (extra-virgin)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese 
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ tsp pepper 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped 

Instructions:  

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the baguette into ½ inch thick pieces. On a baking tray, toast the baguette slices in the oven for approximately 2 minutes, or until slightly crisp and golden. Flip the slices over, and toast for another minute. Turn off the oven, remove the slices, and set them aside while preparing the pesto. 

Place the walnuts and garlic inside a food processor and process for approximately 15 seconds or until finely chopped. Next, add in the salt, pepper, and basil. Process for 1 minute or until the mixture forms a creamy paste. Add the parmesan-reggiano cheese and olive oil to the mixture, and blend for another 30 seconds or until smooth. If the pesto is too thick, add olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, until the preferred consistency is reached.

Once the pesto is ready for plating, slice the mozzarella cheese into ¼ inch slices and the sun dried tomatoes into halves. To assemble, spread the pesto on a toasted bread slice, add a piece of mozzarella, and top with a sun dried tomato. Repeat for each slice, serve, and enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Allison’s Shrimp and Grits

This is the twenty-eighth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

This shrimp and grits recipe is an ever-satisfying family favorite. It’s a colorful dish that is perfect for summer! Juicy shrimp over creamy, cheesy grits, what’s not to love?

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½  teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1 ½ pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
  • 2 andouille sausages, chopped 
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup onions, chopped
  • 1 ½  teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 ½  cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (3 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

INSTRUCTIONS  

  1. Cook the andouille sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the sausage and place on a separate plate, but leave the sausage drippings in the pan. 
  2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the sausage drippings; cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Stir in the shrimp, add the lemon juice and hot sauce, and pour in the chicken broth. Cook for 5 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. 
  4. In a separate medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  5. Gradually add grits to the saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in the butter, cheese, and salt.
  6. Serve shrimp mixture over grits; sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!