A Southern Escape // Dining Outdoors with Cost Plus World Market

This post was sponsored by Cost Plus World Market . I feel delighted and privileged to be able to work with brands that I genuinely love. Thank you so much for continuing to support my passions and efforts by being here!

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Grab $40, find the freshest shrimp you can lay your hands on, and send a couple of texts to your favorite people (just not group texts - you are far too nice a person for that), because we are throwing a spontaneous weekend dinner party. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

We are making neo-classic shrimp and grits, garlic crostini, and some very simple, summer ice cream sundays. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

First, we address the setting for our summery soiree. While I do enjoy putting together an elaborate tablescape, in the summer I opt for simplicity. A vibrant bouquet, a galvanized tray, and a couple of glass lanterns for ambiance are all you need.

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Seafood is such an excellent summer protein because it cooks in minutes and, when we are facing upper ninety degree temperatures, every minute of standing over a hot stovetop counts.  While the fragrance of Old Bay and simmering seafood evokes all kinds of southern romance, seafood is not always the most economical choice.  But that is exactly why shrimp and grits is one of my favorite meals. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Think of grits as the inexpensive counterpart that makes a handful of shrimp become a full meal. They are rich and hearty and extend our protein so that everyone leaves the table satisfied without putting too much of a strain on your wallet.  In addition to their economic advantages, they also cook up in about two minutes.  Oh yes, new best friend material right here. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

This past Valentine's Day I had wilted arugula for the first time and fell IN LOVE.  I knew I wanted to incorporate them in my summer version of this classic dish and it was a heavenly pairing.  The bitter greens counters the richness of the shrimp and bacon beautifully and a splash of white wine deglazes the pan creating a full-flavored broth. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Not only will the home economist appreciate this meal, but being that is a one-dish wonder, the cook will love the minimal dishes and steps involved. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

While shrimp and grits do not exactly require a sidekick, I can always do with a few extra carbs.  

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

While your shrimp are simmering, slice up a fresh baguette and brush it with a bit of your favorite olive oil before sneaking it under the broiler for a few toasty minutes before rubbing it with a cut garlic clove. 

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Now for dessert.  Let's make sundaes, shall we?  Nothing rings of summer simplicity like an ice cream sundae. 

A pint of your favorite vanilla and a handful of berries, become a stellar sundae when topped with a warm, basil caramel sauce.

A simple, southern-inspired outdoor meal for 6 on $40!  {Pedantic Foodie}

Oh, did I mention that this whole meal can be made in about two hours?  Now call those friends, let's throw a party. 


Pedantic Foodie

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Cost Breakdown

shopping list

  • 1 1/4 lbs fresh wild-caught shrimp $17.28
  • 1 lb yellow grits $5.11
  • 1/2 lb gruyere $4.72
  • 2 pints heavy cream $3.65
  • 1 baguette $1.32
  • 32 ounces chicken broth $2.04
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream $4.09
  • 1 pint blackberries $2.04
  • 2.5 ounces fresh basil $2.76
  • arugula $3.06
  • bacon $5.11

Total = $51.18 - ...okay, I went a little over.  However, I think we could add a few of these things to the pantry list.  I know many of us keep bacon, chicken broth, and grits on hand, but I did not want to assume too much of ourselves because, well, sometimes we eat all the bacon.  If you have a well-stocked pantry I think you can still squeeze into the $40 range.  

assumed pantry and refrigerator items

  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • white wine 
  • milk 
  • butter
  • Old Bay seasoning 
  • sugar
  • vanilla extract 

Shrimp and Grits with Arugula & Bacon

serves 6

for the shrimp

  • 6 rashers bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
  • 1 1/4 lbs shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (My go-to is Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 5 ounces arugula

Place bacon in a large, nonstick sauté pan set over medium high heat.  Cook, stirring often, until the bacon is crisp.  Remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan, and set aside.  

Cook's Note: At this point, you should begin heating the cooking liquid for the grits. 

Add butter to the bacon fat and set over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted, add shrimp, Old Bay seasoning, and garlic.

Cook for about 3 minutes, flipping the shrimp as needed, until they are almost done.  Then, add white wine and simmer for another 1-2 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked through.  They should be pink and firm, but their shape should not shrink or curl. 

Cook’s Note: At this time your cooking liquid should be simmering and you can begin cooking the grits while the shrimp are cooking. 

Remove the pan from the heat and toss in arugula.  Allow it to sit in the broth for several minutes; until wilted.  Serve over grits. 

for the grits

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow grits 
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
  • 1 3/4 cups gruyere, freshly grated 
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine chicken broth and whole milk in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Slowly whisk in grits and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes; until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in butter, cream, gruyere, salt, and pepper. 

Divide the grits amongst six bowls and top with shrimp mixture.  Ladle some of the broth from the pan over the grits and shrimp.  Serve immediately. 

Basil Caramel Sauce

makes about 1 cup

  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon water 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • pinch salt 

In a large, high-sided saucier, combine sugar and basil.  Use a fork to muddle the basil into the sugar, releasing the oils.  Add the water and butter and place the pan over medium heat.

As the butter melts, use a nonstick spatula to gently mix the sugar into the melted butter. Once all the sugar has melted and the mixture is bubbling, stop all stirring.  Gently swirl the pan every so often to ensure that the sugar is caramelizing evenly.

Once the mixture is amber in color, remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream, vanilla, and salt.  Be careful, as it will bubble fiercely at first. 

Return the pan to the heat and whisk gently until all the sugar has remelted and the caramel is smooth.  Allow to cool in the refrigerator before serving. 

Cook's Note: Caramel can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Just microwave for about thirty seconds before serving to soften it to a pourable consistency. 


Summer Ice Cream Sundaes

  • 1 pint fresh blackberries 
  • vanilla ice cream
  • basil caramel sauce 

Scoop the ice cream, sprinkle the berries, drizzle the caramel - you know the deal.  Basil garnish?  Oh yes, I like the way you think.