Creamy Spring Polenta

While it isn’t spring yet, I’ve been dreaming about it since mid-January. I’ve been buying everything I can get my hands on from Oiselle’s new Spring 14 line, staring at cute floral dresses, and giving my snow boots the side-eye. I must admit that I prefer summer and fall to winter and spring, but at this point, I’ll take anything over winter! I’m just thankful it didn’t snow this past Monday morning like they had originally predicted.

So, with spring only being 16 days away (but who’s counting?) I’ve been thinking about all the veggie packed meals I’ll be making as the days get longer and warmer. Since it was still bitterly cold on Monday, though, I opted for a dish that is still hearty, but included some vegetables that I typically associate with warmer weather. I had this as a main dish, but you can easily have it as a side with some protein. As a mashed potato lover, creamy polenta has quickly become a favorite of mine.

Polenta is a relatively new food for me. I think I had it for the first time in 2010, when I bought the pre-made and packaged kind that comes in a log. I’ve used it in that form quite a few times-usually for some type of bake-but never in it’s original, creamy state. There is a little confusion when it comes to what exactly polenta is, since some recipes refer to it as Italian polenta, while others refer to it as grits, or even just cornmeal. Well I’m here to make it simple for you – it’s all the same! You can use any of the three aforementioned ingredients to make your polenta, I promise!

Before you get to the recipe, though, I want to point you to the note at the bottom of the recipe, since it’s helpful to time everything so the ingredients are all ready at the same time. I oftentimes look at the ingredient list when planning on making something, but never the directions. There have been plenty of times I’ve gone out of my way for ingredients, gotten everything together, and then realized the dinner I was planning to make would actually take 4+ hours. I’d like to say that I’ve learned my lesson, but I still make that fateful mistake every so often. So in the interest of time and making it as easy as possible for you, I added this recipe note to make sure this is a quick and easy meal for you to prepare. 

Creamy Spring Polenta | FoodosaurusRex

Creamy Spring Polenta
– Serves 3 –

3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup corn grits/polenta
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium red onion
3 cloves roasted garlic [directions below]
1/2 cup smoked mozzarella
Salt + pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
2. To roast the garlic: Cut 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch off of the top of the head of garlic, making sure to keep the head intact. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool before handling
3. While the garlic is cooking, dice the zucchini, squash, and red onion and combine in a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. 
4. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and evenly spread the veggie mixture onto the sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. 
5. Meanwhile, prepare the polenta by bringing the 3 cups of vegetable broth to a boil over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan. 
6. Once the broth is boiling, slowly whisk in the polenta, and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. 
7. Add the veggies, roasted garlic, and shredded mozzarella to the polenta, stirring to combine. Serve immediately.

NOTE: To make this time friendly, start with the roasted garlic. After 15 minutes of the 30 minute roasting time has passed, add the vegetables to be roasted. Once the vegetables are in the oven, begin cooking the polenta. That way, everything will be ready at the same time!

Crabby Patty

With a lot going on in my life recently, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t been the most pleasant to be around (heck, sometimes I haven’t even wanted to be around myself). Let’s be honest, no one likes a crabby person, and I’ve definitely been one over the last few weeks. I’ve had a few procedures in the past few weeks with still no answers, so that combined with a screwed up schedule from all the tests, and my inability to eat and exercise normally has resulted in a crabby Danielle.

Look at that crabby patty!

I’ve spent most of the last week and a half in what I like to refer to as “a ball of mean.” Thankfully, I’ve been aware of my mood, so I’ve just kept to myself. My mood has improved now that I’m back to a more normal routine, including cooking! Spending time in the kitchen can be hit or miss for me – it’s either really great and helps relieve stress, or it just adds to it. For awhile it’s been more of a burden than a pleasure, but that seems to thankfully be turning around. So, on one of the “better” nights I decided to throw together a polenta bake.

Despite not getting the official “ok” from my doctor, after consulting with nurse mom, we decided I could reintroduce some dairy, as not having it has made no change over the last few weeks. So I’m still limiting myself, but not completely avoiding it. After next week’s final test, we should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on down below. But until then I’m going to make things like this delicious vegan bake that can easily be turned vegetarian or even enjoyed by a meat lover. Make sure to choose your hot pepper wisely, though – this can get spicy quickly!

Vegan Southwestern Polenta Bake
– Serves 4 –

4 Tbsp oil for cooking
1 package of soy crumbles, about 1 1/2 cups of TVP, or 1 lb of ground turkey/beef
4 oz. cream cheese or cream cheese substitute (I love Trader Joe’s “Not Cream Cheese”)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 hot pepper of your choice, diced (I used a dried habanero and it was HOT!)
1 (150z) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package/tube of pre-cooked polenta (again, a big fan of TJ’s)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Adobo
1 cup of salsa
Avocado for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. In a small pan, sauté onion in 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat until translucent, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.   
3. In large skillet, cook your meat/meat substitute about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add in cream cheese until melted, as well as spices and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add in cooked onion, beans, and hot pepper. Cook till heated through and combined, about another 2 minutes. Stir in nutritional yeast.  
4. Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch rounds, and layer in a 9×11 sprayed baking dish.
5. Top the polenta with the meat/bean mixture, and top with salsa
6. Bake 20 minutes or until salsa is bubbling.
Serve with sliced or mashed avocado.  

Spicy Polenta Bake

Training for the Philadelphia Marathon has been a marathon in itself. My husband and I have had our share of setbacks and injuries over the past year, but are thankfully on the up and up. Neither of us have been able to tackle 20 miles yet, but it isn’t for lack of trying. Saturday was a 15 miler for me, and an 18 miler for my husband. Next week, I’m hoping to break 16 (my longest run yet) for at least 18 miles so I can get at least one 20 miler. Fingers crossed I can do it!

Since our mileage has been higher, we’ve definitely been hungrier. After Saturday’s 15 miler my husband insisted we had Five Guys for dinner. Since we had ran so much, I figured it was an acceptable treat, and really enjoyed it. After that indulgence, though, I was full aware that I needed something a little better for me on Sunday. So, after waking up and getting my husband to do yoga with me for the first time ever (he’s finally realizing how helpful it can be to stretch out), I decided to use up the little bit of pre-made polenta I had in the fridge.

This dish came in handy for a small brunch, followed by a late dinner, as we went to an Oktoberfest at a bar nearby, and enjoyed our fair share of German food and beers. It was just what I needed after mid-day Sunday drinking!

Spicy Polenta Bake
– Serves 4 –

4 oz. pre-made polenta, sliced thin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can corn, drained
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup salsa (I used Herdez chipotle flavor)
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Adobo

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place sliced polenta on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown
3. Meanwhile,  heat oil in skillet, and sautee onion until soft (about 5 minutes). Add chili powder, cumin, and adobo, sauteeing for an additional 3 minutes.
4. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, cilantro, and salsa and cook for 5 minutes, until heated through.
5. Grease a 9×11 dish and layer with cooked polenta and bean and corn mixture, and top with cheese.
6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Polenta Take 2: Pizza Style

After making the Polenta & Pinto Bean Pie, I had quite a bit of polenta left over. So, after doing some research (a.k.a Googling), I decided to try my hand at a polenta crust pizza. I suppose it’s less of a polenta crust pizza, and more of a polenta-styled pizza, since you need a fork and it isn’t super crispy like pizza (well, New York pizza at least).

By having little of it’s own flavor, polenta really allows you to do whatever you’d like with it. I can only imagine the different flavor combinations that could top a little slice of polenta – yum! At any rate, I decided to go with regular mozzarella cheese and some sautéed onions and peppers. It was actually really delicious, and surprisingly filling. Since the pre-cooked polenta I bought was rectangular, our pizza was more Elio’s shaped than anything else, which was a nice gourmet and healthier throwback to a childhood favorite.

Onions & Peppers Polenta Pizza
– Serves 2 –

16 oz polenta (tube or squared)
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
1/4 cup sliced green pepper
1/3 cup tomato sauce (any variation will work)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat 9 x 13 baking dish
2. While oven is heating, sauté onions and peppers in pan with just cooking spray (no oil) until slightly soft (onions are beginning to become translucent and peppers have a slight char)
3. Slice polenta into desired pieces (depending on shape, how many you’d like to make) and place in greased baking dish
4. Top polenta with equal amounts of sauce, cheese, onions, and peppers
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes

Simple Vegetarian: Polenta and Pinto Bean Pie

After searching for which vegetarian cookbook I got this recipe from, I was able to find it! This bad boy comes from Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson, and it’s delicious! I’ve actually never had polenta before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To me, it tasted a lot like a Matzo ball, which I love. So I’ll definitely be adding polenta into our diet a little more regularly; it’s a nice alternative to pasta and rice.

The recipe itself is straight forward and easy. Aside from the 30 minute cooking time, it took a whopping 5 minutes to prepare. It uses pre-cooked polenta which adds to the convenience factor, but I’m sure you could cook-up your own if you have the time. Just a side note, it took my fiancé and I a solid 30 minutes to find the polenta in the grocery store on Sunday. We looked everywhere; pasta section, international section, rice section, refrigerated section. Finally we called our friend that happens to work at that particular Wegmans, and he directed us to it’s proper location (all the way in the corner of the pasta aisle).

It’s also really filling. I made the entire recipe, and there was enough for another large meal (as in TWO dinners!). We added some home-made poor man’s guacamole and a little sour cream and paired it with a salad. I decided to heat up what was left over still from the two dinners for breakfast, and paired it with an egg – not bad! Of course being the failure that I am, I didn’t take a picture of the deliciousness. To be fair though, it’s quite a messy dish once you cut it up and put it on a plate, so I don’t think a picture would have done it justice anyway. You’re just going to have to make it to find out!

I have quite a bit of polenta left over, so I’m going to attempt a polenta-crust pizza. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out, but with some onions and peppers on top, I can’t imagine it being horrible. We’ll see!

Polenta & Pinto Bean Pie
– Serves 4 –

16 oz. package cooked polenta
16 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz. of salsa or picante sauce (mild, medium, or hot)
4 oz. can mild green chiles, drained (one small can)
1 Tbsp chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the polenta into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange in the bottom of a lightly oiled 9- or 10-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the pinto beans, salsa, chiles, and chili powder, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and spread over the polenta.
3. Top with shredded cheese and tortilla chips. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer to lightly brown the top.

Happy quick & easy veggie nomzing!