southwestern polenta bowl

This time last year (strangely, this exact day), I discovered and posted about my newfound love for polenta. The obsession lasted a good while, as it was an easy ‘cooking-for-one’ meal while I was in school and always comforting during the colder months. Then springtime cravings for salads and fresh veggies took over my attention, and my bag of corn grits was left to its lonesome in the back of the pantry.

Until now! The moment I whisked up these grits today and heaped them with some southwestern-inspired fridge finds, it all came back to me. Deliciousness. A warm, nourishing, well-balanced, fuel-filled meal that’s anything but bland. A comfort food, but one without the post-indulgence guilt.

In this one-bowl meal, polenta [or corn grits] serve as the base as lettuce does for your springtime salad, and you get to be the creative genius to toss whatever your tummy desires on top.  Possibilities are endless, of course, but this one deserved to be documented and made again and again in exactly the same way…..

:]

southwestern-inspired polenta bowl

  • 1/2 cup yellow corn grits
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • onion
  • ground veggie sausage
  • black beans
  • roasted cubed pumpkin
  • chopped kale
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh spicy salsa / pico de gallo

Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a pot. Add oil. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

While polenta is cooking, in a pan sauté some onions with crumbled/ground veggie sausage and sprinkle with a little s+p. I then added in some black beans, leftover roasted cubed pumpkin and chopped kale. Once the sausage is cooked through, you may want to pour in some vegetable broth to help wilt the kale and keep everything from sticking.

When polenta is thick and creamy, spoon into a bowl and pile on your sautéed medley. Top with fresh cilantro and spicy salsa and devour!

Enjoy! -m

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huevos rancheros over polenta

So, if you read my blog, you know that a savory breakfast of mine will include some combination of eggs, beans, corn, salsa, cheese, and veggies. To me it’s like peanut butter and bananas, chocolate and coffee, toast and jam – it just goes together, no matter how you dish it up.

I’ve never “officially” made huevos rancheros, but with all the polenta existing in my kitchen as of late, the idea came to me to fry up some ranchero-ed huevos and serve them atop of fried polenta cakes in place of the traditional corn tortillas. Ohh how creative I am.. ;]

And well… it turned out great! The polenta was crispy on the outside, soft and grainy on the inside, and melted in perfectly with the rest of the ingredients just the way I like it.

I made this for myself, so the recipe is for 1 generous portion, but it’s an easy one to adapt for more people.

Huevos rancheros over polenta, by me :]

  • leftover polenta, spread about ½” thick in a pan/baking dish and chilled (see my basic polenta recipe here)
  • dash of chili powder
  • 2 T red onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup black beans (I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Cuban-style black beans!)
  • ½ cup salsa fresca or pico de gallo (I use Trader Joe’s mild fresh salsa)
  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • feta, cotija, or cheddar cheese to garnish
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Cut chilled polenta into 2 squares or rectangles, sprinkle with chili powder and fry in a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat, until crisped and golden on both sides.

Meanwhile, lightly oil another skillet and heat over medium. Add chopped onion and garlic, sauté until softened and then add black beans and ¼ cup of the salsa. Stir and let cook until mixture thickens a bit. Fry or scramble the eggs to your liking. Top the polenta cakes with bean mixture, eggs, and garnish with the rest of the salsa, cheese, chopped cilantro, and a dash of Texas Pete!

This would also be good with some sautéed greens and/or other veggies thrown in the mix, but somehow I forgot (…what?! I never forget my veggies!)

This is one. delicious. mess.

mich

Roasted sweet potato + black bean salad

A little sweet, a little zesty, a whole lot of nutrients.

This salad is good.

And good for you.

….There’s not much else to say.

But really, I could eat roasted sweet potatoes by the bucketful, and when you toss them with some black beans, red onion, cilantro, pepitas, and a zesty lime dressing, you get a hearty and healthy salad 13 notches above those plain roasted taters. Is that even possible? I’d say yes, but you’ll have to try it out and let your own taste buds decide.

I made this for the C of C Clean Eats potluck, a newly formed club at our school based on the Slow Food Charleston Chapter.

“Slow food aims to be everything fast food is not.”

The movement supports food and farming policy that is good for the public, good for the planet, and good for farmers and workers. We were asked to bring a dish made with local ingredients if possible, and to write the recipe down so we can compile a “Clean Eats Cookbook”! We had a delicious and nutritious variety of foods to sample, like roasted brussels sprouts with cherries and walnuts, local shrimp and avocado salad, and sweet potatoes with a yummy cinnamon yogurt sauce. It was great to get together with others who share the passion for good, clean eating, and to brainstorm events to get the campus community aware and involved in this movement.

So here’s my contribution, which I found much too tasty not to include on this blog!

Roasted sweet potato + black bean salad, inspired by this

  • 2 or 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled + cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans, or 1 can drained + rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 450 F. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt + cumin and spread on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, flip/toss with metal spatula, and roast 10-15 minutes more, until tender and edges begin to brown. Add warm potatoes to a bowl with beans, onion, and chopped cilantro. Toss with zesty lime dressing (below) and top with toasted pumpkin seeds (toast in a dry skillet for 3-5 minutes) and salty cheese like feta or cotija if desired.

Lime dressing:

  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • dash of sea salt + black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t agave nectar

Combine all ingredients in a blender and toss gently with salad. You probably won’t need all of the dressing. Serve this salad as a side dish or over a bed of greens for a nutritious meal!

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chili-chocolate-bean cookies

I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I bake a dessert with beans… and it comes out amazing. I mean I already showed you my success with the beet-bean brownies and the deep dish cookie pie, but somehow the concept never fails to fascinate me. Beans?! Not only are they what I often consume for protein in my meals—being low in fat and super high in fiber—but they can be used to replace a majority of the flour and butter in baked goods! I think what gets me most, though, is that they’re not simply a healthy substitution; beans make things like cookies and brownies so incredibly rich and fudgey and moist. I may never bake without beans again!

….I just won’t tell people this until after they taste my goodies :]

These rich chocolate cookies remind me of these double chocolate fudge cookies my mom used to make from a mix when we were kids. Everyone looved them, especially straight from the oven, all warm and full of gooey chocolate chunks. These bring me back to that same eye-rolling indulgent taste of fudgey bliss, but with a grown-up twist of spicy chiles, cinnamon, tart dried cherries… and of course our healthy little secret ;]

I also gave each cookie a generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt, which really brings out the richness and leaves you craving more sweet after each bite.

chili-chocolate-bean cookies, from My New Roots

  • 1 ½ cups black beans, or one 15 oz. can
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup organic cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup, honey or agave
  • 2 eggs or 6 T egg whites
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, or chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries

healthy decadence

I showed you the magic of beets and beans in brownies, and now I give you a decadent deep dish cookie pie….. made with chickpeas!

The use of beans in desserts is becoming more common to me so I was not too skeptical about this recipe. And the beans proved themselves once again. Mom and I made this one night while watching the Biggest Loser (nothing like eating a decadent dessert while watching people lose weight… but hey, at least this pie is somewhat healthy!) and I think her more skeptical taste buds were impressed as well.

We made half the recipe since there were only two of us, and put it in a smaller round pan (about 8-inch). Remember this is a pie rather than a crisp cookie, so it may seem gooey and under-baked – just let it be :] Then let it sit for 10 minutes after baking, seriously testing your willpower while wafts of sweet cookie aroma float past your nose. I know it’s hard. But then you can dish it up with vanilla ice cream and indulge in this dense, moist, half-baked fudgey cookie. Guiltlessly, of course!

healthy deep dish cookie pie, adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie

this is the halved recipe that we made in an 8-inch round pan. Our pie was not too deep-dish as you can see in the photo, so use a smaller pan if you wish. If you want more servings, double these measurements and use a 10-inch round cake pan or springform pan, as called for in the original recipe.

* this is also gluten free if you use gluten free oats, and vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate!

  • 1 can chickpeas or white beans (drained and rinsed well)
  • ½ cup old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 2 T unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 ½ T canola oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • ¼ t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar **we used slightly less than ½ cup brown sugar, and ¼ cup erythritol [a natural calorie-free granulated sweetener] but I found it to be very sweet, so next time I’ll use ½ or 2/3 cup sweetener.
  • ½ cup chopped dark chocolate (we used Scharffen Berger 70%) or chocolate chips

Blend everything (except the chips) very well in a food processor. Mix in chips, and pour into an oiled or parchment-lined round pan. Cook at 350F for 20-30 minutes, or until edges are crispy and golden. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Best served warm with cool and creamy vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy! -mich

This post is linked to Allergy Free Wednesdays

chili on a chilly night

Simple solution to a chilly-November-home-alone kind of night: go to Trader Joe’s, pick up some veggies and beans, make chili, cuddle up on the couch in your pj’s and a blanket and let the Christmas movie marathoning begin! This was me on the night I returned to my apartment after Thanksgiving break. I had this chili on my list of recipes to make for a while and mmmm… why did I wait this long to try it?! So simple, hearty, flavorful, just the right amount of heat (as in pretty spicy if you don’t like spice), and did I mention delicious?!

Don’t make the mistake I did and put this on your list of recipes to try, only to actually cook it a year later. Do it now!

turkey & kale chili, from here

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 1/2 T cumin
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I like super sweet white corn)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed and roughly chopped Continue reading

fall sauté

I’ve been eating this all week.

Or maybe every meal of every day of this week would be more accurate. Any way these ingredients come together—whether as a raw salad, a veggie-egg scramble, or a warm sauté served on a bed of quinoa—they make for a comforting, filling, and most importantly, healthy meal.

Let me explain to you how this goes: I chopped up a big bunch of kale with some onion, sweet peppers and carrots, and kept it in a bowl in the fridge. For breakfast I’d make an egg scramble with the veggies and beans, and top it with salsa. For lunch I’d have a big hearty kale salad with either more beans or shredded chicken, drenched in this lemon-tahini dressing. And for dinner I’d sauté the mixture in chicken broth with garlic, sliced apple and white beans, served on a bed of quinoa or brown rice and drizzled with more tahini sauce.

A pretty versatile meal, huh? The combination of textures and flavors makes it deliciously satisfying, and the protein and fiber make it filling. And I don’t think anything makes me feel healthier than eating a big bowl of kale. It’s a win-win-win-win.

All this was inspired by a salad my sister Tara made this summer with kale from mom’s garden…. the very moment I fell in love with kale. I knew I had liked it cooked, in soups and such, but I’d never tried it raw! I imagined it being tough and more bitter or pungent than other greens—which is exactly what I love about it. No it wasn’t my typical spring mix salad, but it was earthy and hearty and filling. Tara’s salad was pretty basic if I remember: a mixture of chopped kale, peppers, white beans, maybe onions, olive oil and lemon juice and a crank of black peppercorns.

So I found myself at the market with a big bunch of kale, remembering and wanting to recreate this delicious salad. And then it got cold….. therefore this warm sauté was born, accompanied by a mixture of brown rice and quinoa and a lemon-tahini dressing I’d been wanting to try.

So. Here I am today, just home from the market where I stocked up on more kale, and still enjoying every bite of this healthy, hearty meal in its various forms.

That is the story of my week.

for the sauté: Continue reading