Saturday, September 27, 2014

Polenta with Mushrooms

I was having a friend over for brunch and wanted to make something a little different. I went for polenta two ways and smoothies. The other polenta didn't turn out like I'd hoped - it was in the pressure cooker and I forgot the salt, so it got clumpy. But it was a sweet polenta and I made a dark cherry sauce to go with it. The smoothies were pretty simple concoctions of frozen pineapple and strawberries, some soymilk and silken tofu, a bit of agave and a splash of lemon juice and vanilla extract. My guest does not typically enjoy tofu, but she said she could not tell it was in the smoothie. :)

I only took pictures of the polenta with mushrooms, but it was definitely the best part of the meal anyway. I was working with mushrooms I had on hand, but I am sure anything would work fine here. You need about 5 cups of mushrooms. For me, it was a bag of frozen Trader Joe's variety mushrooms and an 8 ounce container of fresh baby bellas, but I am sure that any mushrooms you like would be good!

Polenta ingredients:

1 cup polenta (the big dry grits, not the prepared or instant cornflour kind)
2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS margarine (or more olive oil)
3 cloves of garlic
2 cups plain coconut beverage or plain soy milk (don't confuse this with coconut milk! Coconut beverage is much lighter and has no coconut taste. This is what I'm talking about:
1-2 cups of water, as needed

Mushroom Topping Ingredients: 

5 cups of mixed mushrooms (frozen or fresh! If using dried, you need to reconstitute them first)
1 cup of finely diced onion (two small onions yield the right amount)
1 TBS olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

First, you need to start the polenta since it takes some time. Add the polenta and broth to the pan and bring it to a rolling boil, whisking often to keep it clump-free. Add in the oil, margarine, and garlic and cook over low heat while adding the coconut beverage slowly over about five minutes, whisking in each addition. Continue to cook for about 40 more minutes, whisking frequently and adding water as needed (it'll thicken a lot as you go). It should be thick and creamy when you're done.

While that's happening, make your mushroom topping!  Since I used a combination of fresh and frozen mushrooms, I added them in phases, but you can put it all together if you're using all fresh or all frozen.

I added the oil to the pan, then added in the onion and diced fresh mushrooms. I cooked that for about 5 minutes, cooking off some of the mushrooms' liquid. Then I added in the garlic and frozen mushrooms and cooked for another 5 minutes. Finally, I added in the vinegar, sugar, and herbs and cooked for another 5 minutes.

Top the polenta with the mushrooms and serve with fresh black pepper and mushroom salt if you have it (or ordinary salt if you don't!)

Nutrition (for 1/6)
Calories: 240
Fat: 9.5 g
Carbs: 30 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sugars: 5.2 g
Protein: 4.2 g
Vitamin A: 3%
Vitamin C: 7%
Calcium: 4%
Iron: 11%

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pasta e Fagioli

I built my menu for the week and noticed that nearly everything started with the letter "p". My friends helped suggest options to fill out the week and pasta e fagioli was mentioned by the lovely Brian K.

It's a nice easy weeknight meal that comes together in about 30 minutes AND it tastes good.


2 TBS olive oil
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
4 cups of vegetable or unchicken broth
1 can (~15 oz) of northern white beans
1 can (~15 oz) of dark kidney beans
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup uncooked ditalini (or other little pasta)

Heat up the olive oil and pan fry the onion until translucent (not browned). Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add all of the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the pasta.

Cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring often.

After 20 minutes, you can use a stick blender (aka immersion blender) to pulverize some of the beans and tomatoes to give it a thicker, creamier consistency. This is optional, but it makes the soup feel more substantial. You can also just add a cup or two to a regular blender, whirr until thick and creamy looking, then add back to the pan.

Add the ditalini and cook for 8 minutes or so. Check the label for cooking time and follow that, but check to make sure it's not crunchy. I had to add 2 minutes to  the suggested time to get it just right!

Serve with warm bread.

Nutrition (per cup - makes 7 cups)

Calories: 231
Fat: 5.1 g
Carbs: 37.2 g
Fiber: 8.5 g (34%)
Sugars: 5.5 g
Protein: 9.6 g
Vitamin A: 14%
Vitamin C: 22%
Iron: 15%
Calcium: 9%

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Soy Curl Pepper Steak

I haven't been able to find my favorite steak substitute anywhere lately. I'd put pepper steak on my menu for the week, but forgot that I'd never located the Gardein beef tips. I decided to see what I could do with some soy curls, since they're a pretty versatile substitute. This was really tasty!!! It got a 5 out of 5, which is super rare! It's not low fat AT ALL, but it is high in protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin C and it still beats takeout from pretty much anywhere.

Sauce Ingredients:
3 TBS tamari
4 TBS rice wine
2 TBS corn starch
1/3 cup low sodium faux chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 TBS sesame oil
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS freshly ground black pepper (yes, a whole tablespoon!)

Into the wok, in this order:
1 TBS peanut oil
1 TBS canola oil
4 servings of soy curls, soaked in hot mushroom bouillon (faux beef would work, too)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup of chopped leeks
1/4 cup raw cashews

First, make the sauce. Just put everything into a bowl, whisk it together, and set it aside. 

Add the peanut and canola oil to the wok and get it super hot. Drain and squeeze the soy curls, then toss them into the wok (carefully) along with the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 3 minutes - the soy curls should brown. Add the peppers, onions, leeks, and cashews and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the sauce and cook for 1 more minute, 

Serve on top of a bed of rice. 

Nutrition (per 1/5 recipe - about 1 cup each serving):

Calories: 235
Fat: 14 g
Carbs: 15 g
Fiber: 16%
Sugars: 6.39 g
Protein: 9.5 g
Vitamin A: 16%
Vitamin C: 87%
Iron: 69%
Calcium: 1%