Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce

27 12 2011

As I’m writing this, my boyfriend is stuffing a shirt into a burning fireplace. We are staying at my bosses house all week, looking after his incredibly needy/flaky dog and a mysteriously absent cat. We decided to light a fire, only to discover that the fireplace is stuffed with household trash; the burnable, the probably-non-burnable. All I know is that my boss gave the OK on lighting fires, so I’m blindly praying that none of this stuff is too toxic. This is either very ghetto and incredibly hazardous or totally sustainable. Leaning towards the former…

Speaking of fires, I was very much on the verge of burning this cookbook. I’ve made a few recipes from it and frankly, they have all been flavorless and weak. Cursing these butter-substituting, fat-free nazis, I reluctantly gave the book one last try after Ryan dug it up one day.

And lo and behold, cookbook gets to live another day because of Cheesy Polenta. I haven’t cooked with polenta that much, but when I have, the results have not been too exciting. But this casserole dish fits the texture and taste of polenta perfectly. It soaks up all of the flavorful sauce and matches very well with the mellow Gruyère. Serve with a salad, a side veggie and a good chunk of bread .

New beer reviews are also up! Check out Smuttynose Winter Ale and Ayinger’s Celebrator.

Baked Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Fat-Free Vegetarian

1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups quick-cooking polenta OR one of those round mold packages of pre-cooked polenta that Trader Joes sells
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsps. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 14-oz cans chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tb. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup Gruyère cheese,

If using quick-cooking polenta: Lightly grease an ovenproof dish and set aside. Line an 11 x 7 in. baking pan with plastic wrap. In a pan, bring 4 cups water to boil with the salt. Pour in the polenta and cook, stirring continuously for 5 minutes. Beat in the paprika and nutmeg, then pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Leave to cool.

If using pre-cooked polenta: cut into 2 inch squares and sprinkle both sides with paprika and nutmeg.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and other spices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place half the polenta squares in the prepared baking dish. Spoon over half the tomato sauce then sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot.

Mushroom Dill Frittata & Curry Roasted Potatoes (Oh, and Bloody Marys)

19 12 2011

Like most people, or at least like most people I would want to associate with, I am addicted to brunch. This probably stems from the fact that I will sleep until around noon/later than noon, if given the chance. So when you wake up as the sun is getting ready to start its descent, sometimes your screwed up internal clock doesn’t know whether it wants breakfast or lunch. How about BOTH, SUCKAS.


So for Sunday’s 2:00 food blowout, I opened one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegan Brunch, and played around with some of Isa’s recipes. The frittata is very flavorful, with bright dill and juicy mushies. What I love most about frittatas is that they taste just as good cold or reheated the next day as they do coming right out of the oven.

And these roasted potatoes are just the perfect breakfast potato recipe. Since they’re baked, they don’t get all oily or mushy, and still retain a crisp bite. Cumin is also a great partner with potatoes. Try sprinkling on a little nutritional yeast for some cheesy potato goodness.

And now..dun da dun, the star of the show and love of my life…thebloodymary.

This is one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever tasted and is now my official go-to recipe. I have to give kudos to White On Rice Couple for creating this sriracha-spiced mouth bliss. I think it’s about time for another one.

Mushroom Dill Frittata
Adapted from Vegan Brunch

1 tb. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced (your choice. I’d go for an earthier selection such as cremini, shiitake or bellas)
1 package extra-firm tofu
1 tb. soy sauce
1 tsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. turmeric
Several dashes of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh dill, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes.

Squeeze out the tofu to remove any excess water. Crumble and squeeze it into a large mixing bowl, until it has the consistency of ricotta. Mash really well! Add the soy sauce, mustard, turmeric, black pepper, yeast, salt and dill to the tofu and mix well. When the mushies are ready, add then to the mixture. Taste for seasonings.

Lightly grease an 8-inch pie pan and firmly press the frittata mixture into it. Bake for 20 minutes, until it is firm and lightly browned on the top. Let cool for about 3 minutes, then invert onto a plate and serve.

Curry Roasted Potatoes

2 1/2 lbs. potatoes
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tb. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly grease with olive oil.

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and then into about 3/4-inch pieces. Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Use yr hands to coat all of the potatoes in oil, then sprinkle them with salt, curry powder and cumin. Toss to coat.

Bake potatoes in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove and use a spatula to flip them. Return the potatoes to the oven and roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until they’re lightly browned and tender on the inside.

Vegan “Cheddar” & Sweet Potato Soup

19 12 2011

I absolutely adore cheese. But I also absolutely adore vegan cheese substitutes. It really makes no sense. I also love nutritional yeast, though it gives me really bad gas. It’s worth it for all them B vitamins though.

For cheese and yeast lovers alike, this soup will satisfy. It’s creamy, tangy and comforting. Cinnamon and brown sugar mixed with sweet potatoes… c’mmoonnn.

Try toasting up your own croutons or just have some crusty bread on hand because you’ll be wanting it to soak up every bite.

Vegan “Cheddar” & Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from The Uncheese Cookbook

2 cups water
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbs. Spice Blend (recipe below)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups vegan milk
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the first six ingredients in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the mashed sweet potatoes, nutritional yeast and milk.

Puree the mixture in a blender, a portion at a time, until smooth. Return to the soup pot and stir in the brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Warm over medium heat, until heated through, stirring often.

Serve with croutons.

Spice Blend

1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbs. salt
1 tb. onion granules
1 tb. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. dill seed

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Sloppy Joes

14 12 2011

I’m always searching for the best vegetarian takes on comfort food. Veggie pot pies, mac n’ cheese, burgers. That is my ZONE. Yeah!

I’ve tried out a couple of sloppy joe recipes and none of them seem to really do the trick. This one though, after some slight adjustments from the original recipe, is getting pretty darn close; deep, rich flavors from the addition of brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce, mixed with a hot pop from mustard and hot sauce.

The only thing I haven’t completely perfected yet is the texture. I’ve used tempeh in the past, but that ends up being too clumpy. The TVP is a lot better, but I think I’m looking for something a bit softer and creamier. Perhaps lentils, or some sort of bean. Anyone have a suggestion?

While I search for the perfect vegan sloppy joe, this recipe works just perfectly.

Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah: Recipes for Hungry Banditos

1 cup TVP granules
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 tb. garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tb. yellow mustard
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
1 tb. tomato paste
3 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Few splashes of hot sauce (optional)
Hamburger buns, toasted

Combine the TVP granules with 1 cup hot water in a bowl and set aside to soak.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion, bell peppers and garlic for about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook for another few minutes before adding all of the remaining ingredients, including the TVP. Stir well and reduce heat, simmering for 10-20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit. Serve hot on toasted buns.

Fettuccine Margherita

5 12 2011

So I recently joined to try and manage my budget. All I can say is, don’t do it. It makes you horrified and extremely disappointed in every single one of your spending decisions. Every. Single. One. I had to buy floss today and felt like a jerk.

But what mainly gets me is the amount I spend going on out to eat. I just love trying out new restaurants and all sorts of types of cuisine. But now instead of trying other peoples food, I will be trying out my own skills in the kitchen A LOT more. This month has been dubbed No Spend December. I am not going out to eat once. Home-cooked goodies all around. My wallet and tummy will be thanking me.

Starting NSD off, we have this lovely pasta dish. The original recipe called for one pound of pasta, but I kicked it down to half a pound. I don’t know if anyone else has this issue with pasta recipes, but the sauce:pasta ratios are always way off. A full pound of pasta is just going to absorb all of the sauce, leaving nothing  for me to dip my bread in or slurp from the bowl. So either double the amount of sauce or reduce the amount of pasta.

This sauce is really exquisite. Mushrooms browned in butter, mixed with tangy tomatoes, wine and silky cream blend together perfectly to make a dish that is ideal for a cozy night in. Pair with crusty bread and a glass of red wine and you wonder why you dish out cash for someone else to make this stuff for you.

On a different note, if you’re into beer, I have a few new reviews for brews you need to try over in the Beer Section: Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout and Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin, to name a few.

Fettuccine Margherita
Adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

1/2 lb. fettuccine
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter
12 oz (about 4 1/2 cups) sliced mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes, well-drained and chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the fettuccine until al dente in a large pot of boiling, salted water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they brown and the juices begin to evaporate, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and wine and boil 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the cream and salt and boil 1 minute.

Drain the fettuccine thoroughly. Place in a large bowl, then pour on the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Toss quickly and serve immediately.