Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Mondays!

I've been a devote vegetarian at several different times in my life so I know that a great meal can exist without a hunk of beef on the plate. My challenge these days is to try and find and create recipes that are healthy, natural, good tasting, cancer-fighting and economically sensible. Hard to do.

Tonight my mom and I made a polenta Mexican style casserole. By no means is the picture below the actual image of our dinner!!! I didn't get the camera out in time before we all started to dig in so I just found a pic on-line. Trust me, our dish was much more photogenic.

My mom loves following recipes as if they were scripture. I do not. I love just tossing things in a pan, seasoning to taste and hoping all goes well. I don't pay attention to oven temperatures or exact ingredient portions and I hardly ever make a dish that isn't altered in some way. My mom knew the basic recipe by heart and together we filled in the blanks. My kind of cooking.

Here is the basic recipe, although it can be altered a hundred ways. (I apologize for leaving out exact amounts. I think you just have to use your eyes and your nose on this one.)

Polenta: Ours was homemade, but store bought and ready to use is fine. We made enough to cover the bottom of a large casserole dish. Thyme, rosemary and some red pepper flakes were added in the cooking process, but any herbs will do.
Black beans: At least one can, drained. We ended up adding another can, but that might have been a little excessive.
White beans/kidney beans: Any second kind of bean will do. We used some white beans, also drained, to add even more protein to the dish.
Tomatoes: Fresh is best, but we used one can of organic canned tomatoes tonight.
Salsa: Pick your favorite!
Corn: Optional. Adds a nice crunch, but isn't really all that nutritionally relevant.
Peppers: Red, yellow, orange, green....or a combo of the above. Tonight we used red and orange.
Onions: Half a large onions is enough.
Cheese: I've been trying to do the Vegan thing, but honestly, cheese is the hardest for me to give up. We used an aged cheddar and some fresh mozzarella tonight, but I supposed you could leave it off or opt for a vegan cheese.

1. Make or buy polenta. Mix in herbs during the making process if you so wish. Following the instructions on the polenta package is actually very simple.
2. Saute onions and peppers in a little olive oil in pan. Add in ground pepper to taste. (I tried to avoid adding any salt to this dish, but you could at this point if you want to). This is also where you would add the corn if you choose to.

3. When onions and peppers have some color on them, add in the beans and the tomatoes. Add a scoop of salsa (chilli powder or red pepper flakes can be added for heat) to the mix and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

4. When the veggies/bean mixture has simmered and thickened slightly, pour it over the polenta on the bottom of the casserole dish.

5. Back in oven until bubbly. Ok, "bubbly" is not a real cooking term, but honestly we just popped it in at about 350 and waiting till is bubbled.

6. Top with cheese and let back a few more minutes until the cheese is melted.

7. Serve with avocado, hot sauce, salsa or whatever your favorite toppings are! Enjoy!

Next on my list? Lasagna with polenta instead of pasta. I will keep you posted.

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