In which polenta turns out to be cornmeal

pork tenderloin with swiss chard and polenta

mmmm....pork.....

mmmm….pork…..

polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms

Yes, grill your polenta!

Yes, grill your polenta!

Right off the bat, let me say that these two dishes were magnificent.  And for so few calories.  I said in December that I was anxiously awaiting some healthier fare, and this issue has been great.  368 calories for the pork tenderloin and a scant 261 for the wedges.  Well, mine was probably a bit more than that.  I have toddler, so I have whole milk in the house.  But that’s it.  The broth and pork and chard all come together to make something savory that tastes much more rich than it is.  Then the polenta just makes it so gooey.  It’s really comfort food.

A note about the polenta.  Did you know that polenta is yellow cornmeal?  I think I hear some chuckling coming through the tubes, and I think I deserve that.  I had always bought boxes or bags of “polenta” or “quick cooking polenta.”  This recipe calls for quick cooking polenta.  I reached into the pantry and discovered that I had maybe a 1/4 cup of polenta.  Gasp!  What to do?  D offered to go to the store.  I started googling how to make polenta thinking that someone had a neat trick.  Alton Brown had a recipe…for polenta.  It used yellow cornmeal.  At that point, I was slapping my forehead.  I got out my canister of yellow cornmeal and looked in.  Yeah, that looked a lot like polenta.  My polenta was always just ground finer than that.  Kind of like the difference between instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal.  Not since I found out that ponies were not baby horses have I felt quite so dense.  Another note: this recipe is not a good candidate for quick-cooking polenta.  Quick-cooking polenta comes together almost instantly.  I’ve never had to stir it for more than a minute before it seized into a mass.  This recipe has to cooking the polenta for 25 minutes.  Try that with quick-cooking polenta and you’re going to be chipping that stuff off of the bottom of the pot with a pick axe.  So use cornmeal!  Tada!

The polenta wedges are a great way to use up the leftovers.  Broiling the wedges seemed kinda weird.  Here I was taking blobs of polenta and grilling them(?)  To accomplish what, exactly?  To accomplish a wonderful crispy crust and a gooey interior, that’s what.  Sold?  Me too.  As for the rest of the recipe, the note about only 2T of heavy cream making the whole dish taste luxurious made me roll my eyes, but they were right!  It really did.  Also, I used button mushrooms instead of cremini because of cheapness, and it was delicious.  Use whatever mushrooms you like.

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Boxing Day bake

Emeril’s Christmas morning breakfast bake

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Boxing Day!

My most-excellent husband made this one for me, so I’m pretty much just reporting on the results and noting a few things for other awesome people out there who want to make this for their loved ones.  First, this is a great way to use up leftovers from a Christmas dinner.  Hence, this is a Boxing Day bake.  D used leftover ham in place of the Canadian bacon.  Leftover ham?  Who has leftover ham?!  We had to leave later that day for D’s parents’ house, so we needed to use things up.  Plus, the seasoning on the ham gave the casserole some extra flavor.  D also substituted two 10 ounce packages of spinach (thawed, drained, etc) for the fresh baby spinach.  I think we could have gotten away with just one package.  This was a lot of spinach.

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

We can agree that looks like a lot of spinach, right?

It was good, but it still would have been good with less spinach.  As for other substitutions, instead of the 6 ounces of Gruyere, D used some leftover cheese from the charcuterie plate my brother and his girlfriend brought as an appetizer.  Had we not already bought bread for this recipe, we could have used the leftover toast from that appetizer as well!  This was very tasty and easy.  I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to get out of town and use up some leftovers.  In fact, we made a similar breakfast bake the day we left the vacation house this summer.  I used up some random veggies, eggs, milk, and deli cheese that way.  Funny how you can remember things without knowing that you’ve remembered them.

Remember how I mentioned that we had to leave that day?  Well, we took this on the road with us.  No, we didn’t sit in the car and eat casserole.  We took in down to D’s parents’ house where it was well-received also.  However, I must say that this dish isn’t very good after about a day or so.  The ham gets dry and tough.  On day three, I threw out most of a slice and discouraged his brother’s girlfriend from eating it.  I wouldn’t have done that on day one, that’s for sure.  Make this for a crowd, but don’t expect the crowd to eat it for days on end.

Super healthy chicken and grape salad…with bacon and blue cheese

Chicken and grape salad

Yup.  That wins.  That's the worst picture in the entire blog.

Yup. That wins. That’s the worst picture in the entire blog.

We’ve got some power couples in this recipe:  Sweet and savory.  Bacon and blue cheese.  Leftovers and laziness.

The flavors on this one are amazing.  The grapes are sweet.  The blue cheese and the yogurt are tangy.  I used full fat yogurt because that’s what we have in the house as decadent people/parents of a toddler.  The chicken was savory and lovely because it was the chicken from the “panic carrots” recipe the day before and it had that nice garlicky, oniony flavor shining through.  The recipe calls for you to use half of a rotisserie chicken.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally miss an opportunity to tell you how to use the leftovers from one of the other recipes in the issue.  The bacon was bacon.

The fact that the salad recipe from this issue has blue cheese and bacon on it demonstrates very nicely how decadent this issue is.  I like the idea of cooking seasonally and everything but the Thanksgiving November issue and the Holiday December issue back to back is a little rough on the ol’ waistline.

I should try to excuse that picture, shouldn’t I?  I can’t.  I forgot to take a picture at dinner, so this picture was taken in the dark break room at work the next day.  If anyone noticed the Baby Bullet container in the background, that held salad dressing.  J graduated from purees a while ago, so those have just become small leftover containers.  When you have a baby and a small kitchen, certain lines get blurred.

 

Working Retail During the Holidays is Draining!!!

Not that I have any real excuse for abandoning the blog this month, but I have been truly and deeply exhausted by running around helping customers find the perfect Christmas gift. So, to you, I do apologize. I shall do my best to catch up and to keep myself up to date with writing in the future.  Now, on to bigger and tastier things.

Up first, Spicy Turkey Thighs and Bacon Stir-Fry.

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions...

I thought just scallions would be boring, so I made some additions…

So, the sad truth is that I started the month out strong.  I made this delectable dish with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.  (That’s right, it has taken me a full month to write this first post.)  Necessarily, I had to do a little fudging with the recipe since my turkey was already cooked.  Basically, I just added the turkey in after my vegetables had started to soften a touch.

I also made some additions.  The recipe just has bell pepper and scallions.  I cut one of the bell peppers and added snow peas to the mix (yay!) and then also added water chestnuts for some crunch.  I also struggled to find Sambal Olek so I ended up using a sweet chili sauce instead.  As a result, it was rather less spicy, but that isn’t a problem for me.

The overall outcome of this recipe was awesome.  It was delicious (what has bacon that isn’t delicious?).  I was so pleased to use up some of my turkey in something other than in a sandwich or on yet another Thanksgiving dinner plate.  So, if you still have some turkey left from Christmas, try this out!!