Polenta with Spinach, Truffled Mushrooms and “Cream” Sauce

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Lately I have been receiving comments from people telling me that they cannot go vegan because it is too expensive.  I have a hard time understanding this and I hope to explain in this post why that it is simply untrue.  However, even if it were more costly (which it is not), the health benefits would surely outweigh any additional expense.  Being on a whole-foods plant-based diet would greatly reduce the amount of money people spend on their medical care.  For example, it would eliminate most of the medicines people take every day for their blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and many other diseases.  It would also eliminate all of the money so many people spend on weight loss products and plans.  I just don’t see how anyone can find that beans, lentils, and whole grains are more expensive than the processed animal products they are currently eating.

So my recipe for today is polenta.  Polenta is made from cornmeal, which is a gluten-free whole grain that is a good source of niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamins B-6, E and K.   A 100 gram serving of cornmeal contains 18 amino acids and valuable minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It also offers approximately 3 grams of protein per serving.  Make sure the cornmeal you use is whole and not degermed. Degermed cornmeal loses important nutrients once it is milled, because milling takes away nutritious parts of the grain.

Not only is polenta healthy, but it is also very easy to make.  You can simply cook it with some water and once it’s creamy, it is ready.  Or,  you can then bake it, as in this recipe, or chill it in the fridge into firm pieces that can then be grilled or topped with just about anything.  I love to serve it creamy topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions with a few drops of truffle oil on top and then I put the leftovers in the fridge to firm up so I can enjoy it a whole new way the next day.

The taste of polenta is really delicious!  I loved eating it in Italy, where the preferred method is the creamy polenta.  In Tuscany, I had the most amazing polenta dishes.  One was topped with the freshest and yummiest garlic, olives and tomatoes, and another was a tribute to all that is green, with chopped spinach, basil and arugula.  Just thinking about them makes me hungry!

As for the cost of polenta, this recipe uses 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal.  I use Bob’s Red Mill organic, nonGMO cornmeal which costs approximately $3.00 for a 24 oz bag.  So the cornmeal in this recipe, which serves at least 6 people, costs a mere $1.50, or 25 cents per person.  And that is for organic, nonGMO cornmeal.  Wow!!

I hope all those who think they cannot afford to go vegan will go buy a bag of cornmeal and check it out!

A note regarding oil.  I have omitted oil in the cooking of this recipe (aside from the small amount of truffle oil added for taste).  I have found that using vegetable stock or broth when sauteeing vegetables works wonderfully and no oil is needed.

And a note regarding GMOs – if you are not aware of the dangers of GMOs, please do some research.  Once you do, you will understand why it is so important to avoid using them.  I mention this here since corn is one of the top three GMO crops in the USA (along with soy and cotton), so be a smart consumer and protect yourself!!

  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 9 T vegetable stock, divided
  • 4 c spinach or baby kale
  • 1/2 T braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped (I used shitake and cremini, but any variety will be great)
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/2 t truffle oil
  • 4 c water
  • 1 1/2 c corn meal
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t onion powder

For the creamy topping:

  • 3/4 c raw cashews, soaked in water overnight unless you have a powerful blender like a vitamix
  • 1/2 c minus 1 T water
  • 1/2 c reserved onions
  • 2 t truffle oil
  • 1 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T miso paste
  • 1/4 t salt

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium pan, sautee the garlic in 3 T vegetable stock over medium high heat, until the liquid evaporates and then add another 3 T stock and the spinach or kale and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat and stir in braggs.  Put into a bowl and set aside.

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In the same pan, now cook the onion in 3 T stock over medium high heat until translucent.  Remove 1/2 c of the onions and reserve.  Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are soft, about 5 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.  Drain.  Stir in 2 pinches of salt and 1/2 t truffle oil.  Set aside.

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In a medium saucepan, bring 4 c water and cornmeal to a boil.  Lower heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until it thickens and stands on its own away from the edges of the pan.  Stir in the salt and onion powder.

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For the creamy topping – place all ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy.

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Spread half of the polenta mixture into a 9”x7”x2.5” pan.  Top with the spinach mixture.  Spread the remaining polenta on top.  Top with the mushroom mixture.  Pour the cream sauce over the mushroom mixture.

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Bake for 30 minutes.

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Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

Makes 6 large servings

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Gotta Love Scapes

Scapes Scapes Scapes – I love scapes!

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I love growing garlic!

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I think it is my favorite thing to grow because you get two wonderful harvests from one planting.  The scapes come first and then soon after, the garlic itself.  Garlic scapes are so delicious, and a bit milder than the garlic.  They are becoming quite popular and are easily found at farmers’ markets this time of year in the New York area.  I am always amazed by how beautiful they are and always have to eat a few raw, right off the plant.

Every year I have so many scapes and still wish I had more because I love cooking with them.  This year I made my favorite scape pesto first.  I have basil growing all summer and make pesto quite often, but this first pesto of the year, made with scapes, is always my favorite because it is the tastiest.  The subtlety of the scapes is exquisite.  If you do not have scapes, feel free to substitute scallions, but look for scapes in the future because they are amazing!

I also usually make a scape hummus, but this year I decided to switch it up a bit and make a dip with cannellini beans.  The bean dip is more original and definitely has more depth of flavor.  I am convinced you can’t go wrong with garlic scapes.  After a day of cooking with them, though, I am now excitedly awaiting the garlic itself!  Great garlicky recipes soon!

Scape Pesto

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  • 2 c scapes, chopped coarsley
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/3 c fresh basil

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until well combined.

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Serve over your favorite pasta.  I love it on kelp noodles!

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Lemon Miso Scape Bean Dip

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  • 1/3 c scapes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 15 oz cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T miso paste
  • 1/2 t apple cider vinegar

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Place all ingredients in food processor and process until well combined.

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I took the photos and left the dip with my family for a mere five minutes and came back to this – (I guess they liked it!!)

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Merlot Cake

NOW YOU CAN HAVE YOUR WINE AND EAT IT TOO!

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I want to eat this cake every night!   Really!   Actually, I think I might!  It is so delicious and as far as cakes go, I venture to say it is pretty healthy.   It is made with whole wheat pastry flour and has no butter or shortening.  It is easy to make and is a very impressive sight with all the grapes on top.  I have to mention that a small amount of the alcohol may remain after baking, so small children and people who avoid all alcohol should probably avoid this cake.   However, for those like me that enjoy their wine, I think some cabernet sorbet would be the perfect accompaniment.  Chocolate and wine is one of my favorite pairings and this cake pairs them perfectly.   This is definitely one of my very favorite cakes!

For those of you that do not know, most wines are not vegan, even though the ingredients in them usually are.  The production process of wine involves filtering the liquid through fining agents which include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen, fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes).  Thankfully, there are vegan alternatives.  For a great resource for vegan wines, check out www.barnivore.com.

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  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c coconut oil
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 T ground flax seed mixed with 5 T water
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 c full-bodied red wine, such as merlot
  • 1/2 c vegan chocolate chips
  • grapes for garnish

for the frosting

  • 10 oz vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T merlot

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Heat oven to 350.

Lightly grease two 9” baking pans and line with parchment paper and grease again.

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Combine flour, cocoa. baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

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Beat coconut oil and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the flax seed and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes.  Add half of the flour mixture and combine.  Then add half of the wine.  Add the remaining flour mixture and then the remaining wine.

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Spread the batter into the two pans and sprinkle half the chocolate chips on each.

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Bake 35 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool at least 10 minutes, then turn out onto plates.

For the frosting, melt the chocolate over medium heat.  Stir in the coconut oil and vanilla.  Add the merlot and cook a few minutes more, stirring constantly.

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Frost the top of one cake layer and top with the second layer.  Frost the top of the second layer and then garnish with grapes.

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Tip – use a serrated knife to slice this cake.

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Black Bean Potato Cakes with Walnut Panko Crust and Lime Cream

DSC_0273I don’t understand the misconception that eating vegan is difficult.  For me, it is so simple and such a pleasure.  I never have to worry anymore about defrosting meat or even just having it sit on my counter getting e coli and hosts of other bacteria all over everything.  I don’t have to worry that if I don’t cook my food enough to kill those same bacteria we will get sick.  I don’t even have to wash my hands while I am cooking.  Everything is clean and fresh.  I really never liked cooking when I used meat.  I would have the anti-bacterial spray ready and I would gag a little when trimming fat and touching raw meat.  So for me, cooking vegan is fun.  Take the other night, for instance.  I wanted to make something different for dinner, so I grabbed a few ingredients that were already in my pantry, and voila – this is what resulted.  My whole family enjoyed it, which is great because it was very easy to make and was a perfect dinner with a salad and some sauteed greens.  The lime cream was so yummy that I am already thinking of the many things I can top with it.  You will have to decide how zesty you like it.  If you love lime like I do, use the whole 1/2 t zest.  I hope you enjoy making and eating these as much as I did!
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  • 1/4 c whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c panko crumbs
  • 1/2 c ground walnuts
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained
  • 1/2 vegan bouillon cube
  • 1 1/2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 T ground flax seed mixed with 3 T water
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T energ egg replacer
  • 1/2 t dijon mustard
  • lime slices for garnish

for the lime cream

  • 1/4 c vegan sour cream
  • 1 t lime juice
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 t lime zest

Combine all ingredients, cover and place in fridge while preparing rest.

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Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat 1 T oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  Saute the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and the bouillon and cook for 2 minutes more stirring well.  Set aside.

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In a large bowl, mash the beans and the potatoes.  Add the flax mix and the onions.  Stir in the breadcrumbs.

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Form into 7 patties.

In a small bowl, combine the energ egg replacer with 1/4 c warm water and then add the dijon mustard.

In another small bowl, combine the panko and the walnuts.

Dip each patty into the egg replacer mix and then into the panko walnut mix.

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Saute patties in remaining oil over medium high heat until golden, about 5 minutes per side.

Top with lime cream and garnish with lime slices.

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