Monthly Archives: April 2011

Polenta “lasagna” and spending time in the kitchen with family

Polenta “lasagna” and spending time in the kitchen with family

This past week, I was fortunate to have my family in town. My mom drove down because her cousin was going to be this area, so The Boyfriend and I put up my mom’s cousin, her husband, their daughter, and their daughter’s daughter (3 generations!). We live in a 2-bedroom house so this week was a bit hectic, but definitely fun!

The first night that the family arrived, I wanted to make a recipe that I had been meaning to make all week. I took my time and it wound up taking a few hours to make it all, but that was just as well because no one was super hungry when they got in. Anyway, the recipes came out well and it was a nice, light meal to cap off the evening.

Polenta “lasagna”

Adapted from the recipe at Vegetarian Times


  • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
  • 6 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. low-fat milk
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 17-oz. tubes polenta, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cook onion in large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 3 minutes, stirring often. Add all mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes, or until onion is tender. Add 3/4 cup milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

2. Mix cornstarch with remaining 2 Tbs. milk, and stir into mushroom mixture. Add cream cheese and broth (or wine), and cook, stirring often, 1 to 2 minutes, or until smooth and blended. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Coat 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 3 Tbs. mushroom sauce in bottom of dish. Layer 1/3 of polenta slices over sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over polenta. Top with half of remaining mushroom sauce. Layer with 1/3 of polenta slices and remaining sauce, and top with remaining polenta.

4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly.

Beets are one of the super-veggies: they are low in calories and fat, but very high in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Beets contain a significant amount of vitamin C and folates, and are a great source of Niacin (vitamin B-3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and carotenoids, and minerals such as iron, manganese and magnesium. Unfortunately, beets have always been one of those foods that I dislike. However, in the spirit of Adventurous Appetite, I am trying to fall in love with all of those foods that I disliked as a child. I now love brussel sprouts, why not beets?

One of the problems most people (including The Boyfriend) have with beets is that they taste like dirt. I wanted to know if that dirt taste could be harnessed and made into a lighter, more earthy taste.

I found this recipe for a great salad using beets as the main veg (I also figured that if The Boyfriend still hated the beets, he could at least eat the other veggies in the salad). This salad uses roasted beets. The salad and the dressings were tasty enough (though, be warned: the habanero sauce is HOT!) but frankly, I think next time I will just eat the roasted beets. They had a great texture (firm but almost velvety soft) and were light, sweet, and earthy (but not “dirty”!). So I recommend this salad if you too are afraid of beets or even if you love them but want to try them in a new way.

Roasted beet salad

Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals


  • 2 c roasted beets, cooled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 c shredded carrots
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 t minced fresh ginger
  • 1 t lemon pepper
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped


1. Start by roasting the beets: preheat the oven at 400 F.
2. Clean the beets and trim the greens to about 1/2 inch from the top of the beet.
3. Put the beets on a roasting pan. Coat the beets with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4.  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 45+ minutes or until the beets are fork tender.

5. When beets have cooled, remove the skins and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

6. Add cubed beets, shredded carrots, green onions, cilantro, and red pepper to bowl.

7. Mix OJ, ginger, lemon pepper, sugar, and vinegar together. Add to salad right before serving.

If I make this again, I think I will have just eat the salad like that, but I this time went ahead and made both of the dressings.

The habanero sauce is not really a dressing. It was tasty but quite spicy! I think it would almost taste better diluted and used as a marinade.


Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 habanero
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrots
  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • about 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ t sugar
  • 3/4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water


1. Sauté peppers, onions, carrots, garlic and salt for 15 minutes in a non stick skillet

2. Add sugar, vinegar and water

3. Bring to a strong simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes

4. Let cool and blend

The sesame dressing was interesting. I think I liked it’s flavor more than that of the habanero sauce. It was a little thin (probably because I didn’t have the flax seed that it called for) but it was tangy and unique. And if you make too much of it, it would also be a tasty marinade.

Sesame dressing

Adapted from the recipe at Melomeals


  • 3 T toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 c vegetable broth
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T chopped ginger
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/4 t lemon peppper
  • 1/8 t cumin
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar

Blend everything for a minute or two in a blender.

    The finished dinner:

It was perhaps not my favorite meal ever but it was healthy and definitely edible and my family seemed to enjoy it. And really, what more can you ask for?

To my Mom, Sandy, Paul, Jen, and baby Gabby: I am so happy you were all here! I hope we can get together again soon ❤