Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Before making this dish, I had never cooked or eaten polenta. Honestly, I had no desire – I thought it was a boring vegetarian food, high in calories in carbs. It is vegetarian, and it is high in carbs… but it’s not as high in calories as I previously thought, and it doesn’t have to be boring! It’s one of those wonderful foods with endless possibilities – it can take on multiple flavors, and even textures! Immediately after cooking, it has a mashed potato-like consistency. But place it in a baking dish in your refrigerator for a few hours and you’ll get something resembling yellow brownies.

If you’ve never tried polenta – you need to! I loved this dish and polenta has become a new pantry staple for me.

And for those of you wondering, “WTF is polenta?”… it’s just cornmeal!

(You’ll need to plan ahead and prepare the polenta either in the morning or the day before)

Polenta Wedges with Asparagus and Mushrooms
adapted from Everyday Food, January/February 2010

1 cup instant polenta
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
coarse salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 pound asparagus, trimmed

To make the polenta:

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Gradually pour in 1 cup instant polenta, stirring continuously for about 3 minutes. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight – you can even do it days in advance. (To boost the flavor of your polenta, you may use milk or chicken broth – or both – instead of salted water. The original recipe used a combination – try 1 cup skim milk + 3 cups chicken broth)

prepared polenta

Once the polenta is ready:

1. Heat broiler and position the rack 5 inches from the heat. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Stir in milk and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

starting to cook the mushrooms

2. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven to heat. Slice polenta into wedges; pat dry with a paper towel and spray with cooking spray. Spray asparagus with cooking spray.

preparing the polenta and asparagus

3. Carefully remove hot baking sheet from oven. Place asparagus on one half and place polenta on the other. Season  both with salt and pepper.

before going into the oven

4. Broil until polenta is golden brown and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, rotating sheet and tossing asparagus about halfway through.

5. Serve polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms.

finished dish

Serves 4

1 serving = 4 Weight Watchers points

fat: 4.5g (0.9g sat)
carbs: 39.1g
fiber: 4.5g
sugar: 4.8g
protein: 9.5g

That was way too vegetarian and low-calorie for Stas, so I didn’t make him eat it. Instead, I took a portion of the prepared polenta and pan-fried it in vegetable oil. I served it with sliced flank steak:

fried polenta

They look like Twinkies, don’t they?!

fried polenta and steak

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I found a zucchini recipe that Stas likes!

It wasn’t a huge surprise, though – this dish contains dill and sour cream (the 2 components of what I call ‘Russian crack’). If I haven’t mentioned this before in my blog, I have a theory that no Russian can resist dill or sour cream. This irresistableness (is that a word?) increases tenfold when the two are combined.

Anyway, on to the recipe…

Dilled Zucchini

equivalent of 6 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream (I used a combo of 1/4 cup fat free and 1/4 cup regular)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, garlic, and onion and cook for 8-10 minutes (or until zucchini is light brown), stirring occasionally.


zucchini and onions, before going into the pan

zucchini and onions: before

zucchini and onions: before

zucchini and onions: after

zucchini and onions: after

2. Season to taste with salt and pepper; remove from heat.

3. Mix the sour cream and dill; stir into the zucchini mixture.

sour cream and dill mixture

sour cream and dill mixture


the finished side dish

4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

serves 6

(Weight Watchers points will depend on the type and amount of sour cream you use – adjust accordingly)

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Yesterday I made a big pot of borscht. I don’t like borscht (I hate beets) but Stas (of course) LOVES it, so he was a very happy man.

Whenever I make borscht, I end up with leftover beets and carrots. They usually just sit in my fridge for awhile, and eventually go bad. In addition to beets, I hate carrots… so I’m never motivated to actually use them – and I don’t know many recipes that call for them (besides borscht).

Until tonight…

I recently subscribed to Eating Well Magazine, through my Delta frequent flier miles. I’m not sure if I actually like the magazine yet, but I did get one good recipe out of this issue. And now I know exactly what to do with leftover beets or carrots!

Shredded Beet and Carrot Pancakes
from Eating Well, November/December 2008

1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon fresh dill (plus more for garnish)
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups peeled and shredded beets and/or carrots
oil, for frying (I used sunflower oil)
sour cream, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine egg, flour, scallions, dill, horseradish, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in vegetables.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook 4 pancakes per batch: place about 1/4 cup beet/carrot mixture into pan and flatten with a spatula (flatten so that they are 2 or 3 inch pancakes). Cook until crispy and golden, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Finish the remaining pancakes. When finish pan-frying, transfer them to the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with sour cream and dill.

Serves 6 (2 pancakes per person)

imgp3675 imgp3671

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11-05-08 peppers

I went to BJ’s today to stock up on things like laundry detergent, fabric softener and plastic wrap, and I just couldn’t resist these mini sweet bell peppers! Id never seen them before – and I’m a sucker for cute things.

11-05-08 peppers (3)

They were so tiny that the seeds were hard to clean out… After attempting to clean a few, I gave up and decided to leave them as-is.

11-05-08 peppers (2)

We (finally) finished off the beef stew leftovers as our main dish. Instead of eating the peppers raw like I usually do, I decided to roast them. I forgot how wonderful it is to roast veggies in the fall and winter months – the heat isn’t unbearable, and it leaves such a nice scent lingering in the house.

11-05-08 peppers (4)

I roasted them for about 30 minutes (15 minutes each side) at 400 degrees F. I didn’t bother to spray them with olive oil, and I had no problem with them sticking.

… and I always roast things on aluminum foil – it helps with the cleanup. One less thing for Stas to wash 🙂

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Tonight’s main dish was leftover beef stew from Saturday’s big batch. Stas had been asking for it for awile, and I had been promising it for awhile.

I normally use McCormick’s Beef Stew packets and just add my own vegetables and pre-cut “beef stew cuts”. But this time, I wanted to challenge myself. (Plus, Market Basket didn’t have any of the beef stew packages!)

I used a recipe for “Hearty Beef Stew” from Cook’s Illustrated. Now I’ve never liked beef stew – whenever my mom made it growing up, she’d always cook a separate meal for me. But I tried some of Stas’ on Sunday and LOVED it – so I was actually really excited to have some tonight:

But that’s not what this post is about. (I’ll blog about the stew and how to make it the next time I make it.)

This post is about the side dish. I’m a big fan of vegetables, so I wanted something extra to eat with my beef stew. I normally just heat up some frozen broccoli in the microwave, but I wanted a change.

I normally make a variation of this salad for Stas, using full-fat sour cream and I add in tomatoes or radishes. Stas looooooves this salad. Why? Because it combines the 2 types of “Russian crack”: dill and sour cream!

Sour cream is something else that I didn’t think I liked until this past weekend. I used to love it on my baked potatoes as a kid, but over the years I’ve acquired an aversion to most full-fat dairy. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a tub of the fat-free variety to use in a recipe (which I never did). Not wanting it to go to waste, I opened it last night and mixed some in with my sauteed mushrooms… and it was yummy!

So tonight, I wanted to enjoy more of it! Hence, my salad…

Step 1: Gather all ingredients:

  • seedless cucumbers (I like the mini seedless cukes, but European cukes work just as well)
  • dill
  • salt
  • sour cream (fat-free or regular)
  • optional: tomatoes or radishes

Step 2: Cut cucumbers into tiny quarter-sized slices:

Step 3: Sprinkle with salt and chopped dill (amounts will vary by taste):

Step 4: Add a dollop or two (or the whole tub if you’re Russian) of sour cream:

Step 5: Mix and enjoy!

It was a strange side to go with the beef stew, but oddly enough I was craving both of them, and they were extremely satisfying 🙂

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