Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage

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It’s mid-March and still snowing in Chicago! This type of weather is perfect for comfort food. Polenta is easy to make from scratch and is hearty and satisfying. It’s an often overlooked vegan ingredient which is very versatile. It can also be used to make corn grits. Polenta seems to be making a comeback in 2017… We even have a new, all polenta restaurant in the West Loop in Chicago that serves up hot polenta with various sauces (including a vegan option!). You can buy polenta that is already cooked, but I prefer to make mine from scratch because the flavor is unbeatable. You can actually skip baking the polenta to make a creamy, decadent side dish. Baking allows for a firmer, chewy texture that can be cut into squares. I like to serve the baked version as an appetizer because it’s easier to eat and serve. This recipe has endless variations… you could add fresh diced tomatoes instead of sun dried and chopped basil instead of sage to give it a more traditional Italian flavor. Truffle oil is also delicious in polenta! If you’re gluten free, look for gluten free polenta – Bob’s Red Mill makes a gluten free version. This dish is creamy, delicious, and filling but still low in calories. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor and go well with tart, sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes. The fresh sage adds fresh flavor and fragrance. Remember to take a picture and tag @thefriendlyepicurean if you make it!

Colorful, whole ingredients!

Polenta with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Sage

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 45min
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup corn polenta (uncooked)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbs sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 tbs vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease an 8″ x 13″ baking dish with olive oil spray and set aside. Cook garlic 2-3 minutes in olive oil on medium heat in a medium sized sauté pan. Add sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated. Next, bring 3 cups water to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly add polenta to boiling water, stirring frequently with a spatula or whisk. Reduce heat to low and cook polenta for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Polenta will thicken and bubble (be careful as polenta may splatter and burn skin!). Add butte, salt, and pepper and stir well. Next, gently fold mushroom mixture into polenta. Spread polenta evenly onto greased baking dish and bake for 18-20 minutes. Polenta should be firm, turn golden-brown, and start to separate from the sides of the dish. Cut into squares and serve warm. May store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories per 1/6 of polenta: 137.5 cal

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Curried Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli

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I don’t eat fries often but when I do it’s to treat myself after a tough week at work or after a big workout. Good fries are not hard to find in Chicago. The temptation is everywhere! Fries are vegan but not exactly healthy… This spicy, healthier recipe for fries is easy and will satisfy your craving without destroying your healthy eating goals for the day. You can enjoy a serving of these fries with less guilt. I’ve learned a lot about food from reading Michael Pollan’s books including Omnivore’s Dilemma. He recommends making your own fries when you crave them. That way you can control what goes in them. Making your own fries also allows you to appreciate and savor them more. The lemon garlic aioli is really the star of this recipe. It goes perfectly with the curry spices in the fries. If you like crispy fries make sure that you spread them out evenly so they aren’t touching on the baking sheet. I prefer softer fries so I tend to pile mine onto the baking sheet. These fries are incredibly flavorful and so easy to make. They contain less fat compared to traditional fries since they are baked not fried. The spices add a savory kick which complements the natural sweetness of the potatoes. I prefer sweet potatoes because they are high in vitamin A and have a lower glycemic index compared to regular potatoes. Let me know how they turn out by taking a picture and tagging @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram!

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Curried Sweet Potato Fries with Lemon Garlic Aioli

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 4 potatoes)
  • 2-3 tbs olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • For the aioli:
  • 3 tbs vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (use a garlic press for best results)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil spray and set aside. Wash, peel, and cut potatoes into 1/4″ to 1/2″ sticks. Toss potatoes with olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, coriander, salt, and black pepper. Spread fries evenly on baking sheet making sure fries do not overlap (for crispy fries). Bake for 30 minutes (flip half way through cooking time). For the aioli: whisk together lemon juice, mayonnaise, and minced garlic until smooth. Serve immediately. Store fries and aioli separately in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Reheat fries in oven or toaster oven at 350F for about 5-7 minutes.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate calories per 1/4 fries: 210 cal (without aioli)
  • Approximate calories per 1/4 aioli: 68 cal

 

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Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms are one of my favorite appetizers. They look beautiful, have amazing flavor, and are so easy to make. I don’t mind spending more time making main courses but prefer that my appetizers are simple and quick. I used small portobello mushrooms because they hold just the right amount of filling and keep their shape. They require very little prepping: rinse them, dry them, pull off the stems and they are ready to go! The filling is herb-y, nutty, and has a little crunch. The basil and walnuts go really well with the portobellos. I like to use cooked garlic to lessen the intensity and allow the other ingredients to stand out as well. If you’re into lemon, adding some of the zest will also brighten up the flavors. These bite sized hors d’oeuvres are always a big hit at my house. They contain mostly whole ingredients and can be made gluten free by substituting gluten free breadcrumbs. The filling can be used to stuff other vegetables such as tomatoes and also as a topping for proteins such as tempeh or tofu. Let me know how they turn out by tagging @thefriendlyepicurean on Instagram!

Naturally beautiful whole ingredients
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Mushrooms prior to baking

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 45min
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 12 small portobello mushrooms (washed, dried, and stems removed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped  (plus 1/4 cup for garnish, optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil spray and place mushrooms top down on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Place olive oil, garlic, nutritional yeast, basil, parsley, and walnuts in a food processor or high powered blender (such as Vitamix). Blend on medium-high speed until mixture forms a paste like consistency. Next, add breadcrumbs and blend on low speed until mixture is crumbly. Stuff each mushroom with 1-2 tbs of basil mixture (depending on the size of the mushroom). Place mushrooms on greased baking sheet and bake at 400F for about 18-20 minutes. Serve immediately. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Serves 6 people.

Nutrition Information:

  • Approximate Calories for per mushroom: 100 cal

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