I have been talking about Polenta for a while, and here is finally the post to prove that I am hooked. Don’t get me wrong, I love rice and beans, but they do get a little…. old after a while, no matter how you cook them. Also, at the end of the day, they will have the same texture! Now, from going to fancy Italian restaurants, I had this idea that polenta was some snooty flavorless thing that was only sold pre-made, and was terribly expensive. I was wrong. Polenta is essentially just ground corn meal, and despite the recent years in which polenta has been in vogue, you can’t really drive up the cost of corn meal that much. If you buy pre-made polenta yes, you will be paying a lot. However, buying polenta and making it from scratch is just as cheap (and I think more tasty) than buying rice. So hello to some much needed cheap vegetarian variety!
The history of Polenta goes all the way back to the 1700’s and Italy, where it was plentiful and cheap peasant food. That is why if you think of polenta, you probably think of Italian sauces and cheeses. The true wonder of polenta though, is that you don’t need to just cook it in triangles and top it with tomato sauce. It grills nicely, it cuts into shapes nicely, you can serve it warm and creamy like a soup, or you can make it into cakes. You can make it into delicious healthy fries, like I did this week, or mini grilled cheeses, like I did last week. The flavor is slightly nutty and sweet, so it essentially lends itself to anything you can imagine putting it in, on, or under. I’ve even heard of polenta pizzas!
As a health food goes, polenta is not outstanding unless you are trying to loos weight. Polenta cooked has about 145 calories per cup, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and vitamins A and C (natural health). This makes it good for dieters, who are trying to find satisfying low calorie foods. For those of us not on diets, we don’t particularly mind the low nutritional impact because of its economy. 1 cup of dried polenta makes about 3 cups cooked, and at about $1.50 per pound organic you can really dig in. I’ve found that I get about 3 cups dried per pound, and that a $2 bag will last me 1-2 weeks. This makes it a very important contribution to my triathlon training, as I up my level of carbs to help me run, bike, and swim these ever increasing work outs. It is also very easy on the stomach, so I’ve had no problems with plane polenta as a pre-run snack.
Wow! If I can just find one other thing like polenta or rice, I think I’ll be set with variety forever! If you have any suggestions, please let me know. The more I learn about different grains and cooking, the easier I find it to stick to a budget and to be satisfied with the amount and variety of food I can purchase. Organic polenta is easy, cheap, satisfying, and versatile. I highly recommend giving some a try!
If you need to learn how to prepare polenta from scratch, click here. It’s super easy!
This Week In Updates: Bake a snack for new paleo/vegan friends… wait WHAT?
A good week in grocery shopping. Organic cantaloupe was only 69 cents a pound, and corn was 99 cents a piece! I had to buy at least one peach, which I ate immediately after taking this photograph, and I had a craving for some cilantro to make some more spicy cilantro rice and beans. It is a good thing too, because I am going to a potluck! Living Simply in Sacramento and I are all getting together, watching a movie, and sharing sustainable food. The problem? There are paleo’s and vegans? What the crap am I supposed to do with that? And cheaply? The solution I thought of was almond butter chocolate no bake cookie dippers with coconut cream. Think it sounds good? I do, but I haven’t made them yet! Details on that next week!
The Recipes: Simple Baked Falafel Burgers and Cheap Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
Simple Baked Felafel Burgers
Most falafel burgers involve a ton of ingredients. The fact of the matter is, yes they taste better with those, but you don’t need them. If you have no money for tons of parsley or anything else, just go to the store, pick up some dried garbanzo beans and an onion and you are set! I used curry spice to flavor these, but you can really mix whatever dried or fresh spices into these that you so desire. Stop thinking that falafel is something fancy you can only get at a store, and start baking!
1 cup dried garbanzo beans
3 tablespoons curry spice
Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, blend the onion into paste in a blender. Do the same thing with the garbanzo beans, except leave it a little chunkier. You want falafel not hummus! Mix the two together with whatever spices you decide to use. It may look suspicious, but don’t worry. If you can form it into patties with your hand and they stay together on the pan, you’re doing good! Grease the pan, and do just that. Cook for 40 minutes flipping halfway through, or until each side is a toasty brown. They WILL stick together. Trust me. Put on a burger, in a kale wrap, sandwich some avocado in there, whatever, and enjoy! The best thing to have these with? Polenta fries!
Cheap Eggplant Parmesan Stacks
So eggplant parmesan is usually a ridiculously expensive recipe. All that cheese? All that tomato sauce? Also, the organic eggplant itself is really expensive! Turns out, you really don’t most of that stuff to get the flavor of eggplant parmesan. All you need are some garden tomatoes and basil, an eggplant, oregano, olive oil, and some ricotta cheese.
12-15 medium tomatoes (see above picture)
A few handpicked basil leaves
1 container of ricotta cheese
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant and layer in a greased pan. Brush some olive oil on top, and bake for 25 minutes until soft. While this is baking, use the tomatoes, the basil, and the oregano to make my easy 15 minute tomato sauce. Add about a tablespoon of oregano to the mixture. When the eggplant is done, take it out of the pan, and put the tomato sauce in the pan. Then, put the eggplant back, cutting up some slices into halves to that it all fits in a single layer. Put the ricotta cheese on the whole slices. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. It should come out looking like hte below.
To make it pretty, take the eggplant and put it into stacks. Top with freshly chopped basil. Enjoy!
If you like these recipes and this post, you might try Polenta Breakfast Toast!