pumpkin squared

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Tis the season — pumpkin season, that is. I have two great pumpkin recipes for you today: pumpkin polenta squares and pumpkin beer bread. These have been my quick grab and go breakfast baked goods for the past several weeks and I’ve really enjoyed them. Both recipes are plant-based which means you won’t find any eggs or dairy in them, and the pumpkin purée eliminates the need for any oil. Also, they both use maple syrup as the sweetener — you could replace this with your favorite sweetener of choice. You’ll have to experiment with the amounts until you find what you like.

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You can make your own pumpkin purée if you like, or buy canned pumpkin. Make sure you don’t buy pumpkin pie filling by mistake. At this time of year, I think canned pumpkin is actually harder to find in the store, or at least they keep it well hidden behind the pie filling!

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pumpkin polenta squares

ingredients

  • 2 cups polenta or cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon*
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves*
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice*
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg*
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the cornmeal, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. Stir in all other ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 50-55 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven when it is golden brown and firm to the touch. Place on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

*note: you can substitute 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.

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pumpkin beer bread

adapted from Gimme Some Oven

ingredients

  • 3 cups spelt flour (0r flour of choice)
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer (I used hard cider instead of beer)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×5-inch bread pan with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir flour, baking powder, salt, spices, maple syrup and pumpkin purée together in a large mixing bowl until combined. Slowly add in the beer, and stir until combined and smooth. Stir in cranberries and walnuts, if desired.
  3. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Let bread rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

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orange, date, and walnut polenta muffins

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I’m really enjoying these weekend baking sprees I’ve embarked on recently. I finished my last scone for breakfast this morning so I knew this afternoon I’d need to work on something else to get me through my breakfasts next week. I was planning on making those amazing avocado, blueberry, orange muffins again, or modifying my orange, cranberry, ginger, avocado scones, but my avocados weren’t ripe enough yet so I had to scratch that idea. I saw some recipes a while back for polenta cake that I filed away in my head for later use, which got me onto my polenta dinner kick recently. I decided to check google to see if there was such a thing as polenta muffins, and eventually settled on orange polenta muffins.

At this point, I’m not sure it’s possible to go wrong when you bake with oranges — with the scent of the batter while you’re mixing it and the aroma that wafts from the oven while they’re baking, how could they possibly taste anything but amazing? I was a little concerned when I removed them from the oven because they looked like they might be very dry, but they were anything but! They’re slightly sweet, tangy, with a hint of savory from the different spices. Very satisfying and definitely a great breakfast option!

You could easily adapt this to your taste by substituting the spices, fruits, and nuts for almost anything you want (although I think I hit the jackpot with my choice of spices)! I think it could be really good with peaches or blueberries–I’m not sure I’d want to sub out the orange. That’s the major key to the success of this recipe. I may try it using avocado instead of the oil next time, if I have a ripe one on hand. All in all, a successful rainy day baking adventure!

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orange, date, and walnut polenta muffins

adapted from Orange Polenta Muffins

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 2 oranges, finely diced (including peel)
  • 1 cup dates, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 395˚F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper or silicone liners.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, coconut oil and almond milk together in a large bowl and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into another bowl.
  4. Add the oranges, dates, and walnuts to the wet mixture, then add this to the dry ingredients. Fold together gently until mixed.
  5. Divide between the 18 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave in the muffin tray for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.

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creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms

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Tonight, I planned to make a mushroom, spinach, and lentil phyllo-wrapped thing for dinner. (Yes, “thing” is the technical name). When I finally got around to cooking, I decided that it would take too long since I’d need to cook the lentils before I could assemble and bake the whole thing. I started googling mushroom, spinach, and phyllo recipes but couldn’t find anything that would be quick and easy to make. I stumbled upon this recipe and decided I would vegan-ize it. Instead of scallops, I used tofu as my protein, but you could use sausage, chicken, beans, etc.

It was creamy, savory, and very filling. I’ve never really done much with polenta before this, but I will definitely be making variations of this dish again. Instead of spinach, you could stir in just about any vegetable you want and I think the end result would be great.

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creamy polenta with spinach and mushrooms

ingredients

  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • firm tofu, cubed (optional)

directions

  1. Put polenta and vegetable stock in a medium-sized sauce pan and stir well to combine. Turn stove to high and cook until the broth starts to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir often to make sure the polenta doesn’t clump. Cook until polenta is creamy and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add spinach and stir to thoroughly combine. Stir in nutritional yeast. Set aside.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Add onions to the pan and sauté until they begin to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. If using tofu, add to the pan at this time (For chicken, sausage, etc., either cook separately and stir in at the end, or add to the pan after the onions and brown all sides before adding mushrooms). Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add wine to pan. Continue to cook until wine has reduced by half. Add almond milk to the pan and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 2 more minutes, then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning as needed.
  3. Distribute the polenta between 4 plates and top with mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

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polenta with tomatillo and avocado salsa, two ways

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Yesterday I bought some tomatillos at the farmer’s market. I’ve never cooked with them before, but I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new ingredient. I have had tomatillo sauces and salsas on occasion but I haven’t worked with them first hand. I started thinking about the different ingredients I had in my fridge and headed to my trusty recipe book: Google. I finally settled upon what turned out to be a Weight Watchers recipe: Mexican Poached Eggs Over Polenta with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa.

Aside from desserts, I don’t think I could find many dishes that couldn’t be improved by putting a fried or poached egg on top. In fact, if I had to come up with a second choice for my blog title, it would probably be “Put An Egg On It.” This dish was great. I left out the tomatoes because I thought the tomatillos added enough tomato-like consistency and I didn’t have jalapeños on hand. I’ll have to pick some up this weekend at the farmer’s market. I liked the sweet and sour tartness of the tomatillos, the creaminess of the avocado and polenta, the kick from the chili powder and red onion, and the runny yolk of the poached egg melded everything together really well. It was filling and satisfying and one I would happily pay money for at my favorite restaurants.

Tonight I decided to change the recipe a little bit since I had meat at lunch this afternoon. As part of the Vegan Before 6 diet, I need to eat vegan for two meals a day so I decided to substitute tofu for the poached egg. I had about a half-sized portion of the salsa left over from last night, so I cut up a peach and threw that in with the avocado and tomatillos. I also thought I’d kick it up a notch and added cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to the dusting on the polenta and tofu. For the sake of presentation, I cut the tofu into a circle the same size as my polenta rounds and stacked it polenta-tofu-polenta, but you can do it however you want.

Tofu will never replace eggs permanently for me, but this dish was still quite good. The addition of the peaches counteracted the extra kick from the cayenne and I think will make a regular appearance in this salsa whenever I make it. I left my tofu to drain while I was out for a couple of hours, thinking it would save me time when I go home, but I think I ended up drying it out a bit too much. I might also try it with firm instead of extra-firm tofu next time to see if it will stay creamier like the polenta. I still really enjoyed it despite the tofu being a bit dry.

The recipe is below with the notes for making it vegan.

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mexican poached egg over polenta with tomatillo-avocado salsa

ingredients

  • 1 tsp white vinegar (for poaching the egg)
  • 1 egg (or a 1/2-inch thick slice of firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into a circle the same size as the polenta)
  • a pinch of chili powder
  • a pinch of garlic powder
  • a pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • a pinch of smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1/2- to 1-inch thick slice of polenta from a prepared polenta log
  • 3-4 chopped tomatillos, boiled until soft (about 2-3 minutes)
  • 1/4 of a red onion, diced
  • 1 medium avocado, diced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 medium peach, chopped (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

To poach the egg, fill a small saucepan half way up with water and place over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil and add the vinegar. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack the egg into a small dish or cup and gently slide the egg into the simmering water. Cook until the egg white has set, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel and cover to keep warm.

(If using tofu instead of an egg: Fold up a paper towel in a square large enough for your tofu to sit on. Place the paper towel on a small plate. Set the tofu on top of the paper towel, and take another paper towel and place it on top of the tofu. Set another plate on top of this and put a heavy weight on top of the plate — I used a can of pumpkin purée. Let your tofu drain for 10-15 minutes. Then follow the directions for the polenta below with regards to spicing it and frying it. You can use more than one tofu round if you want to make your stacks taller.)

Take your slice of polenta and sprinkle one side with the chili powder and garlic powder. If desired, you can add cayenne, paprika, or any other spice of your choosing. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add some olive oil. Cook polenta (and tofu) for 2-3 minutes on the non-spiced side. Flip over and dust the other side with spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of your polenta (and tofu).

To make the salsa, combine the avocado, tomatillo, red onion, peach (optional) and cilantro in a bowl. Lightly coat with olive oil and lime juice, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble, place your polenta round on a plate. Top with the poached egg and about 1 cup of the salsa. (I also splashed a bit of tabasco over the egg on a whim). Save any extra salsa as an accompaniment to your lunch or dinner the next day. (For the vegan option, stack your polenta and tofu rounds — I used two rounds of polenta and one round of tofu, but you could make it taller — start with polenta on the bottom and alternate with the tofu. Top with salsa and enjoy!)

Serves 1