Friday, June 25, 2021

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Red Peppers

polenta and red pepper strips

Polenta is a simple creamy side dish made from plain old corn grits.

corn grits

Corn grits are popular in Northern Italy as a savory side dish or in the American South as a breakfast cereal sometimes sweetened with honey.

I hadn't cooked polenta for a long time, so I had forgotten how easy it is to make and how tasty and versatile it can be as a side dish. 

Although the basic polenta recipe is bland, it can be made with a flavorful vegetable broth and perked up with spices and other condiments.

In the past, I've made a rich and delicious Polenta and Eggplant Stew Appetizer  (link to recipe and post). The stew is made with interesting ingredients including white wine. I used cookie cutters to cut the polenta into individual appetizer portions.

I've also made in the past a pea and fresh corn polenta mold (recipe) link) that was quick and easy and molds in 10 minutes. Perfect summer side dish eaten hot or room temperature.
Polenta, peas, and corn

I actually posted these recipes over 10 years ago and probably haven't made polenta since then. Truthfully, I just forgot about it because I was following a lower carb diet. 

Now that I eat carbs again (following McDougall Starch Solution Diet) (affiliate link to the book) and having great success losing and now maintaining my weight by eating whole food healthy carbs but lowering oil and fat, I'm back to eating polenta. 

It makes a great quick and easy side dish, and as you can see from my photos- it can be topped with a variety of toppings.  I cooked mine in broth and then topped it with fire roasted red pepper strips packed in water from a jar. You could also top with a chunky salsa.

Polenta with roasted red peppers
Polenta will take on the shape of whatever bowl or pie plate you use

What is the difference between Italian polenta and Southern grits ?
 I recently learned the difference on a blog called, Trendgredient by Alea - "a mom, a small business owner, and a food enthusiast" who has wonderful recipes on her blog.  She is Southern and explains all about the difference between Southern made grits and polenta- they truthfully look similar- but they are not the same...

2 cups of flavorful vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup of corn grits
1 small jar of fire roasted red peppers OR 
1 cup of chunky salsa 

Bring the broth and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then slowly add the grits and stir consistently until all liquid is absorbed for about 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into a small  glass serving bowl and allow to set at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Invert the bowl onto a plate. Top with roasted red peppers or chunky salsa.
Basic polenta

1. This recipe serves 4-6 for a side dish. If you want to feed more, double the recipe.
2. Polenta and Eggplant Stew Appetizer is also delicious as a side dish.

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

My Cell Phone For Dinner

                    Cream, Cheese, Tomato, Souse, Chips
Why did I need my cell phone for dinner? 
This is the story of why a cell phone is certainly not a luxury and essential to function in today's world.

The other night I went out for a simple Mexican dinner with a friend. We selected a restaurant in an artsy historic tourist district of Lambertville, New Jersey (link). After driving though the beautiful scenic bucolic area of Bucks County for 1/2 hour, we reached our final destination. 

I parked the car on the street near the restaurant and immediately noticed that it required that I download an "app" to pay for parking (I know that in the cities this is protocol, but I live in the suburbs/country and have never been required to use an app to park my car). 

Parking Meter, Parking, Meter, TrafficParking Meter, Parking, Auto, Blue

My problem: 
I need a new phone and despite trying to charge it in the car, my phone was dead and I could not down load the parking app. Feeling totally frustrated, I finally realized that the meter would also accept coins. Yay!
But then a quick Boo!! The meter required $1.25/hr in coin, and I only had bills.

Dollar, Bank Note, Banknote, Currency

Coins, Money, Change, Finance, Monedas
I ran to the restaurant (a block away) where I had a reservation and since they had no parking lot, I begged them to change a $5 bill to coins. Well it turns out they had no change either. Luckily a patron was able to give me $3 worth of dimes, nickel, and quarters. 

As I noisily jingled back to the meter to spend 5 additional minutes feeding the meter the dimes, nickels and quarters, I wondered if anyone else has ever had this happen? 

Cartoon, Smiley, Questions, Puzzle

Once the hungry meter was happy, I did an about face and hurried back to the restaurant for our 6 PM reservation. 

As we settled in the seats,  I noticed a scan card on the table in lieu of a menu. Apologetically, I explained to the wait person that my phone battery had died and that I would need a regular menu. 

Sorry- no such item available- only scan menus!!!!

WHAT?? Have I been living in the dark ages? 
My battery is dead (I almost sobbed) because at this point I was really frustrated and hungry. What can I do? 

Cell Phone, Mobile, Phone, Technology
The young girl looked at me in disbelief and gave me her cell phone- (do you think I knew how to use her phone???) Sheepishly, I asked for her help so she took her phone and walked away saying she would get the manager to see what he could do. Surprisingly, the manager never showed up, but another wait person did. 

You may be wondering about my friend. Well yes her cell phone worked but was very small and we did scan for the menu but had to enlarge the print so much that only a small section took up the entire phone. 

Finally, I just explained to the new wait person (who was also young and very surprised about our lack of tech skills) that I wanted a gluten free vegan meal. 

She suggested a vegan enchilada platter (forgot to take a picture) that came with, rice and black beans. I took it!! 
And it was outstanding. 

City, Street Cafe, Gastronomy

I really enjoyed the meal, the outside dining, and the beautiful atmosphere once we settled the order, but I was not prepared to need to depend on my phone to park the car and see the menu. My iPhone is old and outdated and small. I only use it for texts and calls.  

I realize now that when I update my phone (very soon), it's going to have to be a larger size, so I can attempt to deal with all the new required technology just to eat out, shop in the markets such as Whole Foods to get their "app" to be entitled to discounts. I've been kicking my feet, but I can do it!

Here is a link to one of my favorite Mexican recipes- 

homemade mango salsa in a glass bowl

Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed, outdated, or reluctant to join this new high tech age? 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Easy Pasta Salad -Healthy, Vegan and Gluten Free

Easy Vegan Pasta Salad

Eating pasta just got healthier and it's pasta salad time in our house! 

Mixed with any kind of vegetable, the new high protein pastas, which are on all the supermarket shelves, are a great base for a quick and easy healthy meal, and you can be as creative as you like with the variety of vegetables that you add to the salad.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Peek at My Week -

Remember when you were in elementary school and you had to write a book report?  I feel like I'm still doing it when I write these posts about what I'm reading. 

                  The Great Alone by Kristan Hannah. 

I really enjoy this author, Kristin Hannah, and have read many of her other novels including her #1 NY Times Bestseller, The Nightingale. If you haven't read The Nightingale, I highly recommend it. 

The Great Alone takes place in the 1970's in beautiful uncharted wilderness of Alaska. The author's stunning descriptions and brilliant metaphors bring this majestic setting alive.  

The story: After returning from the Vietnam war, Ernt Allbright is a changed and more violent man. Unable to easily fit back into society and unable to keep a job, Ernt moves his family to Alaska to live in a remote area and live off the land. It is a survival story of a family in crisis and the difficulties which highlight the extremes of experiencing challenging and sometimes difficult Alaska living. We are introduced to their community who are strong group of survivalists both men and women. It is an exciting and heart wrenching story of human nature. A good read. 

What I'm Watching on Prime: 
2 documentaries- I liked them both- very interesting and informative

Shalom Bollywood - This is about the film industry in India and why so many stars came from the Indian Jewish community. I wasn't aware of the large Jewish community in India. " The unlikely story of the 2000- year-old Indian Jewish community and its formative place in shaping the world's  .".

In My Mother's Garden-
A selected group of women of color are interviewed to talk about their lives and their relationships with their mothers and grandmothers and how it impacted their lives. These interesting women share about the wisdom passed down to them regarding love, spirituality, sexism, family, food, and racism. 

I also just started a new series on Netflix called, " BlackSpace". It's an exciting detective series that will keep you on the edge of your seat . A murder takes place in a local high school in front of the entire assembly of 12th graders. Four students are shot- Were these four students targeted or were they shot randomly??  Could be your next series to watch!! It takes place in Israel and my version was dubbed.

I also recently saw the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit( link to my post about it) which was FABULOUS.. This exhibit is traveling all over the US and the world. I saw it in Miami, friends saw it in Toronto, in Israel, etc. 
Landscape, Scene, Scenic, Nature

What I'm cooking: Instant Pot Potato Salad

This is a mayo free French type potato salad made with lemon and oil ( recently I have begun to make it oil-free too) 
potato salad

trailer for Black Space 

men from across the globe unlock stories of their mothers to redefine holistic lives rooted 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

My 2nd Best Hummus Recipe Is Oil-Free

Are you looking for the best, yet easy, homemade lower fat hummus recipe? Well there is a reason I call this my second best (which is great).
Homemade hummus is so easy to make and most people like it.

The weather has been warm enough to invite family and/or friends to our deck for some casual outdoor dining. Homemade hummus is usually one of the appetizers that I like to serve to give guests when they get here to give them a chance to mingle and take the edge off their appetite before the meal. 

My new updated hummus recipe is light and creamy, absolutely delicious, and is always a hit!

table and chairs on a gray deck
My deck and chairs and table

My peonies are in full bloom 

Influenced by recipes from our Middle Eastern heritage, I am happy to share what I consider my 2nd best homemade hummus recipe because it is made without tahini or olive oil and is not strictly traditional like my Best Homemade hummus (recipe link).

I still like the hummus recipes that I've  previously shared with you on the blog. However, I'm always modifying my chickpea hummus recipe, so it is easier to make, uses less ingredients, and contains less oil and fat making this recipe heart healthy, weight watchers friendly, and oil-free. Of course all of my recipes are always gluten-free and now totally vegan since 2019. 

oil-free hummus with tomatoes

One easy way to reduce the calories is to reduce the fat. I did that in this recipe without sacrificing taste. I had 5 test tasters for this recipe and all concurred that is was a "5" out of 5!! (Included my 2 older grandkids)

This recipe calls for only five ingredients: 
Cooked chickpeas, whole sesame seeds, aquafaba (the starchy liquid that is a result of cooking dry chickpea or the liquid in the can of chickpeas) freshly squeezed lemon juice, and whole cumin seeds (plus any seasoning you like such as salt, pepper, or garlic powder). 

Sesame, Sesame Seeds, Seeds, Bowl

I Use Sesame Seeds Instead of Tahini Paste
You may have noticed that this delicious recipe omits one of the  traditional ingredients in hummus- tahini !
I do like the taste of the thick white tahini paste, but did you ever open a container of it? It's swimming in oil. 
For this recipe, I've eliminated  the intensely caloric tahini from my recipe. However, I brought the sesame flavor back in with some whole sesame seeds. 

Great Flavor 
Truthfully, I was surprised that I could leave out the tahini and still create a great  authentic tasting hummus that was simple and healthy.

I used my food processor and processed everything until I reached a very light, smooth, and creamy whipped consistency.

The aquafaba (cooking liquid from the chickpeas)  is the secret. It really adds a lovely flavor and a little extra starch to the recipe.

At the end, I always love to garnish the dip with some whole cooked chickpeas and a little salt. 

If you are looking for a healthy dip to serve to company or as a snack for yourself- THIS IS IT!!

It feels like summer!!

Beach, Coffee, Tables, Restaurant

2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or one 15 ounce can)
(save 6 chickpeas for garnish) 
2 tablespoons of whole sesame seeds
1/4 cup of cooking liquid from the chickpeas or can (aquafaba)
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds (plus more for garnish)
Optional: salt, ground pepper, or garlic powder to taste

Place the sesame seeds and chickpeas in the food processor. Pulse until begins to come together. With the motor running, slowly begin to add the lemon juice. Then add as much of the aquafaba as needed to get a thick yet creamy whipped consistency. (you may only need a tablespoon of the 1/4 cup). Add the cumin seeds and pulse once. 
Spread on a flat plat, decorate with a few chickpeas and additional cumin seeds if desired. 

Again, if you are looking for my absolutely best traditional hummus recipe follow the (recipe link for hummus)

My Notes: 

Tahini contains
 90 calories/tablespoon. 8 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber 

Sesame seeds contain
 52 calories/tablespoon, 1.6 grams of fat and 1.06 grams of fiber 

My friend Laura spills off all the oil from her tahini paste to reduce the calories leaving thick dry paste.

This recipe is oil-free, gluten-free, vegan, kosher, -perfect for most of your guests.