Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

We celebrated Valentine’s day early this year. Actually, we celebrate most holidays early around here… at least food-wise. Christmas cookies in October, Thanksgiving food in late August and so on.

I’m not sure what we’re doing for “real” Valentine’s yet – but once I got this recipe just right and the pictures were done, Jack and I sat down to a romantic (albeit reheated) meal for two. The only caveat – Jack doesn’t like beets. He’s not a picky eater but beets are on his short list of foods he usually won’t touch. I originally tried this recipe with other roasted vegetables but the juicy sweetness of the beets went SO well with the creamy earthy flavor of the polenta. The little heart-like-shaped red beets combined with the pink and white striped Chioggia beets just needed to be here. Also, since I love beets and you love beets (right?), he was outnumbered this time.

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Our dinner conversation went like this: 

Me: “So I know you don’t prefer beets, but don’t you think they work really well in this case – just a few of them – with the other vegetables and creamy polenta and this lemony dijon dressing kind of covers them up right? I mean, I know how much you love mustard.

Him: “They’re still beets.”

Me: “Remember that one time when I made beets and told you they were turnips and you ate them and you liked them?”

Him: “Yes, but this time I know they are beets and I can’t un-think that”

Me: “But if you didn’t watch me make this and you closed your eyes and ate this, you would probably be ok with this whole combination right? You would probably not even notice the beets.

Him: (as he’s licking his plate clean, btw.) “Ok… of all the way that I’ve had beets, this makes them taste the least beet-y. Plus this polenta is [flipping] awesome.”

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

So I’ll leave it up to you whether you love or hate beets but let’s talk about the polenta. It’s creamy, made with my go-to unsweetened Almond Breeze instead of plain water or cream. It has olive oil instead of butter so aside from the tiny bit of optional feta sprinkled on top, this meal is dairy free and vegan (but you wouldn’t know it).

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

This recipe is not difficult to make but I will say that it’s a tad on the fussy side, since each component needs to be prepared separately. If you’re good at multitasking, you’ve got this. If not, you can roast the beets ahead of time, make the dressing ahead of time, and (new discovery!) you can even make the polenta ahead of time.

That new discovery was a happy accident but it worked. I made the polenta and when it was almost done (not quite thickened), I let it cool, and put it in the fridge. I took it out the next day, heated it on the stove while whisking in a bit of water, and voila! The polenta was creamier in texture and had more mellow flavor than a “fresh” version I tested earlier.

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

The rest of the dish is comprised of roasted red onions and chickpeas, sautéed spinach, and thinly sliced, lightly marinated Chioggia beets… I love the contrasting flavor, texture (and color) of the raw and roasted beets together.

This recipe serves 2, but can be easily doubled to serve 4.

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Beets

Winter Farro & Kale Salad

Winter Farro & Kale Salad with hazelnuts & pomegranates

All you want for Christmas is a christmas salad – right? Ok, maybe not, but in between all of the cookies and other sweet treats, doesn’t it just feel so good to eat something nourishing before your next cocktail? This salad is packed with so many things that I crave, like dark leafy kale and hearty farro; and to make it extra festive – hazelnuts and pomegranates. It’s the salad that looks like a Christmas tree.

Winter Farro & Kale Salad with hazelnuts & pomegranates

You can use either lacinato kale (pictured) or curly kale for this recipe. I usually find curly kale to be a little bit softer, but this pretty bouquet of local lacinato was on the smaller side so the leaves were nice and tender – especially after massaging them with this tangy dressing.

This salad looks gorgeous as a side dish on your holiday table or is delicious with soup for a cozy night in. If you want to make it a meal on it’s own, add your protein of choice and pack it up for lunch during the week. It’s great the second day (and also the third).

Winter Farro & Kale Salad

Ribollita – Tuscan White Bean Soup

Ribollita / @loveandlemons

Bread making has become Jack’s new weekend hobby. Over the last few weeks, he’s made some really delicious focaccia and a few loaves of ciabatta which, I have to tell you, were super impressive. I previously had this idea that rustic crusty bread would require wood fired ovens and other non-household equipment to make. It doesn’t. The ingredients are simple, but it does require an afternoon’s worth of babysitting. Knead, fold, wait, rest… repeat… like 15 more times.

After all of this hard work, when the last chunk of ciabatta went stale a few days later I couldn’t bear to toss it. While I commonly talk about my cooking inspiration coming from what I find at the farmer’s market, there are times like this where the ideas come from not wanting to waste ingredients that someone made (or grew) with love.

The bread was way too hard for panzanella, so that was out. Luckily, there’s a soup that loves rock-hard stale bread – ribollita.

Ribollita / @loveandlemons

Ribollita is a Tuscan white bean stew made from leftover vegetables and thickened with day-old (or in our case many days old) bread. My version starts with a base of onion, carrots, tomatoes, white beans, rosemary, and kale. I cube up the leftover bread and stir it in towards the end, making a thick and hearty soup – perfect for a cold autumn night.

Ribollita / @loveandlemons

This recipe makes about 3 large servings, but next time I will double it. The leftovers were delicious for lunch the next day and I only wished I had more…

And p.s. if any of you have bread making tips, we’re all ears…

Ribollita / @loveandlemons

Veggie Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa / loveandlemons.com

I know – another taco recipe already? Well, I like tacos. I’m sure you do too because you are here after all. In all honesty, these were originally going to become enchiladas until I stopped short. Which is why they’re in a baking pan. Plus, it was a convenient way to get floppy tacos to stand up for the photo.

The plan was to make something similar to this creamy poblano enchilada sauce, but using avocados, pepitas, spinach and tomatillo salsa instead (see below, you can use store-bought salsa if you don’t have tomatillos). The end result? It’s like a tangy creamy pesto and I couldn’t stop eating it straight from the food processor with a spoon.

It’s so fresh and bright and I knew I’d wreck it if I tried to cook it. So taco night it was – with extra green sauce on the side.

Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa / loveandlemons.com

I roasted patty pan squash, eggplant, a red pepper, and cherry tomatoes. But you can roast whatever vegetables you have – anything goes. If you’re craving fall foods, roasted sweet potatoes would be delicious here instead. I stuffed my tacos with black beans and topped them with serrano slices and a little cotija cheese. Skip the cheese if you’re vegan, (it’s not all that necessary).

Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa / loveandlemons.com

This taco recipe serves about two with lots of extra sauce – double your taco count to serve four. Or save the leftover sauce and eat it yourself the next day.

Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Salsa / loveandlemons.com

Healthy Vegetarian Grilling Recipes

Healthy Vegetarian Grilling Recipes

Happy holiday weekend! If you’re hosting a cookout this Labor Day weekend, here are a few simple (yet super delicious!) veggie recipe ideas. And if you’re attending a cookout this weekend – well, it’s always good to be a bringer especially if you’re the one with the special food requirements. (Who me?)

 Marinated Mushroom Vegetable Skewers / loveandlemons.com

Ok, let’s get started – first we’re going to load up some skewers. (Actually, first, we’re going to make some margaritas). Once you have a drink in hand, get started by marinating the mushrooms. My secret not-so-secret-anymore marinade is so easy –  olive oil, balsamic, soy sauce and black pepper. The mushrooms become deeply browned and caramelized on the grill. Plus, it takes only two seconds to make.

If anyone complains that there’s no meat at this party, just show them these cute animal barnyard skewers! Ok, seriously, you can include meat here too if you want – I won’t judge. Either way, it’s a good idea to invest in a set of metal skewers because wooden ones can catch on fire, even when you think you’ve soaked them long enough (not that I know this from personal experience).

Avocado, Grilled Corn & Black Bean Salsa / loveandlemons.com

The skewers can be assembled in advance, but be sure to make this avocado salsa just as your guests show up. It’s basically fancy chunky guacamole with grilled corn and black beans – serve it with chips and (if there’s any left) as a side dish with your skewers and corn on the cob.

Grill up the rest of your corn and top it with a squeeze of lime, cotija cheese (skip if you’re vegan) and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. For dessert? This peach & plum crumble, its grill-able version, or DIY fancy s’mores.

Smoky Grilled Corn on the Cob / loveandlemons.com