Saturday, September 29, 2012

Polenta - Two Recipes

Polenta: a little known food item made from ground corn that is quite affordable and can be combined with pretty much anything to create a filling, glueten free meal, or side. When I say affordable, I mean it. I bought 1 pound of this stuff for 99 cents. When I made my first batch, which consisted of 1 cup of polenta and 4 cups, created about 4 average servings. 

You can eat polenta creamy, baked, fried, grilled, as a casserole, with tomato sauce, with no sauce, it can be creamy or plain. Trust me, you have a lot of choices and it's fairly easy to make. 

One thing that has always bothered me about recipes online is their inconsistency. You can look up 4 or 5 recipes featuring the same ingredient but each of them provide different directions. How do you know which one to follow? That's another reason I don't always measure things, typically recipes turn out better when I am not stressing about having the exact recipe right. So after poking around and not finding single common polenta recipe I referred to the greatest veggie cookbook known to man: "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. This cookbook has recipes for pretty much everything veggie you have ever wanted to make. 
  • 1/2 cup of milk (this recipe called for whole, I used almond)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Black Pepper
Combine milk and water and heat over medium heat, almost to a boil. Add in the polenta (cornmeal) in a steady stream, using a whisk to stir as you pour. Turn the heat down and simmer. Whisk the cornmeal for about 15 minutes. 

Mark Bittman's recipe was the one I decided to follow when making my polenta. Other recipes recommend keeping the polenta mixture simmering for about 30 minutes, and stir every now and then (every 10 minutes or so). I have only made polenta this once, and have only had it a couple times during my lifetime, so I am by no means an expert. I thought my version tasted fine combined with some balsamic mushrooms and pickled red onions, but I definitely plan on making polenta again and coming up with a consistent recipe.

**UPDATE** I wrote the above post a few weeks ago and hadn't posted it yet, the other day I made another polenta recipe. The recipe below was more of a success in my opinion.

The other day I tried another polenta recipe.
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Pepper
Bring water to a boil, pour cornmeal in a steady stream while stirring and then turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring, it's not necessary to stir constantly for 10 minutes, but definitely stir frequently and make sure the mixture is not lumpy or sticking to the sides of the pan. When I made this recipe, it didn't seem to take 30 minutes, but I wasn't really paying attention to the time. 

Once prepared, you can eat part the polenta in creamy form or save it later to grill, fry or bake. Pour the rest into a greased pan (I used a cake pan but a sheet pan will result in thinner polenta) and let sit, then store in fridge. 

I used my leftover polenta to create this dish:

So simple. Black beans (half mashed), avocado (mashed) and siracha between two grilled polenta pieces, cut from the cake pan with a small coffee cup.

The kale salad was my re-make of HEB's kale pepita salad with orange dressing... but I will save that for later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Foodie Bucket List

I typically (ok always) post about food I have cooked, grilled, boiled, sautéed and created. Well this time I am going to shake things up, this post is dedicated to the things I want to cook and either haven't had the time, want to create again, have been scared to master or can't really afford.

The dish on the top of my list is a dish that features shrimp, couscous and spinach thrown into foil and grilled, then topped with a mango-avocado salsa. See the recipe from Self. It almost looks to easy to be true, and I am a little unsure about cooking couscous in foil on a grill. But hey... Why not?

Here are a couple more ideas on my list:
  • Scallops
  • Risotto
  • Mussels
  • Tuna
  • Mung beans
  • Bok choy
  • Lentil soup
  • Potstickers(homemade wrapper and all)
  • A wonderful vegan pastry 
  • Pie (any kind)
  • Aida Mollenkamp's Almond French Toast (video)
  • Tempeh
  • Pumpkin something (real pumpkin, no cans here)
  • Chana Masala (I have made this and it was so good, I HAVE to do it again soon)
I know there are probably a whole slew of others, but that was the list I could come up with at the top of my head. Hopefully I can scratch some of those off my list eventually... Have any suggestions on what I should cook! Let me know, tweet me at @Britt_Black or leave a comment on this blog.

Some of these are just simply ingredients belonging to a bigger picture, others are the main attraction. Things like mung beans, tempeh and most likely good quality scallops and mussels might be hard to locate where I am currently located, but I am ready and willing to make the drive for legitimate seafood. In fact, I know of a great place in San Antonio with an excellent selection of all things seafood.

Keep checking back to see if I have scratched any of these off the list and of course to read about all the other crazy delicious things I post about. :) 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mix it up for breakfast: Huevos rancheros

 Eggs, beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, tortillas, cilantro. You can't really go wrong with these ingredients...especially when you have a craving for huevos rancheros, a traditional mexican breakfast dish. There are many variations but there are ways you can make the dish quickly and still have it be delicious.

Huevos Rancheros

  • White or sweet onion
  • Can of Rotel (or other canned salsa)
  • Can of beans (I used black, but pinto and refried work too)
  • 2 eggs
  • Corn tortillas
  • A handful of cilantro

Start by sautéing the onion in som olive oil. Then simply add the canned salsa and beans and simmer while you cook your eggs. I fry my eggs but they can be cooked any way you like, but avoiding scrambled is advised.

Warm the tortillas in the microwave or on the stove. Once warm place on plate, add bean and tomato mixture and then top with eggs and smother it all in cilantro.

This will literally take you 10 minutes. Of course you could always make your own salsa to add to the beans. Cooking the beans with tomatillo sauce would also be a good change up. Chips instead of tortillas would add a bit of crunch to the dish if that's what you prefer. Typically huevos rancheros recipes recommend you lightly frying the corn tortilla.

I had this dish for breakfast and after writing this post I definitely want another serving.
***I recently declared that I was going to try being vegan again. Just wanted to let everyone know I wrote this post before that declaration. 

Monday, September 17, 2012


It's true. I have been a total slacker lately when it comes to this food blog. That's what happens when you have no time and no money. My apologies, honestly I don't think I even know what I have been doing the past week or so. 

Bean Stew
(pretty straight forward - a bunch of beans)
At the beginning of this summer I went vegan for probably a month and a half (it might have been two). I felt great, it was something new and adventurous - but I will straight up admit it, that was a hard thing to do. Not so much at home, because I really don't keep any dairy or eggs in the house, but going out to eat with friends was so ridiculous. There really aren't very many places that cater to that lifestyle, which is kind of unfortunate. I don't know what exactly convinced me to go back to my old habits of eating seafood and some dairy on occasion, but I did, and lately I have definitely felt the difference. So today is the day that I give veganism another shot. The hardest thing to give up is seafood, it's so unique and delicious and I know it has great health benefits to it. Frankly, when I gave up cheese and eggs before I stopped craving them - so that may not be as difficult.

My first (second try) Veganism post will be about a vegan creamy sauce. I used to like creamy sauces, but eventually they all made me feel gross, so fattening and heavy. I was craving something along those lines today but fought temptation and decided to create something on my own. Don't hate me guys, but I definitely didn't measure ANYTHING to make this... I mean it's a sauce - pour some shit in a pan, mix it around and taste it until it's what you like.  

Creamy Vegan Sauce
  • Tahini
  • white miso paste (whisk in lukewarm water)
  • nutritional yeast
  • soy sauce (only a little bit)
  • Rice wine vinegar (also only a little bit)
  • Pepper
  • Siracha 
The last two were for some additional flavor.

Mix in the miso paste with water first. Then add tahini and then the rest of the ingredients. You can make this sauce either hot or cold, this time I just kept stirring it all together in a sautee pan with the heat on low. I cooked the noodles according to directions, got rid of the water and then added the noodles to the sauce. To make this dish even more crazy I added some capers and mixed in some cilantro pesto I made a few days before.

Cilantro Pesto
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • olive oil to taste (and thickness)
  • A squeeze or two of SIRACHA!
Delicious. This was an excellent dish that I definitely want to make again. Especially the tahini cream sauce. It's hard to explain but it has a creamy consistency with a slightly nutty taste. The soy sauce and rice vinegar bring it all together and the siracha gives it that tiny little kick. p

So there we go. On to being a vegan for awhile. I just got a crock pot too... I wonder what kind of creations I can do with that! Stay Tuned! 

Oh and by the way... if you haven't heard about this or seen it on all of my social media platforms - Please vote for my proposal for SXSW  Just give me a thumbs up. Thanks! xoxo

Friday, September 14, 2012

A French Picnic

Last Sunday I spent the day in Austin, Texas. It was a beautiful day and my friends and I decided it would be the perfect time for a picnic at Mt. Bonnell. We ended up going to the store to pick up a few things to munch on:

  • Brie Cheese
  • French Baguette
  • Grapes
  • Acocado
  • Pear
  • Rose (missing accent) wine
  • Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Coconut water

While we were enjoying our snacks we determined that our little picnic in Austin, was actually french themed and the baguette and brie cheese inspired our inner parisian. I have spent time in Paris and definitely felt like I would be eating baguettes and brie at the park everyday. The only thing that threw off the french feeling was the sounds of the ukulele my friend was strumming. 

Later that night we continued our french food day by going to this little restaurant down on E 6th. I like to keep this place secret, because I honestly feel like it is a little piece of heaven in the middle of Austin. This restaurant is so quaint and beautiful. Everything about it is amazing: service, food, atmosphere, drinks - we try to go once at least once a month and we end up staying for more than four hours. 

Recently I wrote a post about a nicoise salad, so it is kind of ironic that I chose to have the dish that night. This was Nicoise "A la Masion" or of the house. It had endives, sardines and tuna confit (cooked in oil fat). So amazing, literally melted in my mouth. I had a glass of rose from Chotes de Rhone, which was also spectacular. I finished off the meal with a cup of french onion soup, smothered in cheese and a coffee. 

You literally can't go wrong with this place. I mean look at it. Anyone who wants to take me on a date  I'd gladly accept. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quick Lunches

I work from home, which has its drawback and its advantages. As with any jobs, some days are busier than others. Luckily for me on my slower days I have time to prepare a delicious lunch, or prep for dinner. However, on days that I have a heavy workload I have to be ready to make a quick meal. For these quick lunches, I usually don't have time to poke around for a good recipe, I just look in my fridge and decide to throw a couple things together. Don't get me wrong, if I am in a meeting, my mind often wanders to what kind of creation I can come up with. 

Here are two lunches I made this week.

A Crazy mix up with a Kale, Basil, Strawberry Salad. I really can't think of anything else to call my side dish besides a crazy mix up, because that literally is what it was. Pinto beans (I had leftover), tofu - cubed, quinoa (pre-cooked) and sauteed mushrooms. I began by heating oil in a skillet and adding a clove of minced garlic. I then threw in the mushrooms and tofu because I knew they would take the longest to cook. I probably should have left the tofu on for longer but I don't really have an issue with the texture or flavor of tofu, so no big deal. I then threw in the pinto beans and quinoa. While that was cooking I prepared my salad. I took one leaf of kale, removed the stem and tore the leaf into bite sized pieces, chopped up two strawberries and combined with basil chiffonade (rolling up multiple basil leaves like a cigar and slicing across). 

I put a bit of olive oil and pepper on the kale and massaged it, then added the strawberries and basil. 
Voila! All done. I also added a strawberry and some frozen peaches to a glass of coconut water to drink.

Another pretty quick lunch was my pesto, mushroom and kale flatbread. My mom found me some naan (indian flatbread) at an international food market. The naan was more of a pita bread than the naan I am used to at indian restaurants. 

The previous day I had made an almond basil pesto:
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • grapeseed oil to desired thickness
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth (my food processor sucks so I still had a few baby almond pieces) 

To make the flatbread I put the oven at 350 degrees. I spread the pesto over the "naan" and then put raw mushrooms, kale and pickled red onions on top. I figured sautéing the mushrooms would just make them soggy and by keeping them raw, they would still get cooked a bit by being in the oven. I put this in the oven for about 8 minutes. So delicious. I also added a bit of homemade hummus topped with kale for a little extra flavor. 
By the way, homemade hummus is definitely better with tahini. For the longest time I avoided buying tahini because it is rather pricey. Finally I gave in and I am glad I did. A friend of mine gave told me a secret about tahini.... you can get it super cheap at a international food market. There are so many hummus recipes, that I am not going to share mine with you... maybe one day if I make a crazy kind of hummus, but this one was just normal everyday hummus - with tahini.