Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another Engine 2 Recipe - Polenta Bake

With the hot weather upon us (90's this week! After 40's last week.), I'm looking for foods that cook up well either on the stovetop or microwave oven. Back in June 2012, the Engine 2 blog, The Daily Beet, had an entire post on one-dish meals, and every one of them I've tried so far can be easily made in the microwave as well as regular oven. I've already written about a couple of them, such as the Mexican Layered Casserole, and here's another from that post, Polenta Bake. It's similar to the others in the basic formula - tomatoes - starch - veg 1 - veg 2 - more tomatoes - spices. They're the oven version of the Jeff Novick SNAP meals.

Polenta Bake 
Pre-heat oven to 350
1 thin layer of chopped tomatoes
1 layer of sliced polenta rounds
1 layer of sliced mushrooms
1 layer frozen spinach
1 layer chopped tomatoes (thin layer)
Sprinkle with Italian seasoning
Bake for 35 minutes or until the mushrooms look done.

I used the plain, unflavored polenta, but next time will probably use an Italian seasoned one.

For the tomatoes I chose 2 15-oz. cans of diced unsalted. For the first layer I just put the juices from both cans down, then the polenta, and then dumped the first can on that. If you like things spicy, try a can of Rotel or other flavored tomato for one or both cans.

Cremini instead of white buttoned tomatoes, and I shopped them up into small pieces instead of slices, only because I was running out of room in my casserole dish. 

The spinach was defrosted and squeezed before I put it in the casserole dish. I only did that because I took the spinach out of the freezer, got distracted and had to do something else before making the casserole, and by the time I actually went to start it, the spinach was defrosted (I said it was hot yesterday!) so I just gave it a good drain and squeeze in a colander.

As for spices, not only did I use my trusty Penzey Italian Herbs Seasoning, but I also added about half a teaspoon of what used to be called Penzey's Italian Dressing Mix but it now known as Italian Vinegar and Oil, even though it contains neither vinegar nor oil but is dry, like the Good Seasonings packets of dressing mix. It did add a little more taste but next time I'll skip it and add spice with flavored tomatoes.

I thought it lacked something, so added a can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans on top of the spinach layer. I'm glad I did.

After I popped the glass lid on I shoved this in the microwave, set it for 15 minutes on HIGH, then walked away, feeling smug that I'm making a hot meal for the family without making the kitchen any hotter than it already was.

My smugness was short-lived. Alas, this is another recipe with no photo because I was embarrassed at the mess. Even with squeezing out the spinach and chopping the mushrooms into smaller pieces, this loaded my big Corningware oval casserole dish,
and as it heated and bubbled, it bubbled it's way out of the dish, along the glass lid, and across the round microwave carousel plate. I caught it before it managed to overflow the plate. By the time I got it cleaned up my husband was already home, changed out of his office clothes, played with the mail, and was ready to sit down and eat, so I had no time to make the dish pretty and grab the camera. Take my word for it, you've seen one overflowing tomato-based casserole you've seen them all! LOL

What will I do different next time? Well, use the larger pan, the one I use for lasagna, first off. A flavored polenta (or make my own), a can of Rotel, skip the salad dressing spices. I might add a few sliced - olives, black or green - and if I'm out shopping the day I make it again, I'll grab a loaf of crusty Italian bread to sop up all the juices.

Thanks, Engine 2 Team, for another winner!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Randa's SNAP Corn Chowder

Everyone who knows the VegSource team or Jeff Novick knows the Nelson Twins, Randa and Nina.

The girls appeared in Jeff's first 2 Fast Food videos, among other places. Randa has also developed some recipes of her own, including the one I made yesterday for lunch, her version of a SNAP meal, Corn Chowder:

-bag of frozen corn
-bag of frozen cauliflower
-bag a frozen peas
-2 large potatoes
-2 low sodium vegetable broths
-cup of leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
-Pre-cook potatoes in the microwave.
-Chop up onion and sautee it with some rosemary in a pot.
-Add 2 cartons low sodium vegetable broths to pot.
-Add bag of frozen peas, cauliflower, and corn to pot.
-Add leafy greens of choice.
-Cut up the potatoes, and add them to the pot.
-Bring to a boil
-Let simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes (until vegetables are cooked)

I did nothing different except simmer this soup longer than 20 minutes because we like our cauliflower soft. Here it is, right after the initial boil:

Most corn chowders I've seen have some form of milk in it - this one doesn't. To me, this made it just a corn soup, but a tasty one at that.

Also, when I make chowders, I usually grab the immersion blender and have at it, but this one I left intact and whole. After being sick with the flu for the past week and a half (yes, again) it was nice to actually taste the individual components of a meal again.

We each had 2 big bowls and I have 3 of my Corningware 3-cup containers filled with leftovers for lunches during the week. It's going up in the low 80's today and the air conditioners aren't in the windows yet, so I'll probably enjoy this cold later.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Another Great Post by Natala on Engine 2

An excerpt from one of her recent posts:

Being overweight in this society is not easy. While the number of obese people has been on the rise year after year, the way people who are overweight are treated has not become any better. It’s still ok (for most) to laugh, make fun of and look down at overweight people. I have been hurt, more times than I can count because of my size, physically and emotionally. Being overweight since the age of 10, has not been easy. I did what I could to not be noticed, but alas, everyone seemed to notice me. I thought this would go away when I became an adult, but sadly it did not. People said (and still say) awful things about me. I really don’t feel like walking around with a shirt that says “I’ve lost 200 pounds, so back off”, so I’ve learned to ignore what I can, and on the bad days, when something really gets to me? I just let it get to me. Sometimes I go punch a punching bag, seems to help the most, to be honest.

If you've been overweight your entire life as I have, you've GOT to read her entire post and all the comments. It'll make your day!

Lately the Engine 2/Daily Beet sites are more inspirational to me than the McDougall forums have been. I have a feeling I'll be signing up for the Engine 2 Extra site again very soon. It'll take some maneuvering of finances but hubby said we can swing it now. I look forward to seeing the changes since I was last there, the month of opening the site.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My Beef With Meat Is On the Way!

I love how Amazon sometimes mails pre-orders out early so the customer gets the book on its day of release! I pre-ordered Rip Esselstyn's My Beef With Meat and as of Sunday afternoon it's on its way from the South Carolina warehouse and will be delivered Tuesday.

Too bad I'm suffering my first Spring cold right now and reading the book will have to wait until I've recuperated, because otherwise I'll forget everything I read.

For now, I'll have to be content with these video advertisements. It would be so nice if ads for books like these would show up on television.

My Beef With Meat... Http:// from engine 2 diet on Vimeo.

MBWM from engine 2 diet on Vimeo.

And I think this is Natala doing a sneak preview of the book in the first 3 1/2 minutes of this 14 minute vlog post

Video Blog 9 from engine 2 diet on Vimeo.