The “WTF do I make for dinner?” Dinner

I found myself in an incredibly rare predicament the other night: I had a ton of time on my hands, but zero chef-spiration! Usually it’s quite the opposite—I’m racing the clock to get a meal on the table and I have to edit my ideas down to what’s achievable in the span of an hour.

My malaise was so powerful that even after flipping through a few of my cookbooks (The First Mess Cookbook, One Part Plant, and Thug Kitchen) I was without direction. A lot of recipes sounded great, but I was always an essential ingredient or two off. I’m, like, the Dowager Countess of substitutions, but, like I said, I had zero creativity.

So, since time was on my side, I decided to make something that has evaded and frustrated me for years: polenta.

I know, I know. You’re like, “Chelsea, wtf? Polenta is two ingredients. Do you secretly suck at cooking, and you’ve been stringing us along with this psuedo-cooking blog for almost 2 years?” Ugh, shut up. I was the same way with rice (Martha Stewart recipe, bless up!). For me, it seems, the simpler the recipe, the more I struggle. Bake a pie from scratch? No problem, friend. Make quinoa? *frantically Googles instructions*

Polenta is a tricky beast. It’s technically easy to make, but making it properly is difficult and time-consuming. When I saw the cornmeal in my cabinet, I knew I had found my white whale. Combining this singular vision with a bunch of pantry staples, I embarked on making the least cohesive, yet most delicious dinner I’ve made in ages. And I thought I’d share.

Creamy Polenta with ‘Wino Forever’ White Beans & Roasted Veggies

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 summer squash, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 onion of your choice, chopped finely
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp butter (vegan butter or coconut oil will also work!)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 400, on the roast setting if you have it.

Start the polenta—I use this recipe. I’ll give some basic instructions, but I strongly recommend reading the Serious Eats recipe, as well as the accompanying backstory. I did not follow this recipe properly, which led the polenta to take twice as long to cook. Do as I say, not as I do. 

In a large pot, warm the water over a high heat. Whisk in the cornmeal. Bring the pot to a boil, and let boil/simmer, stirring consistently, until the mixture begins to thicken and “spit”. Then lower the heat and let cook for about an hour longer. Make sure you’re stirring frequently! When it’s thick enough that you can pull it away from the pan with your stirring implement, it’s ready to be seasoned with salt and butter. Stir and then serve.

While the polenta is simmering away, steam your corn for a few minutes, until soft. Set aside. Chop your onion, zucchini, squash, and cauliflower, and place them in a glass baking dish. Toss them in a tbsp of olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Stir at the 15 minute mark, and add more olive oil if they’ve dried out. Roast until they reach your desired doneness, browned on the outside, about 30 minutes.

While the polenta and veggies are cooking, start your beans. Drain and rinse 2 cans of white beans. Set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant. Add beans, and toss to coat in the oil. Once the beans are warmed, add your white wine, hot pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Simmer together for 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked off. Add butter and veggie broth, stir, and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the beans start to fall apart and the liquid has reduced to a gravy-like consistency. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving. When finished, the beans have a surprisingly meaty taste!

Stir the corn into the polenta before serving!

Plate the meal in layers, starting with a bed of polenta, piling on the veggies, and topping with the beans and “gravy”. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Dig in and enjoy!

**There’s a way to make this so that everything finishes at just about the same time. But I’m more of a renegade chef, plating on the fly.

IMG_2826
Always serve with La Croix, obviously.

It’s not the most beautiful meal (lots of yellow and beige) but it is to-die-for delicious! It made a huge batch, so I got to enjoy the leftovers for days to come. For non-veg folk, it might seem odd to eat beans & vegetables for dinner, but trust me—all of your essential food groups are represented, and if I’m not mistaken, this meal is gluten-free!

BRB, fantasizing about making this again.

—DellaBites

 

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A Smoothie Life Hack for the Ages

I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so one of the biggest challenges to the whole wellness/smoothie life thing I’ve committed to is, how do I get a smoothie and a cup of coffee into me during my 20-minute drive to work? I need the coffee to do the smiling and the talking (very important in the business we call retail), but I need the smoothie and the protein to not starve to death within my first hour of work. I’ve never been a chugger of liquids—my La Croixs always go flat before I finish them, and I’m used to dealing with watery iced coffee and cocktails. I needed a solution—one that didn’t involve me actually waking up earlier, duh.

So, many moons ago, while make the baby steps towards the wellness journey on which I now find myself, I discovered a little website called Nutrition Stripped. The lifestyle site is run out of Nashville by dietician/nutritionist McKel Hill. It’s basically a smoothie-recipe Mecca. As the completist I am, I pre-ordered McKel’s cookbook and everything. It’s been a big hit here at the Fig household.

So, when I discovered the Mood Boosting Cocoa Smoothie, it was my Eureka moment.

It puts the coffee IN the smoothie!

I’ve made this smoothie, like, a hundred times, with minor variations here and there based on ingredients I have on hand. I’ve been adding spirulina to get those greens! But when you have something every day, you’re bound to get a little restless and want to try new things. Therefore, I give you, The Strawberry Morning Milkshake! It’s just a variation on McKel Hill’s theme, credit where credit is due, but my oh my is it a delight.

Strawberry Morning Milkshake

makes just under 4 cups, serves 2

  • 1 banana, fresh or frozen*
  • 1/2 c. chopped strawberries (about 4 large strawberries), fresh or frozen*
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 scoop Vega vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 c. to 1 c. of cold brew
  • 1 c. unsweetened organic almond milk

In a high-powered blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth! Serve immediately, and refrigerate leftovers for up to two days.

If you have a normal blender, like me, add all ingredients except almond milk, and process at a slower speed until smooth. Then add in your almond milk and go to town on that high setting!

I prefer a thinner smoothie, so I add all of the coffee I possibly can to this. But if you want a classic milkshake feel, I’d keep the 1/2 c. cold brew : 1 c. almond milk ratio.

*I recommend frozen fruit for this recipe, both for the temperature of the smoothie, and the milkshake-esque texture.

Optional Add-ins for Optimal Nutrition

  • 1 tsp spirulina*
  • 1 pitted date (for sweetness)
  • 1 c. baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp. flax seeds or flax meal
  • 2 Brazil nuts

*The spirulina will slightly alter the color and taste of the smoothie, so I recommend trying it once without to get a frame of reference.

So, there you have it. A full cup of coffee and enough protein and nutrients to keep you full until your lunch break. No compromises necessary! You’ll be able to finish this on your morning commute in between embarrassing performances of every song from Hamilton. And if you think strawberries and coffee are an odd combination, have faith, don’t forget your vanilla protein powder, and enjoy!

—DellaBites

 

 

Endless Summer Southwest Salad

I was lucky enough to go to my town’s farmer’s market this morning, and took home a huge haul of organic veggies! In the blind panic of holy-hell-I-have-way-too-many-zucchini, I decided to create a summer salad inspired by my love of all foods southwestern. It took under 20 minutes to put together and it might be the yummiest thing I’ve ever made!

What you’ll need:


for the salad

2 ears corn, husked with kernels cut off the cob

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 zucchini, diced

1/2 small red onion (or 1/4 large), finely chopped

1/2 lb of grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed

salt & black pepper to taste

for the dressing

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 a large lemon)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp vegenaise (or mayonnaise if that’s your jam)

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cilantro (I use Gourmet Garden cilantro paste)

salt to taste

To begin, set your oven to 400 degrees (if you have a roast setting, use this!) Remove the kernels from the corn cobs, toss in a bowl with 1 tbsp coconut oil, and lightly season with salt & pepper. Roast in the oven in a baking dish for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool.


While your corn is roasting, prepare your vegetables, rinse your beans, and combine it all in a large mixing bowl. When your corn is cool, add it to the vegetable mixture.

In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Add salt to taste. Pour dressing into salad and toss to combine.

Serve on top of a bed of greens, on its own, or as a side with burritos or enchiladas! Top with avocado if you’re feeling frisky!


This is summer in a bowl! So delicious and vegan!