Crispy Baked Polenta Wedges | With Fresh Cut Strawberry, Cucumber and Lime Salsa

Parents make a fairly accurate claim when they say that having a kid is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. I’m not even talking about the pushing-the-baby-0ut part – although I still stand by my assertion that being in labour feels (in my experience) like being hit repeatedly in the abdomen (and back) with a sledge hammer. The real work comes with figuring out just how to handle the darned thing once he or she pops out as a fully-formed infant.
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I used to roll eyes derisively behind my Ray-Bans when a parent would bemoan to me their toddler-induced exhaustion. But now that I have a toddler of my own I know only too well what they’re talking about: the non-stop night nursing, the refusal to eat certain foods (and the subsequent hurtling of said foods across the room or in the direction of the dog), the panic-inducing (for me) thrill seeking (my little guy loves to scale to the highest heights unassisted), the obsessive manhandling of only the filthiest household items (plunger and toilet brush), the seemingly unprovoked, back-arching tantrums. I could go on and on. I love the little sucker to bits and am growing more obsessed by the day – I even look at pictures of him on my phone while he’s napping – but HOLY COW does he put me through the paces at every conceivable moment!
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At a certain point one gets to thinking about taking a bit of a vacay, especially on days like today when the dog woke you up at 2am in the throes of diarrhea. Oh wait, except as a parent of a young child a true vacation – one where you can kick back with your oversized cocktail of choice and not have to worry about the proximity of your kid to the pool, and other potentially life-threatening considerations – isn’t really an option. Neither is leaving him with the in-laws, because as burned out as I feel at times the thought of not being around him for even a few days puts a very large and sappy tear in my eye. At any rate, we’ve decided to attend a friend’s wedding in Puerto Vallarta – although it’s not until November and I’m sure I’ll spend 99 percent of my time there chasing the little guy around with a tube of sun screen and worrying about the possibility of shark attacks, kidnappings and other statistically improbably occurrences. Being a parent has transformed me into the ultimate worry wart!
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While our sojourn to Mexico is still 6 months away (will I still be sane by then?), as soon as I was finished booking our seats with the travel agent my mind reverted to its favourite topic: food. And in this instance, Mexican food. My favourite item of Mexican cuisine, apart from a big old Mission-style burrito cram packed with fresh veggies, is also the most simple: fresh cut salsa paired with crispy tortilla chips (and an ice cold bottle of Sol, of course).
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Fresh cut salsa typifies the notion that food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. I love how the ripe tomatoes, cilantro, the mild bite of sweet onion and fresh lime juice come together and form something so bright and balanced on my taste buds. The salsa in this post deviates from the traditional by replacing tomatoes with strawberries, whose juicy sweetness is tempered perfectly by lime juice, minced shallot and jalapeno. It tastes great with tortilla chips (of course) or tossed into a green salad, but here I’ve made it into a nice light lunch and served it over baked polenta wedges – golden and crispy on the outside; warm and tender of the inside. Our vacation is still merely a dot on the horizon, but dishes such a this will do a decent job of tiding me over ūüôā
Recipe: Crispy Baked Polenta Wedges | With Fresh Cut Strawberry, Cucumber and Lime Salsa
Serves 3-4
Ingredients:
Baked Polenta Wedges
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil
Strawberry, Cucumber and Lime Salsa
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, skin and seeds removed and diced small
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, diced small
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and diced small
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 medium lime, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Method:

Prepare Salsa

  1. Place lime juice and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Add cucumber, strawberries, cilantro, jalapeno and shallot to bowl and gently toss until everything is combined.
  3. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator until needed.

Prepare Baked Polenta Wedges

  1. Lightly grease an 8×8 pan with olive oil and set aside.
  2. Place almond milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Whisk in cornmeal then switch to a spoon as mixture thickens. Stir until liquid is fully absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in margarine and nutritional yeast (or parmesan), and a bit of salt and pepper.
  5. Immediately transfer polenta to prepared pan and smooth top with a wet spatula.
  6. Place in refrigerator for 45 minutes, or until firm.
  7. While polenta is in fridge lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
  8. Once polenta is firm, remove from fridge and preheat oven to 375F.
  9. Flip polenta onto a cutting board and cut into wedges.
  10. Transfer polenta wedges onto prepared baking sheet and brush tops with a bit of olive oil.
  11. Place in oven for 45 minutes or until tops are crispy and golden brown.

Assemble

  • Transfer polenta wedges to serving plates and top each portion with a few scoops of salsa. Eat!

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Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

All my talk of cocktails in my ‘Bloody Mary’ Tortilla Soup post gave me the urge to splurge on new (to me) vintage tiki mugs. I’ve thought better of purchasing anything beyond the basics since we moved into the RV – simply because there is nowhere to put anything. But now that we’re moving out of the Gypsy Roller and into a real house (next week hopefully!), I’ve given myself permission to acquire a few new¬†tchotchkes.¬†On the recommendation of my blogger buddy GiRRL_Earth – herself a 1950s vintage hound – I went shopping on Etsy, which turned out to be a great source for tiki stuff – although many sellers, to my dismay, don’t ship to Canada. After much perusing and ogling I finally settled on this guy. From there I went over to Ebay and picked up this fierce twosome. Once they arrive in the mail I plan on busting out the Polynesian tunes and celebrating with a Mai Tai or two.

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Anyway, on to the food. When I posted my¬†Fragrant Breakfast Lentil Bowl with Apples, Golden Raisins and Indian Spices¬†back in October I wasn’t sure how it would go over. For most people in the Western World lentils are mostly the stuff of stews, soups and chilli; in other words, we generally don’t consume them before noon. So while I really enjoyed the recipe, I didn’t expect anyone to join me on the lentils-for-breakfast bandwagon. But surprisingly (to me, anyway) this recipe gets viewed far more than anything else I’ve posted to date! Rather than a breakfast lentil bowl being an whacko idea, it looks like I was on to something!

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Given the relative success of my first lentil bowl, I figured it would be neat to come up with a completely different version. Like the original recipe I use red lentils, which are more tender when cooked than other lentil varieties and have a shorter preparation time. In the new version I incorporate the flavours of a bumbleberry pie – juicy blueberries and strawberries, sweet apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and a touch of brown sugar. If I’d had blackberries on hand I would have included these as well. Next time!

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I must admit I’m on a cashew-cream kick, having figured out recently how easy it is to make the stuff. My¬†last recipe¬†featured a savoury version, and at the risk of committing cashew-cream overkill I whipped up a sweet version and used it to top my bumbleberry lentil bowl. It functions much like a dollop of vanilla ice cream – but without the guilt that might result from eating ice cream in the morning. The lentil bowl is tasty in itself, but I highly recommend you try it with the cashew cream. It’s a simple recipe and can be prepared the night before.

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Tip: If the concept of lentils for breakfast is just too weird for you, you could easily make this recipe using old fashioned rolled oats. Just reduce the cooking time a little.

Recipe: Bumbleberry Breakfast Lentil Bowl | With Vanilla Cashew Cream

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

For Vanilla Cashew Cream:

  • 1/2 cup plain cashews + 1 cup water for soaking
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

For Lentil Bowl:

  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + more to serve (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 apple (I used an Ambrosia), peeled and grated
  • 1 cup mixed berries (thawed if using frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Prepare vanilla cashew cream: Place cashews and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Place in fridge and let soak for two hours. Drain cashews and transfer to blender along with remainder of ingredients. Pulse until smooth, scraping down the edges of blender with a spatula as needed. Set aside until needed.

Prepare lentil bowl: Place berries in a small bowl and toss with brown sugar and lemon juice. Set aside. Place lentils, grated apple, almond milk, water, spices and salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and let simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until liquid is fully absorbed and lentils are tender. Gently fold in berries and let warm through – a couple of minutes.

Serve, topping each portion with a dollop of Vanilla Cashew Cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or brown sugar. Eat!

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