One big <3 for polenta!

I was pretty nervous about this homework (Homework 2 was a bit of an ordeal for me!) until I noticed that polenta is on the list of whole grains that we can choose. And thank goodness for that! Small confession: polenta is basically the traditional food of the people where I come from (Romania), and after dabbling unsuccessfully last week into the unknown yucca and chayote squash territory, I decided to listen to the calling of my roots and pick the road more traveled. That being said, all these recipes were still new to me, so some amount of experimentation remained.

I usually have a hard time finding good corn flour (I like the coarse kind), but there are a couple of places in the Twin Cities that carry it. One is Bill’s Imported Foods in Uptown (I LOVE that place, it’s like taking a stroll down memory lane every time I go there), and another one is a Polish deli in Northeast Minneapolis. The corn flour I used for this assignment was from the latter.

Recipe 1: Polenta with mushroom stew

The first recipe I prepared is a mushroom stew with a side of polenta, recipe found here (sorry it’s not in English): . The recipe consists of sautéing onions, carrots, peppers, then add the mushrooms, then diced tomatoes, and at the end some chopped garlic (it’s apparently sacrilegious in Romanian cooking to add garlic from the beginning – legend has it all its flavor will be lost :P) and spices (salt and pepper), and garnish with fresh dill and parsley. Result: DELICIOUS!

Recipe 2: Moldovan “Tochitura” à la Diana

When I heard that one meal has to be breakfast, I immediately thought about a traditional dish of polenta (or “mamaliga” as it’s called in my motherland)) with eggs, pork, bacon, sausage, and grated feta cheese. Traditional recipes tend to be a bit more involved as far as the pork cooking goes (for example: requires to fry pork in a complicated way with lard, bacon, some dry wine and garlic) but that seemed like too much work for breakfast, so I decided to do a simpler version where I just fried some smoked Polish bacon and Spanish breakfast sausage in a pan and pretended that’s the pork loin. I did follow the tradition of frying an egg to top the polenta with, grated some feta cheese, and also sided with some pickled red peppers, pickled cucumbers and Calabrian peppers (seems like traditional Romanian cuisine is quite fatty, and pickles are often used to counter-balance the grease :D). Health concerns for fat intake aside,  it was the best brunch I had in a while :D.

Recipe 3: Fried Polenta with vegetables and bacon

For the third recipe, I originally wanted to grill the remaining polenta with some veggies to make something similar to: . One small problem: I didn’t have a grill handy. But I decided to go ahead and use frying pans. I chopped some onions, peppers, and zucchinis and tossed them in a frying pan. My husband demanded some meat, so I caved and added some of the bacon left over from the brunch – turns out it was a fabulous idea! Towards the end, I added some halved cherry tomatoes. The end result was too watery to be called “grilled”, but it was very good nonetheless. The polenta was cut in slices and friend in a second pan to warm it up.


Overall, all three meals were a success! Thanks for a great class!

Whole Grains

I chose millet as my whole grain for the challenge. I toasted it and then cooked it in water. I enjoyed eating the cooked millet as a substitute for oatmeal for breakfast. I made a ground beef and millet meatloaf for dinner. I made a cake with banana, walnut, millet and a rice flour blend with peanut butter frosting. Last but not least, I made curried millet. I thought they all were good. But I have to admit that I was the least successful on my cake because I forgot to add  an adequate amount of leavening agent and the cake layers were quite dense and mushy.

Buckwheat Bonanza

So this week I decided to try a grain I’ve never cooked with, buckwheat groats. It was interesting to learn that it is a broad leaf plant related to rhubarb. I cooked up a cup in water but it easily filled a big bowl. So, what did I do with it? So far I made buckwheat tabouleh which was yummy, buckwheat waffles and buckwheat chocolate chip cookies. Both the waffles and cookies have some buckwheat flour in them as well which I made by grinding the remaining buckwheat in my food processor. I also used whole wheat flour for the cookies. The cookies have a nutty, chewy flavor. I’m hoping my grandsons will like them. For the buckwheat waffles, I used a high protein pancake/waffle recipe I have that uses cottage cheese and lots of eggs. I added both the cooked buckwheat and substituted 1/2 buckwheat flour for the all purpose flour. They were lighter than I thought they would be and very flavorful. I like to make extra waffles, pack them in sandwich bags and freeze them. Then in the morning I can pop one or two in the toaster and have a nice warm breakfast before I head to the University.  All in all, this was a fun week of trolling recipes. I bought some soba noddles this week (also buckwheat) and I’ll make a miso soup with shrimp dish next weekend. I found a great little cookbook, Whole Grains for Busy People by Lorna Sass (2009) that I’m excited about using to cook more wholesome grains at home. Here are some photos from this week’s exploration with buckwheat:

Jasmine Brown Rice

We chose to use some boil up some Jasmine Brown Rice and use it in a few things the first being in chocolate chip cookies.  We first tried to substitute the rice instead of some of the flour but that did not work so well as shown below.


We then tried again with the correct amount of flour and just added the rice as a filler and they turned out much better as shown.


Our second use of the rice was for scrambled eggs for breakfast.  We used ingredients that we found around the kitchen which are shown below which included the rice, eggs, ground sausage, mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese.


Here are some pictures of the work in progress.



Breakfast is served with a few things to the dish.


Our third recipe for assignment 3 is to use the rice in meat loaf.

1 lbs. of hamburger

1 cup of the cooked Jasmine Brown Rice

1 egg

mix together with salt and pepper to taste along with chilie powder and garlic and onion


Place in a bread style pan and bake at 350 for one hour and serve


Week 3: Wild Rice

Wild Rice

I chose wild rice for my grain this week because I had a bag of it in my pantry! And it’s delicious. So I cooked the entire bag and ended up with 10 cups of cooked wild rice! A 5-cup container frozen for later, and a 5-cup container in the fridge for my assignment…

“Recipe” #1 – Wild Rice for breakfast, with frozen berries as the topping.

Wild Rice with Frozen Berries

No recipe – just wild rice with frozen berries! Microwave for a couple minutes at 60% power to get everything nicely warmed up and enjoy. Delicious and incredibly simple. Repeated a few times throughout the week, with around one cup of wild rice and a generous layer of berries on top.

Recipe #2 – Wild Rice Pancakes, by Marian Burros, from the New York Times (link)

Wild Rice Pancake

I made this recipe on Sunday morning and enjoyed two pancakes with real maple syrup. It was very tasty, but the batter was very thick, and the pancakes were very heavy eating. While it was very tasty, I would tweak the recipe somewhat to thin out the batter and see what that does to the heaviness of the pancakes. I’m guessing it would only have a small effect. The pancakes really sat like a brick in my stomach for a while. I will try them again with some tweaks, but I also may try simply mixing some wild rice with some boxed pancake mix, and made with a bit of extra liquid…

I have 5 more pancakes in the freezer, and I think one pancake will be sufficient for one breakfast!!!

Recipe #3 – Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup, by Martha Rose Shulman, from the New York Times (link)

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

I didn’t find the dried porcini mushrooms, so I subbed fresh portabellas. I also tweaked the cooking process to add the already cooked wild rice toward the end, and I forgot the peas since I was multitasking while cooking!!! BUT, despite the goof-ups and the substitutions, this was a really tasty soup! I’ll do this again. Now I have 6 single serve containers in the freezer, and two multi-serving containers. Next time I make this, I will add more wild rice (already increased from 2/3 cup to about 1.5 cups) and I’ll also add more vegetables. And maybe remember to add the peas?

New things I learned: Bouquet garni. Never heard of this, but I can really see the benefit of this! Mine consisted simply of thyme and parsley – no bay leaf and no parmesan rind. But still very tasty results and a recipe I’ll hang on to…

Oh – and I forgot to photograph the process!!! Blessed multitasking…

A whole lotta quinoa

I chose quinoa for my whole grain this week and made it in three recipes. The first was a curried quinoa. This was a very simple dish with just a few ingredients. Unfortunately, the curry powder and the chili powder really overwhelmed the dish – definitely not one of my favorites.

For the second recipe, I tried to find a way to incorporate quinoa into breakfast. There are tons of tasty looking recipes out there, but I didn’t have most of the ingredients so I was more limited in what I could make. I found a quinoa-style oatmeal with maple syrup and cinnamon. It was pretty good and very quick since you just pop the quinoa in the microwave.

For my third recipe, I had tons of the leftover curry quinoa so I had to do something to salvage it. I added black beans, avocado, cilantro, and scallions to the dish and those additions really toned down the flavor. This one was a keeper!

IMG_5163This week, I definitely had more whole grains than I would normally have had and it made me think about how I could add more whole grains to my regular diet. I liked the breakfast option I made the most and would like to try that again with bananas and strawberries. Quinoa is very versatile, so there are quite a few dishes to try in the future.