Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gluten Free Polenta

Happy New Year to all my readers! This is the year my husband and I plan to make even more changes to our daily lifestyle to increase the vitality we reclaimed in 2011. We are looking forward to learning more about healthier choices through some resources we recently ordered from a PBS pledge drive, which will benefit you as well as I find time to share.
Beginning January 15 I will be leading a "Vitality 2012" group the 3rd Sunday of each month at Crossroads Coffeehouse in Cross Plains, WI. Everyone is welcome to join. We will meet from 3-5 pm and be not only an accountability group, but gathering to share ideas and recipes as well. I will present a topic at each meeting with information that attendees will be encouraged to explore further. For January I decided we should start the year out with reasons to detoxify, and am calling my mini talk "LOVE ON YOUR LIVER". If weight loss is a goal, it is difficult to do if your liver is not functioning at optimal levels.
Earlier this week I had polenta for the first time, even though my mother's family is Italian. At my grandmother's funeral my uncles were reminiscing about her polenta, but I had never enjoyed the delight they spoke of as visits to my grandparents revolved around fish freshly caught by my Polish grandfather, and potatoes, as I recall.
Polenta is truly a traditional Italian food, often made on the stove top, and then placed in a cookie sheet to flatten out, allowed to dry and broil something like a flat bread. It is then served with marinara sauce. I did a bit of web surfing, and there were many 5 star reviews for Bob's Red Mill corn grits to be used for making polenta, thus I recommend it for the recipe I am sharing today, which was quite tasty.
Today's recipe is a combination of one I found in Edible Madison magazine as well as a web site where a Cleveland chef went into great detail about cooking polenta to get it just right.
In this recipe polenta is served with spinach and onions, and the cheese is optional. Without the cheese this is both a gluten and dairy free recipe, and is "approved" for the Essentials 30 Day Feeling Fit Detox diet my husband and I are beginning in this new year. If you have not made polenta I encourage you to give it a try. It is fairly simple, and it seems to take on the taste of the add-ins, or the sides that you serve with it. Personally, we love caramelized onions, which is the key flavor that make this dish sing. Enjoy!

Polenta with Caramelized Onions
6 cups water
1 t. sea salt
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits
1 bunch green onions
3 large garlic cloves
½ c. parmesan or asiago cheese finely grated (optional)
2-3 cups fresh organic baby spinach
1 sweet onion, sliced into rings.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Turmeric spice*
Penzey’s Zatar seasoning

Bring 6 cups water to a boil with teaspoon of salt added. Generously grease a deep dish pie plate or quiche pan with olive oil.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan add 2 T. EVOO and lightly sprinkle with turmeric. (The whole purpose of adding a touch of turmeric is to prevent the EVOO from oxidizing when it is heated, and forming free radicals.) Slice the green onions, mince garlic and saute on medium heat. Add ½ t. Zatar seasoning and stir to ensure onions and garlic do not stick to bottom of pan.

Once water is boiling, slowly add corn grits stirring with wooden spoon until blended and reduce heat to medium. It is important to stir frequently for the next 20-30 min. so as not to burn the polenta. Add sautéed green onions and garlic, blend. Polenta will be correct consistency when you pull it away from bottom of pan with wooden spoon and it does not fill back in. If adding cheese to recipe, stir in ¼ c. now. Stir spinach into polenta as well, and then transfer polenta to deep bake dish. Bake at 350 for 30 min. until top begins to turn golden.
Caramelize onions in EVOO sprinkled with turmeric. (Turmeric will add a pretty yellow color to the onions.) Sprinkle with Zatar seasoning.
Prior to serving Polenta top with caramelized onions, and serve with a side of bright vegetables and small portion of protein, such as fish.
Suggested Side Dishes:
Alaskan Wild Caught Cod seasoned with Penzey’s Mural of Flavor seasoning, steamed.
Julienne Carrots sautéed in olive oil with sprinkle of turmeric, Penzey's Zatar seasoning if desired to add a bit of zip to carrots.

Take note of the small portion of fish served with this recipe. As Americans we tend to consume way too much protein, which makes our liver work overtime. Of course fish is much easier to digest than red meat, but the point is, we should have no more than a small fist size of meat on our plate each night. As I view this plated dinner, it could use more greens and had we been more hungry a side of greens as a salad would have been a nice addition and would have increased the percentage of alkaline food intake, which is a topic I promise to blog about in the future.

To your health,
Rita S.

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