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First things first, folks. Sorry for my extended absence! I have been keeping myself just too busy. That combined with the yucky winter after-work lighting – blech! I know, i know, excuses, I’m sorry! Please accept my apologies in the form of a delicious meal.

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Several months ago I went on a cookbook binge and one of the books I bought myself was The Flavor Bible. It was recommended to me by my step-niece, who graduated from culinary school, and boy-oh-boy has it been a life (in the kitchen) changer. The book basically tells you what flavors go well with other flavors. It’s difficult to explain, fully. But I’d definitely recommend picking one up or getting one from the library if you are interested in creating your own recipes. I have always been one to use/alter recipes that already exist and, for the first time, I’ve been able to make my own! And they taste good! Really!

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So, here is one of my favorite recipes that I’ve recently developed. I was impressed when I took a bite, as my self-inspired food stuffs, while usually edible, do not typically wow me. It is polenta. It has sun-dried tomatoes in it. It is stuffed with spinach AND mozzarella. It’s on top of cannelini beans…and porcini mushrooms. It’s topped with mascarpone – with chives. It is definitely my cup of tea on a cold winter/almost spring night. AND it’s perfect for Meatless Mondays! (unless you count chicken broth as cheating on Meatless Mondays. it’s easily substituted by vegetable broth!!)

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And, about those cold winter nights. Where’s the snow? Here in DC we’ve been promised snow several times this winter with nothing to show for it. I didn’t move up here from Florida for the sunshine, people. Gimme my snowmen and snow angels and snowballs! Some foods just taste better when you can look out upon a snow-covered landscape. They just do! Plus, I recently discovered that my love for creating food may have begun inside an igloo (read giant mountain of snow) that my brother and I created in our front yard in Omaha when we were little. So, I kind of owe snow.

Anyways, without further ado, the recipe!

Ingredients
Serves 4-6

Spinach-Stuffed Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsps peanut oil
  • 6 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tbsps freshly grated parmesan
  • 5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes from a jar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400.

To make the polenta you begin by heating up the peanut oil and sautéing the garlic for about 30 seconds, or until you can smell that garlickly scent. Then, toss in the baby spinach and toss with the oil/garlic. Add the 2 tbsps of water and cover until wilted, maybe 5 minutes. Then uncover and let the excess liquid boil off.

Bring 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup water, and the salt to a boil and slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup cornmeal. Continue to stir and cook until the polenta pulls away from the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parmesan, and the sun-dried tomatoes.

Butter a 1.5 qt casserole dish (or smaller). Take half of the polenta and spread as evenly as you can across the bottom of the dish. Spread all of the spinach/garlic on top of this layer. Slice your mozzarella in enough pieces so that it just about covers the entire layer of spinach. Then, spread the remaining polenta across the top of the cheese.

Pop this in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the polenta is golden on top.

Savory Cannelini Beans

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsps peanut oil
  • 1+ cup chicken stock
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried savory
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes from a jar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz mozzarella
  • 1.5+ Tbsps Lemon Juice

These beans are easy. So easy and so much flavor. First off, soak your porcini mushrooms in hot water until they’re reconstitute and then chop up. They can reconstitute while you’re working with the beans since they go in at the end!

In a pan, heat up 2 tsps of peanut oil and saute the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Pour in the chicken stock then Add the beans, bay leaf, savory, and season with salt and pepper. Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Add more chicken stock if it dries up or if you want it a little soupier. Chop the porcinis up and add them for the last minute or so just to warm them up.

Chive Mascarpone Cream

  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • under a quarter cup of finely chopped chives
  • 2 tsps heavy whipping cream

The finishing touch! Mix the mascarpone, chives, and whipping cream in a bowl until fully incorporated. Tres simple.

Serve the polenta in squares (or piles, however you want) on top of the beans and top off the polenta with the chive cream! Delicious. I promise.

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CHOMP! Look at that mascarpone cream just melting over the polenta. Mmmmmmm

Do you mainly go off recipes from cookbooks/online or do you enjoy creating your own? What are your favorite recipe making resources?

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