Friday, July 6, 2012

Delicious Breakfast Polenta

I found this recipe for Breakfast Polenta on a new favorite foodie blog the other day - The Curvy Carrot.  I think she derived it from a recipe at Williams-Sonoma.  It is absolutely delicious...creamy, warm, and satisfying!  If you love cream of wheat, I think this is actually better.  I tweaked the recipe for my own use, so here's my version ~ now twice-removed from the Williams-Sonoma original.  It's easy to scale up or down ~ the recipe here is scaled up to feed 8, but I made just 2 servings this morning because I had to convince my kids of its deliciousness through a taste-trial.  Results of said taste-trial?  It's our new favorite hot breakfast!

I used fresh ground polenta for this recipe ~ easy, since I had ground the cornmeal for cornbread last night!  I ground 3 cups of organic popcorn in my Nutrimill on a fairly fine setting, which was more than enough for the cornbread and this recipe.  You could also use quick-cooking polenta or traditional polenta from the store, if you don't have a grain mill or don't want to bother with grinding your own.  Be aware that "instant" polenta ~ or finely ground polenta ~ will take less time to cook than a traditional, coarser polenta.  Tweak the cooking time to fit the product you choose.

One other note ~ the original recipe calls for mascarpone cheese, which is a delicious, less tangy Italian cream cheese.  It's also a total splurge item in our house (I usually only buy it to make cheesecake).  For a more economical, daily version, I subbed in regular cream cheese.  For my bowl above, I used about 1 oz, but you can add more or less (or leave it out).

I can also see lots of flexibility in the toppings ~ you could do berries, or sliced bananas, or perhaps some peaches or apples with a dash of cinnamon.  Use whatever you have on hand!

Ingredients (Serves 8)
Maple syrup to taste
6 cups water (more if needed)
Salt to taste
2 cups ground polenta
2 cups milk
1/2 - 1 package cream cheese, softened
Berries or fruit of your choice (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
Toasted nuts (optional)


  1. In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil.
  2. Whisk together polenta and milk in a small bowl.  Slowly add mixture to boiling water.
  3. Return mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes (watch for bubbling over!).
  4. Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, adding more water if mixture becomes too sticky.  (This step could take up to 25 minutes, depending on the coarseness of your polenta ~ mine only took 5-10 minutes).
  5. Soften cream cheese in the microwave.  In a separate bowl or saucepan, warm maple syrup.
  6. Serve with toppings of your choice and enjoy!
 While this looks totally gourmet (and tastes like it too), it is so easy to prepare!  And this is (almost) as delicious to look at as it is to eat! 

Almost.  :)  Bon appetit!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Kitchen Successes and Failures: Fresh Figs

I have come to realize that baking is my favorite way to pass the time before going into labor.  Part of this is purely practical: making lots of baked goods like muffins and breakfast breads to freeze makes for easy and nutritious mornings after baby is born.  I also love freezing balls of cookie dough for fresh-baked cookies anytime!  But there is something therapeutic and relaxing about the rhythm of measuring and mixing and the aroma of good things baking...and that's good for the soul!

This past week, I had a new challenge to keep me occupied in the kitchen.  My mother's neighbor has a huge fig tree, and we were invited to pick all we wanted.  So, with a huge bowl full of fresh figs, I had a dilemma: what to do with them?  I had never even tasted a fresh fig before this ~ they are delicious just to eat! ~ much less cooked with them.  My mom gave me a fig bar recipe that she had used with great success ~ like homemade fig newtons, basically.  But, of course, I had to go off the beaten path and find a different recipe.  It didn't turn out properly at all.  The dough didn't hold together when I tried to enclose the fig filling, and we ended up with shapeless and ugly ~ though totally tasty ~ fig cookies.  And it figures that I had doubled the recipe...I really should have tested it first.  Bummer.

Undaunted, I decided to go the savory route with the rest of my bowl of figs.  I found a recipe for a carmelized onion, fig, and goat cheese dip for crusty french bread on Food Network's website.  Not having any crusty french bread on hand, I decided it would work just as well for a gourmet pizza topping.  I tweaked the recipe to reflect what I had on hand: fresh figs instead of dried (no reconstituting needed), and fresh, raw sheep's milk gouda cheese (from the Benedictine monastery at Clear Creek) instead of goat cheese.  Oh, Heaven.  It was so delicious!  I should have doubled the amount of carmelized onions, but it was so tasty.  The gouda was just a bit smoky, the onions and figs sweet, the garlic savory and spicy...yum!  I look forward to making this again and perfecting it ~ once I have it down, I'll post it here for you to try.

The motto from this week's experiments in the kitchen?  Don't be afraid to try new things!  Every experiment ~ even the ones that don't turn out (and sometimes especially those!) ~ is a learning experience.  And me? I'm ready to go pick some more figs!