polenta

Versatile

What I love most about polenta is how versatile it is. It takes on any flavor you want it to. You can make it Italian or Mexican or pretty much anything. It’s like a blank slate. Awhile ago I picked up a bag of dry polenta (not the logs you see in the store, although those are good to have on hand for a quickie dinner) and I’ve loved all the things I’ve created with it. The polenta I got can be made in the microwave, which is awesome when you don’t have a lot of time to cook. It takes about 10 minutes in the microwave.

polenta

Here are just a few things I made recently:

One that was a favorite and low in calories was a faux cheesy polenta and shrimp. I made the polenta in the microwave with a little bit of shredded Colby-Jack cheese in it, not too much. Michael cooked the shrimp in the skillet with some salt and pepper and dinner was served. Fast, easy, delicious, low in calories. Paired with a green salad it was very satisfying.

Another night, I was home alone and wasn’t sure what I wanted to make for myself. I was feeling very lazy. I decided to do a vegetarian dinner. I cooked polenta in the microwave and while that was cooking, I sauteed onions in the skillet and then added that to the polenta.

I cooked up some black beans (adding some cumin and taco seasoning) and topped the polenta with beans, a serving of shredded cheese, chopped olives and chopped tomatoes.

I LOVED this meal! It was so delicious. The polenta took on the flavor of the onions and beans and I topped it with a little sour cream and pico de gallo.

I had a serving of tortilla chips with dinner and when the food was gone, I wished I’d made more than one serving so I could have leftovers the next day. Delish!

The above meal shows up often in my life because it’s so simple and delicious. Really, you can do almost anything with polenta. I scoured the internet for some more recipes and came up with this:

Eggy, Crispy Polenta with Tomatoes & Mushrooms – minus the mushrooms, this looks amazing.

Polenta Chips  – what a cute idea!

Roast Potatoes Two Ways: Polenta-Crusted with Rosemary & Garlic – I’m definitely going to try this one.

Polenta French Toast – this looks interesting, albeit a little strange. I always imagine polenta as a savory dish, not sweet, but I suppose you could do it.

Creamy Polenta with Goat Cheese – you had me at goat cheese! I’m in!

All of those recipes look so tasty. They are on my “to-try” list. If you’ve never had polenta before, I suggest you give it a try. It’s simple, healthy and fairly low in calories.

So what about you? What’s your favorite way to use polenta? Any recipes to share?

Tasty n’ Sons

For a few years now, I’ve had a bucket list of Portland restaurants I’ve wanted to try. Some are out of my budget. Some are just impossible to get into–like Tasty n’ Sons. Michael and I have tried to go to this restaurant multiple times now and the wait was always too long. The “thing” to do in restaurant management here in Portland seems to be to have very small dining areas and accept NO reservations so that there’s always a line, thus creating demand and buzz. I find this pretentious and I’m rarely willing to wait over an hour for a seat to eat a meal.

Tasty n' Sons

Thursday night Michael’s father was visiting from Texas and the plan was to go to Meriwether’s–a tried and true favorite. The traffic was atrocious and we missed our reservation time trying to get from the airport to NW. I said screw it, let’s find anything. It was by change and luck that Tasty n’ Sons did NOT have a wait out the door!

Tasty n' Sons

Michael and his dad were parking the car and I dashed into the restaurant to get us on the list. Miraculously there were tables free! The server was reluctant to seat me since my “party” wasn’t with me (apparently they won’t seat people there unless everyone has arrived). I guaranteed they were right behind me (do I need to offer my first born son, too??) and she let me squat at a table til they arrived. I munched on the oddly salty and sweet roasted peanuts that were at the table. They were delicious.

Michael ordered us the dates wrapped in bacon and smothered with maple syrup. At first I scoffed at the appetizer because I’ve never had dates before and it honestly sounded like a train wreck of sweetness and crunch. But I trust Michael’s palette and knew he’d never order something that was grotesquely sweet. Three tiny dates arrived on a small plate like lumps of coal. I was still apprehensive but decided to give it a try.

Tasty n' Sons

The dates were wrapped in bacon and there was an almond wrapped inside of it. I took a bite and it was…squishy…The flavor was mild but the texture was what I cringed at until Michael instructed me to eat the whole thing in one bite. Much better decision. I popped the remainder in my mouth and it was an explosion of breakfast in my mouth. The combination of flavors of fruit, maple syrup, almonds and bacon tasted exactly like a waffle–or french toast. It was marvelous. In one bite I got to experience my favorite carby-breakfast treats. There’s no way I could ever eat more than one, maybe two, of these little suckers but it was enjoyable.

Tasty n' Sons

The next appetizer arrived on a mound of thin french fries: the “Pretty Damn Good Chicken Strips” and these were gosh darn golly gee pretty darn good. They weren’t drenched in grease like chicken strips tend to be and the garlic/ranch/aioli dipping sauce was addicting.

My entree was the polenta with peppers and sausage. The polenta tasted just like the cheesy grits I had in Texas. Cheesy grits and polenta need to be in every meal. 🙂 I loved the polenta! The sausage was really spicy with a hint of fennel.

Tasty n' Sons

I had a glass of wine that was a Sangiovese and Cabernet blend.  It was the kind of full-bodied red you want to sip slowly while you cut into a juicy steak smothered in onions and a bernaise sauce. Even though the wine was bold, it wasn’t overpowering like a lot of cabernet blends can be. I wouldn’t order this wine with something delicate like fish but it complimented my sausage and polenta entree nicely.

Tasty n' Sons

Michael got the “The Tasty Burger”–bacon and smoked bleu cheese with sweet pickles on it. I had one bite and enjoyed every smokey burst of flavor in it. Michael wasn’t blown away by the burger, though. He felt like it wasn’t as juicy as some of the other amazing burgers we’ve tried in our Quest.

I’d rate this restaurant at a solid A-. The service was awesome, despite the weirdness about getting a table, and the food was delicious. I’m a tad disappointed Michael didn’t think their burger was outstanding, so it’s not going on our Burger Quest list at this time.

QUESTION: Are restaurants difficult to get into in your town? How long are you willing to wait for a table?