polenta on the grill

polenta on the grill

I got adventurous the other weekend.  I made an amazing flank stead rolled up with all kinds of yumminess inside and grilled it off.  But I was in need of a side dish.  So this post is not about the amazing flank steak, but instead, finding a suitable side dish.  Disappointed?  Sorry.  Maybe I will muster up that post another time!  Since my husband and I were, (or constantly are) in the midst of self-hatred when it comes to diet choices, I figured mashed potatoes were out as a side option.  The kids were so tired of brown rice that they said they would rather have beets.  Ok, so they didn’t say that, but I understood their complaint (considering that my father thinks beets taste like dirt, I never really have tried them, and so I have yet to introduce them into my household).  I  needed something to go with the meat and salad I was preparing, but what do you plug in that fills that carb void?  French fry nachos?  Now that’s a thought…(note for the Superbowl!).  Scrolling through iPad land, I came across a polenta recipe that seemed to fit right in.  It was creamy and had sautéed veggies in it and cheese.  Now I need to sell the family on polenta.  I remember a few years ago though, buying the tube of polenta that you could cut into discs and grill or sauté.  After maybe the second time preparing them…probably topping them with an arugula salad or something…my husband finally told me that he felt he was eating what he described as preformed nastiness – dogfood-like crap, and that I didn’t need to make that dish any longer.  He can be direct.  Looking at this recipe, however, this preparation was different.  The polenta could be cooked in a cast iron skillet on the grill, and you could add to it pretty much whatever you wanted.  Now self-hatred aside, yes, there is cheese, but I didn’t go crazy.  I used some feta and some parmesan.  In another life where I could prance around in a size nothing and bloating didn’t exist, I would opt for cheddar craziness, goat cheese or even gouda….anything else but feta!  But this tasted good.  I was thrilled, and so was the family.  I could cook it right on the grill and not have to jump between the steak and the stove.  Win win!  Plus, it didn’t taste like beets!


polenta with mushrooms and tomatoes on the grill:

3  TB butter
1  4oz pkg pancetta
1  cup polenta
4  cups hot chicken broth
1  3oz pkg mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup  grape tomatoes, sliced
1  jalapeño, sliced
1/4 cup  crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
black pepper


Preheat your grill to medium high heat.  Heat up the stock on your stove or directly on the grill.  Gather all of your ingredients and have them ready at your grill.  Place a 10 inch or larger cast iron skillet on the grill.  Add the butter so it starts to melt.  Add the pancetta and render until browned but not crispy.  Add the polenta and give a quick stir.  Pour the hot broth over, and gently whisk to prevent any lumps forming.  Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to get thick.

pancettaadded polenta

Once thick, add mushrooms, tomatoes and jalapeños.  Stir to combine.  Let cook on the grill for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in parmesan and feta and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, toast it under the broiler for a minute or two to finish it.



finished polenta


blueberry coffee cake

blueberry cornmeal slice

Brown sugar.  It’s cooler than plain white sugar.  Especially when it’s a topping for a cake.  When I see a baked concoction come out of the oven and there is a crumble of brown sugar on the top, it calls to me.  So when I saw this recipe, and the picture of this thick slice of spongy cake with a heavy dose of brown sugar topping, I had to make it.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good coffee cake?  Now my kids have discovered the marvels of brown sugar and its yumminess, so I decided to make this cake for them (and me!).  When they found out I was going to make it, they doubted my abilities, which is completely understandable.  They vividly remember, and continually point out to me and anyone within earshot, that my last dance with blueberries was my sad attempt at making simple blueberry muffins.  I took them out of the oven and then this wave of disappointment came over me.  They came out like green swirly blobs.   My kids just laughed and grabbed a Nutrigrain bar and went and watched iCarly.  Nothing new to them – it’s always an adventure when mommy bakes.  I guess I wasn’t supposed to dump the blueberries in and continually stir to combine.  Lesson learned.  But that didn’t happen this time.  My cake came out perfectly – minus the chunk of brown sugar I picked off the corner.

blueberry coffee cake (from Bon Appetit)

crumb topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TB dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
3 TB chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes

toasted pecans

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TB cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 TB sugar, divided
6 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 TB cinnamon
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
1 TB panko breadcrumbs


brown sugar

get started on the crumb topping:

Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in nuts. Add butter. Using your fingertips, work butter into dry ingredients until large, moist crumbs begin to form. Set topping aside.

blueberry cornmeal cake

get started on the cake:

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat an 8x8x2 pan with nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and set aside.  Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 3/4 cup sugar and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. With mixer at low-speed, add dry ingredients to bowl in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour half of batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over batter in pan.  Spoon remaining batter over and smooth the top.
Toss the blueberries with panko in a small bowl.  Scatter evenly over batter.  Sprinkle crumb topping over blueberries.  Bake cake until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean about 55-65 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan.  Store airtight at room temperature.

parmesan cornmeal muffins

bowl of corn muffins

Holla!  I actually baked something that didn’t burn – AND – they didn’t come out like hockey pucks!  Ah, the little successes in life.  I’m so glad it worked out because I love corn muffins.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and decided to try them out.  Normally, I am drawn to the cheddar cheesy versions, but in an effort to be kind to my mid-section, I followed this recipe exactly.  (ok, so I upped the cayenne, but that’s to be expected).  Now having a southern mother, sugar is a no-no in corn muffins.  However, I guessed that one tablespoon wouldn’t do much sweet damage so I allowed it…plus she wasn’t looking.

parmesan corn muffins:  (ripped from Cooking Light September 2012)

1 1/4  cups fat-free buttermilk
1/4  cup olive oil
1  large egg, lightly beaten
1  cup flour
3/4  cup yellow cornmeal
1 TB sugar
2  tsp baking powder
1/4  tsp baking soda
1/4  tsp salt
1/8  tsp ground red pepper (hardly seems worth it – 1/4 tsp ++!)
3  oz grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, (about 3/4 cup), divided
3  TB finely chopped fresh chives, divided if you so choose (read on)
cooking spray

cornmeal batterchives

get started on the batter:

Preheat oven to 400.  Combine the first three ingredients in a pourable measuring cup or bowl.  Combine flour and next six ingredients (thru pepper) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  And the most important step is to add the milk mixture and stir just until moist.  Put the whisk down!  Stir in about 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and the chives.  (You could save a tablespoon of the chives to sprinkle on top, but then I’d have the green fleck conversation at the table with the kids so I just mixed them all in).  Coat the 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, only filling each 2/3 full.  Sprinkle muffins with remaining parmesan cheese (and chives if you choose).  Bake at 400 for 13 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out with moist crumbs clinging.  Remove muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Serve with hot sauce.  Oh – did I say that out loud?

batter upparmesan corn muffins

note:  this obviously makes 12 muffins…but you knew that already.