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Polenta is simply ground corn which can be cooked in a number of ways. Boiling dry polenta gives you a delicious and creamy porridge – aka, grits. (For more on grits, check out my post on Shrimp and Grits, with a little history of my beloved corn buds). Likewise, polenta is also sold precooked, refrigerated and packaged in a tube for you to slice and either bake or pan fry. For some reason, I couldn’t find dry polenta at the grocery store here – at first I thought, ok sure, no grits in the north makes sense, but wait a second, how could it be impossible to find any corn product in the Midwest…I’m right in the middle of the US corn belt! So anyway, I bought the precooked tube of polenta and just cooked it down.

Cooking your polenta with stock, herbs and spices will add some great flavor. Mixing in some cheese and/or milk will add some calories, but it will also make it a bit creamier and of course make it taste just marvelous. If you’re worried about the fat and calories, choose low fat or fat free milk and cheese. Polenta is a cinch to make and a satisfying meal to keep you warm this winter.

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Use the polenta as a side dish and serve some other vegetables along with it for a more balanced meal.

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Black Bean Polenta Bowl

Serves ~5

1 tube of polenta, chopped (or 1 cup dry polenta)

1 cup vegetable stock/base

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 bunch each of kale and mustard greens, torn into peices

1 bunch scallion, chopped

2 TBS lime juice

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS paprika

salt and pepper to taste

– Heat oil in a large stock pot and add 1/2 the onion, all the carrot and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 7-10 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper.

– Add polenta and paprkia and let some sides brown. Cook just a few minutes.

– Add stock and let simmer for 5 minutes. 

– Meanwhile, saute the greens and remaining onion in another saute pan until bright green and tender. Add the lime juice and lightly season. 

– Turn heat off and puree the polenta using an immersion blender, food processor or blender. Unless you’re using an immersion blender, return the polenta back to the pot and stir in the beans and scallions.

– Spoon into bowls and top with the cooked greens.

Per 1 cup serving: 307 calories, 2g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 950mg sodium, 318mg potassium, 54g carbohydrate, 13g fiber, 15g protein

These polenta bowls are an excellent  source of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.

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