Tag Archives: cheese

Polenta: Mexican Style! (Recipe of Sorts)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook listens to the crowd in planning menus. And TPCs Junior have spoken–polenta for the people! Apparently, if a casual counting of likes, reactions, and genial nods are indicators, you, the viewing public, also like polenta recipes.

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Mexican Style Polenta (vegetarian!)

Here’s this week’s offering, Polenta: Mexican Style!

1 shelf-stable package of Trader Joe’s polenta (feel free to make your own, or sub your favorite brand), cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 Tablespoon butter/olive oil combo, in any ratio
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 can diced no-salt tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cumin
a pinch of oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 package Trader Joe’s soy chorizo (or the real stuff, or another kind of soy chorizo)
1 avocado, diced
shredded cheese for topping
sour cream for topping

1. Heat the butter/oil in a large skillet over a strong medium heat. When hot, add the polenta and fry both sides well, at least 8 minutes per.

2. Meanwhile, open, drain, and rinse the black beans. In a small saucepan, heat a dash of olive oil over a low medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and saute until you smell it, about 30 seconds, then add cumin and oregano. Add black beans and tomatoes, stir. Lower the heat and simmer until flavors meld, which I find happens right when the polenta is done because I’m hungry.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe's: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe’s: Not bad actually, but on the spicy side.

3. Meanwhile, yes, there’s a lot of meanwhiling going on, saute the chorizo (remove the casing!) over medium heat in a dash of olive oil.

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don't be afraid).

Saute the chorizo (soy chorizo in this case, don’t be afraid).

4. Assemble by placing at least 2 rounds of polenta, a dollop of beans, chorizo, cheese, and sour cream on the plate. Dig in.

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

Deconstructed Mexican-Style Polenta, or Polenta Face (courtesy of the Eldest)

I suppose that was actually a recipe. Enjoy, it was my favorite iteration to date. Not quite the masa cakes of Brooklyn Star, but I’ll get there yet. I suspect I need to find a way to make my own polenta cakes, or masa cakes, but the shelf-stable one is so very easy and in demand.

Have you tried polenta yet? What’s your flavor? Post a comment below, the crickets will thank you.

Send your corn meal, witty rejoinders, and favorite cereals to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up next, it’s Weekly Menus or Wait, Where’s November?

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An Ode to Fat: Vegetarian and Beyond

Gentle Readers, it is not a well-kept secret that The Practical Cook is overly fond of food. As such, I’m naturally skeptical of any kind of diet craze. At a basic level, I don’t want to give up any category of food. Full respect for people who have found they live better by doing so and maintaining it.

Beef Filet Charring in Bacon Fat

Beef Filet Charring in Bacon Fat

But don’t look for me to go all Paleo or heaven forbid, no-fat. So while I do not judge, I will tell you this: even as a youngster during the height of the “Snackwell” craze, I thought that was crazy. How can foodless foods be satisfying?

The Practical Cook’s Ode to Fat: 3 Reasons to Love It

1. It fills you up. I’ve never understood eating certain things low or no-cal when the point of eating is fuel and being full. In my experience, avoiding this only leads to eating more.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

Avocado sliced in the halfshell.

2. It’s necessary to live. I didn’t say you had to eat 3 meals a day at KFC, but stop thinking of fat as the enemy! You are not at war with it.

Sartori Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Sartori Salad with Apples and Pecans

3. It tastes good!!! I will fully admit being the person who eats the fat on steaks and chops when no one is looking. And sometimes when they are. It tastes like sunshine.

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

Sunflower Yellow Egg Yolk from Farm Fresh Egg

A Few of My Favorite Fats: Walnuts, Avocados, Cheese (OMG, I heart cheese), Peanuts/Peanut Butter, Olive Oil (the good stuff), Eggs, Bacon Grease, Liver, Salmon

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

Clusterfluff is shorthand for ice cream peanut butter crack.

That is obviously not an exhaustive or even completely coherent list, but you get the drift. I eat a lot of salad, and I prefer olive oil and balsamic over commercial dressing, but I don’t skip the olive oil (or the egg when available). And before anyone heaps health advice on my head, know that while eating this way (again, see a lot of salad and exercise), I’ve dropped many many points off of my lipid panel.

Now is the time to come out of the closet. Raise your hands with me and proclaim your love for fat. The comment area is below, and the line forms here.

Send your high-calorie foods, deep thoughts, and general challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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On Sunday, it’s, wait for it, Weekly Menus, Travel Edition!

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Veggie Nachos Perfected! (Recipe Included, Additional Napkins Are Not)

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook takes good ideas where she sees them. Having made nachos for years, in many variations, I have a new version that was met with wild applause by The Practical Cooks Junior. It’s not easy being cheesy. And even less easy being a sweet potato. Read on.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Veggie Nachos Perfected (A recipe and a method to the madness)

The key here is layering. I’ll leave exact proportions to your specifications, but don’t be shy about the cheese. The order of operations is actually important here. It is the thing that transforms this from idle snack to actual recipe.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

These veggie nachos come loaded.

1 bag of high-quality tortilla chis (I specify, because wimpy chips simply won’t stand up here)
2 cups or so cheese of choice, shredded (we used the shredded Mexican blend from Trader Joe’s)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
salt
1 can black beans, rinsed well
1/2 of something tomatoey (use red salsa if you want more heat or diced tomatoes for milder)
1 small to medium sized sweet potato, peeled and diced small
2 or 3 handfuls of baby spinach
green onions, sliced
1 avocado, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put foil over a pizza pan or baking sheet, put a layer of tortilla chips on it. Quantity depends on size of crowd and the preferred ratio of stuff to chip. Cover with a generous layer of cheese (half of what you’re using), bake until cheese melts, remove pan from the oven and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. When hot but not smoking, saute the garlic and the onion briefly, toss in the cumin and a sprinkle of salt, then add beans. Stir well.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

The veggie nacho rainbow: black beans, sweet potatoes, and some spinach for good measure.

3. Add the tomatoey item of choice, and the sweet potatoes. Stir, cover, and cook at medium to medium-low for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked but not mushy. Add spinach and cook till it wilts, a couple of minutes more.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

This is not the time to hold back the cheese.

4. Pour bean mixture over cheesy chips, spread out to cover the chips. Leave no chip behind. Cover with remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese melts, another 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with the green onions and avocado, so that they stick in the glorious melty cheese.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Serve promptly with sour cream, salsa, and a whole lot of napkins.

What’s on your nachos? Post a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your avocados, your kudos, and your cooking challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, The Great Sweetener Race: Molasses vs. Honey!

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Punt! Pressed Cuban Roll-Up Recipe (with video instructions)

It’s dinner time, and you have just discovered that you left the key ingredient to the evening meal in the oven overnight to molder. Since no ingredient is worth a trip to the ER, it’s time to Punt! Sure, you had the forethought to purchase sandwich items, but you’re out of bread. Never fear.

Pressed Cuban Roll-Up

Pressed Cuban Roll-Up

First, Gentle Readers, the Practical Cook  must beg pardon from anyone who either is Cuban or has ever eaten an actual Cuban Sandwich. This recipe takes more liberties than Castro.

Second, if you have doubts that you can make this in a flash, watch the video, made at the insistence of The Younger Practical Cook Junior. She has cooked since she could stand, and made 3 of the 4 sandwiches consumed.

Pressed Cuban Roll-Up Recipe

Makes 4 Sandwiches

4 whole wheat tortillas (I’m a fan of the Trader Joe’s varietal)
Dijon mustard
1/2 pound sliced deli ham
1/4 pound sliced cheese (traditionally Swiss, we used Muenster because it was on sale)
pickles

**If you have roasted pork on hand, feel free to include.

Spread mustard on the tortilla. Layer remaining ingredients in amounts to your liking. Roll. Press in a sandwich press, the flat side of your waffle iron, or in a cast iron skillet under a brick wrapped in foil (or a similar weighted heat-safe object, like a second smaller cast iron skillet). Eat. Do a victory dance.

How do you feel about the pressed sandwich? Share your thoughts and your Punts! in the comments section.

Send your queries and questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook gospel. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Trout, Trout, Pretty Little Trout.

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