Pregnancy does weird things to the body. Honestly, it’s funny how such a natural thing can change so much about what you thought you knew about your system.
Feet a teeny weeny Size 5? Not anymore! You can now shop in the grown up section of shoe stores! (yay?)
Not a fan of sweets or even, dare I say, chocolate? Ha! I’m going to make you crave sugar non-stop. You will dream of chocolate doughnuts and suck every hint of sweetness from the hidden recesses of your kitchen.
Among these curious developments, I have also developed a mild aversion to meat. For someone who used to spoil herself on Friday evenings with steak and fresh pasta, this was an interesting development.
On the bright side, this means a) my grocery bill has gone way down b) I am discovering a whole new world of exciting vegetarian options and c) better for the environment! All excellent things.
I don’t think I’ll go full-on vegetarian forever, but I have definitely uncovered a real excitement for veggie cuisine and a added whole new set of delicious veggies recipes to my weekly rotation.
One thing I am discovering is that once you start cutting one thing out of a recipe (like meat), you realize how easy it is to cut or substitute other things. As I mentioned in my post last week, I am not gluten-free but I have been exploring gluten-free options, since so many people seem to be headed in that direction. Paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan… I can’t keep up.
In that vein, this rustic roasted vegetable antipasto is also great on crackers if you don’t want the extra fuss of cooking and setting a batch of polenta. The polenta instructions below look like a lot of work (they actually aren’t), but if you’re in a rush and don’t have any GF people in your party, use crackers and simply add a tablespoon or two of pesto to the veggie mixture.
Ditto for vegans- all you have to do is omit the goat cheese and make sure the pesto you use does not contain any cheese.
If you do decide to go for the full recipe however, I guarantee you will be pleased with the extra effort. Not only is homemade polenta really, really affordable, but cooking, cooling, then frying polenta makes the ‘crackers’ these little bites sit on truly unique. I would compare the texture of homemade fried polenta to that of good gnocchi. Structure, a little bite, but essentially– a pillow! A pillow of fluffy delicious. Flavoured with pesto, because yuuuum…
And yes, I had to include a picture of the basil plants I bought last weekend. It’s a still little early to put them in the ground but I couldn’t help it- it’s so sunny out, I’m so excited about planting! I have lofty dreams about spending the beginning of my mat leave (pre-baby) gardening in the backyard but, let’s face it, if I’m this uncomfortable at 8 months, I probably won’t be bending over many potting boxes at 9 months… 4 more weeks of work to gooooo!
|Roasted Vegetable Bruschetta on Pesto Polenta Bites|| |
- 1 carrot, sliced diagonally into rounds
- 1 small crown broccoli, cut into florets
- ½ small onion, cut into strips
- 8-10 spears asparagus
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup artichoke hearts in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup polenta (or coarse cornmeal)
- ⅔ cup basil pesto
- ¼ tsp salt
- Goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
- Balsamic reduction (optional)
- Line a half sheet baking pan or a 8x8 inch brownie tray with plastic wrap.
- Fill a medium saucepan with water. Sprinkle in dry polenta, whisking to ensure it doesn't clump together. Heat saucepan over high heat until it starts to bubble, continuing to whisk frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking fairly frequently, until the mixture is thick and creamy. This entire process should take roughly 45 minutes, but it's pretty easy.
- Remove polenta from the heat and stir in the salt and pesto. Pour polenta into the lined baking pan, smoothing out the top with a spatula so that the polenta is poured into a roughly even layer. Place a piece of parchment paper over top the polenta and lightly smooth it over, so that the surface of the polenta more or less completely touches the paper. This will not only create a smooth surface for the polenta, but will also stop it from drying out or forming a less-than-attractive 'skin' as it cools. Place polenta in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss carrots, broccoli, onion and asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges of the broccoli and asparagus are lightly charred and the carrots are tender.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine roasted vegetables with sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, forming a sort of rustic antipasto. Set aside.
- Remove polenta from the fridge and gently remove it from the baking sheet by lifting the edge of the plastic wrap it sits on. The polenta should be fully set by now and have the consistency of firm tofu- firm enough to handle, but soft enough to break apart. Slice polenta into squares (or circles, or star shape,s or gingerbread man shapes using cookie cutters). Heat a small glug of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place sliced polenta pieces in the pan. Resist the urge to move the polenta around the pan at all for 3-4 minutes- if you move it before it's 'fried,' it could start to break apart. If you do test a piece and it's not ready, simply drop it back down and let it fry for a minute or two more- keep in mind, these don't need to be perfect, they are going to be covered with veggies after all. Once one side of the polenta slices has been fried, flip them all and fry the other side. Repeat with all the slices.
- Top fried polenta slices with veggie mixture, adding a sprinkle of goat cheese and balsamic reduction to the tops if desired.