Perfect Polenta - Quick, Easy, and Vegan!

This is a very quick and simple version of the Italian classic. Granted, this is a major shortcut compared to the traditional method which takes an hour or more to cook. However, this version is still delicious and makes homemade polenta accessible for people who wouldn’t otherwise try it. As this is also a kid pleaser, many parents I know (including myself) have made this a staple in their repertoire. There are several ways to serve this, so you will want to read through this recipe entirely before you begin. A delicious variation (if you will be serving it as firm, pan-fried polenta) is to stir additions into the polenta while it is still creamy. Rosemary, fresh or roasted garlic, organic lemon zest, and sautéed, sliced mushrooms all work beautifully for this.

Creamy Polenta with Variations

1 cup dry polenta meal
3¼ cups water
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt (or less if you prefer)

1. Place the polenta and water in a medium saucepan and whisk (with a wire whisk or fork) to remove lumps. Cook over medium heat, whisking continually, until it begins to thicken. Stirring the polenta constantly will prevent it from spattering, clumping, and other forms of disorderly conduct.
2. Once it begins to thicken a bit, turn the heat down to the lowest setting your burner can manage. Continue to cook, whisking very often, until it is thick (usually about 5-10 minutes).
3. Stir in the margarine and allow it to melt. Once it has melted, mix it in well. Finally, add the nutritional yeast and salt. Stir the mixture until everything is well combined.

Serves 4-6; 30 minutes or under! GF/Blue (according to the health guidelines in my books)

To serve creamy style:
If serving the polenta immediately, it is delicious just plain. However, you can top it with tomato sauce or soy cheese. If desired, you may add just a little more water to the portion you will be eating as creamy polenta. If you are reserving some polenta to make “firm style,” do not add any extra water to that part.

To serve firm style:
Option 1: Place the cooked, warm polenta in plastic wrap and roll it up into a log formation (like you see in stores). After it has chilled in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) and become firm, it can then be cut into rounds. Sauté the firm polenta rounds in a little oil or margarine over medium heat until golden on both sides (about 3-5 minutes on each side).
Option 2: You can press the creamy polenta into a pan. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (or overnight). Once it has chilled and become firm, you can cut it into squares (or fun shapes using cookie cutters). Finally, pan-fry the shapes in a little oil or margarine until golden on both sides.

Green Bread (the ultimate vegan garlic bread!)

Many years ago, I was cooking for a family of four. Whenever I would make them this, their young son would do a happy dance and sing of his love for what he called “green bread.” Needless to say, this is a big hit with kids! Also keep in mind that you do not need to use all of this spread right away. It freezes surprisingly well, and also keeps in the fridge for at least a week.

Photo by Michelle Bebber

Green Bread

½ cup (1 stick) non-hydrogenated margarine
10 large cloves garlic, peeled (if it seems like too much, it’s almost enough)
2 tablespoons (lightly packed) fresh parsley
¼ cup (tightly packed) fresh basil
1 scallion (green onion), trimmed (use both white and green parts)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Ze Bread: about 10 large slices of crusty multigrain or sourdough bread

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a food processor, combine the margarine, garlic, parsley, basil, scallion, and salt until thoroughly “greenified” (and no chunks of garlic or scallion remain).
2. Spread this generously on the bread slices—don’t be shy! Bake just until golden browned (be careful not to over-brown) and serve immediately.

Serves about 10; 30 minutes or under! Blue according to the guidelines in my books)