Rustic Meal: Sausages, Veggies and Polenta

Rustic Meal

I’m not going to tell you how to make this entire meal, nor the nutritional data for everything. The sausage nutrition will change with every choice, and your choices will change from region to region, from city to city.

Choice is a common topic on my podcast Make Your Someday Today. We are all confronted with challenges, and most are in the form of choices. Planning in advance makes choosing easier.

Your grilled veggies can be altered to your preference. I used baby zucchini, white button mushrooms, an onion, and two red bell peppers. I cut them into similar sizes, tossed them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs, then grilled them over high direct heat until caramelized.

But the polenta requires a recipe and instructions. I’ve made mistakes with polenta; there is a secret.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Polenta
Serves 10+

4 cups liquid (I used 2 bottles beer–24 ounces, or three cups + 1 cup water)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular polenta (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 (or more) diced jalapeno
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

  1. Bring liquid to a rolling boil. 
  2. Add onion and jalapeno. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat up and bring back to a rolling boil.
  4. SLOWLY and STEADILY add the polenta, stirring constantly. (This is where I made earlier mistakes. I just dumped it in. Don’t do that!) When you are finished adding the polenta, reduce heat to medium.
  5. Let boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring once a minute, or until desire consistency.
  6. Lay out a 3 foot sheet of waxed paper. Spray with cooking spray.
  7. Pour polenta over wax paper. Spread to approximately 1/2 inch thickness. Let cool 30-60 minutes.
  8. Using a round biscuit cutter or other device, cut into circles. (Or cut into squares.)
  9. At this point, they are ready to fry for immediate service, or refrigerate for later use.
  10. If you are going to immediately serve them, preheat a non-stick skillet over med-high heat.
  11. Spray with cooking spray. Lay cut polenta cakes into the skillet (or griddle) and cook until beginning to brown, 1-3 minutes. 
  12. Flip and cook the other side.
  13. Serve immediately with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, applesauce or sour cream.
Nutritional data:
Calories:         99
Fat:               1.9g
Sat fat:          1.2g
Chol:          5.9mg
Sodium:    96.3mg
Carbs:         12.5g
Fiber:            0.5g
Protein:         2.6g
Make Your Someday Today is a twice-weekly podcast, where we talk to successful people in all walks of life and around the world on Monday, and then on Thursday, I take a specific message from the previous guest and give my “Trevitorial”, where I help you apply that message to your life. The entire purpose of the show is to help all of us overcome our challenges and fears and become the person we want to be, the person we deserve to be.

Update on Oatmeal Muffins

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for Oatmeal Muffins that my wife made. I want to tell you about a few modifications that we tried which were successful. (See the earlier blog post for the specific baking instructions.)

We made the most delicious pumpkin muffins, by swapping out the applesauce for an equal amount of pure canned pumpkin. (Not pumpkin pie mix, but 100% pumpkin.)  We also added about 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice (more or less to your preference.) If you do not have a premixed jar of pumpkin pie spice, it is approximately 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ground ginger, and 1 part each of allspice and nutmeg.

For those this recipe, you would need approximately 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon each of allspice and nutmeg. Vary to your preferences.

Then we tried a variation that I didn’t list on the earlier post. Instead of applesauce, I put 1 cup whole kernel corn in my food processor and processed it until it was smooth. Then I replaced half of the whole wheat flour with corn meal, and added onion powder, chili powder and chives. Incredible!

The next variation will be a cranberry muffin, using my fresh Cranberry Relish to replace the applesauce.

This basic oatmeal recipe is so versatile! And it is delicious, especially when warm from the oven. My wife, Tammy, did a great job when she found this recipe and mastered it!

Cornbread (and Homemade BBQ Sauce)

Cornbread and Homemade BBQ Sauce (served with grilled chicken thighs and grilled carrots)
Make sure you read to the bottom and answer the simple question.

Serve 9

1 cup whole kernel corn (either canned, frozen–but thawed before using–or fresh cooked on the cob)
1 egg
3/4 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons oil (I used olive)
1 1/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons Splenda (or you can use sugar or another low-cal sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare a 9″ square baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Add corn, egg, milk and olive oil to a food processor (or blender). Process until smooth.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together all remaining dry ingredients. (Using a wire whisk works best because as it blends the ingredients evenly it also incorporates air into the mix, which will lighten the batter a bit.
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir just until evenly mixed. Do not over mix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. The batter will be stiff. With your pixing spoon, spread it into an even layer.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven). Test with a toothpick in several different spots. When it comes out clean, it is done.
  8. Cut into 9 even pieces. Serve warn or chilled.
Nutritional data
Calories:        169
Fat:               6.2g
Sat fat:          4.3g
Chol:           23.9g
Sodium:  114.5mg
Carbs:      25.4mg
Fiber:           2.6g
Protein:        4.6g
By replacing a large amount of the oil normally used in cornbread with actual corn, it increases the fiber content and drastically drops the fat levels (and therefore the calorie count.) The end result is even more flavorful than usual, as well as very moist with a good crust.
You can serve it with butter. If you want this for breakfast, top it with warm apple sauce, maple syrup or any nice fruit compote.
BBQ sauce
Serve 4 (2 tablespoons per serving)
This is a sweet and tart BBQ sauce, similar to something like KC Masterpiece or Sweet Baby Ray’s, but don’t expect it to taste the same. It won’t. But I think this is the best recipe I have ever come up with.
Using the apple jelly helps it get thick faster.
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) beer (avoid a very hoppy beer for this.)
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon apple jelly (optional, but I used it)
  1. In a non-stick skillet, add all ingredients over med-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Stay with this. You want it to boil off liquid but not burn. You will need to stir continuously.
  3. Boil off about 1/4 of the volume. It will get thick, but pourable (when warm.) This will take about 5 minutes.
  4. The larger the skillet the faster this will happen (more surface area to boil off the water.)

Nutritional data
Calories:         69
Fat:                0g
Sat fat:           0g
Chol:           0mg
Sodium:     11mg
Carbs:       15.7g
Fiber:          0.4g
Protein:       0.4g

Question for today:
What is your preferred non-internet based source of recipes (magazine, specific cookbook or specific TV show.) 

Grilled Romaine Salad with Tomatoes and Grilled Corn

Grilled Romaine Salad with Tomatoes and Grilled Corn
Serves 2

1 heart of romaine, halved
2 ears of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn kernels)
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved
2 green onions (scallions) chopped, whites and greens
1/4 cup your preferred vinaigrette (I used the following recipe, mixed together in a jar and vigorously shaken):
           2 tablespoons olive oil
           2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
           1 teaspoon dried herbs mixture (I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset.)
           1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  1. Place the ears of corn on the grill (I prefer husks on.) Grill over direct heat until the husks are charred and the kernels are beginning to caramelize. This will take 20-30 minutes. (Keep close by the grill with a spray bottle of water unless enjoy fire.) When caramelized, remove the ears from the grill, shuck the remaining husks, and cut kernels from the ear. OR  Heat a non-stick skillet with a bit of olive oil. Place frozen kernels in skillet and saute over med-high heat until kernels caramelize. then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
  2. Combine prepared corn and tomatoes and cover to keep warm.
  3. Brush a small amount of the vinaigrette on the cut surface of the romaine. Reserve the rest.
  4. Place the romaine on the hot grill, cut side down. Grill until slightly charred and beginning to wilt (2-3 minutes.)
  5. Place each romaine on a plate, divide corn and tomato mixture on each, and top with remaining vinaigrette. Sprinkle green onions and serve.
Nutritional data (per half):
Calories:        294
Fat:               15.2g
Sat fat:               2g
Chol:                 0mg
Sodium:           22mg
Carbs:          39.6g
Fiber:             6.5g
Protein:          6.2g
(The picture above also shows pan fried tilapia fillets.)

Mexican Corn

Mexican Corn (healthier version)
Serves 4 (approximately 1 cup portions)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (about 30 tomatoes)
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cumin and black pepper, to taste
1/2 ripe avocado, diced

1. Heat non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. When hot, add onions.
2. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add minced jalapeno, sauteing this for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add cherry tomatoes, cumin and black pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add corn.  Saute until everything is heated through (about 8-10 minutes.)
6. Stir in avocado.

Nutritional data:
Calories:     149
Fat:             6.9g
Sat fat:           1g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:         9mg (This is why this version is healthier!)
Carbs:       33.5g
Fiber:          4.8g
Protein:       3.6g

Green Salsa Chicken and Cumin Corn

Green Salsa Chicken
4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, 5 ounce each (approx.)
8 tomatillos, husks removed
½ cup onion, sliced
1 cup diced bell peppers, any or all colors
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Herb blend (ideally a southwestern spice blend)
1 lime
Cooking spray
Sprinkle chicken breasts with spice.  Place in preheated non-stick skillet.  Cook approximately 5 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet, cover and set aside.
Spray the skillet with cooking spray.  Place tomatillos, skin side down in skillet.  Do not stir, let them begin to lightly char (5 minutes over med-high heat) then flip over.  Let them continue to cook for additional 5 minutes.  When done, remove from skillet and roughly chop.  Place in a bowl.
In a separate small skillet, coat with cooking spray and add onion and diced pepper.  Cook until beginning to soften, then add to bowl of tomatillos.
Grate the lime to remove ½ tsp zest.  Squeeze lime to get 2 tablespoons juice.  Add juice and zest to tomatillo-pepper-onion mix.  Toss.
Serves 4 (1 chicken breast and approximately ¼ cup of salsa)
Nutritional data:
Calories:          183
Fat:                  9.8g
Sat fat:              2.6g
Cholesterol:     75mg
Sodium:           223mg
Carbs:              8.7g
Fiber:               2.4g
Protein:            17.3g
Cumin Corn
1 cup (5 ounces) frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
¼ cup onion, diced
¾ cup bell pepper, diced, any colors
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp ground cumin (or more, to taste)
Black pepper to taste
Serve 4 (1/2 cup portions)
1.       Heat non-stick skillet with 2 tsp olive oil.
2.      Add onion and bell pepper to oil.  Stir frequently, until heated through, and beginning to get tender.
3.      Add cumin and black pepper.  Stir in thawed corn.  Stir until the corn is beginning to get tender and is heated through.
Nutritional Data
Calories:      63
Fat:            2.8g
Sat fat:       0.3g
Chol:            0mg
Sodium:    1.9mg
Carbs:        8.6g
Fiber:         1.7g
Protein:     1.6g

Herb-Crusted Chicken Thighs with Mexican Corn

This recipe could be made using boneless/skinless chicken breasts, but thighs stand up to the heat of frying much better, have more flavor and are juicier.  They have a bit more fat, but I think it is worth it.

Herb-Crusted Chicken Thighs

8 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of your preferred herb/herb blend (I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset.)

5 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1.  Mix panko crumbs and herbs.  Press chicken thighs into this, coating both sides.
2.  Heat large non-stick skillet.  Spray with cooking spray.
3.  Place chicken thigh in skillet.  You may need to make two separate batches.
4.  Pan fry over medium heat, approximately 5 minutes.  Turn over and fry another 5 minutes.
5.  Remove from skillet and finish remaining thighs.
6.  While thighs are cooking, combine cheese, oil and lemon juice, stirring to make a thick sauce.

Serve 1 tablespoon sauce on each thigh.

Nutritional data, per thigh:
Calories: 168
Fat:         9.2g
Sat fat:    2.5g
Chol:       75mg
Sodium: 241mg
Carbs:       5g
Fiber:     0.2g
Protein:   17g

Nutritional data, per tablespoon of sauce:
Calories:  65
Fat:           5.9g
Sat fat:      2.8g
Chol:      14.8mg
Carbs:      1.1g
Fiber:          0g
Protein:    2.4g

Mexican Corn
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 jalapeno, diced (more if desired)
1-2 avocadoes, diced

Makes 4 serving, approximately 1/2 cup of corn/tomato mixture each, with 1/4 avocado on top

1.  Heat non-stick skillet.  Add drained corn, tomatoes and jalapeno.  Cook over medium heat until heated through and the tomatoes start losing their shape.
2. When ready, serve on a plate, and top with avocado.

Nutritional data:
Calories:   115
Fat:             5.8g
Sat fat:        0.7g
Chol:             0mg
Sodium:  262.8mg
Carbs:       15.1g
Fiber:          4.9g
Protein:       2.2g

Salmon Patties with Basil Mayo and Mexican Chop Salad

Speaking of hungry, this was last night’s meal. Two pan-fried salmon patties, with a bit of basil mayo and a Mexican chop salad. With the homemade vinaigrette, the entire meal was 626 calories. I don’t know how much the meal cost, but it is not much. A can of salmon is inexpensive and full of protein and healthy fats. A couple eggs, a bit of onion and some bread crumbs. The salad was made with ingredients that were not needed in recipes from earlier in the week, and just sitting in the fridge. The basil mayo is prepared Hellmann’s and dried herb.  I had the meal made, start to finish, in 15 minutes.  Inexpensive in time, money and calories.

Salmon Patties  (Makes 6 patties, approximately 3 inches in diameter)

1 can (14.75 oz.) salmon, drained.  (Any type of salmon)
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 eggs

Mix together with your hands. It should be wet, but not dripping, and should form into a ball and hold its shape. 

Approximately 1/3 cup per patty.  Scoop, form into a ball and press flat. Heat a non-stick skilled with a little olive oil. Place patties in skillet on medium for 3-4 minutes per side. Patty should be nicely browned, but still moist inside. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce or this basil mayo.

Nutritional data per patty:
Calories: 146 
Fat: 7.6 g 
Sat Fat: 1.7 g 
Chol: 117 mg 
Sodium: 401 mg
Carbs:  3.7 g
Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 16.6 g

Basil Mayo (1 serving)
2 Tbsp. Hellmann’s low fat mayo
1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Mexican Chop Salad (1 serving)
2 cups mixed greens (or whatever you have)
2 Tbsp. black beans (leftover from a prior meal)
2 Tbsp. whole kernel corn
1/2 avocado
1 small red bell pepper
1/2 jalapeno chili
Dressing of your choice