Sage Polenta Bowl with Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms

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This time last year: Fall Harvest Vegetarian Stuffing (2013)

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Man, time flies, doesn’t it?

It feels like just yesterday I was at home, filling my plate full of sweet potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and homemade rolls. Oh my goodness gracious, it was SO good!

I’m telling you all, veggie Thanksgiving is where it’s at. No turkey to make you sleepy, and all of the carbs and homemade goodness you could ever dream up. I can feel myself drooling now.

 

When the weather gets cold and the work load keeps getting harder, I dream of home. I dream about those moments around the table with my family, maybe some jazz music floating therough the speakers, always some kind of sweet potato dish being served (duh!).

When going home is not an option, which is unfortunately, almost always the case, I find myself eating soup instead. (Yes, some of us eat our feelings, and no, soup can not replace the comfort that comes with a family home cooked meal).

I think the warmth of a bowl of soup can push back the coldness of winter just a little bit, which can make the warmth of home feel a whole lot closer.

However, since leaving home 6 years ago, I’ve had a lot of soup, and sometimes you need something else warm.

CUE the Sage Polenta Bowls with Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms.

This bowl is seasonal, warm, simple, and delicious. It is filling, while still healthy, and it meets all vegetarian and gluten free diets (two points for the picky eaters!).

Buy the ingredients and make this recipe this week. I promise, you will be so glad you did!

 

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts- rinsed, trimmed, and quartered
  • 1- 8 ounce package assorted wild mushrooms (fresh)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
2. Toss the Brussels Sprouts and mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then arrange into one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until slightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk the polenta into the water. Continue to whisk, without ceasing, for 3 minutes.
4. Remove the polenta from the heat, and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, the sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Divide the polenta into four bowls, and top each with 1/4 of the roasted vegetables + 1 Tablespoon of parmesan cheese.

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Notes and Tips!:

  • Source: Oh My Veggies!
  • Like this recipe? Try these other delicious dishes from A Rented Kitchen! (Recipe links found below!):

I will be thankful. No turkey necessary.

We will wake up- slowly, and on different schedules. My mom will get up first and will start the coffee. My dad will wake up second, and start a fire. My brother and I will roll down stairs, eventually, with messy hair and sleepy eyes, and it will be Thanksgiving.

My mom will likely have made some muffins or rolls, because she’s amazing. We will all share a few warm bites of that fresh baked bread over a warm cup of caffeine, and then the day will begin!

The boys will rake leaves, or watch football. My brother will play guitar, sending melodies floating through the house like smells from the kitchen.  And my mom and I will cook. We will cook all day together- side by side, rotating counter tops like a choreographed dance- weaving in and out, in synch, until the meal is prepared.

Then we will then gather around the table, overwhelmed with all that we have to be thankful for, and will likely eat as if we’ve done something that day to really deserve ‘stuffing’ ourselves.


I love Thanksgiving. I am unabashedly nostalgic and tradition oriented, and am happier when I see my family with more regularity than not. However, in the last few years, my opinions about Thanksgiving have shifted.  I have decided that nostalgia is not what was important at Thanksgiving. Traditions do not have to be set in stone for me to be thankful.

And yes, if you could not read between the lines of this vegetarian food blog, I’m talking about turkey- that one piece of the tradition that we seem to struggle to let go of the most. I am talking about the way we, as Americans, have adopted norms and traditions that may taste yummy or are fun, but are harmful, and yet under the heading of comfort or preference or “it just isn’t thanksgiving without…,” we manage to ignore our responsibility for change year after year.

Ignorance is bliss. However ignorance will also be the downfall of us. So, here are the facts:

  • It will take at least 915,200 barrels of oil to produce and ship all the turkeys Americans eat (Cohn and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune). That is a heck lot of oil people!
  • According to research done by the University of Manchester in England, a typical Thanksgiving meal for 8, produces 44 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions- about 60% of which comes from Turkey alone (Cone and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune).  Those carbon dioxide emissions are what play a huge role in global warming, and the dissolving of our atmosphere. Take note.
  • Every dish on your Thanksgiving table will have a carbon footprint, vegetarian and carnivorous alike! However, your green vegetables are estimated to be responsible for only 0.4 pounds of carbon dioxide (or about 1 mile of driving), while your turkey intake is equivalent to 4.8 pounds of carbon dioxide (about 6 miles of driving) (Palmer, Washington Post). It’s worth thinking about.

In other words, if you want to lower your carbon footprint, if you want to have a green Thanksgiving, or if you want to protect the poor- who will be the first to be hurt by global warming, then you have a responsibility to pay attention to how you eat.  And that responsibility, which is backed up by dozens and dozens of research articles, would say that turkey is not the way to go. Look on the bright side though, if one thing had to go, wouldn’t you rather it be the turkey over the sweet potatoes or the pumpkin pie?!?!

My entire family is now vegetarian, and it hasn’t been easy for all of us.  My parents spent most of their life eating meat, and looking forward to turkey on Thanksgiving day.  We know how frustrating and challenging changing traditions can be, and thus have played around with the idea of buying local, organic, naturally fed meat instead of giving up meat all together.  For some, it feels like a win-win; you can love the environment and eat your meat too! Unfortunately the research would tell you that even sustainable and environmentally conscious meat growers require a lot of resources, so the best way to care for the environment would be to eat significantly less meat all together (Cohn and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune).   However, I’m for baby steps, and if you are not ready to let meat go, organic local meat is so much better than big-agg birds mass produced, and every step you make makes a difference.


Now, honestly, I don’t expect that anyone will read this little post and decide to give up their turkey for Thanksgiving. I know that even if turkey isn’t your favorite part of the meal, there is something special about having that big roasted bird, which takes hours to prepare, on the table.  That feels special- that feels like Thanksgiving. I get that, I know that. I have thought that too.

However, when I think about Thanksgiving in it’s truest sense, I think the purpose of Thanksgiving is to be grateful. I think the purpose of Thanksgiving is not to eat as many calories as you possible can in one meal, or to indulge in a particular menu once a year. I think Thanksgiving is suppose to be a time where we slow down and practice saying “thank you,” to the Earth, to one another, and to the Creator.

So, while I would love for each of you reading this to be inspired and abandon the turkey for one year- and it really would make a difference for the environment, whether you’d like to think it does or not. I do not anticipate that happening.

But I do hope you think a little longer about what you’re really thankful for, because I have a hunch turkey is not the reason we are grateful this time of year. I have a hunch, that if you count your blessings, it will be for the people you love, for warmth and a roof over your head, and for the Earth, which even when under attack, has continued to give us food year after year.

I know for me, we will wake up- slowly, and on different schedules. My mom will get up first and will start the coffee. My dad will wake up second, and start a fire. My brother and I will roll down stairs, eventually, with messy hair and sleepy eyes, and that will be Thanksgiving. We will be together, and I will be thankful. No turkey necessary.

 

Sources 

Cohn, Meredith, and Tim Wheeler. “Thanksgiving Dinner’s Carbon Footprint.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Nov. 2015.

Palmer, Brian. “The Environmental Costs of a Thanksgiving Meal; ‘food Miles’ and Other Damage.” Washington Post. 11 Nov. 2013, accessed 23 Nov. 2015.

Mac + Cheese Stuffed Brown Sugar Balsamic Portobellos

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This time last year: Homemade Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (2013)

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I think one of my favorite foods, in extremely close competition with sweet potatoes, are mushrooms.  Mushrooms are not only incredibly flavorful (I mean, have you seen those Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms?!?!), but they also are so very good for you- low in fat, high in iron, and a good source of protein.  What’s not to love?

After you sauté these bad boys in a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, you could eat them straight. Stuffing them with mac and cheese, makes them literally irresistible!

So, if a healthier take on comfort food sounds like your dream, then look no further!

If you’re looking for a good vegetarian entree, then look no further!

If mac and cheese is your jam, or you happen to have a left over tub in your fridge, then look no further!

This dish is a winner, love at first bite.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups (leftover) macaroni and cheese
  • 2 ounces freshly grated cheese (your favorite kind!)
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

Breadcrumb Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1/3 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs

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Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Prepare the mushrooms: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once warm, add the mushrooms, stem side up, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Flip once more and add the vinegar and brown sugar, evenly coating the mushrooms.  Cook for one more minute and then remove from the heat.
  3. Assemble: Scoop heaping spoonfuls of mac and cheese (at least 1/2 cup) into each mushroom. (The mac and cheese can be straight from the fridge!). Place in the oven, until the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Prepare the breadcrumbs: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk until it bubbles.  The minute the brown bits begin to form on the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat and whisk for an additional 30 seconds.  Let the butter stand for 2 minutes, then whisk in the garlic and bread crumbs.
  5. Top: As soon as the mushrooms are done cooking, cover them with the breadcrumbs, herbs, and green onions, and serve immediately!

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Notes and Tips!:

  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Source: How Sweet It Is
  • Like this recipe? Check out these other winner from A Rented Kitchen (recipe links below):

Mexican Corn Dip

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This time last year: Crispy Butterfinger Cookies (2012)

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Sometimes it is cold outside and you just need something warm and delicious in your belly.

Today is one of those days.

The leaves have turned here in Atlanta, and fall has officially made its’ appearance. However, fall was ushered in along with two straight days of cold rain, chilling all of us southerners to the bone.

Thus, my weekly lunch needed a little pick-me up, and this recipe is the perfect amount of warmth and kick to make your head-down, windy, rain soaked walk a little bit warmer 🙂

Happy cooking, and come back soon!

Love, A Rented Kitchen

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 ears corn, shucked and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter over high heat.
  2. Add the corn and the jalapeño to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly charred. (About 8-10 minutes).
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and serve warm!

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Notes and Tips!:

  • Source: Damn Delicious
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Like this recipe? Try these other delicious dishes from A Rented Kitchen (Recipe links found below):

Oven Roasted Balsamic Caprese Kabobs

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This time last year: Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili with Homemade Tortilla Chips (2012)

Leonardo Da Vinci said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  I think this recipe can attest to that.

With only five ingredients, probably 75% of which you already have in your kitchen, you will be amazed at how delicious such a simple recipe is. And if you’re like me, you’re likely to be amazed that this incredible and delicious possibility has been living in your kitchen all along and you are just now discovering it! Sneaky recipe!

The flavor combination is simple. You’ve had it before. However, as Di Vinci said, there is something about simplicity that can be so beautiful, so delicious, and so right; so give it a try!

In addition to being 100% delicious, this recipe is not going to break the bank, take up too much of your time, and can keep for several days in the fridge! Win-win-win.

SO, what are you waiting for? Get cooking! Something simply delicious is waiting.

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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of mozzarella balls (I used Bel Giosio Mozzarella balls!)
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil + more for the pan
  • Salt and/or garlic powder (as desired)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped basil (fresh or from your spice rack!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F, and brush a baking sheet with a light layer of olive oil.
  2. Toss the cherry tomatoes with the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar (add a dash of salt and/or garlic powder if desired!)
  3. Arrange the tomatoes on the baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft, wrinkly, and plump, but not yet popped.
  4. Once cooked, remove the tomatoes from the heat and allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Then arrange them on skewers, alternating between tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with basil and serve warm!

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Notes and Tips!:

  • Source: A Rented Kitchen
  • Like this recipe? Try these other delicious dishes from A Rented Kitchen!