Freaking Awesome Polenta Packets

Make way! Make way! The fallen champion has picked herself up, dusted off her pant legs, adjusted her cooking apron and has returned with a triumphant recovery from last week’s utter disaster.  Yes, after too many days of eating cat-piss flavored cabbage a failed almond stir-fry attempt and 2 bottles of Pepto-Bismol, I’m back at it.  This time, I’m sticking with what I know – easy, simple, fresh food that’s dictated by the market.

You are not going to believe how easy AND delicious these little guys are!  This might be my go-to method of cooking for the rest of the summer.  I’ve found myself wasting a lot of food recently because the market has such a great selection every time I go, it’s hard not to get carried away.  Also, I’ve been trying a lot of new things lately, and they don’t always work out so well (heh-hmmmm).  Anyway, so I wanted a way to still prep food ahead of time (because otherwise I’d have an endless stream of dishes piled up), but instead of making a huge pot of this or big casserole of that I wanted single meals, ready to go.  These definitely qualify as heat-and-eat, almost TV-dinner style, like I grew up with and used to eat for 100% of my meals (until I figured out how much cheaper buying locally is!).

For those who think they can’t cook and are doomed to live off of frozen TV meals forever, give this a try and feel your body cry with gratitude for fresh- not preserved and flash-frozen – vegetables.  When you want to thank me for this stupid-easy cooking method, I take donations in the form of cash or check 😀

Who says convenience has to be fatty and filled with preservatives, toxins, depressants, stimulants, and sugars?  

Who says you don’t deserve better than a freezer-burned meat patty?  

Who says that quality, nutritious, and delicious food can’t be affordable, accessible, and easy to custom fit to meet any tastes?

Welcome to the beauty of being free of a Megamart mentality forever… Woah, I just had a flash from The Matrix.  Anyway, when I mention these are customizable, I mean that damn near everything is rotatable based on flavor profile and what’s seasonal and available to you fresh.  I could see these lending themselves easily to a Tex-Mex night (top the polenta with beans, chili, cheese, zucchini, peppers, and maybe some tortilla strips?).  Have at it, Hoss – knock yourself out!

Freaking Awesome Polenta Packets:

Juicy veggies, now freed from their aluminum prison

Equipment:

  • Knife, cutting board, spoon, 4 pieces of aluminum foil (about 1 foot across), a few small to medium bowls to help you stay organized (varies with number of ingredients), oven
Ingredients: (for packets as shown)
  • 2 small yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 3 heads garlic, chopped
  • 3 roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 3 ears worth of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cob (cobs discarded or use for stock)
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, cut into thin slices and then into bite-sized peices
  • 1 pkg prepared polenta, cut into 1/4-1/2″ rounds (I used a mushroom and onion polenta)
  • 1/2 cup dried navy beans – soaked for 8 hours, rinsed and cooked for 30 mins
  • 1/2 cup dried red and black beans – soaked, rinsed and cooked
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, sliced
  • Approx. 10 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
  • Evoo
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Directions:
1.  Once all veggies are prepped, preheat the oven to 375 F OR preheat your grill (I don’t have a grill, but I’ve seen chefs on TV grill things like these, and I bet it’s awesome!).
2.  Drop a small, dime-sized amount of evoo on the bottom half of the aluminum foil, and spread it around a bit to grease the foil.  Layer the beans, squash, peppers, and garlic.  Sprinkle sparingly with salt and a nice dash or two of pepper onto the raw veg.  Top with the mushrooms, sweet corn, basil, and parsley and season with salt and pepper again.  Top veggies with 4-5 slices of polenta.
  • Please note: How you layer these packets does matter!  I like the beans and squash on the bottom because while they’re baking in the oven, those foods that are “on the bland side” (being honest) will be flavored by the drippings of the cooking roasted peppers, mushrooms, corn, herbs and seasonings.  Then, I also like to put the polenta on top, so that it cooks closely to the package directions (which is usually a sheet-pan set-up), but at the end I can flip the packet before opening and soak the polenta with the delicious and seasoned cooking juices.  It’s also why I season these in 2 layers.  Think about your layers before you start building – the 30 secs of planning will have a major payoff!

    Veggies and polenta chillin' till the oven heats up

3.  Fold the top half of the aluminum foil down and fold up the edges, sealing the packet.  Bake 25-30 mins or until veggies are somewhat softened (not well-done!) but still have a lot of their crunch and texture.  Flip the packet over, so that all the juices that flavored the beans now run onto and smother the polenta.  Be careful when opening the packet – that steam is hot!
4.  Heat as many of the packets as you wish to serve, otherwise store the others in the fridge for up to 2-3 days as single-serving heat-and-eat meals.  When heating cold from the fridge, allow an extra 10 mins in the oven.
5.  ENJOY!!
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