Creamy Polenta with Bacon and Mushrooms {and A Healthy Hunger is born! Almost…}

Creamy Polenta w Mushrooms~ A Stack of DishesIt’s been a super hectic week as I’ve been furiously working on fleshing out the new website- A Healthy Hunger. As my loyal fans know, the new business is a menu subscription service for folks who want to improve their health with better eating. I offer a Clean Eating menu plan and a Diabetic Friendly menu plan.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this. First off it’s just such a blast creating healthy menus. There is SO MUCH good food to be had that is also healthy for you. Of course my food style as experienced here will translate into AHH. No boring plain-o plain-o. Nothing horribly esoteric either, just beautiful, delicious and healthy eating. Sounds heavenly right??

With luck the final touches on the techy aspect of things will be complete by Tuesday and we can launch full bore. In the meantime you can swing on over there and take a poke around and see what you think. BTW- feel free to drop me a line with thoughts or insights. Good or bad, I would appreciate it. I really want this to be a successful resource for people, so any advice to help me stay on the mark would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Meanwhile, MY eating has been sporadic to say the least. Quick, simple comfort food, such as this creamy polenta, is what’s fueling me right now. In another week I’ll have reached cruising altitude, so I’ll enjoy these indulgences for now.

Creamy Polenta with Bacon and Sauteed Mushrooms
The smokey salty bacon and the vinegar just love the earthiness of the mushrooms. I ate mine with a luscious zinfandel. I highly recommend it.
196 calories
34 g
7 g
3 g
9 g
1 g
298 g
794 g
8 g
0 g
2 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 196
Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 3g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Cholesterol 7mg
Sodium 794mg
Total Carbohydrates 34g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 8g
Protein 9g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 2 cups skim milk
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 cup polenta
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. several healthy grinds of black pepper
  6. 1 basked of cremini mushrooms (you can mix in other varieties, but this was the offering at my market this week)
  7. 2 slices bacon, diced
  8. 2 cloves garlic sliced
  9. 1/4 cup picked sage leaves
  10. 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  11. salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan add the milk and stir in the polenta until smooth. Then turn on the heat to medium and add the water and salt. I find this method is best as preventing lumps and takes the flurry of activity over a hot flame out of the equation.
  2. Simmer the polenta until thickened and cooked, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile: in a saute pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy and most of the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon and pour off excess grease, leaving about a tablespoon of fat in the pan.
  4. Return the pan to a medium heat flame. Add the mushrooms top side down and cook for 3 minutes. Then turn over the mushrooms and add the sliced garlic. Cover and let cook for 3-5 more minutes, then remove the cover and add the sage and vinegar. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
  5. Serve a portion of polenta onto one of four plates then place the mushrooms on top. Return the pan to the flame and reduce the vinegar sauce until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle the mushrooms with bacon and drizzle with vinegar sage sauce.
  7. Serve immediately.
  1. A little shaved parmesan would be fantastic here- sadly my larder was bare. Add a hearty green salad and you've got an easy and complete meal.
A Stack of Dishes

Roasted Blue Pear Salad

The new year is starting off to be the most hectic yet. Happily I can say that I am experiencing an embarrassment of riches.

I have now commenced my final semester of studies, which means I am feverishly working on my Master’s Thesis. I had been dreading this project, but now that I’ve sunk my teeth into it I am finding it to be extremely soul satisfying. As I work through the research I can feel the hours, months and years of my education coming to fruition. It’s like moving to a foreign land and suddenly you realize that you are a fluent speaker and you can get around with ease. I KNOW this stuff! Even better is I have come to appreciate that the mind- my mind– has the capacity to learn and expand in ways I never thought possible.

At the beginning of the year I also started my field work with Toby Amidor, RD. She is a practicing dietitian who also writes for The TV Food Network’s Healthy Eating Blog, Sear’s Fit Studio, and countless other publications. She is monster in the amount that she juggles, which she does with incredible grace and intensity. I met Toby back in December at a lecture that she was giving on social media for dietitians. I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her, and I am delighted that she agreed to take me on.

With Toby I am learning to be a more technical writer, and she is introducing me to the world of the entrepreneurial dietitian. It’s been a staggering departure from the writing I do here and I am loving it.

I am also gearing up for The Cookbook Conference next week at Hotel Roger Smith. I attended last year and was blown away. The venue is intimate, which enabled me to meet and chat with some of the heavy hitters in the cookbook world. It was there that I also met some of my dearest foodie friends to date, Gail Dosik, Maggie Battista, Cathy Wheelbarrow– to name just a few.

So, my dear ones, I haven’t had the time to develop new recipes at all. Most of my day is spent chained to my desk digging into pages and pages of research analysis. I haven’t had much time to shop either, so for fun I decided to give myself a little challenge and not shop at all this week.

The goal was to see if I could prepare a week’s worth of elegant, albeit simple, meals with just the things I had on hand. Surprisingly this has been a fun little experiment and not nearly as tough as I thought it would be. This may however be more of a statement to my stocking treasures {read TOO many treasures} that I don’t get around to consuming.

I’ve used spices I brought back from Thailand to make green curry over scented rice. I handmade tortillas with masa, and filled them with shrimp out of the freezer and accented it with homemade sriracha. I’ve eaten frozen yogurt with some dulce de leche leftover from the holidays, and I’ve made pizza dough, which I piled with the odds and ends of the vegetable bin and the cheese drawer.  It’s been so much fun I may keep on going until I am forced to stop. Once I started getting creative with what’s on hand, I got myself on a roll. {next is whole grain waffles with warm fruit compote using frozen fruits, and I’ve got polenta, ricotta cheese and spinach which will become something…}

This pear salad happened earlier this week. One of my treasures was a fresh wedge of my favorite blue cheese {Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue}. I had only 2 strips of applewood smoked bacon, so this plus that became the other.

I have a hard time eating salads in the winter. Once an Ayurvedic practitioner told me I was a something-or-other, (hatha? pitta?), which explained that I preferred warm foods during the cold days and vice versa. It’s not like I needed telling, I tend to shy away from the thought of crispy salads in the darker days of the year. Roasting the pears though takes the edge off. It also adds the best flavor in the world, caramelization, which is really the only excuse I need.

Roasted Blue Pear Salad
serves 4
2 strips of thick apple smoked bacon
1T unsalted butter
1t sugar
2 bosc pears
juice of one small lemon
.25 t dijon mustard
.5 clove garlic, minced
~5T olive oil- to taste
S & P
4 handfuls baby arugula, washed
.25c red onion, thinly sliced
2 oz Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350˚
In a small, oven proof sauté pan over medium heat,  fry the bacon until crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels, reserving the fat.
Pour off all but 1T of bacon grease and add butter and sugar. Melt over medium heat.
Cut pears in half and using a teaspoon gauge out the centers creating a delicate cup.
Place pears face down in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until a nice caramelization develops of the edges of the pears. Then place the entire pan in the oven.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl place the lemon juice, mustard and garlic and whisk to combine. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the oil until emulsified. Taste for acid balance, adding more oil if needed. Then salt and pepper to taste.
Toss in arugula and onions and turn over with tongs to cover in dressing. Divide greens amongst 4 plates.
When the pears turn a brownish color and start to show translucency around the edges, remove from the oven.
Place a pear on each place and stuff center with cheese. Sprinkle with chopped bacon and serve warm.
A little extra salt and a fresh grind of pepper is a nice finish.


Breakfast For The New Year: Lightened Bacon Waffles

A lighter version of a waffle with bacon cooked right into it.
Now this is a breakfast combo I can relate to.
Pre-cooked smokey bacon is placed right onto the waffle iron and the batter poured over. Not only is the presentation dynamic, but some of the bacon fat melts into the waffle and infuses it with flavor.
I made the batter savory by eliminating the bit of sugar a typical recipe calls for. This was just a personal choice. Since I would pour gorgeous maple syrup on it, why add white sugar when it’s not really needed?  I’m not a fan of super sugary breakfasts, and I like the bready, cakey contrast to the bacon and syrup. For those who like the taste of savory/salty/sweet this is heaven.
But to be honest, I didn’t add syrup, these waffles are an incredibly savory way to start the day. In fact they were lightened up a bit by using non fat milk and I used oil (and reduced the suggested amount) rather than butter in the batter. Because of it’s savory taste I can see this combination as a base on which to place a silky succotash on top, or a minced chicken in a cream sauce. Brunch? Dinner?
Making waffles from scratch takes all of what… 10 seconds? seriously, it’s super quick, especially when using the oil, which eliminates the step of melting butter. And cooking them takes only a few minutes. I use a stove top waffle iron. I place the iron on the stove over medium heat while I pull together the batter. 10 mins tops is all this recipe takes. Got kids that are running out the door? Or if you’re that kid- this is a great hand held breakfast on the go.
Since this is the dawn of a new year and a new you- make this with Turkey Bacon and sneak in a dollop of a neutral tasting protein powder. Truth be told I cooked the bacon in the microwave. Just a great way to pull all unnecessary grease away from the strips and the clean up is just too easy. I cook them on paper towels, but I remembered that I also have a plastic steam rack made especially for the m-wave. I will try that next time and capture the grease for other purposes.
Gail’s Lightened Up Waffles With Bacon
makes approx 16
1.75c AP flour
1T baking powder
.5T salt
3 whole eggs
6T oil
1.5c reduced fat milk, warmed to room temp
Precooked strips of bacon- 1-2/waffle
While the waffle iron is heating up, combine the flour, bp and salt in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl combine the eggs, oil and milk and whisk smooth the break up and incorporate the eggs.
Dump the wet into the dry and stir together with as few strokes as possible. Lumps will happen, don’t sweat it, just try to avoid huge boulders that will leave floury bombs in the waffle.
Pour batter into the waffle iron, then place bacon right on top. Close the lid and cook to perfection-2-3 mins on one side and then flip for a minute or two longer. 
Left over waffles can be frozen and reheated. Can’t say this is my favorite way to do things- nothing beats the fresh version.