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

Fruited Nut Paste with Pan Roasted Pears

Balsamic Pear w Blue Cheese~A Stack of Dishes.comThis recipe is what I refer to as a “tumble along”. It all started with a unexptected bag of pears from our friend Gail Cox, which she harvested off of her tree in Arkansas. In the bag that she handed me were a half-dozen hard green pears with gorgeous obtuse shapes and the sweetest flesh. Then a day later came fragrant snips of rosemary from Susan Pierce’s garden, my neighbor across the street (I’m trying to root it now so I can grow my own crop- any advice?). Then finally a hunk of blue cheese I had just purchased on our last trip to Dallas begged to get in on the act.

The fun part is the mental matrix of how to play with these foods. I rolled around the flavors in my mind, pulling them this way and that, into a cold dish, then over to a warm…. Eventually I came around to a version of a savory tart, which lead to how to include dried fruits and nuts- and then how to enhance that gorgeous blue cheese…. and then I thought about shape…. [Read more…]

Winter Jewels: Pan Roasted Pork with Ruby Cherry Berry Sauce

Jewel colored Cherry Berry Sauce magically turns simple pan roasted pork chops into a regal winter meal. I’ve become a devoted Downton Abbey fan {Am I the only one that converses in “Downton Abbey Speak” after viewing the show? ~”Why yes, I think I shaaall have another piece of toast. Thank you ever so much…”} I will admit that I had the show on my mind when I created this meal. With it’s rich color I could can easily imagine this dish coming straight out of Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and onto the Lord’s table.

In addition to that, this time of year I’m always looking for ways to sneak more fruits into my diet. I can’t help but eye suspiciously at off season imported fruits from far away lands. Luckily I have no problem turning to a trove of frozen summer fruits. The winter can feel a bit bleak at times, and the beautiful color of this sauce is another good reason to make it.

I’ve never been a huge fan of pork chops. It was so deeply drilled into me as a young woman that to avoid the dreaded trichinosis that pork had to be cooked to within an inch of it’s dry life. It pains me to recall the terrible looks on my children’s faces when I set before them a lovely pork chop, that they had to saw at, with aggressive fervor, in order to get at a piece. Then there were the blinking stares as they had to chaw on, and eventually swallow, that tough bite. My poor dears, no wonder it was never a favorite.

Recently I did a little reading up on the subject. It turns out that things in the pork world have changed since my long ago days in Home-Ec. Back then we were instructed to bring the meat up to an internal temperature of 165˚- which, as my children experienced, is “hockey puck” temperature. Thanks to better raising techniques, and better understanding of food preparation safety, an internal temperature of 140˚ will kill off any unwanted “bugs”, and yield a delicious and juicier meal.

I also came across various cooking methods and feel like I’ve hit on a winner. Some were a bit complicated. This version does have two steps, but it’s well worth it, and I’m excited to share it with you.

Pork meat is quite lean, with only fat running along the outside. Which makes it wonderfully healthy to eat, but not always the tastiest. To make a really juicy pork chop I first brined it for about 30 mins, which worked out perfectly as I used that time to prepare the sauce and side dishes. Then, using a medium low heat, I gently seared the meat, after which I tucked it into a moderate oven for finishing off. The result was a lovely golden sear on the outside, and juicy delicious meat on the inside.

As you can see, the result is a pale pinkness to the meat and even some pale pink juices. According to the USDA, this is more than ok and healthy to eat. I know, I know… it’s hard to let go of those “laws” that we were forced to swallow, but it’s time to let all that go. I promise it won’t make you at all ill, and you’ll want to thank me {EVER so much}.

Pan Roasted Pork Chops with Ruby Cherry Berry Sauce
I used Port wine in the sauce, which you can switch with a fruity red wine, or substitute with cranberry juice. The butter in the sauce also adds a lovely roundness to the flavor, but switching to olive oil works perfectly if you prefer.
Serves 4
4 lean, center cut pork chops
.75c kosher salt
.75c sugar
4c cool water
1T butter
.25 c onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
.5c port wine
.25 c balsamic vinegar
2c frozen red cherries
2c frozen blackberries (or any other berry available)
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar and salt- stir to dissolve. Add the pork chops and allow to sit for at least 30 mins.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and gently sauté to release the aromatics and soften.
Add the port and allow to gently simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the vinegar and fruits and reduce the heat to low.
Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
To prepare the pork:
Preheat the oven to 350˚. 
Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Score the outside fat down to the flesh every 2″ to prevent curling in the pan.
In an ovenproof sauté pan, lightly coat pan with cooking spray and place over medium low heat. 
Add the pork chops and gently cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Then place the entire pan directly into the middle of the oven.
Roast for an additional ~10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. When poked, the meat should be springy but still yielding- what would be considered “well done” beef
Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the chops to a warmed plate. Allow the meat to rest for 5- 10 minutes before serving.
Pour the cherry berry sauce into the sauté pan which contains the pork chop drippings. Gently warm and stir to incorporate. You may omit this step to reduce fat content.
Serve the sauce warm over the pork chops.