One of the things I love the most about cooking vegetarian food is that there is always some new ingredients to explore. Until I started to follow a largely vegetarian diet, I had never had or cooked with polenta. I am not even really sure that I knew that it was actually cornmeal. Yet, now I love the stuff. I dig how you can have it all mushy like porridge or if you let it sit for a bit it gets nice and solid but tastes just as yummy.
When I saw this recipe over at Recipezaar, I knew I had to give it a try because I had never had polenta combined with parmesan cheese. For some reason, I have mostly kept it sweet. The recipe was posted by Sharon123, a Recipezaar regular who has tons and tons of very good vegetarian recipes amongst her collection. Really, she is the one that should be doing a vegetarian cooking blog!
I wasn’t sure about some aspects of the recipe when I first read it. In particular, I wasn’t sure how the raisins would play with the other savoury ingredients. They really did work though to balance out all the rich tasting ingredients that went into the dish. A bit like how it is always nice to add a little something sweet to a curry to balance the spice.
The original recipe – Polenta With Garlicky Greens – called for Swiss chard. I have never been able to find chard in any of the British supermarkets I visit unless it is as part of a pre-packaged salad bag and then only in very small amounts. I did, however, have some curly kale and so I used that instead and I have to say it was a good choice because the dark leafy green really carried the garlic very well.
Truly, this is a great vegetarian comfort food dish and isn’t too dissimilar to eating a big batch of cheesey mashed potatoes topped with rich garlic greens. Mmm!
The times when it gets difficult to stick to a vegetarian diet comes when I just have no energy to get into cooking a meal that takes a long time to prepare. It is also exactly these times when I am starving and need something that is really going to fill me up. It was just one of these moments when I came up with these Mexican bean stuffed baked potatoes.
I have always loved how a good twice baked potato recipe is an easy recipe but looks really impressive. The problem is though that so many twice baked potato recipes are usually rather high in fat and calories from all the butter and cheese that usually goes into making them. Anything that high in fat is a no no for me these days.
I am always looking for something else to put refried beans into. I know they don’t look pretty but I just love them and with vegetarian and low fat versions of refried beans now readily available in British supermarkets I pretty much always have a can in the cupboard. I usually have a bit of salsa in the house and we are never without some potatoes. So, this really is the sort of recipe that comes more out of a cupboard than a cookbook.
You can control the spice levels by picking the intensity of salsa that your family enjoys. I am a total spicy heat wimp. So, I used a mild salsa and then the two of us topped our Mexican twice baked potatoes with chillies. I went for the really mild banana peppers. These are fantastic and now sold as part of the Discovery brand’s range of Mexican foods. They aren’t in every supermarket but I usually can find them in Morrisons. My husband has much more of head for spices. So, he topped his with Jalapeños.
Mexican Bean Stuffed Baked Potatoes
4 baked potatoes, freshly baked
1 (435 gram/15 ounce) can fat free refried beans
1 cup salsa
fat free sour cream
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees or gas mark 6.
2. Cut off most of the top of the baked potatoes and scoop out the majority of the insides leaving just enough not to break the skins.
3. Put the potato shells into an oven proof dish and the insides into a large bowl.
4. Gently mash the potato insides but don’t mash so much that they are fully smooth.
5. Empty the can of beans and the cup of salsa into the bowl and gently mix so that everything is combined but not over mixed or it will get really loose.
6. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells and bake for 20 minutes.
7. Top with any or all of the optional toppings and serve with a green salad for a low fat and healthy vegetarian meal.
Every month, I take part on a vegetarian recipe swap over at Recipezaar. The basic idea is that everybody interested in the vegetarian recipe swap puts their name in and at the start of the month you adopt one of those chefs and somebody in turn adopts you. Over the following month you agree to make two vegetarian recipes from that person’s Recipezaar recipe collection. I love this because it is a great way to discover new vegetarian food and you don’t at all have to be a vegetarian to take part. In fact, I think that most people that are involved aren’t actually vegetarians but are just enjoying learning how to cook vegetarian dishes. That can never be a bad thing.
This month, I adopted January Bride. I must have been in a lemon mood because the two recipes I decided to make both had some lemon element to them. The first was the lemon garlic green beans that I blogged about earlier in the month. The second were these amazing Lemon Pepper Nuts .
If I am honest, when I selected this recipe I wasn’t sure if it would work. I love candied nuts and have had salt and pepper cashews before which I enjoyed. However, lemon pepper on nuts was something totally new.
I am so glad that I tried them though because they were super easy to make – simply put the nuts, sugar and lemon pepper into a pan and heat and then cool down. On top of that, they were just incredibly tasty! There was a background of sweet heat that was perfectly balanced. I am glad I only made the one batch or I would have for sure eaten the whole nut recipe! It is even a vegan recipe so it doesn’t get much better when it comes to snack food recipes.