Monthly Archives: August 2016

Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls

I love quick and easy dinners, don’t you?  These delicious creamy polenta, shrimp, and vegetable bowls are easy enough to make on busy weeknights. That’s my kind of meal!


Eat seafood twice a week

Experts recommend eating at least two seafood meals weekly, and as many as three meals weekly if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Seafood is rich in protein, healthy omega-3 fats, which are good for the heart and the brain, and several vitamins and minerals.

Frozen shrimp and other frozen seafood are useful to have on hand to make meal prep easier, but you can also use the fresh variety, too.  You can make these creamy polenta, shrimp, and vegetable bowls with frozen seafood. No need to thaw!

Whole grain creamy polenta

Creamy polenta, which is a mixture of cornmeal, water, butter, and cheese, is typically made with regular cornmeal.  I use whole grain cornmeal for all the benefits that whole grains provide. However, don’t substitute grits for cornmeal because you won’t get good results!

If you don’t have any whole grain cornmeal in the house, it’s OK to substitute pasta. Use whole wheat pasta when possible to include a serving of whole grains.

No spinach? Kale works well in this recipe, too.

Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls
Makes 4 servings.

2 cups water

1 cup whole grain cornmeal

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

8 cups raw baby spinach, washed and drained

40 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes or until just tender. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and stir. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

When the water has boiled, add the cornmeal, using a whisk to prevent clumping. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer the cornmeal for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter and cheese and continue to whisk for another 2 minutes until the cornmeal achieves a creamy consistency. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

Add the shrimp to the spinach mixture and cook for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink.

Divide the polenta between four bowls and top each bowl with equal amounts of the shrimp-vegetable mixture. Season with fresh ground black pepper, if desired.

Per serving:
416 calories; 17 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat); 190 milligrams cholesterol; 340 milligrams sodium; 36 grams carbohydrate; 9 grams fiber; 30 grams protein

Food, Fun, and Flames

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of a monumental recipe fail. The food was so unrecognizable that many of my Facebook friends amused themselves (and me!) by guessing what it was.  As recipe developers know, sometimes certain dishes are simply not meant to be. Still, I have to wonder: how could a recipe with just three ingredients appear so unappetizing yet taste so good? Here’s the story of a bad day in the kitchen.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.07.48 PM

S’mores pie, Take 1.


The Mission

My goal: create a recipe for an easy s’mores dessert that didn’t involve a campfire or any other form of flames, including a kitchen torch for browning the marshmallow topping.  I wanted every cook to be able to make this s’mores pie, even those who don’t own a kitchen torch, so I decided to use the broiler to caramelize the marshmallows.

The pie is filled with ice cream and I was concerned about broiling the top of the pie without melting the ice cream too much. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about the potential for setting the pie on fire.

Playing With Fire

The first time around (see above picture of burnt mass), I used mini marshmallows, which probably would have worked if I hadn’t placed the pie so close to the broiler. As luck would have it, one of my daughters was with me in the kitchen, watching the experiment unfold, and was there to document the disaster.

After 30 seconds under the broiler, a pleasant aroma of roasting marshmallows filled the kitchen, and we thought all was going well. Ten seconds later, we were contemplating how best to put out the flames on the top of the pie. Thankfully, the smoke detectors did not go off, which is more than I can say on some nights when I get distracted making dinner.

Let’s Try This Again

Perhaps you think I threw my failure in the trash. Nope. I’m a frugal Yankee and that would have been a colossal waste of food. I scraped off the burnt marshmallow, wrapped the pie in foil and put it back in the freezer.  

My next attempt including using bigger marshmallows and no flames. I cut the marshmallows in half, and covered as much of the ice cream as possible. I took a “before” picture, you know, just in case there was another catastrophe. Here it is:


Roasting marshmallows, part 2. Clearly, I wasn’t wearing my glasses so the picture is out of focus.  But you get the point.


I have to admit I was a bit nervous.  The second time around, I left about a foot between the broiler and oven rack the pie was on. I put the timer on for 30 seconds and shut the oven door.  It smelled good. I peaked at the pie after 30 seconds and it looked OK.

Just OK. Not great.

When you take pictures of recipes, you want them to appear as appetizing as possible. Sadly, this  pie was not performing up to my expectations, which I don’t consider high.

I put the pie back under the broiler, rotating it for more uniform browning, but that didn’t work as well as I would have liked. Plus, I could only leave the pie in the oven for so long because of the ice cream, so time was of the essence.

Here’s the outcome of try #2:


This picture was actually a mistake, but one of the best of the lot on a very bad day.


I figured that the whole pie looked alright, but not as attractive as I would have liked. I tried cutting a piece to see if that would look more appealing.

It looked worse! Are we having fun yet?






Not my best work, for sure. 


This is one of the worst slices, but in my defense, I was shooting an ice cream pie outside in 85˚ weather. Still, the heat is really no excuse for the pie’s poor appearance.

It wasn’t possible to make a piece of that pie look appetizing. When I cut into it, the crust crumbled, the marshmallows were excessively gooey and downright unruly, the ice cream melted too fast, and I couldn’t get any definition between the ice cream and the crust in the pictures.

That’s when I realized the pie looked too awful to publish the recipe in all seriousness. At this point, I wanted the last three hours of my life back.

I throw in the towel. I put all the pieces of pie that I’ve tried to make look edible back into the plate and it all goes back in the freezer.

That evening, I devour it (not ALL of it) with one of my kids. And it’s delicious.


Disaster confirmed. Dig in, kids!


This pie is not photogenic, or I was having a bad day, or the recipe just doesn’t work, or all of the above. Who knows? It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t always matter. Here’s the recipe, in case you want to make it. I hope yours turns out better. Send me a picture!

S’Mores Pie

Serves 12. Sort of.

5 cups chocolate ice cream or chocolate frozen yogurt

1 10-inch prepared graham cracker crust (I transferred it to a glass pie plate)

22 – 24 regular size marshmallows, cut in half

Pack the ice cream or frozen yogurt into the crust. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Place an oven rack about 12 inches from the broiler element. Preheat the broiler.

Place the pie on the oven rack for 30 to 45 seconds or until marshmallows are golden brown. In some places, at least. Do not allow the pie to erupt in flames.

Remove the pie from the oven. Serve immediately, and attractively, if possible!



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