Crispy Polenta Bites with Roasted Beets and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

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Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I have to admit, I kind of a love-hate relationship with you.  I mean, it’s comforting to wake up in the morning with the sun shining (???-let’s be honest, though, most of the time the sun is definitely not shining-we have entered the official Midwest “cloudy season”), so that’s a great thing.  What’s not so great is that Scout’s internal alarm clock is still set at “rising partial sun” apparently, so she’s *innocently* flapping her ears adjacent to my head at approximately 4:30 am everyday so that I might *accidentally* wake up and let her out/feed her.  (I have to admit, as much as I complain about this phenomenon, I am lucky to have such a lovely, wonderful dog in my life, so I’m exaggerating here.) I usually have to coax her back to sleep by telling her what a great dog she is (this actually works), and I can get at least another hour or so of sleep in.

But, I have to admit, it’s a little sad when it’s 5:30 pm and already dark out.  I come home from work (when, in the summer/spring, it’s daylight and I feel energized and up to the task of exercising), and literally all I want to do is watch reruns of Real Housewives and eat pints of ice cream.  Or put butter on things and then eat them.  I tried to eat a Caprese salad the other night, with out of season tomatoes, in a semi-dark apartment, and I felt a little sad.  There are no longer boats going up and down the river, the restaurant downstairs closed its patio (well, they closed in general), and I am wearing boots when I take Scout out for a walk in the morning.  The season has officially turned. Sigh.

But there are some shining gems.  Like Sundays where it’s so cold out that all I want to do is cook/eat.  And utilizing my oven to roast various vegetables.  And time to read, drink spice-flavored teas, and curl up with an electric blanket.  There are some perks.

This is a recipe that really isn’t difficult to make.  I’m a huge fan of polenta, but I’ve tried making various versions, and I have never gotten a polenta to have a firm consistency that’s amenable to frying. So I used pre-made, store-bought polenta here (by the way, if you have  a good recipe of fry-able consistency polenta, let me know.  I’d love to have it.) to make frying easy (and to cut down on time.)  I whipped up some horseradish creme fraiche (with store-bought horseradish, so adjust your amounts of horseradish to your own personal tastes), and topped it with some roasted beets.  A simple appetizer which can be eaten hot or cold.  I decided to coat the polenta first in some whole wheat panko mixed with grated Parmesan for a little extra crispiness, but if you are short on time, you can skip this step completely.

Oh, by the way, this is my first of my Thanksgiving 2013 series.  Here’s your appetizer.  :)

 

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Crispy Polenta Bites with Roasted Beets and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

 

Servings: about 10-12

 

Ingredients

One 17.6 ounce tube store-bought yellow polenta (or your own version), cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick slices (thickness at your own discretion)-I cut mine into squares.  You can keep yours circular, if you like.

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup whole wheat panko

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup creme fraiche

1 teaspoon horseradish (or more, to taste)

Sea salt, to taste

2-3 medium beets, roasted and diced (see this recipe if you want to learn how to roast beets.  I used a combination of yellow and purple.  I had leftovers, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Did you know that beets are one of the best liver detoxifiers out there?  I eat my beets while drinking a beer…..they counterbalance each other.  Hahaha.)

Chives, chopped, for garnish (if desired)

 

 

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Instructions

1.  Lightly brush each polenta slice with water to moisten each side.

2. In a small bowl, combine the whole wheat panko and Parmesan, mixing to combine.

3. Lightly dip each piece of polenta in the panko/Parmesan mixture, gently pressing in the panko mixture on both sides (it’s ok if you don’t coat each piece completely.   Also, you may have some of the whole wheat mixture leftover depending on how thick you slice your polenta.)

4. In a nonstick frying pan over medium to medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.

5. Fry each polenta slice in the oil until lightly browned and crispy, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

6. In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche and the horseradish, adjusting to taste with more horseradish (if desired) and salt.

7. Place a small dollop of the creme fraiche over each polenta slice.

8. Top each polenta slice with about 1 teaspoon of chopped beets.  Garnish with fresh chives, if desired.  Enjoy warm or cold.

 

Source:  A Curvy Carrot original.

November 5, 2013 - 8:19 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I’m not sure about daylight savings time either…I especially hate it for food photos!!! I can never get a good shot of my dinner. BOO! Love these little bites. Yum!

November 5, 2013 - 8:52 am

Christina - As pretty as a picture. Lovely.

November 5, 2013 - 9:29 am

srlacy - Hi Katrina!
YES! I totally agree about the pictures-I find myself racing the sun on the weekends (or getting up super early) in order to have enough time to prep, make everything, and try to get some decent shots. :)

November 5, 2013 - 1:25 pm

Ker - This is a beautiful appetizer, and sounds delicious!

If you do receive the answer as to how to make good fried polenta, I’d love to know. I’ve never had much success either.

Enjoy the holiday season!

November 5, 2013 - 8:50 pm

Joanne - Leaving work to find pitch black darkness is DEFINITELY disheartening!! I try to keep lots of good food on hands at all times so that when I get home I’m less tempted to eat ALL THE BUTTER. Sometimes it works. :P I’d be so happy to have these polenta bites to nibble on!

November 6, 2013 - 4:55 am

Elizabeth - I’ve never seen pre-made polenta in the grocery stores in Australia so I’ll have to try this with homemade polenta. They look delicious.

November 6, 2013 - 12:29 pm

Ruthy @ Omeletta - Me and Ole Daylight Savings Time have a similar love-hate, and my dog just doesn’t get it, either! Thankfully I can usually coax her back to sleep as well.
I love that you added the panko here- I love making anything even crispier with breadcrumbs.

November 6, 2013 - 6:46 pm

Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough - I hear you about this DST business. It’s great for getting me up in the morning, but then I usually want to be in bed by 8 p.m. because it’s been dark out for so long. The old grandma lady side of me loves it, though, I guess. ;) These Thanksgiving apps sound lovely!

Cheddar Ale Soup

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So this isn’t a “light” recipe.  This isn’t one to have before you are going on a beach vacation (which I was, which then allowed me to have a momentary lapse of guilt when I donned the swimsuit I hadn’t worn in over a year—ooops).  And it’s not one that I felt like *trying* to make healthier (you’ll find that this vegetarian version of this soup IS a bit healthier than the original).

It is what it is.

A rustic, Wisconsin-proud, autumn/football/wear a fuzzy sweater kind of soup.

Yeah.  Sometimes you need one of those.  And this one is pretty satisfying when you need a dietary-bring-it-on-kind-of-indulgement.

I couldn’t stop eating the leftovers with this one (for the leftovers, I slowly reheated mine over low heat, stirring constantly).  I had some small pretzel rolls stashed in my freezer that went perfectly with this.   And, of course, since popcorn is a much-loved staple in my diet, throwing some on top pretty much made it the icing on the cake.

You can’t go wrong here, really, if you like beer and cheese. (Sidenote: when I interviewed for my job here in Wisconsin, I was told that in order to live here, especially in Milwaukee, I needed to have a true love for beer and cheese.   Not a tough requirement for me.  ”Well,” I thought, “I’ll fit just like a glove.”)

 

 

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Cheddar Ale Soup

Servings: 6-8

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, grated and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 bottle (355 ml) beer, of your choice.  I recommend an IPA (you know, for the whole “Ale” part of the title).

1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

2 cups milk (I used skim)

2 cups vegetable broth

1 and 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, grated (I used a combination of sharp and medium cheddars)

 

Instructions

1. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.

2. Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or so, until they are softened.

3. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

4. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Add the beer and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. Add the Worcestershire sauce, milk and broth, stirring constantly.

7. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

8. Remove the pot from the heat (or turn off the heat) and (very carefully) puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  Alternatively, puree in a blender in batches (please be careful).

9. Return the pot to the stove over medium-low heat and add the cheese, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the cheese is completely melted. (Don’t let the soup boil-it will mess with your cheese smoothness.) Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

 

Source:  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

October 31, 2013 - 11:32 am

Maria Tadic - I’ve never had a beer and cheddar soup! But I’ve always wanted to try it! Question tho…my husband loves IPA’s and I dislike them a lot! Way to strong. Does the flavor from the IPA really stand out? Or could I go with another more mild beer?

October 31, 2013 - 11:49 am

Holly - This looks so yummy!! And the boyfriend would be a fan just for the fact that it would get me to buy some IPAs (which he loves and I do not).
Also, I didn’t realize you were a fellow Wisconsinite (Wisconsonian?) — been following your blog for quite awhile and somehow never put that together. :]

October 31, 2013 - 2:42 pm

srlacy - Hey Maria-
It’s definitely got that strong ale flavor (but it honestly kind of balances out with all that glorious cheese). You could definitely substitute in another kind of beer. I’m not usually an IPA fan either, but I actually liked the flavor profile here with it. :)

October 31, 2013 - 3:51 pm

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - This looks awesome! I love the ale in it :)

October 31, 2013 - 6:04 pm

Joanne - Those popcorn croutons are seriously adorable. We all need a totally indulgent meal every once in a while…and this fits the bill!

October 31, 2013 - 6:56 pm

Chelsea - This seriously looks incredible! I cannot wait to make it. Thanks for sharing such a delicious soup!

November 6, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Jess - This is a classy way to do the Wisco beer & cheese thing. Yum!

November 7, 2013 - 5:00 am

Whole Wheat Beer Cheese Bread » The Curvy Carrot - [...] know I just posted a Cheddar Ale Soup.  But I’ve kind of been on a serious beer/cheese kick lately.   I think it’s the [...]

Chocolate Crispie Treats

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Sometimes I really miss store-bought marshmallows (it’s the whole gelatin issue).  I have yet to try various vegan-friendly brands or make my own from scratch (because, if I have something like that in front of me, I will inevitably over-indulge.)  So I miss impromptu batches of traditional rice krispie treats (I also miss piling store-bought frosting on graham crackers, which also used to be a bad habit of mine..35 pounds ago, but that’s another story)…but now I have found an equally crave-satisfying alternative.

These.

Made with peanut butter and honey, these crispie treats avoid the use of a marshmallow binder but have a healthy dose of sweetness.  And, of course, chocolate.  I had to hide the pan of these inside my microwave…because…out of sight, out of mind, right?  Yeah, right.  They were gone within a few days (have you ever noticed how easy it is to slowly empty out an entire pan of treats by just taking a bite here and there?)

And, I added some fall-themed sprinkles…you know, to be festive for Halloween.

 

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Chocolate Crispie Treats

Servings: about 16 pieces (depends on how you cut them)

 

Ingredients

½ cup peanut butter  (I used a chocolate-flavored peanut butter here, and I found the crispies to be a tad bit sweet.  Ordinary peanut butter should be just fine here.  Or substitute any kind of nut butter.)

¾ cup brown rice syrup or honey  (I used a combination of agave nectar and honey because I was low on honey)

½ cup chocolate chips

3 cups crispy brown rice cereal

 

Instructions

 

1. Line a 9- x 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the peanut butter, honey, and chocolate chips, stirring constantly until completely melted.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the cereal.

4. Carefully pour and press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan.

5. Cut the treats into your desired portion sizes.  Enjoy.

 

Source:  Adapted from Vegetarian Times.

October 29, 2013 - 11:15 am

Rachel - These look awesome! And I totally get what you mean about the marshmellows – I thought I would never have one again after I became vegan. We had a bonfire to go to this summer and I didn’t want to be left out on the smores front so I ordered some marshmellows and graham crackers online from Sweet and Sara. They are AMAZING! It took all I had to not just eat the whole box, seriously. And they even put a free smore in my package. I am so happy with these and if I had any left I would probably definitely make krispy treats again. I’m definitely going to try your squares soon. Thank you!

October 29, 2013 - 11:35 am

Dawn - Did hou use liquid honey?

October 29, 2013 - 2:53 pm

srlacy - Hi Dawn-
Yes, I used honey that was liquid at room temperature.

October 29, 2013 - 6:25 pm

Joanne - I haven’t made krispie treats in forever because of the whole marshmallow gelatin thing so I love how au naturel these are!

January 14, 2014 - 5:02 am

Allison - I have the same “gelatin issue” and I missed Rice Krispie treats…until I realized that several brands of marshmallow fluff do not contain gelatin and there are easy recipes to make the treats with that instead! Enjoy! (But I am also going to make these ones…they look delicious!)