Baked Polenta Chips (Scagliozzi)

Polenta is not something I really grew up eating, and because I was unfamiliar with it, it took a fair bit of time to work out exactly how to cook it. I remember trying to cook it for my son when he was a baby, and was left confused by the resulting gluggy weirdness and how the hell I was supposed to cut it into fingers.

Clearly, I was still learning, and managed to find some really vagueless recipes that offered little guidance to the still-learning-how-to-cook new mother desperate to raise a good eater (I did manage to succeed in that, despite my complete ignorance of cooking cornmeal). Thankfully, over the past 12 years, I’ve learned how to find and evaluate good recipes, and combine them into something that works for me.

Which brings me to my spin on baked polenta chips. I’m thrilled to report that my son DOES in fact love them (sorry for the delay, dude!)… as did my daughter and husband. I did too. I know that traditionally, scagliozzi is fried, but on top of preferring a lower calorie side dish, I’ve never really been a big fan of deep fried food (except for really good chips). However, when baked, these are a cheesy, tasty treat that the whole family will gobble up. Prepared this way, 1/5 of the recipe is only 250 calories, and considering how filling it is, that’s pretty good! Some lean meat and steamed veggies, and you’ve got yourself and amazing meal.

Do keep in mind that you need to make the polenta the night before (or up to two days ahead), but even though it’s a 2 part recipe, neither part takes very much time or effort.

ingredients

250g instant polenta

1 litre chicken stock

1tbs butter

Spray oil (or 1.5 tbs olive oil, but the spray oil makes it easier)

Salt and pepper to taste

4tbs grated parmesan

Method

The night before

  1. Line a large, shallow baking dish with baking paper and spray lightly, or brush with half a tablespoon of the oil.
  2. Bring stock to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. In a very slow stream, and whisking vigorously all the while, pour the polenta into the stock.
  3. Continue whisking for about 5 minutes, or until the polenta easily moves from the side of the pan when stirring.
  4. Remove from heat and stir the butter in until completely melted.
  5. Pour into prepared dish and spread until about 1cm thick. Allow to cool, then refrigerate (uncovered) overnight or up to two days.

45 minutes before serving

  1. Preheat oven to 210C. Remove dish from fridge and cut polenta into fingers. Allow the dish to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle polenta with salt, pepper and parmesan, then spray/drizzle with oil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden. You may wish to check after 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Cherry Tomato and Zucchini Rice Bake

I wish I knew where – if anywhere – I’d seen this recipe, but I have no idea. I vaguely remember making something similar years and years ago with tuna, and feeling like the tuna ruined it, but I can’t even remember if anything other than rice was common to this dish. All I know is that I’ve been wanting a rice side dish that wasn’t fried rice all week, and kind of just threw it together and hoped for the best.

It worked. The husband ate the leftovers (AKA tomorrow’s lunch) as seconds, much to my horror. It was tasty yet simple (absolute perfect for a Wednesday night where I have a night of lesson planning ahead of me) but I fear that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget what I did and then never make it again. And that would be tragic.

To add to the happiness surrounding this side dish, it was far fewer calories than I’d anticipated – just 235 per serve, making it an awesome dinner with some lean meat and more veggies – we added grilled pork loin and broccoli, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This calorie count is for a yield of 5 serves; For almost exactly 300 calories, you can have it serve 4, but with the meat and veg, one fifth was perfect. And would have been a perfect amount and calorie count for lunch, too. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

Ingredients

1 cup (200g) raw basmati rice

2 cups chicken stock

1 tsp olive oil

1 brown onion, finely diced

1 medium zucchini, finely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1tsp minced ginger

200g cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quartered, if they’re a bit larger)

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. In an oven proof skillet, add rice and stock and bring to the boil on stove. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Turn off the burner, place a tea towel over the skillet and firmly cover with a lid. Rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another pan, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onions and cook for five minutes, until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add zucchini and tomatoes, and cook until softened but not coloured. Set aside until rice is ready.
  4. Stir vegetables through the rice. Mix in the parmesan and egg
    until fully incorporated, and smooth down with a spoon or spatula.
  5. Season well and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden and firm.

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Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Leftover Bubble & Squeak

I love a good two for one deal, and in this case, it’s a delicious deal that I’ll be keeping on rotation. Fluffy baked sweet potatoes with the flesh scooped out and put aside for tomorrow morning, topped with a concoction of tomatoes, beans, and smoked ham, baked to perfection under a sprinkle of cheese – yes please! And the next day, taking the scooped flesh, mixing it with the leftover bean mixture, frying it to gnarly goodness and topping it with a runny egg is the best way to start any day – especially during the blah-ness of Covid-19 quarantine.

I have served this with almond-crusted beef schnitzel for a more decadent dinner, but it seriously is delicious and filling enough to work as a meal on its own. As a stuffed potato, this recipe is 327 calories. The bubble and squeak with 2 runny eggs clocks in at 340 calories. Very reasonable for a superb breakfast!

Serves 4, with enough to make a B&S to serve 2-3 (calories counted at 3 serves)

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes (about 600g total)

1tbs + 1tsp olive oil

1 red onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

400g diced tomatoes (tinned or fresh)

1tbs barbecue sauce (a smoky one is great here!)

2tsp dijon mustard

chilli powder, to taste

400g can 3 bean mix, drained

100g ham, chopped

1/4 cup grated cheese

fried eggs, to serve with bubble and squeak

Method – stuffed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 230.
  2. Wash and halve sweet potatoes lengthways, prick with a fork and rub with one tablespoon of olive oil. Place on baking tray, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a pan over low heat. Add onions and carrots and sweat for 8 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
  4. Stir tomatoes, mustard, sauce and chilli into onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water if drying out too much, although this rarely happens over a low heat.
  5. Stir in beans and ham, and cook for 10 minutes, allowing mixture to thicken.
  6. Remove cooked potatoes from oven (do not turn oven off), and allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop flesh into a bowl (cool and refrigerate for later), leaving a 1cm thick layer of flesh in the skin.
  7. Fill potato shells with tomato mixture (reserve and refrigerate the leftovers).
  8. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted and turned golden.

Method – Bubble and squeak

  1. Bring potatoes and tomato mixture leftovers out of fridge and rest to remove the chill. Combine into one mixture
  2. Heat 1tsp olive oil in a frypan. Upturn mixture into pan and flatten into a giant patty. Cook for 5 minutes, and flip. Don’t stress if it breaks… this isn’t a pretty dish anyway! Cook underside for 5 minutes, until slightly charred, gnarly bits form.
  3. Meanwhile, fry eggs to your liking.
  4. Using a spatula, cut the bubble and squeak into 2 or 3 serves, and slide onto warmed plates. Top with fried eggs, season liberally with salt and pepper and serve.

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