I woke up earlier this morning than I usually do, especially on Sundays. I took a moment to stretch a bit as I decided whether I wanted to go back to sleep or just get up and get to it. One of the cats (who has taken to snuggling up between my husband and me) noticed my movement and decided that it was time for actual cuddles. I was more surprised that she wasn’t begging for food; usually she takes every opportunity to try to get us out of bed so that she can get some food. This morning, she settled in on my shoulder/neck, as I was laying on my side at the moment, and without me even touching her, she started purring. She was more on my neck than anything, but I didn’t want to move her, especially because she wasn’t exactly hindering my breathing.

Lola is really an adorable cat. We adopted her a few years ago, and while our older cat (Kaedence) wasn’t too happy with this interloper, she came to tolerate her younger companion. Not love or even like, really, but she’s basically the much older sister with a much younger brat of a sibling who likes to tail her sister everywhere, essentially saying, “I’m not touching youuuu…I’m not touching you….” It’s sort of amusing to watch.

When my husband stirred briefly, Lola abandoned my neck and tried to cuddle up to my husband. I think he was a bit too tired to really even notice her, and he rolled over onto his other side.

By this time, I’d decided to get up and make myself some coffee. I still had to wait for my husband to wake up, brush his teeth, and shower before we could decide on what we wanted for lunch, so I figured I’d make some coffee. After all, it’s Meal Prep Sunday, and as the days get shorter, I have fewer hours of natural light to use to photograph the food that I cook.

My favorite mug is this one. I don’t actually advocate cat hair in food, but I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady, so it always makes me smile.

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My husband finally got up, showered, and brushed his teeth as I brought this dish together.

I sort of wanted macaroni and cheese this week, but my favorite recipe is a bit too high in calories for me to want to take it on, especially after I messed up my shoulder during Friday’s workout. Strength training (for my upper body, anyway) is off-limits for a bit while the muscles in the shoulder area figure themselves out. Then my mind wandered from macaroni and cheese to baked polenta. I used to have a really amazing recipe for baked polenta, but it involved a lot of butter and full-fat cheeses. And while a little bit of it might be all right, I’d have to shrink the portions down by an incredible amount to make it work in my diet. I don’t do well on tiny dinner portions that couldn’t even include a chicken breast.

I remembered another recipe that I made at some point. It was a bit healthier, and I was able to also include some sausages, peppers, and onions with it, without completely busting my diet. I took that idea and changed it a bit to make a meal that would be hearty, comforting, and warming, the three things I need when I’m working out and when it’s cold outside.

This meal adds a bit of goat cheese for tanginess, as well as a bit of Smart Balance (or light butter if you prefer) to help make the polenta creamy. Add a pound of your favorite sausage, a few ounces of sliced mushrooms, and a small onion (chopped), and you have a meal fit for a king.

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Goat Cheese Polenta with Onions, Mushrooms, and Sausage

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 214

Fat per serving: 16.3g

Saturated fat per serving: 6.6g

Carbs per serving: 8.7g

Protein per serving: 9.3g

Fiber per serving: 1.5g

Sugar per serving: 1.9g

Sodium per serving: 320mg

Goat Cheese Polenta with Onions, Mushrooms, and Sausage

Filling, hearty baked polenta for only 214 calories per serving!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided
  • 1 pound turkey or poultry sausage (macros are for lean hot Italian-style turkey sausage)
  • 3 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 cups water or unsalted stock (macros are for water)
  • 1.5 cups dry grits or coarse-ground cornmeal
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons Smart Balance Light spread or light butter (macros are for Smart Balance)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. (If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, a 2-quart baking dish will do; just spray it with a bit of cooking spray and set it aside as you cook.) When the skillet is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan, and add the sausage. Cook over medium heat until sausage is cooked through and no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the pan, placing it in a medium bowl, and drain any extra grease from the pan. Set the sausage aside for now.
  3. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, then add the mushrooms and onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms and onions are soft and cooked through. Add the garlic to the pan and cook until the garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently, then pour the mushroom mixture into the bowl with the sausage. Fold to combine thoroughly, then set aside.
  4. Add water (or stock, if using) to the skillet, adding a bit of salt to the water. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the water to a boil, using a spatula to scrape up any bits of sausage, mushrooms, or onions that may have stuck to the bottom. When the water is boiling, pour the polenta into the skillet in a steady stream, whisking as you pour to ensure that no lumps form. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the polenta has thickened a bit, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the polenta from heat, then stir in the goat cheese and Smart Balance (or light butter, if using). After the cheese and butter melts, stir in the sausage and mushroom mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly, then use the back of your spoon to flatten the top of the polenta to ensure even baking.
  6. Bake the polenta at 350F for 20-25 minutes, then remove from the oven to allow it to cool and thicken a bit. To ensure even portion sizes, you can allow the polenta to cool almost entirely, then slice the polenta into 6 even slices in the pan (much like you would a pizza), or you can serve it straight from the pan after 5-10 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Notes

We plan to serve this with small servings of roasted vegetables on the side to help make sure we get our recommended daily servings of vegetables. You can consider stuff like steamed or sauteed spinach, a fresh salad, or caprese, or top it with an egg or a bit of pesto, marinara, or bolognese.

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