Friday, June 18, 2010

30 Days Gluten Free Quick & Easy Meals: Day 12 - Jean's Soft Polenta

Welcome to 30 Days Gluten Free Quick & Easy Meals!

Today's post is written by Dr. Jean Layton ,author of the blog, "Gluten Free Doctor Recipes."

Day 12- Jean's Soft Polenta with Sausages, spinach and peppers seasoned with Kalamata olives and Fennel seed/

"Slam of the car door, the whoosh as the child collapses into the seat. Famished, ready to eat the cat if it stands still long enough. Or maybe even if it doesn't. Sudden Death time. Food better be on the table quickly."

Haven't we all had days like this. When your body is so in want of food that the idea of taking even an hour to make dinner is just too long.

What is your go-to food for these times? Do you have a repertoire of 7 or so meals that can be on the table in 20 minutes or less?

I do, simply because this isn't an anomaly, this need for food quickly is the norm 'round our house.

With two working parents and two typical pre-teens, our evenings are packed with music lessons, sports events, late patients and such.

So when we finally pull in the driveway, we want food, fast.

Thank goodness my mother impressed upon me the benefits of a well stocked pantry. Maybe it was her Depression era upbringing that made her always keep enough food around the house. Maybe it was because with a family of 8, shopping was truly a chore. So if you did it in large quantities, you could shop once a week instead of daily.

Or maybe my mom wanted to be able to put a good meal on the table anytime she wanted.

I've got to admit that my pantry is vastly different than my mom’s. Gone are the canned vegetables, soups and fruits, replaced with glass jars of tomatoes for sauce. Did anyone else grow up on Spatini sauce?

Gone are the packaged foods, the instant potato flakes, the Mapleine to make syrup. Do they still make Mapeline? (yup, they do!)

My pantry more closely resembles what I image my grandmother's pantry would have looked like.

Large bags of flours and grains, homemade jams and jellies, bags of nuts and frozen vegetables in the freezer with a smattering of canned foods. Sardines, tuna, and beans are the predominant ones.

And then there are the foods that neither my mother nor my grandmother would have stocked like kalamata olives, gluten free pastas, capers, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and polenta.

These all form the basis of my fast, healthy weeknight meals.

Here is how I do it.

Jean's Soft Polenta with Sausages, spinach and peppers seasoned with Kalamata olives and Fennel seed/
Article originally published at Dr. Jean's blog, "Gluten Free Doctor Recipes."
Reprinted with permission from Dr. Jean Layton.

Printable Recipe

  • 1 package of Italian sausage links- I use either Hempler’s or Isnerio’s. (When these brands are cooked, there is very little fat in the pan. They are both brands that treat the pig well. No nitrates!)
  • 1-2 green or red sweet peppers - organic! (This is important, check here. if you aren’t sure why.)
  • 1 large onion
Slice the peppers and onions into ¼ slices.
  • 1 bunch organic spinach or one bag of organic frozen chopped spinach.
  • ¼ cup of pitted Kalamata olives (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
Soft Polenta
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • Parmesan Cheese- optional

Sauteed Sausage, peppers and onions with Kalamata olives

In a large heavy frying pan put one sausage per person or heck the whole package. If frozen ( I always buy multiple packages on sale and freeze them), cover half way with boiling water. So while that is cooking away, I start the:

Soft Polenta - the easy low stir way
For 4 large servings

  • Put on 3 cups of water to boil. I use my electric kettle since it boils in about a minute.
  • Take a large heavy weight pot and get it hot on the stove. On my electric range, I set it at about a 6.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil.
  • Let that get hot, I even let the butter brown occasionally. Just don’t get it to the smoking point, cause that will make it bitter.
  • Add one cup of polenta and stir to coat well.
  • Let it cook for a minute to adsorb all the fat, this will keep it from sticking together later.
  • Pour in the boiling water and salt, stir well.
  • Turn the heat down to just barely on. Since I have an electric range, the cooktop retains lots of heat and will continue to cook easily. If you have gas stove, just turn it down to the same flame you would use for scrambled eggs.
  • Put a lid on it, this will keep your stove clean.
  • Turn the sausage so the other side gets a bit browned too. The water should have cooked off by now.
  • Using kitchen shears cut the sausages into bite sized chunks.
  • Let them continue to cook.
  • Give your polenta a stir. Even if it has clumped up a bit, the stirring will loosen it right back up.
  • Prep your veggies.
  • Wash and slice into ¼ inch slices your peppers and onions. I always stock organic sweet peppers in my fridge.
  • If you are using fresh spinach, wash it too and cut it into slices. Otherwise just open the bag.
  • The sausage should be nicely browned by now, and the bottom of the pot looks very dark. That is ok! It makes the sauce so much nicer in flavor.
  • Toss in those vegetables starting with the onions and peppers. Let them get nice and hot. Then add the spinach, olives and fennel seeds. Feel free to add some ground pepper if you like. Hold off on the salt till you taste it at the table. Those Kalamata olives can be quite salty.
  • Cover the pan and turn it to low.
  • Give the polenta another stir.
  • Check the veggies to see that the spinach has wilted. If the pan has few juices, add a bit of water or red wine to enhance it.
  • Serve by scooping a healthy portion of the polenta into a bowl and topping with the sausage and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with the parmesan if desired.


About Jean:
From her website: "Dr. Jean is a Washington state licensed naturopathic physician who has been practicing in Bellingham since 2004. Her varied background and education includes training at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon as well as time spent as a New York City chef. Dr. Jean specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. To better involve this population, she proudly serves on the board of the Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group and facilitates the Healthy Gluten-Free Kids Support Group." Dr. Jean also blogs at "Gluten Free Doctor Recipes."


Stay tuned for Day 13 of 30 Days Gluten Free Quick & Easy Meals. Tomorrow Kat from Kat's SCD Food Blog, will share one of her favorite slow cooker meals! Yes! Quick & easy with your slow cooker!

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