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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about vegetarian food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.

Seventh in a series of articles


I knows all you nice folks think cornmeal mush belongs on the breakfast table--an' surely it does. I been cookin' up cornmeal mush fer breakfast fer more years 'n I care to count.

But this is hard times fer lots o' folks in the country, an' we need to put good wholesome food on the dinner table that's dirt cheap, takes real good, and makes us healthy, too. That's why I cook up cornmeal mush fer dinner. Now, this cornmeal mush is fur from plain, I tell ya. Now, I cain't call myself one o' them gourmets--no, I'm not at all one o' them--but I kin surely fancy up a dish an' make it mighty speshul.

Yer gonna be surprised at how easy it is ta turn plain ole cornmeal mush into mighty fine fixin's fer dinner, too. First off is learnin' where ta buy healthy cornmeal. Now, mind, you take yerself to the natural food market where they sells the REAL cornmeal--the whole-grain cornmeal--the stuff that still has the corn bran an' corn germ an plenty o' fiber in it. The whole-grain cornmeal is fur higher in fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, an' selenium an' lower in them carbs than the box you'll find at yer chain grocery store.

If'n y'all go to the supermarket fer yer cornmeal, why all's you'll find is a box o' yellow cornmeal that's been doctored up. They calls it "enriched." If'n they jes left it alone, why it would be fine, jes the way nature meant cornmeal ta be! But first they take out lots o' goodness, an' then they try ta put some of it back in, but it's still missin' plenty some. I don't cotton to folks' messin' with my fixin's--I likes 'em jes the way nature made 'em. That's why I go a'visitin' the natural food market.

Now fer the fancy part. While yer cornmeal's a-cookin', yer gonna chop up some veggies an' cook 'em jes a little while. Them cooked veggies goes on top of the cornmeal--kinda like layerin' up a pie. It's gonna end up lookin' mighty purty,' mighty good tastin', an' mighty healthy fer ya, too.

Now, don't ferget ta serve yer nice fancied up dish with a great big green romaine lettuce salad all tossed up with plenty o' crunchy veggies. Toss in a leaf or two o' kale chopped real fine fer them extree vitamins an' minerals.

I surely do hope y'all enjoy my Cornmeal Mush Fancied Up.

Yer every lovin' Aunt Nettie


Yield: 6 servings

    Cornmeal Mush
    6 cups (1.5 liters) water
    3/4 cup (180 ml) soymilk
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) whole-grain coarse cornmeal (polenta)

    2 green bell peppers, diced
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 large red bell pepper, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water

    2 (14-ounce or 400g) cans diced tomatoes, well drained, divided
    1 (15-ounce or 425g) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

    1/3 cup (80 ml) pine nuts (optional)
    Salt and pepper
    Vegan Parmesan cheese

  1. Have ready a lightly oiled 9 x 13-inch (23 cm x 33 cm) ovenproof baking pan and a large, deep skillet.
  2. TO MAKE THE CORNMEAL MUSH, place the water, soymilk, and salt into a 6-quart (1.5 liter) saucepan and partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, watching carefully to avoid a messy boil-over. Add the cornmeal and reduce the heat to medium high. Cook and stir frequently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until the cornmeal is thoroughly cooked and thickens to the consistency of thick oatmeal.
  3. Pour the cooked cornmeal into the baking dish and spread it evenly to the edges. Refrigerate the cornmeal, uncovered, for about 1 hour to firm up.
  4. TO MAKE THE FILLING, combine the green bell peppers, onion, red bell pepper, and water in the large skillet. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables become caramelized and lightly browned. Add more water as needed to prevent the vegetables from burning.
  5. When the polenta has firmed, spread one can of the diced tomatoes over the top, followed by the garbanzo beans. Top with the cooked vegetables, followed by the pine nuts, if using.
  6. Season generously with salt and pepper and spread the remaining can of drained tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle with the vegan Parmesan and cut into squares. Enjoy the dish at room temperature or warm the Cornmeal Mush Fancied Up in a preheated 350 degree (Gas Mark 4) oven for about 15 minutes.

Clean-up Tip:
While the cornmeal is cooking, it has a tendency to splatter. Wear an apron and use the saucepan cover as a shield to prevent getting spattered with the hot cornmeal.

Even with faithful stirring, and adjusting the heat as needed, the cornmeal has a tendency to form a hard coating on the bottom of the saucepan. Pour water into the pan and soak it for several hours or overnight. The cornmeal coating will float to the surface and the pan will clean quickly and easily.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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