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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. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

I see Valentine's Day is a-comin' an' I simply cain't ferget that's a speshul day when a heap o' love makes ever'one head-over-heels happy. It's when lots o' flowers, candy, and l'il ole packages wrapped in red ribbons make lovers set the heart a-fire an' sets off a heap o' huggin' an' kissin'. An' that's as fine as it can be.

I kin remember a-way back when I was a young'un and feelin' like I was a-walkin' on air when I was in love.

Well, now darlin's, let's git right down ta business and concentrate on what yer gonna cook up fer yer special love--after all, the best way to the heart is always thru the stomach--remember that and you'll always have love in yer life.

Now, darlin', we're a-gonna put a mighty purty heart right on the table--one that's bleedin' with love in the form of tomater sauce over a very speshul polenta heart. I know the recipe below looks a tad off-puttin' but jes take yer time with it an' make the different parts in-between other have-to's in yer day.

Nice thing is that you kin make them fixin's separate and even up to 2 days ahead. Now that's what makes this deeeeelicious Sweetheart Polenta fit right inter yer plan fer a romantic time with yer special love.

Now, y'all be sure ta tell me how ya likes it.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

When Cupid touches the heart, he compels lovers to enjoy expressions of romance and passion--and they simply cannot resist. To give Cupid a little help, we've created an irresistible heart-shaped main dish that brings loving pleasure to the dining experience. The recipe can be prepared a day or two in advance and done in stages to make it easy to assemble. If you prepare the Sausage Filling, Creamy Tofu, and Tasty Tomato Sauce in advance, they can be refrigerated until you're ready to prepare the Polenta.

Sweetheart Polenta


Yield: Makes 2 heart molds or about 7 to 8 servings

Sausage Filling

    1 medium onion, chopped
    6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in mortar and pestle

    1/2 package (7 ounces/198g) Lightlife Gimme Lean Veggie Sausage

Creamy Tofu

    1/2-pound (226g) firm tofu
    2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil


    4 cups (scant 1 liter) water
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 cup (240 mg) coarse grind cornmeal

    1 green onion, chopped
    2 to 3 tablespoons red bell pepper, diced

Tasty Tomato Sauce

    3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
    1 28-ounce (794g) can diced tomatoes

    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced

    2 tablespoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons water


    1/2 cup (120 ml) minced parsley
    1/4 cup (60 ml) minced purple cabbage

  1. Lightly oil 2 heart-shaped molds and set them aside until ready to fill them.
  2. TO MAKE THE SAUSAGE FILLING, combine the onion, garlic, olive oil, and dried herbs in a large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are beginning to soften and become lightly browned. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  3. Using your fingers, break the Veggie Sausage into small chunks, about 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) size and add to the skillet, stirring frequently, for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE CREAMY TOFU, combine all the Creamy Tofu ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  5. TO MAKE THE POLENTA, combine the water and salt in a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the cornmeal.
  6. Using a whisk, cook the cornmeal, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cornmeal is softened and cooked through. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the cornmeal. Turn off the heat.
  7. TO ASSEMBLE THE POLENTA, add the Creamy Tofu mixture, Sausage Filling, the green onions and red peppers to the polenta, mixing well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  8. Spoon the polenta mixture into the 2 prepared heart molds, pressing gently to avoid air spaces. Set aside to cool, then cover the molds with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to prep for serving. Prepare the Tasty Tomato Sauce.
  9. TO MAKE THE TOMATO SAUCE, combine the fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a 3-quart (3 liter) saucepan. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are broken down and softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve.
  10. TO SERVE, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (Gas Mark 5). Put the molds on a large rimmed baking sheet and warm the polenta hearts for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until warmed through. Warm the Tasty Tomato Sauce.
  11. Remove the molds from the oven and invert onto 1 or 2 serving dishes as desired. Spoon a small amount of tomato sauce around the outer edge of the polenta hearts and garnish the platter with the parsley and purple cabbage. Serve the remaining tomato sauce at the table.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes 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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