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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, .

Dear Aunt Nettie,

The holidays are really doing me in and I'm afraid putting on an extra few pounds. How do I start the day without a heavy, fatty meal?


Howdy there Patti,

Yer certainly not alone darlin'. They's lots o' folks worryin' 'bout the same thing. So I done come with a mighty fine, really low fat breakfast that's got no oil, margarine, or other fats, lots o'fiber, a heap o' good fruits, an' plenty o' whole grain.

Cornmeal is easy ta turn into polenta, an' dried fruits cooks up lickety split ta make a saucy toppin' that's gonna git yer heels a-clickin' with the first bite. Yer gonna love this dish so much you'll be sayin' why ole Aunt Nettie got a heap o' new-fangled ideas.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Polenta, which is made from cornmeal, is frequently served as a dinner dish, but rarely as a breakfast. Cornmeal mush, however, is a typical breakfast in parts of the U.S. and some European countries. This low-fat breakfast, a unique twist on humble cornmeal mush, morphs into an elegant polenta with a delectable topping. Because breakfast is often a rushed meal, prepare the polenta and the fruity topping the day before and warm them separately in the morning. For variety, substitute different dried fruits or even fresh fruits for the topping. Serve with a steaming cup of herbal tea.


    4 cups (1 liter) water
    1/4 cup (60 ml) soymilk or rice milk
    3/4 teaspoon salt

    1 cup (240 ml) whole-grain cornmeal

    Fruity Topping
    3 cups (.75 liters) water
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) chopped dried apricots
    3/4 cup (180 ml) golden raisins
    18 to 20 dates, diced
    1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar

    2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 to 3 tablespoons water

  1. To make the polenta, combine the water, soymilk, and salt in a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan. Bring it to a boil over high heat and add the cornmeal, watching carefully to prevent a messy boil-over when the pot reaches a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cornmeal becomes very thick, and almost solid.
  2. Turn polenta out onto a large round platter, and allow it to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for an hour or overnight.
  3. The next morning, preheat the oven to 300 degrees (Gas Mark 2). Cut the polenta into pie-shaped serving portions, place the portions you will use for breakfast in a parchment-lined baking pan, and warm in the oven while preparing the topping. Reserve the leftover portions in the refrigerator for another breakfast.
  4. To make the topping, combine the water, apricots, raisins, dates, and agave nectar in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low and steam for 7 or 8 minutes.
  5. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir to make a thin paste. Turn the heat to high. When the fruity juices begin to boil, add the paste a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the juices thicken into either a thin or medium-thick sauce. Add more paste if needed for extra thickening.
  6. To serve, place the warmed polenta on a dish, spoon a generous serving of the fruity topping over the polenta and enjoy. Makes about 6 servings.

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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