Sunday, February 23, 2014

Vegetable Polenta Casserole

After a busy week at work, I headed down to Atlantic City for my friend Leigh's bachelorette (and birthday) party at Harrah's on Friday! We started the evening with margaritas and family style Mexican food at Dos Caminos.  Usually, I prefer Dos Caminos brunch over their dinner, but the variety we got to try with the family-style dinner menu was fantastic.  After dinner, we headed to The Pool After Dark for some dancing.  To clarify - it's the indoor pool area at Harrah's which turns into a club at night, but there is no swimming... just dancing! Much to KK's dismay, I didn't do any gambling, but it was still a really fun night out! Keeping Saturday night a little more low key, KK and I finally watched Captain Phillips which was also excellent!

Since I ate what felt like more than my fair share of Mexican food at Dos Caminos on Friday, KK picked a recipe packed with vegetables for dinner.  KK was also eager to finish an open bag of polenta we've had in the pantry for quite some time.  We didn't finish it this time around, but we loved this dish, so I have a feeling the polenta will be finished in a few weeks.  The original recipe called for a bag of frozen spinach, but we used a box.  I recommend microwaving the spinach for 20 seconds, then breaking it into smaller pieces with a knife before stirring it into the polenta.  The rest of the casserole came together easily.  I seasoned both the polenta and vegetable mix with salt and pepper.  I went a little light on the mozzarella because my 8x8 pan was looking quite full! As usual, KK and I both topped off our individual servings with extra crushed red pepper.  KK thought we'd finish the entire casserole, but it was surprisingly filling, so we have leftovers which I'm already planning to have for lunch this week!

Vegetable Polenta Casserole
Adapted from Budget Bytes
Time: 1 hour
Serves: 4

3 cups chicken broth
1 cup polenta
1 cup water
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
15-oz. can diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven or pot.  In a small mixing bowl, stir together polenta and water.  When broth is boiling, pour in polenta/water mix.  Reduce head to medium low and simmer until thickened, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After mixture has thickened, add frozen spinach and stir until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Meanwhile, dice the onion, zucchini, and squash, and mince the garlic.  Combine the onion, garlic, and olive oil in a large skillet; saute over medium heat until the onions soften.  Add zucchini and squash to the skillet and saute for 5 minutes.  Next, add the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper; season with salt and pepper.  Stir skillet mixture to combine and let simmer for 10 minutes.

3. While the skillet mixture simmers, preheat oven to 350.

4. When polenta and spinach mixture is warmed through, pour it into the bottom of a greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.  Cover polenta with vegetable mixture, and top with shredded cheese.

5. Bake casserole for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly on top.  Serve immediately.

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