Making vegan snacks can sometimes test the brain a bit, because you don’t always want to be that person that just brings carrot sticks to a party (even though they’re awesome and you feel 1000% better afterwards than everyone else who ate a loaf’s worth of pastries). These minty pesto + beet polenta stacks are all sorts of win – colourful, tasty, and party-friendly! I’ve decided that they’re so easy to make they will now officially become a weekly staple in the fridge, because sometimes the nibbles hit hard and there isn’t much to calm the belly beast. Polenta is lucky filling and ridiculously versatile, not to mention budget-friendly, which is my new goal for our household.
Yesterday I had a pretty awesome “vegan day” – meaning I got an excuse to talk about one of my favourite topics! At teatime one of the library ladies came up to me and asked whether it was true that I was a vegan, which sparked a whole awesome conversation about food where I learned that she did a ten day raw diet (and felt great, apparently!), and how she wants to try and incorporate some of those principles into her lifestyle now. I practically glee’d myself with excitement, because yay, adventurous people!
I know that transitioning from an omni diet to a vegetarian or vegan one is daunting, seemingly expensive (bad food is cheaper!), and may not feel sustainable, but that’s where proper planning comes in. Even doing a Meatless Monday or alternate days makes an important change in your body and the world. Ideally I’d love for people to try things out and be like RAWR but what I see on a lot of these ex-vegan posts or comments across the blogosphere is a type of shame or sadness about having “failed” at it.
I honestly don’t think everyone should be so hard on themselves about food, myself included! I “fail” every day with a dark or homemade chocolate fest, but I’d learnt to rather just make that an accepted part of my daily diet and not freak out about a little treat, because I know that if I deprive myself of it I’ll just binge out later.
For people who try out new diets or lifestyles and “slip” up here and there, it doesn’t have to mean one gives up or goes back to old habits because something was too difficult. Any habit or lifestyle takes time to adjust to and to incorporate into your actuality – my ideal diet and lifestyle are very different to what I actually accomplish, and I don’t hate myself when I start the day planning for what I will do rather than what I wish I could magically manage but know I can’t.
I don’t think my colleague’s raw attempt was meant to be something permanent though, which is why I’m psyched she’s taking this easy-going approach to incorporating elements into her lifestyle. I’m not a big advocate for 100% raw 100% of the time, because cooked food is delicious, but sometimes eating mostly raw during the day is so refreshing and makes for a vibrant plate!
Many of you will remember how I suffered with a broken oven, however, which is why raw has taken a backseat to the warm steaming of my hearth – an utter celebration of electricity and science! I made these the other day for Rikke’s kitchen tea, and they were solidly in-law approved, not to mention Man-thing made some happy noises. I’m always looking for stuff to make and keep in the fridge as quick snack bites, and this is awesomeness.
Once I make something, however, I tend to faff and change it up, which is why my polenta is now blood red :p If you don’t have beetroot or carrots on hand you can leave that portion out and just make straight-forward polenta with the veggie stock, but again, colour on one’s plate always makes for utter glee, methinks!
Polenta pesto stacks (makes 12 – 16 bites)
- 1 massive handful of spinach, washed + dried
- 1 massive handful of basil, washed + dried
- 8-10 mint leaves, washed and dried
- 2-3 TBSP lemon juice
- a few splashes of green tabasco
- 1/2 heaped TBSP tahini
- splashes of paprika + white pepper
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- Optional: 1 dropper NuNaturals Liquid Orange (or a squeeze of orange juice if you have some)
- 1 cup polenta
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 vegan-friendly stock cube
- mixed herbs
- 1 grated carrot
- 1 grated beetroot
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp jam
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
Roasted cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
- 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
- dried mixed herbs
- In a food processor, blend your spinach and mint leaves as fine as possible before adding the rest of the ingredients and blending til combined and the nuts are broken down.
- Line a loaf pan (mine’s approx 25 x 10) with sprayed baking paper with overhanging flaps.
- Boil the water on a pot on the stove with the stock cube, then add your polenta and cook according to instructions. I usually cook mine for 5 or so minutes, stirring continuously over medium heat, then leaving it for 3-4 minutes on low heat. Stir in your herbs in these last minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a non-stick pan or pot, add your grated carrots, beetroot, curry, red wine vinegar, onion flakes + jam and fry til softened and until the liquid is gone/4 or so minutes.
- Transfer your fried and grated goods to the polenta and stir well to combine.
- Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
- Spoon the polenta into the loaf pan and spread it out evenly – this may prove to be troublesome, but don’t worry too much about little ripples – this will be covered by the pesto!
- Leave the polenta in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Once you’ve put your polenta in the fridge, slice your cherry tomatoes lengthwise and toss it together with the blackstrap, herbs and red wine vinegar.
- Place face-down on a lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until the tops get wrinkly and delicious (there’s no other description for it!)
- Remove the polenta and slice into 12-16 pieces. I cut mine into 12 but for more delicate treats you can be more sparing with the portions.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then spread the pesto on top as well as a cherry tomato half and bake for another 15 minutes.
- Optional: you can also just not bake the polenta and smear the pesto on once the polenta blocks have been chilled.
Nom? om nom! I munched these cold but they’re also yummy heated up. I had one today with a salad for lunch and even one block is rather filling, so if you’re going to make it for guests with other snacks I definitely recommend slicing to get 16 or so servings out of the lot.
Being budget-friendly is really becoming a priority for us, and it’s fun to get creative with what’s in the house without having to schloff to the shops to guiltily stock up on goodies. I always oggle at ridiculously good looking recipes but then file them under “one day” in my brain because yikes! Raw cakes are all very well but those cups of nuts don’t grow in our backyard :p Still, I think it’s important to learn to budget, plan, and then splurge. These polenta stacks, however, are relatively cheap, easy to have around, but still feel super decadent, which is always nice!
What are your favourite beet recipes?