Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter 

Sometimes, when I make dinner and I’m trying something new, I make sure we have eggs or cereal on standby in case it doesn’t turn out so great. It’s happened before and I’m sure it’ll happen many times again. So goes the way of things for a curious foodie.

This dish was one of those times. I feel like I see polenta everywhere and everyone I know seems to love it. Until now, I had never had it nor attempted to make it. I know it’s a pretty healthy component to a meal, so I wanted to give a try to see if it was something we could add to our dinner repertoire. And guess what? It was actually really good!

Polenta is made from ground cornmeal. It is gluten-free (if that’s your thing), a whole grain, low in calories, and full of vitamins A and C. It is a healthy/smart carb source. And, most important, it’s yummy.

I feel like I should mention, though, that it is a bit on the bland side, so adding flavors is a MUST. I wouldn’t just whip up a batch and eat it as is. It needs cheese and butter. I know that doesn’t sound healthy, but if you make 80-90% of the meal healthy, you can splurge a little on cheese and butter. I do now have a bag of polenta so I am looking for more ways to use it. A friend of mine suggested making a batch and spreading it out on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate until solid and then cut it out and grill it. She also mentioned it is delish topped with grilled veggies or even tomato sauce.

I used Bob’s Mill polenta, which is not an “instant polenta” so I don’t know about those measurements, but what for what I used it was a ratio of 1 cup polenta to 4 cups of water and it ends up making about 3 cups prepared polenta.


This dish is a bit of a twist on the southern classic shrimp and grits because grits are very similar to polenta. I love using the scallops, but they are a bit pricey, so this isn’t something we can have often, unfortunately.

Pumpkin Polenta with Seared Scallops and Sage Brown Butter

Polenta

½ can pumpkin puree (15 oz can)

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

8 scallops, cleaned and dried

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Garlic powder

½ stick unsalted butter

Sage

For the polenta: Make it according to package directions, then add the cheese, butter, pumpkin, and salt and pepper to taste.


For the scallops: make sure they are clean and dry (so they sear) and season with a little salt and pepper and garlic powder. In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat up the olive oil (just enough to coat the pan) and saute your scallops until opaque. About 5 minutes per side.

 

For the sage brown butter: remove the scallops from the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Add the butter and sage. I used dried sage because my store was out of the fresh and I didn’t feel like driving around looking for it. Use minced fresh sage, if you have it. Let the butter melt and cook in the pan. It will start to brown pretty quickly, so don’t walk away. Turn the heat off when it is browned.


Put a scoop of the pumpkin polenta on a plate, top with the scallops, and pour some of the butter sauce over the whole thing.

Enjoy! 

Send any polenta ideas my way, please! 

Butternut Squash Chili 

At the risk of jinxing it all, it finally feels like Fall here in Southern California! I’m so happy that it’s finally cool enough for scarves and boots and sweaters. I mean, we still don’t get the leaves changing or anything like you see other places, but I’ll take it! Hopefully the 85/90 degree days are over for now.


Fall weather also means yummy, comforting Fall foods, like chili. You are all probably going to get sick of me posting chili recipes (like this one… and this one… and this one…), but let’s be honest. Chili is such a perfect cold-weather dinner. It’s also perfect for feeding a crowd and you can make it in your slow cooker. And you can pretty much just dump everything into the pot and leave it alone until it’s done. It’s such a lazy meal, but the results are always so scrumptious and satisfying. And, if you make it right, it can be a really healthy meal too.

This particular version actually started off as a vegetarian chili, but we had about ½ pound of ground beef that I needed to use, so I just threw it in here. You can easily leave it out and keep it vegetarian friendly, though. It’s so flavorful, no one would miss the beef, I promise. 

I was pretty bad at measuring for this one (sorry!) so I’ll give you approximates. What’s so nice about chili, is you can put in more or less of all the ingredients based on what you like. Chili recipes are more methods than hard and fast rules. 

Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili

serves 8-10* 

*not exaggerating

2 Tablespoons olive oil (since I added ground beef to mine, I didn’t use any oil)

2 bell peppers, diced small 

1 small onion, diced small

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 butternut squash, cubed (shortcut: buy the pre-cubed squash. It will make your life so much easier)

1 15 oz can black beans, drained

1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 chipotle peppers

2 tablespoons adobo sauce

1 ½ cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth is fine too)*

¼ cup cornmeal*

Salt to taste

*optional. I’ll explain below.

I made this in my slow cooker, but you can just as easily do it on the stove top. You prep it the same way, you just keep it on a low simmer for a few hours, stirring regularly.

If your slow cooker doesn’t have an insert that can be used on a stove top, just use a pan for the saute part and transfer it to the slow cooker insert. Mine can be used on the stove top, so that’s how I’ll write my instructions. OK, finally we get to it!

 

Over medium heat, add your olive oil, bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Add a little salt and saute until soft. (I omitted the oil and browned my beef instead. Then added the veggies). Then add your squash, beans, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce (that the peppers come in), broth and a little more salt (to taste).


Please keep in mind that the chipotles and adobo are very spicy. I found this dish to be VERY spicy, so add more or less depending on how spicy you like things. You can always add more later.

Set your slow cooker to low for 8-10 hours (or high for 4 to 6). The longer this sits, the better it tastes, so don’t worry too much about the time.

Let me explain the cornmeal really quick before we finish this up. I checked the chili when there was about 2 hours left. It seemed really watery to me, so I added some cornmeal to thicken it up. It worked and it was delish. I would think that you could also just lessen the amount of broth you add so you don’t need the cornmeal. I only put the broth in because it seemed like it needed it at the beginning.


When you are ready to serve, just fill up your bowls and top with your favorite chili toppings!

Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Shrimp

I have one regret about this dish, you guys. I only wish I had actually timed myself making it because I’m pretty sure the whole thing only took me maybe 20 minutes. It came together so quickly, I was genuinely curious how long it actually was. 

A ridiculously delicious 20-minute meal? That’s healthy too? This is the goal, am I right? If only my kids were as into it as my hubby and I were, but hey, I’m picking my battles today and they are fine with their chicken nuggets for today. More for me! :0)

Anyway, back to the recipe, which is even easier if you use store bought pesto. Which is totally cool. 

Or you can be super cool and use my spinach basil pesto that I love so much :0) 

This is so simple I’m not even going to write out a recipe. I’ll just give you the steps and you can make it to your tastes. 

Start with your Shrimp. In a bowl, add your peeled and deveined shrimp. I used half a pound of 16/20 count and it fed two of us. Add a couple cloves of minced garlic, a sprinkle of salt, and a sprinkle of lemon pepper. Let it sit while you prep your zucchini. 


Using a spiralizer, make your zucchini noodles. You can also use a vegetable peeler if you don’t have a spiralizer. Or you can use regular pasta. 


In a skillet over medium high heat, add a little bit of olive oil and sauté your garlic shrimp. It just takes a few minutes on each side, until pink and cooked through. Remove from the skillet.


In the same skillet, with all the yummy bits and now-flavored oil from the Shrimp, add your noodles and cook until soft, but still a bit al dente. 


When the noodles are ready, turn off the heat and add a scoop of your pesto. Toss with the zoodles until coated.


Plate your pesto zoodles with the Shrimp and enjoy! 

You could probably make this easily with chicken instead of Shrimp if you wanted. Or another kind of fish. You could also leave it as is and keep it vegetarian.

Pumpkin Chili

I am so impatient. It’s October but it’s still summer weather here. I need Fall! I need seasons!! Well, I can’t wait anymore. Hot weather, be damned! I needed to make some chili!

A couple years ago, some girlfriend and I got together once a month for a Foodie Club. You know? Like a book club with food and recipes. It was a lot of fun and I’ve been thinking about starting it up again. But I digress… 

I came up with this recipe for our chili themed night and it was a big hit. It’s tasty and super healthy. Only about 300 calories per serving (1cup serving) 

It makes a ton too, so lots of leftovers or even freeze it for later!! 

Now, just add this to the pumpkin everything craze!! 

Pumpkin Chili

2 pounds ground turkey (you can use beef if you want, but it will change the end calorie count)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 can (15oz) canned pumpkin

2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes

1 can kidney beans, drained

1 (12 oz) bottle of chili sauce (found next to the ketchup)


1 cup beef broth

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown turkey. Just before it’s done, spread the turkey out to the edges and add a teeny bit of olive oil (“teeny” is the technical chefy term, here) if you need it for the pepper, onion, and garlic. 


I used two of my favorite kitchen short cuts here: pre-diced onions and pre-minced garlic. BIG time savers! 


Anyway, once the veggies have started softening, mix them in with the meat and add your seasonings: chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, and cumin. And mix well.


Then, add the rest of your ingredients: pumpkin, tomatoes, beans, chili sauce, broth.


Mix together and bring to a boil for  a minute then let simmer for about an hour. The longer this sits, the better. Just make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.


This is such low calorie, you can too with a little bit of cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

Now serve yourself a bowl and soak up the Fall! 

Healthy Cookie Dough Bites

Warning: The following recipe is absolutely, 100%, seriously addicting. I got this recipe from a friend who raved about it on her Instagram (she doesn’t have a blog or anything to link to, but you can search #lifeonlomarecipes. She has this one and many of her other delicious creations there). 

When I first saw her post this, my initial thought was “Yeah, right. How could this possibly be good?” Then she kept making it over and over. Then other people started saying they had made it and that it was truly that good. 

I couldn’t figure it out. Healthy cookie dough bites? Really? How could these ingredients even work together? (You’ll see what I mean.) Anyway, I finally gave in and tried it out. I had all the ingredients I needed in my pantry so I set to it. 

You. Guys. I kid you not, these are amazing. Seriously. They are just as addicting as I was told and they taste EXACTLY LIKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH!!!! I’m glad they are full of healthy ingredients, because I was nabbing bites every time I walked by the fridge. I even had a few friends try them to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. 

My advice: Make these. Make them now and make them often. Keep some in your house and give some as gifts (the holidays are coming up soon!). You won’t regret it.

Now, without further ado, here is the recipe:

1 can (15oz) of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup peanut butter

2T honey

1 ½ t vanilla

Pinch of salt

Mini chocolate chips

Regular chocolate chips (optional)

What’s that you say? That’s it? That’s all that’s in this recipe? Yes. That’s it. These seemingly unrelated ingredients will come together to make perfect harmony. Trust me.

In a food processor, mix up your chickpeas until smooth. My food processor is really small, so I only used it for the chickpeas. If you have a bigger food processor, you could probably just put all the ingredients in there and save yourself a dish.

 

Once the chickpeas are all smooth, pour them into a bowl with the peanut butter, honey, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.

 

Add the mini chocolate chips and mix well.

 

Scoop out the “cookie dough” and form into 1” balls (or whatever size you want, actually). I was bad and didn’t really measure my ingredients very well. The end result was fine, but my “dough” was a little wetter than it was supposed to be so I couldn’t really roll it quite right. It was still fine, but next time it would be better to measure a bit more accurately.

 

Once your balls are all formed, freeze for about 10-30 minutes. Melt some chocolate and coat the balls in the chocolate. Freeze or refrigerate until set.

 

This last part is optional. I did it on half of mine. The other half, I just dipped the bottom half into chocolate. They are both amazing, but I actually preferred the ones that were only partially dipped. 

These babies are full of fiber and protein. The little sugar from the chocolate chips is fine. Also, you could probably swap them out for cocoa nibs and be even healthier if you wanted. You could probably also substitute the peanut butter for any sort of nut or seed butter you like. You could add oatmeal or even switch out the extract. I feel like these could be customized in a ton of different ways.