Recipe Redo Blog

Traditional Recipes Redone…Healthier

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Polenta Cake with Grilled Vegetables and Red Bell Pepper Sauce

Healthful recipes from The Oaks at Ojai by Christine Denney

Today we have the excellent opportunity to share a recipe from Christine Denney– executive chef and Food Services Director at The Oaks at Ojai. This recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free and soy-free. There is even an option for vegans to modify the Polenta Cake by using a vegan cheese. So what’s not to love? We promise that this recipe will delight the tastebuds and have you thinking about eating well in an entirely different way. You’ll be astounded at how well being healthy can taste!


Polenta Cake with Grilled Vegetables and Red Bell Pepper Sauce


(6 Servings, 175 calories each)

  • ½ cup polenta or corn meal
  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • ¼  cup grated  Parmesan cheese


Bring water to a boil and slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly.  Add the onion, garlic and olive oil and continue cooking for about 30 minutes.  (This is most easily accomplished in a double-boiler over hot water.)  While cooking, spray an 8 x 10 baking dish with a nonstick spray  or brush with a little olive oil.  Pour the cooked and thickened polenta into the pan, spreading evenly so that each round will be about ½ inch thick.  (If you brush your spatula with olive oil, it will be easier to spread.)

Refrigerate the polenta until set. (For this amount ½-1 hour should be plenty of time.)
After it sets, use a 2 ½-3 inch cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of the polenta.  Save the rest for another use or remold. (In lieu of a cookie cutter, you can use a small can—from beans, etc—and remove the top and bottom to make a cutter.)

On a baking pan (a cookie sheet works well), arrange the polenta circles.  On top of each, arrange the following: (for 6 people, one eggplant, 2 zucchini, 2 large portobellos)

1 slice grilled eggplant
1 piece roasted bell pepper
½ oz. mozzarella cheese
2 slices grilled zucchini
A few slices of grilled portobello mushroom or, if baby “bellos”, you can use the whole thing                                       ½ oz. mozzarella cheese (this is a small, thin slice—you can also use fresh mozzarella if you like.)

After layering, the polenta cakes can be refrigerated until you are ready to bake them.  If chilled add about ten minutes baking time.  If room temperature, they just need to heat through and the cheese needs to melt—about 30 minutes in a moderate oven at 350 degrees.
Garnish with freshly chopped basil and the following sauce—just puree it all in a blender or food processor:
½ cup roasted bell pepper
½ tsp. black  pepper
1 TBS. fresh basil
1 TBS. olive oil


Original article posted at The Oaks at Ojai.  To see more recipes from Christine, you can find her Chef Spotlight Page for Recipe Redo here.

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Butternut Squash With Garlicky Mushrooms, Quinoa and Wilted Spinach

This is straight up clean eating.

After you eat this you will feel satisfied and full of energy.

There are several steps involved but if you make the butternut squash and the quinoa a day in advance, it will be super easy to whip up. 

What You Need for the Squash:  squashMushroomsQuinoaSpinach

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • couple shakes of crushed red pepper
  • 5 turns (or more to your taste) cracked black pepper

How To Do It:

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Place squash in a mixing bowl and add olive oil, salt, red pepper and black pepper. Mix.
  • Place evenly on a baking sheet and cook for 50 minutes.
  • After 50 minutes, take the baking sheet out of the oven and flip over the squash. Turn the heat up to 500° and place the squash back in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye out to make sure they do not burn. The final result should be soft on the inside and slightly browned on the outside. Set aside.

What You Need for the Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (this will take the bitter taste out of the quinoa. Red quinoa tends to be less bitter).
  • 2 cups water

How To Do It:

  • Place quinoa and water in a pan and bring to a boil.
  • Turn down heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft. Turn off heat.
  • Once the butternut squash and the quinoa are done, make the garlicky mushrooms and finish assembling the dish.

What You Need for the Mushrooms 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 packed cups fresh spinach

How To Do It:

  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes. Cook the garlic until it just starts to get brown.
  • Add the mushrooms, evenly sprinkle the salt, stir and then cover the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • After the mushrooms are soft (adding the salt and covering the pan will allow the mushrooms to “sweat” and get soft), add the quinoa and squash, stir to combine and cook until everything is hot.
  • Turn off heat, add spinach and mix together.

Serve immediately.

This recipe is compliments of Molly Patrick of the Happy Cow.