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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review: Cooking Up the Good Life

I love cookbooks. I have a ton of them, mostly focused on vegan and vegetarian recipes. My collection is constantly growing and I recently added Cooking Up the Good Life by Jenny Breen & Susan Thurston. I've been aware of Jenny's dedication to nutritious meals over the past couple decades, so I was eager to see what great recipes the cookbook contained.

Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table

While I was a bit disappointed by the absence of pictures throughout the book, I did find quite a few vegetarian recipes that looked good based on ingredients. The Polenta with Tomato Jam combined with Lemony Olive Sauce with Grilled Vegetables went very well together. It took awhile to make, but the results were fantastic! The people at the University of Minnesota Press were nice enough to let me share the recipes with you.

Polenta with Tomato Jam
(makes about 2 dozen)
Excerpted from Cooking Up the Good Life, University of Minnesota Press
Print Recipe

3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups polenta or coarse cornmeal

Tomato Jam:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup maple syrup or sugar
1 tsp salt
Chevre (optional)
Fresh thyme or microgreens (optional)

Bring the salted water to a boil, then slowly add the polenta, whisking regularly to remove lumps. Simmer mixture and continue stirring it for about 5 minutes. Remove the polenta from the heat, pour it into an oiled 9x13-inch pan, and spread it so it is about a half inch thick. Let the polenta cool. Then cut it into the desired shapes using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapenos for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, maples syrup, and salt and simmer on very low heat until quite thick, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the jam cool for at least 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator if possible. (I served it warm and it was great.)

When jam is cooled, spoon it onto the cut polenta. To dress up this dish, you can top each piece with a small dollop of chevre and a sprig of thyme or a pinch of microgreens.

Lemony Olive Sauce with Grilled Vegetables
(makes 8 to 12 serving)
Excerpted from Cooking Up the Good Life, University of Minnesota Press
Print Recipe

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
Juice of 2 lemons
Zested rind of one lemon
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp minced fresh fennel greens
6 cups seasonal vegetables such as beets, onions, green beans, and zucchini, peeled (if desired) and sliced in large, thin pieces (I used onion, zucchini, and green beans.)

Whisk together the olive oil, honey, and lemon juice, Stir in the lemon zest, garlic and fennel. Place the cut veggies in the sauce and marinate for up to 4 hours.

Remove the vegetables from the marinade and reserve the leftover marinade. Place the veggies on a hot, oiled grill and turn as needed. Using a grill basket or grill wok will make grilling easier. Top with the remaining sauce before serving.

Disclosure: This book was a review copy sent to be by the University of Minnesota Press.


  1. I'm always looking for healthier recipes to make for my family. Thanks for the "heads up" on this cookbook. Might be worth looking into!

  2. I`m sure my familly will enjoy this Polenta with Tomato Jam recipe, i`m planning on doing this over the weekend . i'll let everyone know what they think :-)


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