Thanks for popping over to the Prints & Plants blog to grab your Polenta Puttanesca recipe. I want to preface by sharing a bit about the importance of listening to your body.
What I've come to find through my own journey with food (from zero connection to my plate growing up in Oklahoma City, to living in a farm town in Minnesota, to creating artwork in response to working on farms in New Mexico) is that one of the things that matters most is listening to your body.
Sounds easy enough, right? Except the thing is, it's not always so simple. You see, in my experience growing up in Oklahoma, I mostly ate whatever was in front of me without paying attention to how it made my body feel. I didn't think twice about what I was consuming and had no awareness to even ask where the ingredients in my meals were coming from. I was disconnected: from my food, from my body, from the land, and I didn't even realize it.
It wasn't until I moved to Northfield, Minnesota, a small farming town, that my eyes opened to the beauty of produce. The colors and patterns mesmerized me. I couldn't get enough. I started making art about the food on my plate just because it was so dang beautiful. As I spent more and more time with my food, I began to wonder who grew it and where it came from. Cue my entry into farming (a longer story than I tell right here - hit me up to hear it!).
So, do you have to go work on a farm to get in touch with your body? Nah (though it does help). Here are three simple ways you can listen to your body when you sit down to eat:
When you're about to dig in to your food, pause for a moment for a quick practice called EBT (Emotional Brain Training). EBT helps you digest your emotions, so to speak, so you can move into a relaxed mental state before chowing down. Here's how it works:
Right before you eat, ask yourself: Am I . . .
State 1: Feeling Great
State 2: Feeling Good
State 3: Feeling A Little Stressed
State 4: Feeling Definitely Stressed
State 5: Feeling Stressed Out
Let's say you are feeling like State 3: A Little Stressed. Settle into this feeling and then complete the following sentences to yourself:
I feel sad that...
I feel afraid that...
I feel guilty that I...
I feel grateful that...
I feel happy that...
I feel secure that...
I feel proud that I . . .
This process allows you to give full reverence to your feelings and slowly shift into a state of calm before you begin to eat. Sink into this process and then sink your teeth into your meal.
2) Slow Down.
When you sit down to eat, do just that. Don't type, don't text, don't work. Just eat. Trust me, I am no saint at this, but when I do take time - even five minutes - to focus only on the food in front of me, I feel extremely connected to my body and to the nourishment I am receiving. One way to slow down when you eat is to chew 30 (yes! 30!) times with each bite. Notice how the texture changes, the flavors that appear, and how your body feels.
“Don't chew your worries, your suffering, or your projects. That's not good for your health. Just chew the string bean.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Eat
3) Trust Yourself.
This above all else. With so many diets, regimens, "good and bad" foods (I don't believe in these qualifiers), "proper nutrition" (what does that even mean?) it can be really difficult to hear your body's voice at all. If you're cookin' up something that your body asks for and someone else deems it is a "wrong" food, does that make you unhealthy? No! What leads you away from health is putting more of your trust into a quick-fix diet or someone else's opinion of how your body should look instead of focusing on how you feel. Trust your body. Listen to her and trust her. She will tell you what she needs.
That's why this week I got after some tomatoes. My body was asking for them. Like a lot of them. So I listened to my body and ate 'em with a Polenta Puttanesca. I feel most nourished when I follow my body's cues which led this dish to be the response to the Prints & Plants Creative Kitchen prompt, "A dish that nourishes you."
Now, let me preface by saying that "polenta" and "nourish" are not typically words I use in the same sentence. Neither are "polenta" and "appetizing." However, if you can get over its name (and sometimes its appearance of bubbling, golden, soupy-ness) you're in for one of the most delicious foods out there (in my opinion).
I. Love. Polenta. I basically wanted to shout this from the rooftops after I had my first bite of this dish with the creamy corn, the salty capers, and the tomato sauce.
Just a heads up that this makes a mountain of polenta, but hey - leftovers! That's where it's at.
Serves: Makes enough for 4 hungry people
Time: 35 minutes
From Thug Kitchen 101
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
3 cups unsweetened nondairy milk like almond
1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutritional yeast (aka: nooch)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes in juice or crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
chopped parsley or basil, nooch, red pepper flakes
1) First let's make the polenta: Grab a large pot and bring the broth and milk to a boil over medium heat. Gently whisk in the polenta a little at a time and add the salt. (If you just dump all the cornmeal in there at once, it'll get clumpy and you already f*d up so don't do that). Bring it all to a boil, then reduce that heat to low. Cover the pot and let that deliciousness simmer for 15 to 25 minutes. Stir it on occasion while you work on the sauce because if it gets too hot, it's gonna stick to the bottom and you don't want that.
2) Now we're gonna make the puttanesca sauce: Warm up the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Throw in the garlic, capers, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute that shit around until the garlic looks kinda golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them if you bought them whole. Fold in the olives and let that shit cook together over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is ready. Easy.
3) When the polenta has absorbed most of the liquid and is tender, remove from the heat and stir in the nooch. Serve it up right away and top with sauce and some parsley or basil and whateverthef*k else you want. Sprinkle actual sprinkles if you want, get f*g weird with it (Liz: listen to your bod, remember?).