Cheesy Polenta with Black Beans and Sweet Potato

As I noted in the Cheesy Polenta with Swiss Chard post, Jill and I like to modify the recipe with different combinations of vegetables to serve over the cheesy polenta. In anticipation of the change of seasons, I made a version of the recipe with black beans and sweet potatoes because the color and flavor combination are reminiscent of fall.

To make this variation, I finely chopped one small onion and sautéed it in the olive oil until translucent. Then I peeled, diced, and sautéed two medium sized sweet potatoes with the onion in the olive oil until soft. I added diced chicken sausage (I used Aidell’s Italian Style chicken sausage this time instead of the chicken and apple sausage), a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, and a can of black beans (instead of cannellini beans). In lieu of the swiss chard, I added chopped fresh spinach. I served the mixture over cheesy polenta, prepared as noted in the previous post.

What combination sounds good to you?  Leave a comment and let us know what variation of this recipe that you would like to eat!

Cheesy Polenta with black beans and sweet potato
Cheesy Polenta with black beans and sweet potato

Shannon’s Bean Dip

Because our house is mostly back together (pictures coming soon!) and because today is college football and I’m craving bean dip I think it’s time to post this recipe.  It’s the perfect recipe for the blog comeback – simple, delicious, and a real crowd pleaser.

The first time I had this dish, I was a freshman in college and Shannon baked a bean dip and brought it to the ladies of 2 East Landis Hall as a finals week treat.  I quickly asked for the recipe and I’ve make it countless times since then.  The students at my office rave about the bean dip and when I show up with one at potluck events I am met with “Yes!  Jillian brought the delicious dip!”  So I’ll pass along the recipe because it is delish and perfect for tailgates, holiday parties, and (if I’m being totally honest) dinner.  Enjoy!

Shannon’s Bean Dip

can of refried beans

can of black beans, drained and rinsed

jar of salsa

6 – 8 ounces sour cream

6 – 8 ounces cheese

tortilla chips (for serving)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, gently fold black beans into refried beans, making sure not to smush the black beans.  Spread the bean mixture on the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 glass baking dish.

Spread the sour cream on top of the bean mixture.

Spoon the salsa on top of the sour cream, keeping the two in distinct layers.

Top the salsa with the cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Sometimes, if I’m going to a gathering with a lot of people, I’ll double this and bake it in a 9×13 pan.  If you like cilantro, chop a handful of cilantro and sprinkle on top of the bean dip as soon as the dip comes out of the oven.  You could also top with diced avocado.  Or, if you are me, you can top it with both!

The photos above are courtesy of Shannon.  I don’t have a picture of the dip after it has finished cooking (probably because in all the times I’ve made it, it goes directly from oven to table to mouth without pause!) but I guarantee that if you prepare this for any gathering, your dish will look like this in no time:

Fiesta Spinach Salad

Oh, this was soooooo good!  On Wednesday, after a long day of cleaning out the storage closet at work (no small feat!) followed by a post-work bike ride, all I wanted for dinner was something simple and delicious that used up some random ingredients in my fridge: black beans, an avocado on its last leg, and spinach.  Enter my creation of the Fiesta Spinach Salad:

Start with a bed of spinach (I used two big handfuls).  I give mine a quick chop first.

Top with chopped bell pepper.  I used 1/2 of a large pepper, but you could use the whole thing if you bought a small one.

Top with about 1/2 cup-ish of black beans – I just eyeballed it.

Top with the protein of your choice.  I’m currently in love with Amy’s veggie burgers, which I mentioned before in this post.  As far as frozen veggie burgers go, these have the best texture, flavor, and ingredient list, hands down.

Top with 1/2 a small avocado.  Want to know an easy way to dice an avocado?  After slicing the avocado in half lengthwise, carefully score the avocado (make crisscross cuts that don’t pierce the skin).

Then carefully use a spoon to scoop the avocado out of the skin.  So easy!

To keep the other half of the avocado from turning brown (the technical term is oxidative enzymatic browning – can’t believe I remember that from an undergraduate nutrition class!), wrap the avocado in plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the entire surface of the avocado.  This will keep the other half from turning brown as quickly.

Back to the salad – top the whole creation with a healthy amount of salsa.  
Another one of my favorites.  Paul Newman, what a guy!  Artie and I probably go through a jar of this each week.

Finally, give the entire thing a sprinkle of cheese.  We had white cheddar on hand.

Mmmmm so good.  This was easy to assemble (only got 6 dishes dirty – a cutting board, a knife, the cheese grater, a spoon, a fork, and a bowl), tasty, and exactly what I was craving.  It was enjoyed with an episode of this:
And the recipe was easily replicated the next morning to make for a delicious Thursday lunch:

The second time around, I didn’t have much spinach left (maybe a handful or so?) so I added in about a cup of raw broccoli florets, chopped into little pieces, and it worked really well.

Have a great weekend!