Cornmeal Quinoa Waffles with Honeyed Cinnamon Ricotta

After writing last week’s post and reminiscing about my past dreams of living in Maine, I realized how far I had come in my struggle to have a content heart.  For the longest time, my eyes failed to see the beauty around me because I was so focused on all that I didn’t have but so badly wanted.  Looking back now, it all seems crazy.  Today I find it difficult to comprehend just how much I have.  I am more able to appreciate the little things around me.  The leaves are changing into a splendor of colors, and the air feels clean and crisp.  This past weekend we enjoyed doughnuts at the cider mill and apple picking afterwards.  Small joys build a grateful heart.

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Spicy Honey Crostini with Pears and Walnuts

Crostini is almost always my appetizer of choice for bringing along to share at suppers and gatherings because I find little toasts with toppings irresistible and the variations are endless.  I recently discovered Bees Knees Spicy Honey through the Hatchery and it makes the most outstanding crostini.  For those of you not yet familiar with the Hatchery, they are a company that focuses on bringing small and independent artisans together in one online marketplace.  In addition to purchasing full size products through their marketplace, each month you can also sample various ingredients from these makers through their unique tasting boxes.  I’ve been receiving Hatchery tasting boxes for the past few months and each month I feel inspired to incorporate new flavors and spices into my cooking that I might not have otherwise tried.  And just in case you need some ideas, each box comes with a guide which introduces each of the makers and provides pairing suggestions for each ingredient.   Their marketplace sells jams, honeys, nut butters, spice blends, cooking sauces, oils, vinegars, and so much more.  Almost anything you could want to make your time in the kitchen just a little more interesting and exciting is sold at the Hatchery.  This spicy honey is one that I’ve been particularly smitten with.  It’s infused with chili peppers and has just enough bite to spark a curiosity and leave you wanting more.  Here it’s drizzled over juicy fresh pears and toasty walnuts layered on a spread of whipped fresh ricotta and creamy goat cheese.  The combination is heavenly.

Right now the Hatchery is kindly offering Gather & Dine readers an opportunity to try their first tasting box for just $10 when you use the code GATHERANDDINE at checkout.  And for this week only, they are offering G&D readers 15% off all marketplace purchases when you use the code HATCHGD15 at checkout.  (Disclaimer: Discount may not be used in conjunction with any other discounts.)  They currently have a new batch of Bees Knees in stock, but I’ve seen this honey sell out on numerous occasions so get some while you can!

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Ricotta Goat Cheese Polenta Bake with Mushrooms, Greens, and Caramelized Onions

December seems to be an especially tricky month for finding balance.  There is so much joy, so much celebrating, so much wonder.  Yet there’s also an inevitable busyness that leads to such a frantic pace of life, which seems so contrary to what this season is supposed to be about.  Eating in balance is also difficult when all I want to do is bake holiday goodies all day long.  This polenta dish provides at least some balance– a little savory to counter all of the sweet.  It’s simple enough for busy days and nourishing enough to compensate for having a bit too much dessert.  The caramelized onions, mushrooms, and greens along with some fresh thyme make an excellent trio; the ricotta and goat cheese add a touch of creaminess, just enough to make it slightly indulgent but not overly so.  The key to perfectly creamy polenta is cooking it over low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and gradually adding more water.  While 30 minutes may seem a bit laborious, it’s just enough time to caramelize the onions, soften the mushrooms, and wilt the greens while the polenta cooks.  Afterwards with some quick assembly, it all melds together in the oven with mounds of soft and melty ricotta and goat cheese.  It’s perfect for chilly evenings gathered around the table with loved ones and friends.

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