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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Blueberry Lemon Thyme Bread

With the end of summer in sight, we are trying hard to make the most of it by squeezing in as much fun as possible while also being mindful to take each day slowly and intentionally.  This past weekend we hosted a backyard morning brunch for our neighbors and it was such a nice way to kick off this end-of-summer season.  The kids ran around and played while the adults mingled and my heart was filled with gratefulness once again for this community that we live in.   Looking ahead to these next couple of weeks, we’re going to try to fit in a just a few more summer playdates, one last mini-golf outing, a trip to the raspberry farm, maybe one more picnic, and so on.  I’ve made this blueberry lemon thyme bread to celebrate the end of summer as well.  We’ve gotten beautiful thyme from our CSA and it adds such a fragrant and fresh summer flavor to the blueberries and lemon.  The bread is made with white whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour for a light texture and yogurt to keep it moist and tender.  This is the kind of loaf which is perfect for an afternoon tea or snack.  It’s sweet, but not quite indulgent enough for dessert. We aren’t always able to sit down for a snack in the afternoons, but I do enjoy the times when we are able to come together for a few moments to rest, recollect ourselves, and savor a sweet treat together.    School is just around the corner and I know I will be missing these times soon.

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