Sudden Death Dinner- Soft Polenta

Slam of the car door, the whoosh as the child collapses into the seat.

Famished, ready to eat the cat if it stands still long enough.              Or maybe even if it doesn’t.

Sudden Death time.  Food better be on the table quickly.

Haven’t we all had days like this?  When your body is so in want of food that the idea of taking even an hour to make dinner is just too long. The Hangries have reared their ugly head, that devastating combination of hungry and angry that stems from low blood sugar.

What is your go-to food for these times?

Soft Polenta with Kale, Kalamata olives and sausage
Soft Polenta with Kale, Kalamata olives and sausage

Do you have a repertoire of 7 or so meals that can be on the table in 20 minutes or less?

I do, simply because it isn’t an anomaly, this need for food quickly is the norm ’round our house.
With two working parents and two typical pre-teens, our evenings are packed with music lessons, sports events, late patients and such.

So when we finally pull in the driveway, we want food, fast.

Thank goodness my mother impressed upon me the benefits of a well stocked pantry. Maybe it was her Depression era upbringing that made her always keep enough food around the house.  Maybe it was because with a family of 8, shopping was truly a chore.  So if you did it in large quantities, you could shop once a week instead of daily.

Or maybe my mom wanted to be able to put a good meal on the table anytime she wanted.
I’ve got to admit that my pantry is vastly different than my mom’s.

Gone are the canned vegetables, soups and fruits, replaced with glass jars of tomatoes for sauce, Did anyone else grow up on Spatini sauce?

Gone are the packaged foods, the instant potato flakes, the Mapleine to make syrup.

Do they still make Mapeline?                                    (yup, they do!)
My pantry more closely resembles what I image my grandmother’s pantry would have looked like.
Large bags of flours and grains, homemade jams and jellies, bags of nuts and frozen vegetables in the freezer with a smattering of canned foods.  Sardines, wild caught tuna, and beans are the predominant ones.
And then there are the foods that neither my mother nor my grandmother would have stocked at all,  kalamata olives, gluten free pastas, capers, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and polenta.
These all form the basis of my fast, healthy weeknight meals.
Here is how I do it.

Soft Polenta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The perfect foil to almost any toppings, and one of the easiest ways to bring dinner to the table quickly.
Serves: 4
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups boiling water or ½ chicken stock and ½ water
  • Parmesan Cheese- optional
  1. Melt butter in large pot.
  2. Add in the polenta, stirring to coat well in butter.
  3. Add the salt.
  4. Pour in the boiling stock, water or mixture.
  5. Bring back to a boil, then turn off and cover the pot.
  6. Let sit for 10 minutes or till your sausages are ready.
  7. serve with Parmesan cheese.

Soft Polenta with Kalamata Olives, Sausage and Peppers
A very easy way to make perfect polenta every time.
  • 1 package of Italian sausage links- I use either Hempler’s or Isnerio’s. When these brands are cooked, there is very little fat in the pan. They are both brands that treat the pig well. No Nitrates!
  • 1-2 green or red sweet peppers - organic
  • 1 large onion
  • Slice the peppers and onions into ¼ slices.
  • 1 bunch organic spinach or one bag of organic frozen chopped spinach.
  • ¼ cup of pitted Kalamata olives (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  1. In a large heavy frying pan put one sausage per person or heck the whole package.
  2. If frozen ( I always buy multiple packages on sale and freeze them), cover half way with boiling water.
  3. Let them cook till browned.
  4. Tun the sausage so the other side gets a bit browned too. The water should have cooked off by now.
  5. Using scissors cut the sausages into bite sized chunks.
  6. Let them continue to cook.
  7. Give your polenta a stir. Even if it has clumped up a bit, the stirring will loosen it right back up.
  8. Prep your veggies.
  9. Wash and slice into ¼ inch slices your peppers and onions. I always stock organic sweet peppers in my fridge.
  10. If you are using fresh spinach, wash it too and cut it into slices. Otherwise just open the bag.
  11. The sausage should be nicely browned by now, and the bottom of the pot looks very dark. That is ok! It makes the sauce so much nicer in flavor.
  12. Toss in those vegetables starting with the onions and peppers. Let them get nice and hot.
  13. Then add the spinach, olives and fennel seeds. Cover the pan and turn it to low.
  14. Give the polenta another stir.
  15. Check the veggies to see that the spinach has wilted. If the pan has few juices, add a bit of water or red wine to enhance it.
  16. Serve by scooping a healthy portion of the polenta into a bowl and topping with the sausage and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with the parmesan if desired.
  17. Enjoy!
  18. Preparation time:
  19. minute(s)
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  22. Diet tags:
  23. Gluten free
  24. Number of servings (yield):