Tag Archives: polenta

Mambo Italiano!

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited this blog.  Life just gets ridiculously busy at times. Anyway, before I let this moment get away, I’d like to discuss polenta.

Italian’s have porridge too.  That’s right–it’s not just the English, and some like it hot; some like it cold, and some like it in the pot, but NEVER, NEVER nine days old.  Heck, good polenta doesn’t last a day in my house!  Haha!

Here’s a little trivia for you.  Polenta is not a modern food item, in fact it’s been around since Roman times, however it was a little different, especially since corn wasn’t even existent.  It was made from grain mush called puls or pulmentum…the Latin words for gruel or porridge.  The porridge was made from either farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt or chickpeas.  Truthfully… it was probably healthier.

I wish I didn’t love polenta so much.  When my allergist told me that I was allergic to corn, I literally sunk in my seat and almost cried.  He said, “are you okay?”  I said, “No!  Oh — my– God… Please don’t take my polenta away from me!”  I was quite serious, but he actually laughed.  In all his 50 years of medical practice he’d never once had a patient get sad over being told they shouldn’t eat corn.  He said, “You know, people are usually livid when I tell them chocolate must be eliminated from their diet, not corn.”  lol

I am happy to report that Polenta is indeed NATIVE to Italy!  It originated in Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy.  It’s so refreshing to know this. When I found out that pasta really wasn’t native to Italy, I nearly threw in the towel… the cooking towel that is (wink)!

…back to polenta…

During the 1700’s, polenta was very popular, and it was more commonly eaten among peasants, probably because it was plentiful and cheap to make.  It was literally a dietary stable during those times.

In it’s basic form, polenta is fairly healthy, however without the added cheese, butter and seasonings, polenta by itself is a little on the bland side.   It is cooked by simmering in a water-based liquid, but there are literally a score of variations, depending on the region.

According to Wikipedia, “Cooked polenta can be shaped into balls, patties, or sticks, and then fried in oil, baked, or grilled until golden brown; fried polenta is called crostini di polenta or polenta fritta. This type of polenta became particularly popular in southern Brazil following northern Italian immigration.”

It’s hard to believe that polenta is a low carbohydrate food, but it is rich in Vitamin C and A.  Research studies have shown that corn can support the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine and can also be transformed by these bacteria into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These supply energy for our intestinal cells, which lowers the risk of colon cancer.  See more at: http://www.naturalhealth365.com/tag/polenta-health-benefits#sthash.njlaMvCr.dpuf

Basic polenta is as easy as making white rice.  You simmer it in water or broth until all the water is absorbed and the polenta is smooth. After the polenta is done, you can choose to add some butter, olive oil, various Italian cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, etc.

Often times, I transfer the cooked polenta into a baking dish and add pasta sauce, parmesan and Romano cheese, oregano, fresh basil, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place it into a 350 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Sprinkle finely grated parmesan cheese over the top and serve.  It’s delightful!

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Thanks for stopping in.  Now, I’m racing to mambo…not to the pizzeria, but to my massage therapist!

Arrivederci!!!

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What do you mean I can’t eat polenta?

Imagine my surprise, to find out that 80% or more of what I had been eating all of my life, I was allergic to…The doctor laughed at me after I got upset over being allergic to corn.  He said, “Most people cry when they find out they can’t have chocolate.  You were upset over polenta!”

Of course, as time went on, and I began to research corn a bit, I discovered that it isn’t just the allergy factor.  Corn, because of the way it’s been genetically modified poses a problem.  Corn is cheap to reproduce, and it’s in EVERYTHING!  Our cattle, chickens, hogs, and even our cats and dogs eat it… and in the form of corn syrup, it’s actually cheaper to use that sugar.

However…cheaper is not always better.  Perhaps the old saying, “You get what you pay for” is true.  Nutritionists claim that obesity, which is currently a rising epidemic in the U.S. has been affected by corn and all of its modifications.  By the way… it’s also affecting the quality of the meat; it’s become fattier.

According to Time Magazine, “From 1972 to 2002, the amount of sugar and syrup produced annually per American grew 21%, from 104 lbs. to 126 lbs., according to the Department of Agriculture. In that same time period, the percentage of syrup sweetener in that total grew from less than 1% to nearly 50%.”

Ouch!

Dr. Mercola would have to agree.  He says, “Pundit George Will has joined the ranks of those who have noticed that the U.S. government’s treatment of corn is wrecking the health of Americans…Rates of chronic diseases like cancer and Type 2 diabetes are much higher today than they were in 1900. Type 2 diabetes is a $100 billion a year consequence of, among other things, obesity related to a corn-based diet. Four of the top 10 causes of American deaths — coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer – have well-established links to diet as well.”

Of course, since I am allergic to corn, this should have no barring on me… Yet, it’s taken years for me to “try” and wean myself off of corn, and to be truthful, I still have not completely accomplished this, but I am working on it, and I have lowered my intake of corn products radically.  The greatest offender is corn tortillas. I live in Southern, California, and they’re hard to avoid. However, I do not eat any product that has high fructose corn syrup, especially with the absolute understanding that this ingredient is wrecking the health in America.

Think about it:  We are eating products that raise our insulin levels at every meal.  When I was eating “Italian,” even though “sugar” was not a common part of my everyday diet, so many things that I ate became sugar when broken down in my body.  For example:  pasta, bread, cereals, rice, polenta, potatoes, etc.  The carbs in some foods (mostly those that contain simple sugars and highly refined grains, such as white flour and white rice) are easily broken down and cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly.  The foods to avoid are mainly empty carbohydrates including all white flour breads, pasta, white rice, anything made with white sugar, corn syrup, or high fructose, processed foods like boxed or prepackaged foods, foods with no or low fiber, fruit juice with added sugar, condiments with added sugar, sugary cereals and regular soda. The two vegetables that have the highest glycemic index are potatoes and corn. Most foods that are packaged like frozen dinners and canned foods have fillers like corn starch, sugar and carbohydrate-based preservatives.

It’s interesting that for the past few years, health practitioners have been encouraging people to eat according to the Glycemic index, which measures the effect that carbohydrate consumption has on blood sugar levels.

After reviewing my eating habits for most of my life, it is no small wonder as to why I’ve developed some health issues, beginning with food allergies.  In an recent article on WebMD, it says, “A food allergy occurs when your immune system responds defensively to a specific food protein that is not harmful to the body…The first time you eat the offending food, your immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies (called immunoglobulin E or IgE). When you eat the food again, the IgE antibodies spring into action, releasing large amounts of histamine in an effort to expel the “foreign invader” from your body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system.”

So, essentially, I compromised my immune system with the foods that I grew up eating, and it’s no wonder that I’m currently rethinking Italian!
“He who enjoys good health is rich, though he knows it not.” Italian Proverb –OH THE IRONY!

Sources:  http://www.ehow.com/about_4603110_foods-diabetic-should-avoid.html

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/04/corn-is-making-the-us-unhealthy.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/food-allergies