Monday, October 29, 2012

Squash-Rice Casserole

I am blogging to you live from Hurricane Sandy in NYC, and so grateful that I still have power this evening. My thoughts go out to those who have not been so lucky.  If you are in the storm, and are able to cook, this casserole is comfort food to get you through.

  • 8 cups sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1 cup vegan sour cream*
  • 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles, divided (such as Galaxy Foods)
  • 1/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the zucchini, onion, and chicken broth in a Dutch oven.

2. Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, until tender.  Drain and partially mash the zucchini mixture with a potato masher.

Note: the idea is not to mash the zucchini smooth liked mashed potatoes; rather, it releases liquid as you mash, which will in turn keep the casserole moist while it bakes.

3. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a large bowl, along with the rice, cheddar, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan sprinkles, breadcrumbs, salt, black pepper, and Ener-G eggs.  Spoon the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

4. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan sprinkles, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes - the casserole should be bubbly.

5. Remove the casserole from the oven to preheat the broiler, then return to the oven and broil for 1 minute, until lightly browned on top.

Curl up with a bowlful and stay safe from the storm. Make this casserole your main dish, or serve alongside Gardein chicken:

or Match pork:

You could also serve alongside slices of Lightlife ham, or try chopping up the ham and adding right into the mix:

*Try a light vegan sour cream in this casserole, such as We Can't Say It's Sour Cream from Wayfare Foods.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup), Calories 197 

Tasting Notes:
Warm, and full of creamy rice and tender zucchini; this was very much like casseroles we ate in my childhood.  Distinct but not overwhelming Parmesan flavor.  I might use half zucchini and half yellow squash next time, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top instead of stirring into the filling for a little extra crunch. But this warm comfort food was exactly what I needed tonight.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Curried Cabbage

I'm always looking for new cabbage recipes; not only is the leafy vegetable (a close cousin to the much-buzzed-about kale) budget-friendly, but it's also loaded with vitamin C, fiber, iron, and folic acid. What's not to like? Well, the fact that it can be quite bland. But earlier in the month, I gave cabbage a Chinese twist with my Tofu Fried Rice with Cabbage, and a Cambodian feel in my Tofu Vegetable Hot Pot. This curried version has Indian flavors instead.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 12 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1/4 cup vegan chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the mustard, curry powder, and turmeric; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

2. Stir in the cabbage, chicken broth, vinegar, salt, and black pepper.  Cook for a final 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender.

I recommend grilled seitan alongside this dish, either served plain or stirred into a curry:

If you have it at home, the curried cabbage also pairs well with grilled Match pork:

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (2/3 cup), Calories 58 

Tasting Notes:
I really enjoyed the warm, toasty spices in this dish, as well as the little seeds of the whole-grain mustard, which added great texture. I would cook the cabbage longer next time, however. If you err on the side of eating raw, or are a fan of raw cabbage, you'll probably like it just as is after 5 minutes.  But the more cooked something is, the more I like it (in general), and I would have preferred the cabbage to be more tender.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Apple Slaw

Last night's Mixed Apple Salad over Greens had potential, but was too tart. To suit my taste better, I wanted to try this fun take on slaw, with a sweet vinaigrette and sweet Pink Lady apples. If you don't have Pink Ladies, try Cameo, Gala, or Fuji apples instead.

For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/3 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For the slaw:
  • 2 and 1/2 cups chopped Pink Lady apple
  • 1 (12-ounce) package broccoli slaw*
  • 3 ounces dried tart cherries
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seed kernels
1. To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk together the brown sugar, cider vinegar, canola oil, salt, and black pepper.  Set aside.

2. To prepare the slaw, combine the apples, broccoli slaw, and dried cherries in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss well.  Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.  Chill before serving, though not longer than 3 hours; I chilled the slaw for just over 2 hours.

If you want a good vegan meat to pair with this dish, try Match pork for dinner:

Or alongside slices of Lightlife ham for lunch:

*Look for broccoli slaw with the bagged greens in the supermarket - it's a blend of mostly broccoli and just a touch of cabbage and carrot.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup), Calories 125 

Tasting Notes:
Much more to my liking than last night's apple salad, with a sweet but tangy vinaigrette, beautifully crisp and sweet Pink Lady apples, and just the occasional tart dried cherry. The one thing this dish was sorely lacking was a salty contrast, so I recommend salted sunflower seeds.  I liked it best alongside slices of Lightlife ham, which added just the right savory counterpoint.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Mixed Apple Salad over Greens

I snatched up beautiful Cameo and Granny Smith apples from the farmers' market for this recipe, although any variety would work - Braeburns would be lovely too.

For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of black pepper
For the salad:
  • 2 cups chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 2 cups chopped Cameo apple
  • 1/4 cup crumbled vegan blue cheese (such as Veg Cuisine)
  • 2 cooked and crumbled Lightlife bacon slices
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
1. To prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, agave, olive oil, salt, and black pepper; set aside.

2. To prepare the salad, combine the apples with the blue cheese and crumbled bacon in a bowl.  Drizzle with the dressing mixture and toss gently.

3. Serve 1 cup greens on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with 1 cup apple mixture.

A note on buying apples: Whether you're selecting apples from the local market or your grocery store, make sure they are firm and not bruised.  You want apples with smooth skin, and ones that small fresh, not musty.  They'll keep in a pretty fruit bowl on the counter of course, but if you come home with way more apples than intended (ahem, like me) and want to keep them fresh as long as possible, store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup apple mixture, 1 cup greens), Calories 163

Tasting Notes:
Unfortunately this salad wasn't all I had hoped. 1/4 cup lemon juice in the dressing was much too tart, even with the addition of agave, and the dressing also needed a good bit more olive oil (or perhaps a nut oil, like hazelnut). The Granny Smith apple was also too tart for my liking, so next time I will use two sweet varieties - Golden Delicious or McIntosh come to mind, to pair with the Cameos.  I would change the preparation just a little, tossing the greens and apples with the dressing, and then sprinkling with the bacon and blue cheese before serving. And finally, there needed to be more blue cheese, because I can never get enough of Veg Cuisine's soy bleu.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cheese Enchilada Casserole

This casserole comes together quickly, and uses 3 kinds of vegan cheese for an ultra-cheesy final product. Just remember to prepare a batch of vegan cottage cheese in the morning or afternoon, since the flavors need about 5 hours to blend.

  • 1 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 cup prepared vegan cottage cheese*
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded vegan Monterey Jack cheese (such as Vegan Gourmet)
1. Combine the cheddar, tomato, cottage cheese, green onions, chili powder, and minced garlic in a bowl.  Set aside.

2. Arrange 3 of the tortillas in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Spread with half of the cheese mixture.  Top with an additional 3 tortillas, and spread with the remaining cheese mixture.

3. Top with the final 3 tortillas, and pour the taco sauce on top.  Sprinkle with the Monterey Jack.

Note: Look for a taco sauce sweetened with agave syrup, not honey or sugar. It's always good to double-check ingredient lists, but most brands should be vegan.

4. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then divide into 4 servings.

*To prepare the cottage cheese, combine 1 (14-ounce) package lite firm tofu, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a dash of salt, a few drops of vanilla extract, and a pinch of stevia. Mash with a fork to the consistency of cottage cheese.  Cover and chill for at least 5 hours so the flavors can blend. You'll only need 1 cup for this recipe; serve the rest with a salad or fruit for a light lunch or breakfast.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 portion), Calories 299 

Tasting Notes:
Fantastic flavors, my favorite parts being the warm corn tortillas, creaminess from the cheddar, and just the right hint of spice from the taco sauce and chili powder. My only complaint is that the dish was uneven. The tortillas on the bottom layer, furthest from the taco sauce, were dried out. Spread a thin layer of taco sauce on the bottom of the pan to avoid this problem or consider dividing the taco sauce up, 1/3 cup between each strata, instead of pouring it all on top. I would also double the amount of chopped tomato, for fresher flavor. Having recently tried Tofurky's chorizo crumbles for the first time, I think they would be fantastic here. Those changes would make this dish a sure "5."


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple Crostata

Whole grain cornmeal can be used in recipes ranging from savory (as in my Polenta Croutons) to sweet (as in my Cornmeal Pound Cake) with ease. This dessert is yet another fun way to use cornmeal beyond cornbread.

Contrary to the title, this recipe is actually a cross between a crostata and a cobbler. Crostata, an Italian version of a pie, is usually a sweet flour-and-cornmeal crust with a fruit or custard filling. Much like a French galette, the dough is folded over but does not completely cover the filling.

This recipe deconstructs that idea a little. The fruit mixture is on the bottom, and the cornmeal crust becomes the topping, as in a classic American cobbler or crumble.  Pastry flour keeps the topping delicate, but you can use all-purpose flour as a substitute.

For the topping:
  • 3/4 cup pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup whole grain yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1 Ener-G egg
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins 
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups cubed Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. To prepare the topping, lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a food processor with the cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and dash of salt.  Pulse 2 to 4 times to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture; pulse about 6 times, until the mixture looks like sand.

2. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl, and make a well in the center.  Add the Ener-G egg and stir until blended.  The mixture should still be crumbly, but with the sense that if you squeeze it even slightly, it would become the texture of pie dough. Set aside.

3. To prepare the filling, combine the golden raisins and brandy in a bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Drain and discard the liquid.

4. Return the raisins to a bowl, along with 2/3 cup sugar, the brown sugar, orange rind, lemon rind, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground cinnamon, and black pepper.  Toss well.

5. In a small bowl, combine the apple and lemon juice.  Add the apple mixture to the raisin mixture and toss to combine.

6. Spoon the apple mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with the cornmeal topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes - the topping should be crisp and golden brown. I recommend placing a baking sheet on the rack below the crostata, to catch any drips during baking.

Serve warm, drizzled with the balsamic vinegar.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1 piece crostata, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar), Calories 311

Tasting Notes:
This really was a crumble in all but name, but I appreciated the subtle cornmeal flavor to the topping, and loved the unexpected twist of balsamic vinegar on top. The savoriness and acidity helped cut through the sweetness of the filling, which otherwise was no different from other apple-raisin crumble fillings I've eaten. Next time, I would use significantly more apple, both to bulk up the portion size and to offset all that sugar.  That said, the portions are small, but because the flavors run the gamut from sweet to savory and back again, a little bit is really all you need.

Update: if you have leftovers, I do not recommend this dish chilled - the flavor just doesn't work for some reason, and the balsamic becomes overpowering. A quick 15 to 20 second re-heat in the microwave solves the problem.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Caramelized Onion and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

I'm always thinking of ways to keep mashed potatoes interesting and new, as we head into winter and the holiday season. One idea is to stir other veggies right into the potatoes, as with my Smashed Potatoes, Parsnips, and Turnips.  In this recipe, a batch of caramelized onions and a spicy blend of mustard and horseradish perk things up.

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter, divided
  • 4 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 and 1/2 pounds peeled and cubed baking potato
  • 1/2 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons bottled prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and brown sugar; saute for 10 minutes, until lightly caramelized.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, place the baking potato in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potato is tender.

Note: you don't have to cube the potato before cooking and mashing - but it certainly speeds up the process, ideal whether you're making this dish on a busy weeknight or on a holiday with guests milling about.

3. Drain and return the potato to the pan.  Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the milk; mash to desired consistency with a potato masher, ricer, or electric mixer (I prefer the first).  Return to the burner and cook for a final 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until heated.

4. In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, horseradish, mayonnaise, and salt.  Add the Dijon mixture and caramelized onion mixture to the potato mixture, stirring to combine.

Try pairing these hearty potatoes with Match beef steaks, steamed asparagus, and a glass of (vegan) red wine. If you're feeling adventurous, the tangy mustard and horseradish pair well with vegan tuna, such as Vegetarian Plus.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 186 

Tasting Notes:
An enjoyable alternative to regular mashed potatoes.  Contrary to my worries, the mustard and horseradish were not overpowering, but were just tangy enough. I would caramelize the onions longer next time, for at least 30 minutes, until deep brown and very sweet, and I would also add only half as much onion.  Surprisingly, I liked this dish best with the vegan tuna, I think because the potatoes had a similar tang to tartar sauce.  One thing I did not love, however, was that the Dijon mustard tinted the potatoes a dull tan color, so minus a half point for poor presentation.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Shrimp with Sweet Pea Sauce

Mint and peas are such a lovely combination (case in point, see my post for Minted Pea Soup), and here the two are combined in a bright green sauce. If you don't have or don't like vegan shrimp, try the sauce over seitan instead.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 20 Sophie's Kitchen shrimp, thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen petite green peas
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the shrimp evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Add to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Remove the shrimp from the pan.

2. Add the chicken broth, garlic, and peas.  Simmer for 3 minutes.

Note: no need to thaw the peas first - these petits pois will cook in moments in the warm broth.

3. In a blender, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, pea mixture, mint, and butter.  Process until smooth.  Add the vinegar and pulse a few times to combine.

4. Spoon 1/3 cup pea sauce onto each of 4 plates, and top each serving with 5 shrimp.

Serve with garlic bread to soak up the last bits of sauce. I used this recipe, made with Earth Balance butter. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (5 shrimp, 1/3 cup pea sauce), Calories 300 

Tasting Notes:
The presentation of this dish was just absolutely restaurant-worthy: so elegant and delicate on the plate.  The pea sauce was wonderful - silky and buttery, with just the right touch of acidity from the vinegar to balance the natural sweetness of the peas, and neither too thick nor too thin. It would be lovely over almost anything I can think of - pasta, tofu, seitan - you name it. For that reason, I was actually disappointed I went with the shrimp (visual presentation aside), since the strong fishy flavor lessened my enjoyment of the sauce. But only a tad. Fantastic with garlic bread. A "4" for the pea sauce, a slight detraction for the shrimp in my overall rating below.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Osso Buco-Style Chicken

I hesitated to keep the title of this recipe. Osso buco literally translates as "bone with a hole" and - you guessed it - refers to the marrow hole in the veal shank typically used for this dish. You no doubt already know how horrific the veal industry is (and please remember that the veal industry wouldn't exist without the dairy industry), so it would be a shame to glorify a preparation that uses the flesh of baby male calves.

But, because I aim to veganize everything under the sun, I wanted to show that the osso buco preparation - which really refers more to the sauce of tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery, and the gremolata on top, than to the meat - can be made just as well with Gardein chicken. I recommend the thin chick'n scalloppini patties from Gardein for this recipe, rather than the heftier chick'n breasts.

For the chicken:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 6 Gardein chicken pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup cubed carrot
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup vegan dry white wine
  • 5 cups chopped tomato
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
For the polenta:
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1 cup uncooked instant polenta
  • 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the gremolata:
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind 
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. To prepare the chicken, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the chicken pieces evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Add to the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

2. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in the skillet and add the onion, carrot, celery, and 2 garlic cloves; cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits.  Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, along with the chopped tomato, basil, and rosemary.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes.

3. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and continue to simmer for 35 minutes.  Uncover and cook a final 5 minutes - the tomato mixture should be thickened by now.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the polenta: combine the milk and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and gradually add the polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Note: my pick for the cheese in this dish is the Gouda from Sheese. It has a nuttiness similar to Gruyere that works well with the polenta.

5. To prepare the gremolata, combine the parsley, lemon rind, and 1 garlic clove. 

Serve 1 chicken piece and 2/3 cup tomato mixture over 3/4 cup polenta in each of 6 shallow bowls, and sprinkle each serving with about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gremolata.

Merlot is a great wine to pair with this dish. Try the one from Stellar Organics, which is certified vegan. Another great option, if you can find it, would be an unfiltered or vegan Montepulciano.

I love when my wine is friendly to vegans:

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 chicken piece, 2/3 cup tomato mixture, 3/4 cup polenta, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons gremolata), Calories 412 

Tasting Notes:
Unexpectedly, the polenta was my favorite part of this meal - creamy and rich and slightly nutty from the cheese. The gremolata was unexpectedly zesty - quite the bite from the raw garlic and lemon rind, but tempered perfectly by the rest of the dish. The rest of this was pure Italian comfort food, redolent with the warm, savory tomato, carrots, and celery, to the point where the chicken felt nearly superfluous. I might just serve the veggie component warm atop the polenta next time, for a simpler meal. I kept craving the salty pop of chopped kalamata olives as I ate, so even though untraditional, I recommend stirring into the mix.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Polenta Croutons

Croutons are a novel use for homemade polenta, and sounded like a fun afternoon project. This recipe caused me no little consternation however, which I believe stems from the fact that somewhere along the way it contains an error. The original recipe called for baking the croutons at 400 degrees. However, at that temperature, my first batch melted into a soft mass of wet cornmeal.  Reviews online showed that other would-be crouton makers encountered the same problem.  This meant that either the croutons were being baked at way too high a temperature, or that the cornmeal-to-water ratio in the polenta mixture was wrong, resulting in a polenta that could not hold its shape. I took a gamble and decided it was the former, since the polenta did firm up fine in the fridge before baking. I prepared a second batch and slashed the oven temperature by 200 (!) degrees. That seems to have done the trick resulting in lightly-crisped croutons.

  • 3 and 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup whole grain yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Gradually add the cornmeal and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly - the cornmeal will just be starting to thicken in the liquid.

2.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the creamer and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  The mixture at this point should be thick, but still soft enough to stir.

3. Spoon the cornmeal mixture into an 9-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray, using a spatula coated with cooking spray to spread evenly to the edges.  Transfer to the fridge and chill, uncovered, until completely cool. Don't think you can get away with a quick 30 minute chill on this one; I recommend at least 4 hours, and chilled mine for 5 hours.

4. By now you have firm, though sponge-y polenta.  Turn it out onto a work surface and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 90 cubes).  Place the cubes on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn over and bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes. Cool the croutons on a wire rack.

These are fun for eating out of hand as a snack: 

or can be tossed in any salad as an alternative to bread croutons:

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 100 

Tasting Notes:
After so long worrying if I could bake the darn things without them melting, it was time to fret about taste. For a moment, I wondered if I should have added vegan cheese or herbs, or some other flavor. One bite and I ceased to worry: crisp on the outside, but soft and almost fluffy on the inside, these were addictive little bites just to snack on with a glass of white wine in hand.  A nice touch of creaminess from the soy creamer I used.  I do wish the squares were crunchier (otherwise they hardly seem deserving of the name "croutons") but I think this is as crisp as they can get. If you want to play around with adding vegan Parmesan sprinkles or dried herbs into the mix, I'd love to hear your results. Please also anyone let me know if you're brave enough to bake at a higher interval (325 degrees perhaps?) or have time to play with the water-to-cornmeal ratio. I'm really quite curious to know why the original version of this recipe let me down.