Set the Scene for a Positive 2018 & Sweet Potato Polenta

Happy New Year everyone. It’s been a tumultuous few years. Does anybody think that will change in the foreseeable future? No? I didn’t think so. I don’t either. Alright then, is there anything we can do beyond a seat belt for the proverbial bumpy ride? Since I’m thinking figuratively, that seat belt could come in a couple of different styles. Setting the scene for a wonderful 2018 could be as simple as …

Be kind. You don’t need to get all caught up in some elaborate scheme to change someone’s life. Although it would certainly be kind and then some, no one expects you to build a new house for a neighbor in need or buy a bus for the local orphanage. Being kind can be as simple as holding the door for someone at the post office, smiling at a stranger in the supermarket or buying coffee for the next in line … particularly if the next in line is wearing scrubs.

As powerful as they are simple, small acts of kindness can stave off an inclination towards absentminded selfishness. They might even blunt the horror of craven greed. Okay, that might be reaching. Perhaps I saw too many Hallmark movies this holiday season. In any case, small gestures of kindness can go a long way during this cold and dark time of year.

Don’t forget, it’s not enough to be kind to others, be kind to you too. If you’re having trouble getting out of bed on a Saturday morning, stay there. Your body needs the rest. Your brain needs the rest. The world will not flounder and fold if you turn off your phone for one day. Find some soup in the freezer, curl up with a blanket and take a day. You deserve it.

Tell the truth. False impressions, half-truths, whole lies, and fake news, it could be my imagination but honesty and integrity seems to have taken a backseat. Maybe they have lost their seats altogether. From truthful hyperbole to pants on fire, we seem to find reality distorted at almost every turn. Just sorting through it all is exhausting.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all (I know I am), just know – not a one of us needs to join the fray. Remember when your mom told you she didn’t care if everyone was doing IT. It didn’t matter what IT was. As far as she was concerned you should not dye your hair purple, skip school or smoke pot. If you’d told her everyone lied, she still would have insisted you tell the truth.

So, even if it feels like lying liars and flaming pants surround you, you can do it. You can be honest. It’s just that easy and just that hard. No, the dog didn’t eat that report – I ran out of time and will finish it by the end of the week.

Embrace gratitude. Stuck in a bubble of subzero temperatures, grateful might not be the first word to come to mind these days. It’s okay to go off on a little rant and stamp your feet. Both might help you stay warm. However, envy towards those friends in Florida could swallow you up. Don’t let it. Instead, be grateful for your four walls, warm coat and cap. Oh, and mittens, don’t forget your mittens.

Let gratitude lift you up. Enjoy the warm sun through the window and snow for the skiers. Marvel at the clear sky and stars at night. Be happy for your sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, they bring you everything the world has to offer. Most of all, give thanks for family, friends and the love they share with you.

Have a wonder-filled 2018 and bon appétit!

Sweet Potato Polenta
We could all use a cozy dish to warm up to this January. Sweet Potato Polenta is delicious with everything from braised short ribs to Creole shrimp. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 large sweet potato
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon or to taste chipotle in adobo purée* (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup instant polenta
4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 tablespoons butter

Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Prick the sweet potato several times with a knife, place it on the baking sheet and in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees until soft, 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, halve the sweet potato and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the cream cheese and sour cream and season with chipotle, salt and pepper. Use a masher to smash the potato and combine the ingredients.

The sweet potato can be prepped in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before adding to the polenta.

Meanwhile, bring the milk, broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, slowly add the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until the polenta starts to thicken, 2-3 minutes.

Add the sweet potato, cheese and butter and continue to stir until the cheese and butter have melted, 2-3 minutes more. If the polenta seems too thick, add some more broth or milk. Serve immediately.

* To make chipotle puree – take a can of chipotle in adobo and toss the peppers and the adobo sauce in a small food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Two Years Ago – Dhal (Lentils) with Roasted Cauliflower
Three Years Ago – Spiced Chai
Four Years Ago – Roasted Cauliflower, Radicchio & Arugula Salad
Five Years Ago – Old Fashioned Pot Roast
Six Years Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Seven Years Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Eight Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Nine Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your thoughts on the new year? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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