Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Layered Italian Beefy Polenta Bake...Featuring Laura's Lean Beef 92% Lean Ground Beef

A few years back, I decided to reduce my consumption of red meat to save fat and cholesterol. I began using more ground turkey in my recipes. Then, I discovered Laura’s Lean Beef. I still use ground turkey in some recipes, but sometimes a recipe really needs a rich beefy flavor. That’s when I turn to Laura’s Lean Beef. It has no added hormones or antibiotics, and its cows are fed a vegeterian diet. Laura's Lean Beef is lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories…but not flavor! The recipe I’m sharing today is a perfect showcase for Laura’s Lean Beef’ 92% lean ground beef. If you’re like me, casseroles and other one-dish recipes are a mainstay of your weeknight dinner menu rotation. These dishes are easy to assemble and filling, and they let you make a complete meal! Casseroles often get a bad rap for being boring or high in calories...which I think is unfair!

Today, I’m sharing a recipe for a Layered Italian Beefy Polenta Bake. This zesty dish a snap to assemble and is bursting with my favorite Italian flavors. It’s also higher in fiber and lower in fat than the typical casserole thanks to Laura’s Lean Beef 92% lean ground beef, the addition of zucchini and baby portabella mushrooms, and reduced-fat Italian cheese blend. If possible, make this oven bake in a clear baking dish to show off its colorful layers. Best of all, simply add a simple green salad on the side, and dinner’s done! 
Layered Italian Beefy Polenta Bake
adapted from Southern Living
For the beef layer:
  • 1 lb. Laura’s Lean Beef 92% lean ground beef
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped baby portabella mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 1 14-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
For the polenta layer:
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • ½ cup shredded reduced-fat Italian cheese blend
For topping:
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Italian cheese blend
  • 4 large basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Step 1: Make the polenta layer. Add the chicken broth and Italian seasoning to a large nonstick saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Cook for 3 minutes, until the polenta is thick and creamy. Add the butter and shredded Italian blend; whisk until completely incorporated. Add the polenta to the bottom of a casserole dish (preferably clear glass). Spread evenly with a spatula and set aside while you prepare the meat sauce.
Step 2: Place a large non-stick skillet on the stove over med-high heat. Add the Laura’s Lean Beef ground beef, Italian seasoning, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add the shallot, garlic, zucchini, and mushrooms. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, until the veggies are crisp tender. Add the tomato paste, petite diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Stir well to combine and cook over med-low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Step 3: Preheat oven to 350. Add the veggie and meat sauce on top of the polenta in the baking pan. Spread evenly with a spatula and top with the Italian cheese blend. Cook until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.
Step 4: Just before serving, sprinkle the chiffonade of basil on top of the casserole. To serve, cut into squares and place on each serving plate. Serve with a simple green salad for a complete meal.
This dish is SO flavorful! The zesty meat sauce has a great depth of flavor, and the polenta is creamy and cheesy. Michael isn’t a huge vegetable fan, but he gladly ate both the zucchini and mushrooms in the robust, meaty sauce! This layered casserole was definitely a fun departure from the usual spaghetti and meat sauce, and leftovers reheat perfectly the next day. This dish is simple to make, but it's also nice enough to serve to dinner guests. I’m thinking that individual servings baked in a ramekins would be a nice dinner party presentation. I hope you’ll give this delicious casserole a try very soon…and let me know what you think!

Disclosure: Laura’s Lean Beef provided me with ground beef to facilitate recipe development. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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