Polenta for dessert?  Why, yes!  Packed with vitamins and fiber, this healthy yet gooey treat will be the highlight of your holiday dessert table.  It’s equally fabulous served warm or cold and can be prepped ahead of time and assembled just before serving.  Best yet, it won’t weigh you down like other desserts so you can effectively lead the post meal conga line.  Gluten free and vegan to accommodate your eco conscious/food allergic guests.  Serves 8.


3/4 cup canned pumpkin

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

5 Tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar

2 teaspoon best quality natural vanilla flavoring (not extract)*

1 teaspoon natural almond flavoring (optional, not extract)*

1/3 cup cornmeal

salt to taste

2 firm pears, thickly sliced, skin intact


Step 1: Make pumpkin yummy!  Mix together pumpkin, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 4 Tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring and if using, almond flavoring.  Set aside.

Step 2: Make polenta!  Place 1/3 cup cornmeal and 1 cup water in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.  Stirring constantly, cook for 20 minutes (add water if needed) until smooth, creamy and very thick.  Remove from heat and add pumpkin mixture.  Add salt to taste and adjust flavorings and sweeteners as needed.  Return saucepan to heat.  Stir constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes.  If you want to get all Martha Stewart-y, you can mold the hot polenta by pouring it into oiled sauce cups and refrigerating until chilled through, about 2 hours.

Step 3: Make poached pears!  In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, place pears, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring and 1 Tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup.  Boil for 5 minutes, until pears are slightly softened.  Remove pears gently with slotted spoon and place on plate to cool.  Boil remaining poaching liquid until syrupy, about 4 minutes.

Step 4: Assemble! Place a poached pair slice on plate.  Add a dollop of polenta or unmold by inverting each polenta filled sauce cup over pears. Drizzle with poaching liquid and serve.

*What’s with all the extract hate?  No, I love extracts, its just that they have to be cooked for best flavor.  Natural flavorings are made with glycerine, not alcohol, and work better in this recipe.  Be sure to get a natural one rather than the imitation vanilla extract, you can purchase them at health food stores or here: http://www.vitacost.com/frontier-natural-products-vanilla-flavor-fair-trade-alcohol-free

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