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I'm Crystal Vaughn

a classically trained chef taking holistic plant-based nutrition on a grand adventure through North America. When I’m not creating in our traveling kitchen, you can usually find me on my yoga mat or a hiking trail.

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Last week my lovely future mother-in-law, Lynn, asked me to make Mark (my future father-in-law) a nice meal for their anniversary since she couldn’t be here.   She suggested possibly a Mexican theme and so I got to thinking.  In the past the most excited he ever got about something I made was Polenta “Cakes” (kind of like cornbread) that I served with a veggie chili.  I decided to try to integrate this into something that would be easily reheated.


This is a great make-a-head meal.  It can be prepped and ready to go in the fridge for 2 to 3 days and then all you have to do is pop it in the oven and you’ve got dinner without a fuss in 30 minutes.  It could probably even be made in the crock pot if you are into that sort of thing.  

This is actually a pretty great template recipe.  Just switch up the beans, veggies and spices and you could have a completely different meal.  For instance, use red beans and some Cajun seasonings and you’ve got a great New Orleans inspired dish or cannellini beans with Italian seasonings can transport you to Northern Italy (well, not really but you get the point).  So many possibilities! 


Please let me know if you try this recipe out!  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.  As always, feel to contact me with suggestions or if you have a dish you would like me to vegify!

Happy cooking,

Crystal  xoxo

P.S.  A very happy 30th birthday to my wonderful fiancé, Dallas!!  


Mexican Black Bean & Cilantro Polenta Bake
Serves 4


1 onion, cut in thin slices

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional), diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground coriander

pinch of cinnamon

2 cans of black beans, no salt added and BPA-free can

1 cup of organic corn, fresh or frozen

3 cups of water

1 cup polenta

1/4 cup oat milk or non-dairy milk of choice

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Sauté the onion in 2 tbsp of water in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.

2. Once onions start to soften add the red bell pepper and jalapeno and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes.  If the pan starts getting dry add a little more water.

3. Add minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander,  cinnamon and salt and sauté for about 2 minutes.

4. Add black beans with the liquid (also known as pot liquor) and the corn.  Stir well to combine all the flavors and remove from heat.

5. In a medium sauce pan bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Very slowly add the polenta to the water while whisking constantly.  Turn heat to low.

6. Whisk frequently for 5 minutes.  

7.  Remove from heat and stir in oat milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Once everything is combined fold in cilantro.  

8.  In an oven proof casserole dish (either 9x9 or 9 inch round) pour the bean mixture into the dish.  Spread the polenta evenly over the beans.

9.  Bake in the oven at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until starting to brown on top.  

Note:  If you want to serve this as a make ahead meal follow steps 1-8 and then store in the refrigerator.  When you are ready to eat it cook in the oven at 400° for around 30 to 35 minutes.   

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any health condition or disease. It does not replace medical advice from a licensed professional.