Celeriac, Kohlrabi, Carrot Slaw with Buttermilk Dressing

root slaw

Pull out your food processor, and this is a healthy, crunchy, refreshing fall slaw you can have ready in no time.  Don’t have a food processor, then a good box grater and some youthful help, make this a fun salad to make together.

It features two fall favorites, both of which may prove easier to grow than to find in your typical supermarket.  If your market doesn’t stock them, they are worth requesting. They are: kohlrabi (which comes in a pale green and this brilliant purple color),

purple kohlrabi

and the shy yet robust celeriac (or celery root). Here, looking down on its leaves, and

Celeriac leaveshere, underneath, where the delicious root ball is forming.

Top of celeriac knob

Kohlrabi, whose name means “cabbage turnip” in German can be enjoyed both cooked and raw, for an impressive amount of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid and potassium. Although the ball-like portion is easily mistaken for a root vegetable, it is actually a swollen, above-ground part of the stem. The entire plant is edible, so even though this recipe only calls for the bulb, you can use the leaves as you would kale, collards or cabbage.

Celeriac is often cooked and combined with potatoes in a mash, puree, soup or stew.  It goes well in just about anything in which you use root vegetables, and anywhere you want a celery flavor. It can also be eaten raw, when it is surprisingly crunchy and refreshing and offers an even higher dose of vitamin C. Though it has yet to win any popularity contests in the US, it as been featured on dining room tables in Europe as far back as Homer’s time.

The Fall Slaw:

  • 1/2 celeriac, peeled and grated
  • 1-2 kohlrabi, peeled and grated
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup nuts or seeds, such as walnuts, pecans, or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 9 tablespoons buttermilk (or substitute 4 tablespoons with mayonnaise)
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or chives)

Method:

  1. Using a food processor (making it very quick and easy) or a box grater, coarsely grate celeriac, kohlrabi, carrots and apple.
  2. Measure dressing ingredients into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Close lid and shake to combine.
  3. Combine grated vegetables and dressing in a bowl, add dried cranberries and stir. Cover and allow to stand for flavors to combine.  Add nuts and/or seeds.
  4. Serve garnished with fresh herbs.  This keeps nicely for several days and is an easy lunch to pack and take along.  What it features is all fall, but its bright color and refreshing crunch may remind you of summer.

root slaw 2

Long Live Grilled Cheese!

A panini, a quesadilla, a tosti, a croque-monsieur, a Welsh rarebit…. it has been thoroughly tested the world over, and has been unequivocally determined: a grilled cheese is a good thing.  In conjunction with Wilson Farm’s Grilled Cheese Weekend (my childhood neighborhood farm and farm stand hosting their First-Ever Grilled Cheese Weekend, March 1 & 2, 2014), I’m having what has become my favorite way to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich.

kimchi grilled cheese

Thanks to a thematic overhaul and a particularly lively addition, the grilled cheese recently jumped up in the ranks of my favorite sandwiches. The new theme is probiotics – those BFF bacteria we can’t live without and live much better with. Filling my sandwich with as much life as possible, I’ve been opting for a true sour dough bread (which is naturally fermented), layered with sliced raw milk hard cheese (naturally cultured Cheddar being the favorite choice in my area), topped with a generous scoop of sauerkraut or kimchi (lacto-fermented cabbage teaming with probiotics), all melted together to the point of perfection.

kimchi

kimchi grilled cheese

Add even more life to your meal, by washing it down with a tall glass of kombucha (a naturally fermented tea), ginger bug, kefir or a lassi and you are in good bacterial hands!

Kids Cook Monday: Fried Bananas Supreme

fried bananas

Just about all children like bananas, most likely as a breakfast or snack food, eaten raw. Let’s give them their familiar banana but fry it up, which both softens the fruit and heightens the flavor, then offer a selection of toppings from chocolate to nutmeg to nuts and seeds for personalization fun. This makes an easy and special dessert, and the third recipe in our “Kids Cook Monday” series.

bananas

Fried Bananas with Chocolate and Coconut

  • ½ -1 banana per person
  • butter or coconut oil for frying
  • chunk of chocolate (dark, milk or white)
  • grated coconut

bananas

Method:

  1. With peel on, cut bananas into quarters, then peel (makes process a little neater).
  2. Heat skillet and melt butter or coconut oil.
  3. Place banana pieces side by side in pan and fry until starting to brown. Turn and fry other side.
  4. Serve with shaved chocolate and/or grated coconut sprinkled on top.

Shaving chocolate

Additional serving ideas:

  • top with cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cardamom
  • serve with ice cream or vanilla yogurt
  • drizzle with maple syrup and/or honey
  • top with nuts
  • top with berries
  • slide inside a peanut butter sandwich
  • sprinkle with black sesame seeds for a beautiful visual contrast
  • for a savory, more Latin American version, use plantains instead of bananas and serve with salt or refried beans and sour cream.

A few fun banana facts:

  1. A banana is technically a berry (and so are watermelons, coffee, pumpkins and avocados) which grows on the world’s largest herb, not a tree.
  2. There are more than a 1,000 types of bananas worldwide.  In the US, you’re probably familiar with just one: the Cavendish.
  3. In addition to edible fruit, a banana plant also offers an edible flower.  We’ve never tried a banana flower – they are hard to find in Vermont – but would love to hear what they taste like, if you have.
banana with flower

Photo thanks to pics4learning

A “Painted Rooster” for Meatless Monday?

If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you’ve likely been welcomed with the typical tico (Costa Ricans’ pet name for themselves) dish, Gallo Pinto, meaning “painted rooster.”  A delicious and easy-to-make version of the classic vegetarian rice and beans (despite its name, there is absolutely no poultry involved), it is traditionally served for breakfast with an egg on top, but can, of course, be enjoyed any time of day.

Gallo Pinto

I had the life-enhancing opportunity to live in Costa Rica for a semester while in college.  I stayed with a host family, with a host mom who cooked and fed us well. Very well. One of the things I loved about her cooking is how one meal gracefully became the next.  I don’t know that she ever started from zero, because she always seemed to have something already prepared which she would elegantly refashion into something new. This seemed to happen intentionally and artfully, and not, as we in the US would call it, “having left-overs.”

Gallo Pinto is a perfect example. Rice (often cooked with a chopped red pepper) is a dinner staple, as are black beans (prepared with onions and garlic), commonly served along side meat or fish with vegetables and tortillas.  When you cook more rice and more beans than you will need for dinner, you are just minutes away from a delicious breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) the following day.

Gallo Pinto: Costa Rican Style Rice & Beans

It is often made in its simplest form: cooked rice, cooked black beans, onions and cilantro, served with Lizano sauce. I liked that my host mother generally added color, flavor and texture with a few additional vegetables. So, this is how I make it too.  Gracias, Doña Isabella, for all the wonderful meals while I lived in your home and for the lasting inspiration to recreate them.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked rice*
  • 2 cups cooked black beans*
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or grape seed oil**
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Costa Rican Lizano sauce/salsa
  • several grinds salt and pepper to taste

serve with:

  • fresh cilantro
  • 1 egg per person, sunny-side up
  • more Lizano sauce

Method:

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent.
  2. Add pepper, sauté 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add corn and garlic.
  4. Add spices and sauces and mix thoroughly.
  5. Stir in rice and beans until mixture is heated through and well combined.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. In a separate skillet, fry one egg per person.
  8. Serve warm topped with an egg, and garnished with plenty of cilantro and additional sauces to taste.

P1030079

* Ideally, starting with dried bulk ingredients, soaked overnight or for several hours, and cooked separately.

** Two good oils to use for hot applications. Less stable oils mix with oxygen when heated. Oxidated oils can be very damaging to your health. The praised extra virgin olive oil is best used for dressings and other cold uses.

Cooking Dried Beans

beans-handful

  1. Select dried, locally grown and organic if possible.
  2. Soak under 2-3 inches of water overnight. Alternatively, bring pot of beans and water to a boil for 1-2 minutes, remove from heat and allow to soak for “quick soak” method.
  3. Drain soaking water, and rinse beans.
  4. Cover with fresh water in ratio of 1 cup beans to 3 cups water.
  5. Add small piece of kombu seaweed (2-3 inch piece) to cooking water to increase mineral content and digestibility (reduce potential gassiness). 
  6. Cook until soft, 45-60 minutes, scooping off foam if/when necessary.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste near the end of cooking time.
  8. Use in any bean recipe or freeze or refrigerate for later use.

Cooking Rice

  1. Select organic and locally grown if possible. Brown rice offers more nutrition than white.
  2. To increase nutritional availability and digestibility, soak grains overnight or at least for 2 hours before cooking.
  3. Drain soaking water, rinse until water runs clear, and cook rice in clean water in a ratio of 2 cups brown rice to 3 cups water and a good pinch of salt.
  4. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Keep pot covered while cooking. Brown rice will take about 45 minutes to cook.

Switching to Switchel

Switchel with lemon

It’s time to bring in the hay.  Not something I am directly involved in, but see happening all around me and am impressed by the long days the haymakers put in.  Something exceptionally energizing must be fueling this operation…

Making hay

As it turns out, haymaking has its own energy drink, or at least, traditionally it did. Switchel has been reached for on hot August afternoons for more than a hundred years in these parts. It is possible that this undeniably refreshing drink made from cold well water, sweet maple syrup, electrolyte-filled molasses and energizing apple cider vinegar, traces its roots back to a similar drink enjoyed in Hippocrates’ day. Oxymel was a medicinal mixture of water, honey and vinegar.  Apparently, we’ve been drinking vinegar for a good long time.

A few years ago my daughter attended a summer camp at Shelburne Museum, called “A week in 1795.” She introduced me to Switchel with the following recipe:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • water, to taste

Combine the vinegar, molasses, maple syrup and ginger in a bowl. Vinegar mixture serves as a concentrate. Combine with water in a glass or pitcher to taste.

I like to make it with seltzer water (store-bought, or made from tap water with the help of a counter-top SodaStream soda maker) for an sparkly effervescent libation.  For the highest nutritional value, I would recommend using raw apple cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, and grade B maple syrup.  If you want to substitute honey for maple syrup, look for raw (unfiltered and unheated) locally harvested honey as your healthiest option.

switchel front

With an interest in keeping traditional foods alive, the Vermont Switchel Co has emerged on the real food scene. If you are Vermont, make sure to look for her ready-made bottles of switchel on more and more grocery and general store shelves, and on YourFarmstand.com. Her website includes in-depth nutritional information as well as recipes in which to use switchel.

Switchel above

If you’re inspired to mix up a batch of your own, I’ll leave you with another recipe. Today, on a glorious August day, I’ll raise a glass to Scott Nearing (who would have been 130 years old!), and all the back-to-the-land, homesteading, traditional customs and foodways he honored, practiced and wrote about.  Therefore, from his wife’s cookbook Simple Food for the Good Life: Random Acts of Cooking and Pithy Quotations (Good Life Series) here is the Nearing’s Switchel Recipe:

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

Stir up together and dilute to taste with more cold water. A pinch of baking soda will make it foam up like beer or ginger ale.

Either recipe can be tailored to taste (more or less ginger, maybe a slice of lemon, or a pinch of nutmeg, etc) without skimping on the real food refreshment.  It’s an easy-to-make replacement for expensive, mass-produced and increasingly worrisome (including, – yikes! – death!!) commercial “energy drinks.”

Keep it simple and safe, staying cool and hydrated with real food and water.

Lettuce Have Soup

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, the saying advises, but what if life gives you (too much) lettuce?  A problem of the “embarrassment of riches” variety for sure, with an elegant solution to remedy it: cream of lettuce soup.

Lettuce Soup (July 4th)

Starting with the lettuce, whether raw or cooked, there’s quite a range of nutritional value. Here’s a comparison chart from the World’s Healthiest Foods website, which may help direct your next purchase.

Nutrition Comparison of Salad Greens – Based on a 1 cup serving

Salad Greens Calories Vitamin A (IU) Vitamin C (mg) Calcium (mg) Potassium (mg)
Romaine 8 1456 13 20 65
Leaf Lettuce 10 1064 10 38 148
Butterhead (Bibb and Boston 7 534 4 18 141
Arugula 5 480 3 32 74
*Iceberg 7 182 2 10 87

Nutritionally speaking, it’s unfortunate that iceberg remains the top seller in the US, however romaine and other darker greens are seeing a comparative rise in consumption rates.  And, with the popularity of salad bars and the introduction of packaged salads, all lettuce types are enjoying increased sales.

Lettuce has also gained ground with the growing interest in gardening and local foods. It’s a great choice for home growing (even does well in a container), where you can make sure it is grown organically.  Lettuce ranks 11th out of 53 on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce, placing it in the “buy organic whenever possible” category due to the high pesticide use in conventional growing practices. Food poisoning is an additional concern with mass market lettuce, after several recent cases of Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria are alleged to have come from “bagged lettuces” from large scale producers.  Selecting organically grown dark leaf varieties from small scale and/or trusted local growers offers the highest quality produce.

In the US, we tend to think of lettuce only as a raw food. However, in China, where far more of it is grown, cooking varieties are favored.  Last summer during the height of lettuce overload season, I cooked some up in a soup, but didn’t write it down. This year, with thanks to Emeril Lagasse and Local Kitchen Blog for publishing confidence-boosting recipes, I made this version.

Cream of Lettuce Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic scapes (or 2-3 garlic cloves, if scapes are not available), chopped
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, washed, unpeeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoon chives, chopped, plus more cut into several inch long “stripes”
  • large pinch of fresh or dried thyme
  • large pinch of fresh or dried oregano
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 2 heads green lettuce (any variety), washed and roughly cut
  • 3/4 cup half ‘n’ half or cream (possibly more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
  • several grinds of nutmeg
  • pasta stars (optional)

Method:

  1. Warm Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat, and melt butter. Add chopped onions and garlic scapes, reduce heat and allow to caramelize.
  2. Add potatoes, chives, herbs and cover with water or stock. Simmer until potatoes are soft.
  3. Add lettuce and give the soup another few minutes to simmer until lettuce wilts.
  4. Turn heat off and add half ‘n’ half, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In the soup pot using an immersion blender or in batches in a counter-top blender or Vitamix, blend the soup until smooth.  Adjust consistency with additional water or stock if needed.
  5. Reheat, if necessary, and serve with garnishes such as fresh herbs, croutons, toasted bread with melted cheese, grated Parmesan, pine nuts and/or a drizzle of additional cream (if your soup tastes too bitter, additional cream will help).

On the occasion of Independence Day weekend, I served this soup with pasta stars and chive stripes. For a second serving, I went with chive fireworks.

Lettuce celebrate the stars and stripes!

P1020433 P1020434 P1020436

Reboot with Joe: From Pharmacy to Farmacy

On Thanksgiving Day, with a freshly made vegetable juice in hand, Joe Cross gratefully declares, “I’m thankful that I got sick, because, if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have had a heart attack and died.  It was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and get well.”

Now, two years later, Joe is not only fit, healthy and very much alive, but encouraging others (perhaps you too) to join him and get healthy.  His Reboot with Joe program provides free tools, inspiration, recipes and a community of film viewers who are inspired to follow in his footsteps. On the new site, you’ll find these impressive statistics.

As a result of seeing the documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”:

  • 93 million glasses of fresh juice have been consumed,
  • 93,000 US tons of produce have been consumed,
  • More than 6.2 million pounds of weight have been lost,
  • And over 55,000 people are now medication free.
  • Furthermore, the film has been credited with driving the explosive growth in juicing in the past two years. In January 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Appliance retailers say it has been hard to keep up with demand for juicers since (the film) hit Netflix, in July 2011.”

If you have not already seen the full movie, you can do so here.  The documentary quickly draws you into Joe’s juicy life-changing road trip.  A hundred pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe had been a patient of six different doctors, to no avail, when he decided to resort to a healthy diet. To jump start a dramatic lifestyle change, he took himself out of his regular routine in Australia, and spent two months in the US drinking nothing by freshly squeezed juice, and getting better.

Juicing – not to be confused with mixing up orange juice from concentrate or any of the many juice drinks on supermarket shelves – super concentrates the nutrients of more fruits and vegetables than one could consume in a sitting by chewing. This type of cleanse gives the body a break from heavy digesting and metabolizing, while offering easily absorbable micronutrients and plenty of water for flushing and rehydrating. Looking back to our Paleolithic ancestors who often fasted as food was not always and everywhere available, it’s likely a routine to which we are well-suited. Nonetheless, in our modern lives, most of us have taken up fast food eating fast (as in quickly) instead.  And we have a health crisis to show for it.

Joe starts his healing journey with Dr Joel Fuhrman, who explains that “you don’t get permanently well, if you don’t permanently change your habits.”  With 61% of the American diet being processed, 30% animal products, 5% a white starch and only 5% fruits and vegetables, trading that in for quality time with fresh produce is a drastic change in the right direction.  One from which the less drastic, longer term lifestyle changes will follow.

Along the way, he meets a few people willing to give juicing a try.  One woman, who suffers from migraines, commits to a 10-day fast and enjoys headache-free living.  Joe also meets a truck driver with the same rare autoimmune condition he has. What starts as a chance meeting at a truck stop in Arizona, turns into a beautiful ripple effect story.  After this own healing in well under way, Joe returns to the US to become Phil’s (the truck driver) personal juice-maker and health coach.  Without spoiling too much, Phil, weighing in at 430 lbs and suffering from several painful chronic conditions, commits to vegetables and a juicer and comes out a clear winner.

Both Joe and Phil have powerful personal stories to tell, in which they were able to trade in their costly pharmaceutical prescriptions for farm-aceutical fruits and vegetables and go on to inspire countless others to do the same.  They later attended the same holistic nutrition program I did (Institute of Integrative Nutrition) and through health coaching and the Reboot with Joe program are now supporting many more to get healthy and enjoy life.

Have you tried a juice fast? How was your experience? We’d love to hear your stories and any juice recipes you would like to share. A randomly selected commenter will receive a Reboot with Joe bundle (The Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead DVDcompanion book and Reboot Nutrition Guide with recipes to help you get started juicing!).

Nominating Cauliflower: An Educated Cabbage

cauliflower 3

What will be the trendiest vegetable in 2013 was a recent question in a focus group.   I sat up straighter in my chair. “Trendy vegetables,” I love it already!  That makes vegetables sound as revered as high fashion and haute cuisine.  Cauliflower was declared the projected winner.  It is certainly deserving: not only does it assemble itself like a bouquet of flowers, offer a mild yet complete and comforting flavor, pack an impressive dose of vitamin C, as well as fiber and potassium, and exemplify fractal design, but Mark Twain referred to it as a “cabbage with a college education.”

Generally thought of as a white vegetable, this member of the brassica family also comes in a yellowish-orange, a deep purple and the fabulous knobby green Romanesco variety. This phenomenal mini moonscape vegetable provides the added excitement of a special spiraling pattern.  Who doesn’t want a Fibonacci masterpiece on their plate?

Not sure about the spirals and the Fibonacci sequence?  Vi Hart explains it more precisely and certainly more playfully than I could in the following video. You’ll be counting spirals on pinecones, pineapples, artichokes, sunflowers, cauliflower, etc in no time.

 

With so many ways to enjoy cauliflower, let’s start with one of the simplest, yet very delicious and beautifully presented ways:  Roasted Cauliflower

roasted cauliflower- before

Place sliced cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt into a pre-heated 400˚ oven.

roasted cauliflower-after

Ten or so minutes later, remove the beautifully browned, slightly softened, still crunchy, with a decidedly sweeter and smoother flavor (than when it was raw) roasted cauliflower. Add additional salt or pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Cauliflower also does well as a potato stand-in. Whether you’re cutting down on spuds, avoiding the nightshade family, or just ready to try something new: Cauli-Millet Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower mash

From The Hip Chick’s Guide to MacrobioticsMillet Mashed “Potatoes” with Mushroom Gravy

  • 1 cup millet, washed
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 2 cups cauliflower, in small florets or chunks
  • sea salt
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 12 button or 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 drop brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kuzu, diluted in 1/2 cup water
  • scallions or parsley for garnish

Method:

  1. Place the washed millet in a heavy 2-quart pot.  Over medium heat, stir the millet continuously until it dries and then becomes aromatic and ever-so-slightly golden in color.  This can take 5-8 minutes.
  2. And water and cauliflower.  Bring to a boil.  And salt.  Cover and simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat.  Put millet through a food mill or blend in a food processor.  Blend to desired creamy consistency.
  4. To make the gravy: heat toasted sesame oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add onion, salt and sauté until translucent.  Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add water and bring to a boil.  Season with tamari, mirin and brown rice vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to your taste, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  5. Add diluted kuzu to simmering mixture and stir constantly as the kuzu thickens.

I made a double batch of the “Mashed Potatoes” part of the recipe above, reserving half to use as the topping in a vegan Shepard’s Pie a couple of days later.  My children ate this up so fast….

Cauliflower Shepards Pie 2

A sampling of other excellent cauliflower recipes:

And there are many, many more recipes. What are your favorite ways to prepare cauliflower?

Have a Beet in Your Roots?

Beets- farmers marketTo eat locally and seasonally, it is often assumed that making it through the winter is challenging.  True, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers are missing, but they are easily replaced by pantry shelves full of canned tomatoes, sauces, ketchup, chutneys and pickles while the freezer holds, among many things, frozen whole tomatoes, and all produce which stores well is comfortably tucked away.  It is spring that is sparse. Yesterday I used my last two pie pumpkins and butternut squash from last summer and made a note to grow more this season in an effort to make it through not just the cold seasons, but all the way to the following harvest.

Fortunately, my root drawers are not yet empty.  So beets, turnips, carrots, kohlrabi, celeriac, rutabaga, etc, often associated with fall cuisine, are actually common ingredients in our spring and early summer meals, increasingly paired with fresh new greenery.

Growing beet

Today, we’re having beets.  According to The Secret Life of Food, the name “beet” comes from the French bête, meaning beast.  Apparently, early cooks, alarmed at the bright red color beets turn their cooking water, were reminded of bleeding animals, and labeled these roots “beasts”.

Beets, which come in shades from the common deep red to golden yellow and even white, are full of valuable nutrition.  They are often used for blood cleansing, liver and kidney support (commonly included in juice fasts).  They are great sources of vitamins A, C and B-complex, folate (particularly in raw beets), manganese, iron, potassium and antioxidants polyphenol and betalain (a powerful, recently recognized nutrient, prevalent in red beets).  Additionally, they exhibit an enviable combination of low calorie, high sweet and very low glycemic index.

With all of this going for them, it’s hard to believe that beets used to be relegated to animal feed. Originally they grew wild in North Africa and in coastal areas in Europe and Asia. People first became interested in their nutritious greens. Early Romans started cultivating the full plant and prepared the roots by cooking them in honey and wine (which I had to try, recipe below) and today cooks worldwide prepare them in many different ways.

roasted beets

roasted beets 2

Roasted Beets: my favorite way to prepare beets. With very little prep work, you fill your 400˚ oven, and let the beets cook themselves until done (45 minutes or so).  The flavor is rich using this cooking method and nutrients are better preserved than when cooking beets in water.  Once roasted, they peel easily, and quickly become salads, soups and stew additions, can be puréed and even incorporated into baked goods.

Drinkable Beets. Beet juice is often used in cleanses for its ability to nourish the blood.  You can add digestive and immune support by fermenting the juice into beet kvass.  Or enjoy a quick smoothie by adding milk to a puréed beet soup, such as Red Velvet Borscht.

Red Velvet Soup

Baked Beets, either as a purée of roasted beets or grated raw ones, they can easily be included in baked goods. This is not an original idea, but deserves as much publicity as it can get.  They combine particularly well with chocolate, and add a bit of natural sweetness, rich color and antioxidants to your treats, such as in Choco-Beet Muffins. Or whirl a beet into hot chocolate (mix puréed beet into your warming mixture on the stove or if making Mexican-style cocoa, toss a roasted beet into the jar of the blender or vitamix).

Roman beetsRoman beets 4

Ancient Roman Recipe. Absolutely delicious!

  • 1 bunch red beets
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Cook unpeeled beets in a sauce pan with enough water to cover them, bring to a boil and cook until soft. Allow to cool and peel. Cut into small pieces.

Melt butter in the sauce pan, add wine and honey and allow to warm while mixing.  Add beets and keep on a low simmer until about half the liquid has evaporated.  Beets in this sauce are simply heavenly.

Color it red:  The deep pigments of beets are related to their antioxidant health benefits, and they generously share their beautiful hue with just about anything in their vicinity such as pasta, mashed potatoes, pancakes, smoothies, etc… and your hands.

If you have fresh beets with the greens attached, you have the makings of a complete package. The colors and nutrients of the greens compliment those of the roots, so whenever possible use both ends in a the same recipe (in salads, pasta dishes, a vegetable side dish) or in the same meal.

Speaking of both ends, should beet’s red color pass through your system and out the other side, don’t be alarmed – remember that you recently ate beets, and that you have a common condition called “beeturia.”

Meatless Monday: Maple-Squash Soup

maple-squash soup side

Early spring is when the harvest seasons meet. The cycle of the year is tangible when last summer’s hardy keepers extend through to this year’s sugaring season, and the two years are combined in the kitchen.  Winter squash and pumpkins store well, (as do the onions needed for this recipe) and they are so compatible with maple syrup, it seems almost unimaginable that they would be harvested at opposite ends of the year.

maple-squash soup top

Maple-Squash Soup

  • 1 winter squash such as butternut, red kuri, acorn or buttercup
  • 1 pie pumpkin
  • whole spices such as cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1/4 inch slice fresh ginger root, minced
  • 6 cups water, stock or sap (should you be tapping maples and have sap to spare)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (if not cooking in sap)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • milk, cream or coconut milk
  • any combination of ground spices you like such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, curry, allspice, etc.
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • a drizzle of hot sauce or a sprinkling of chili flakes (if you like a little spice)
  • garnish with creme fraîche or yogurt and freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400˚.
  2. Half the squash and pumpkin, remove the seeds (save for roasting or planting), and place cut side down in a shallow baking dish.  Fill dish with about 1 inch of water and add whole spices to the water. Roast in oven until soft (about 40-50 minutes, depending on size). Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet, and sauté onions until translucent.  Add minced ginger, cover and lower heat to caramelize for another 20 minutes.
  4. Scoop the cooked pumpkin and squash out of the skin (should come out easily) into a large soup pot, add the onion-ginger mixture, and stock, water or sap. Bring to a soft boil for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Turn off heat, add maple syrup, vinegar, milk and ground spices to taste.
  6. In a blender or food processor, puree all until smooth.  Adjust consistency with additional milk, stock or water as needed, and adjust flavor with salt, pepper and/or additional spices. Serve immediately, or return to soup pot and reheat. Serve with creme fraîche or yogurt, hot sauce, ground nutmeg and/or roasted pumpkin seeds.