Tag Archives: potato

Beet the Heat

16 Aug

Beets are the best.  Roasted.  Pickled.  Sautéed.  Cold.  Hot.  Beets are great as a side dish with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese.  They are delicious roasted along side other vegetables.  I’ve even eaten them right out of the can.  Being raised in the midwest, vegetables were always on our dinner table, but somehow beets got overlooked. So how did I get hooked?

My love affair with this herbaceous plant began in adulthood.  The first time I tried beets was a happy surprise.  I was tired of my usual repertoire of veggies and decided to try beets.  In the grocery store one day, I impulsively grabbed a fresh bunch of beets with the intention of simply roasting them.

I brought them home, put the beets on the counter, and stared them down.  Hhhmmmm.  This would be an adventure.  I washed them and laid them on paper towels.  Off came the green tops.  I peeled the fresh beets, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled some olive oil over them, and into the oven they went.  The beets cooked up beautifully.  One taste and I was hooked.

But the thought of those greens going to waste was unthinkable.  Out of curiosity, I pinched off a green and popped it into my mouth expecting it to be tough and woody.  I was delighted to find the greens tender and flavorful.  Oh heck yes!  I would find a way to eat the greens too!  That was many seasons ago…

Now summer is on the horizon. I am beginning to think grilled, chilled and easy.   I do not want my oven on this time of year.  What is the best way to enjoy beets this season?  Piled on a garden fresh crisp salad!

But first, let’s chat for a second about the virtues of beets.  Some would say they are not a desirable or sexy vegetable, or even a popular one.  But since they are packed full of vitamins and minerals, and so versatile, beets cannot be overlooked.

The health benefits of including beets in the diet are numerous.  They are a good source of fiber, have lots of vitamin C, and are high in folate and potassium.  Beets are also a rich source of antioxidants, compounds that prevent disease and the damaging effects of oxidation of cells throughout your body.  They are very low in fat, and certainly don’t need a lot of added fat to make them taste good.

While they come in many varieties, we most often see the “blood turnip”, or red beet. They are a root vegetable, like a carrot or potato and they like to grow in cool weather.  They are available canned all year long, but we see them seasonally featured in the spring and the fall.

And remember how I said it was not considered a sexy vegetable?  Well think again.  Fruits and vegetables, like herbs, were used in ancient times as medicine.  One of the first known medicinal uses for the beet was as an aphrodisiac in ancient Greece.  There.  I said it.

Anywhoooo….beets are very easy to prepare.  If they are fresh, they can simply be peeled, drizzled with olive oil and roasted.  They are also wonderful diced and  sautéed.  Canned beets are fabulous hot or cold.  Simply open the can, rinse the beets, and toss them on a salad.  They can also be heated and enjoyed as a simple side dish.

Back to those green tops for a minute.  If you have fresh beets with the greens, do not throw those away!  The greens are also a nutrient dense food and adaptable to many dishes.  Like beets, the greens can be enjoyed raw, such as mixed with other greens in your summer salad.  They can also be sautéed much like spinach, in a little olive oil.  Season them a bit with salt and pepper, and you’ve got another phenomenal side dish.

If you’ve tried beets and didn’t like them, try them again.  If you’ve never tried them, its time to add some variety to your diet.  The health benefits  of beets are plentiful, they are budget friendly, and just plain delicious.  Let your own impulses go wild, pick up some beets up at the farmers marker or grocer, and begin your own adventure!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

Delicious cold beets piled on a fresh summer salad! Yum!

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Breakfast in Scotland

27 Jun

Breakfast.  What does it mean?  When we sleep, we are fasting, meaning we do not eat.  Breaking the fast, or breakfast, is the first meal of the day.  We are often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is a topic of great debate in nutritional circles and beyond.  As for me, well, it’s not a meal that I skip.

There really isn’t uniformity with breakfast.  Depending on lifestyle, culture,  socioeconomic status, and time constrains, breakfast food varies.  If I have a morning workout, a protein packed breakfast is my go to choice.  If it is a lazy weekend morning, a chewy toasted bagel and some fresh fruit can be wonderful.  And, of course, if there are leftovers around, those also work at times.

Since I like to eat regionally, I enjoy all meals that reflect the personality and culture of the surroundings.  Recently I was in Scotland.  The food was spectacular.  And the breakfast was not only filling, but a very interesting combination…and one that I would not have put together.  But I loved it nonetheless.

As my beloved partner Denis and I steeped ourselves in the people, history and food of Scotland, we noticed that this breakfast was pretty much a staple in every region of the country.  The flavors varied slightly, reflecting the region of the food, but when we ordered the “standard” breakfast, it was consistent.

Breakfast consisted of bacon (it looked and tasted like ham to me, but it was called bacon), potatoes, an egg, a roasted tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and a sausage. A basket of breads also accompanied the plate.  Sometimes beans and back pudding were present too.  This meal started us off on the right foot.  Daily breakfast left us with a full belly of warm food on which to set out for the adventures that each day held for us.  Breakfast was sustaining, culturally reflective, and delicious.

So the next time you are off on travels, depart from your comfort zone.  Be open to local culturally rich experiences, including culinary.  Break your fast in the way that is right for you, but notice local flair. Scotland held many delights along our travels, and breakfast each morning started our day off just right.  Go out there and have fun. Let me know what you find.

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CSA

5 Oct

The first fall CSA box was ready this week.  What a wonderful fall bounty to kick off the fall farm season! It is time to continue making comfort food, switching from summer light and airy salads to more chowders and hearty pasta sauces.  And my fall CSA is feeding directly into that.  What is a CSA you say?  Well only the best thing since sliced bread!  If you aren’t involved with a CSA, now is time to get involved.

A CSA is a way to support a local farm that participates in Consumer Supported Agriculture.  Participating in a CSA is a fantastic way to become engaged with local farms. Supporting local organizations through attending and purchasing from local farmers markets is a wonderful connect to the community, and participating in a CSA is an extension of that support.

The farm that I support with the CSA program offers either a half or whole share per season, and there is a financial commitment.  You pay for your seasonal share ahead of time.  The amount of produce in the share is the difference in size.  Fall is very busy for my family, so this fall I opted for a half share.  What does that mean?

A share is a portion of local produce that the farm is seasonally harvesting.  With a CSA, the member goes to the farm or designated community location once a week to pick up their share of fresh produce.  The produce is fresh, local, and intended to be used within a few days.  By the time the produce is used, its time to go back to the farm for another share.

This week, my share included cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, an acorn squash, corn on the cob, and the bonus of a late season watermelon.   Last night, I used the potatoes and turnips to make a potato turnip gratin.  My children had not ever had turnips before, and making a warm hearty potato dish with turnips added was a great way to introduce the vegetable to them (for the record, the boys loved it, my daughter not so much…).

I used the cucumbers to make some refreshing cucumber water to keep in the fridge.  With the acorn squash, I simply cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and baked it in a 400 degree oven.  I put a little butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the center before baking.  Easy and delicious.  I served it along side a baked chicken.  It is fun to be creative with the ingredients.

I can’t wait to see what is in my CSA share this week.  I pick my share up on the actual farm that grows and harvests the produce.  Leaving my office during a busy day, driving 10-15 minutes down the road to the farm, and having a chance to talk to the farmers while getting my share is something I look forward to all week.  My family is excited to see what I bring home, and we have a blast with the ingredients.  Best of all, I get a chance to support local farmers and have fresh, healthy seasonal produce.

If I am delayed and don’t make it to the farm one week to retrieve my share, it is donated to the local community food pantry or food bank.  Look for a CSA in your community and let me know what you come up with!

My CSA share this week.  I am having a blast experimenting.

My CSA share this week. I am having a blast experimenting.

Sweet fragrant and decadent  late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Sweet fragrant and decadent late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Repurposing

13 Feb

Okay.  So I had some leftovers from the Superbowl.  I will come out right now by saying that I deviated from my usual healthy fare and made bar food.  And since I am mindful of my food budget, I like to repurpose my leftovers.   It’s a little yucky to say that I “recycle” my leftovers.  That makes it sound like I picked through garbage.   I didn’t.  I promise.

I made a batch of cheese fondue for the super bowl.  Cheese fondue is traditionally made with swiss cheese and white wine, as it has its culinary roots in Switzerland.  And that is how I made mine for the get together.  I had ham chunks and sour dough bread as the dippers for the fondue.  It was delicious.  But I had some leftovers.

So I made some cheese soup a few nights later.  I simply tossed the leftover ham in the soup, as well as some other vegetables I had sitting around.  I used a potato, some diced onion, and a tiny bit of celery.  It was a warm and yummy comfort food dish!

I started by putting some olive oil in a large soup pot, and added some celery, garlic, and onions.  I let that sizzle for about 3-4 minutes.  Then I gently added the leftover fondue and stirred it to break it up.  I had it on a medium heat so the cheese would heat gently.  (Burning any dairy product in a pan is a super nasty clean up.  I learned that lesson once!)  I keep chicken and vegetable stock on hand, and grabbed some chicken stock out of the pantry.  I slowly added about 2 cups of that to smooth out the fondue into a soup like consistency.

After this was good and hot, I tossed the leftover ham chunks in.  And some diced a potato and tossed that in as well.  This made a good hearty soup.  And I used up the leftovers beautifully for another meal.  I love making meals from food I already have on hand.  Repurposing leftovers is a great way to use up food in the fridge as well as stretch those dollars!  Yay!  Try it and let me know what you make!

Fast Feast

11 Nov

I am a busy working mother.  I understand what it is like to work all day and come home to hungry kids that need a good supper.  It is tempting to go find a drive thru and just be done with it.  But let’s state the obvious and say that the nutrition in a fast food meal just isn’t the same as a healthy home cooked meal.  But how do we find the time and energy to cook a meal after a long day at work?  I will tell you how!

Anyone can have a nutritious dinner ready quickly.  It takes a tiny bit of planning, so the next time you go to the grocery store get these items on hand.  Then you will be ready to toss together a quick family dinner in less time than it would take to go out for fast food.

Grocery list:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts/1 per person
  • A jar of your favorite bbq sauce
  • Large Idaho potatoes
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Frozen bag of vegetables such as green beans or broccoli

Now let’s get cooking.  When you walk in the door, turn the oven onto 350 degrees then go change into comfortable clothes.  Ok, back to the kitchen.   Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet, salt and pepper them, and toss them in the oven.

Wash the potatoes and pierce the skin with a fork twice.  If you don’t prick the potato with a fork, it will explode when cooking.  And believe me, you don’t want to clean THAT up!  Place the potatoes like numbers on a clock or spokes on a wheel around a microwave safe plate.  Put them in the microwave, and follow your manufacturers directions for cooking the baked potatoes.  My microwave has a baked potato button to push, and it does the rest of the work for me!  The potatoes, depending on the size, will take 15 minutes or so to cook.  Rotate them once or twice during cooking.

Set the table, or better yet, have the kids do it.  The chicken will need about 25 minutes in the oven.  After about 20 minutes, pull it out and douse the chicken in BBQ sauce.  Toss it back in the oven for the flavors to cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Check the potatoes.  Place a fork into one to test for doneness.  The potato should be soft.  When they are done, cover the plate with tin foil and get the frozen vegetables out.

Read the directions.  The vegetables that I prefer cook in their own bag.  Easy!  Put the vegetables in the microwave and cook for the designated amount of time, probably 7 or so minutes.  While those are cooking, pull out some butter, maybe sour cream too.  Whatever you like on a baked potato, put on the table.

Pull out your dinner and enjoy!  Not only will you enjoy a nutritious home cooked meal, you can enjoy the socialization that naturally comes with cooking and sharing a meal.  While you are cooking, hopefully folks are in the kitchen with you to chat with and share thoughts of the day.  A quick meal is also a great example for the family.  There are choices to fast food!  And they can be very quick!

Last thought:  do not take this whole task on yourself.  Have the kids help with the cooking, and the kids will also be on KP duty (kitchen patrol).  They can do the dishes.  Not only is it important to get a nutritious meal on the table, it is also critical for the rest of the family learn to pitch in and help.  After dinner is also a great time for the children to make their sandwich and lunch for the following day!