Tag Archives: vegetable

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!

Be Flexible

1 Mar

I like options.  I like flexibility.  Especially with cooking.  I am a busy mom.  I can’t afford to fiddle fart around during the busy work/school week, and don’t want to get locked into one option.  I am going to cook one thing that will last more than one meal, and that can be used in a number of ways.

Brown some ground italian sausage.  Yum!

Brown some ground italian sausage. Yum!

That said, this is what I made on a busy week night.  I started by browning a pound of italian sausage.  Next, I added some freshly chopped peppers.  I happened to have fresh peppers that I quickly chopped, but listen…you don’t have to take the time to cut peppers yourself.  Nicely cut peppers and onions are available in the produce section of the grocers.  Don’t let the label “fajita mix” fool you.  Those peppers are not seasoned yet, so if you want to throw them into a pot of browned italian sausage, you go right ahead.

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

Stir in some freshly chopped peppers. Layer those flavors!

So after my sausage was brown, I drained most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon.  I tossed the peppers into the pot and stirred the mixture around.  That cooked for about 5 minutes, then I tossed in a can of diced tomatoes, parsley, basil, and some red pepper flakes.  I gave that a good stir.  Then I added a dash of salt and sugar.

 

Add these simple ingredients.

Add these simple ingredients.

But hey, did I mention I am busy just like you?  I don’t have time to sit in the kitchen and stir my sauce.  So into the oven it went.  I wanted it to simmer, and the oven is the perfect spot for that.  Side note.  Invest in a pot that can go from the stove top to the oven.  It will save you loads of time, and after all, time is money.

That sauce bubbled in the oven for about an hour.  Man oh man did the house smell great.  I pulled it out, removed the lid, gave it a good stir, and was pretty hungry for dinner.

Now what?  Did I mention that I like options?   Here is the beauty of this sauce.  It had protein and vegetables in it, so it was an “all in one” as far as that goes.  I did not need to make a separate vegetable.  We can go a couple of ways with this dish, depending on what is in the pantry.

We could:

1. Toss this with pasta-even throwing in a handful of spinach if available

2. Use as a pizza topping

3. Make pepper and sausage sandwiches

4. Load onto a baked potato

5. Make a quesadilla

How about that?  Love those options!  And the leftovers were divine.  Now that’s flexibility for you!

 

Quinn and I made open face sanwiches that night.  They were delicious.

Quinn and I made open face sandwiches that night. They were delicious.

A cake flop and kale fail tale…

11 Jan

Failure. It is a scary word with negative implications. Failure can be defined as: “An event that does not accomplish its intended purpose”. Well now that does not seem too awful, does it? Progress can certainly be made even when not accomplishing an intended purpose. Sometimes a new purpose can emerge. The word failure is more daunting than its definition.

I have failed. Many times. We all have. But failing does not make you a failure. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t taken any risks. So take risks, because if you are taking risks, you are succeeding. Failure appears  in big ways and small ways in life. Get over it, move on, and try again, and again, and again to succeed.

I recently tried roasting some kale. My technique just didn’t work. My son said I had a “kale fail”.  And he was right. My family will continue to enjoy kale…but I will prepare it in other ways.  Then there was the time I became a bit impatient, and tried to frost a cake with frosting that was too thin, and tried to put it on a cake that was still too warm.  Typically, for most frostings or icings, it’s just not a good idea to put it on a warm or hot cake. It melts off.  And I proved that right with my impatience.  Trust me…I know what I am talking about.

If a recipe flops, it should only happen once. The next time I try that recipe, or another recipe, the lessons I learned by having that recipe flop will help me succeed the next time. So how is that a failure? Learning something is always a success. The experience of making a recipe well as well as having one go wrong both make me a better cook and increase my understanding of the culinary arts. Either way victory is mine!

Failure, whether real or perceived, can produce many reactions. Fear, doubt, and depression to name a few. We need to shake free of that, because failing can lead to success. In other words, failure can, and should, drive us toward feeling empowerment, a step forward. It may not be immediate though. Sometimes success takes time to grow out of a mistake or failure. So failure can also produce the opportunity to learn patience. Wow! Fantastic things can come from “failure”! So lets not fear it. Take it for what it is. It is an opportunity. Success. Confidence. So go take the risk! You can’t fail!

The little cake that flopped! hahahahahaha

This cake wass a flop. It is ugly, but it tasted good. But since I strive for beautiful food, it was a flop.

Pumpkin is the new bacon.

19 Oct

Wow!  That sure got your attention, now didn’t it?  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  You bet.  I read it on the internet so it must be true (insert sarcastic tone and indignant faux cough with a hair toss here).  Seriously though, it’s an interesting culinary perspective don’t you think?  When sharing this statement with my teenaged son, he became certain that there is a conspiracy at work here. He says nothing could ever be the new bacon.

What, exactly, does this mean…the new bacon. Well, I took it to mean that pumpkin is the new “must have” ingredient that everyone is trying.  So not to be one left in the dark, I decided that pumpkin was MY new bacon.  Pumpkin became my fall food obsession.  Where to begin?  Where I always begin…I delved into the nutritional facts.

Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A.   That helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, and bones.  Vitamin A promotes good vision too.  Love that!

Vitamin C is also abundant in pumpkin.  This vitamin is an essential nutrient is great for our skin, brain health, and necessary to form certain proteins in our body.  .  Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant and essential for good cell health.  The bright orange color means that pumpkin is bursting with antioxidants!  That also keeps our skin elastic and healthy looking.  We need a continuous supply of this vitamin, so it is crucial to include in our diet.

Pumpkins are a good source of potassium and fiber.  Pumpkins are also naturally sodium free and low in calories.  It is a heart friendly food too.  And since studies show that canned pumpkin has all of the health benefits that fresh pumpkin does,  there is no reason not to jump on this bandwagon!

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.  Recipes!  Oh, I looked at them all!  Appetizers, desserts, pumpkin dice, pumpkin pureé, pumpkin seeds.  At first I was amazed that pumpkin is so versatile.  Thrilled, in fact, by the possibilities.  But in the end I followed my affinity for grilling and pizza to my very own pumpkin heaven.  Yup.  I made grilled pumpkin pizza.  And it was delish!

I did two pizzas.  One pizza had pumpkin puree as the sauce, and a second with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Here is what I did.

I bought 2 “sugar” pumpkins, or pie pumpkins, a smaller variety. I cut them in half, took out the seeds and strings, placed the cut side down on a baking sheet, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I pulled them out, turned them open side up, and let them cool.  I could then easily cut the skin away.

2 small sugar pumpkins, roasted and cut out of their skin.

Next, I cut the meat of one pumpkin into a small dice, and the other one I used for the puree.  The puree was intended to be a pizza sauce, so I wanted it thick.  I blended the pumpkin meat for the sauce with a little butter and milk until it was a good space consistency.  Then I tossed in a smidgen of salt and pepper.  That is it. Simple.

I started by grilling 2 pizza crusts on the grill.  After pulling the 2 pizza crusts off the grill, I met Denis at the island in the kitchen.  Denis and I discussed toppings, seasonings, flavors, and technique ahead of time.  We had a blast loading up our pizza pies!  For the toppings of the first pizza, we decided on goat cheese, grilled ham, and pesto to add to our pumpkin sauce.

Pumpkin pizza. This pizza has half pesto sauce and half pumpkin sauce. Next, we threw some savory toppings on!

The other pizza had diced pumpkin on it.  Since pumpkin is so moist, sauce wasn’t necessary on this pizza.  It was just the pizza crust and toppings.  Two pizzas, 1 with pumpkin sauce and one with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Very different consistencies, mouth feel, and taste sensations.  Both were very pleasant, and had the essence of fall.   These pizzas certainly elicited some moanable moments while being taste tested!

Now it’s your turn.  Get some pumpkins.  Cook them up.  Develop your own recipes,  Mix diced pumpkin with pasta, puree with bread.  Pumpkin risotto.  Pumpkin pancakes.  How many other things can you think of?  For me, this is simply a jumping off point with so many places to go with pumpkin.  Denis is a genius at soups, so I know that an amazingly delicious pumpkin soup is in our future.  Any way you make it, start having fun with this nutrition packed food.  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  It sure is-minus the fat, but with all the flavor!

Blast into Super foods!

26 May

Super foods are in the news constantly these days.  The question is do you find good health in whole foods or in other ways?  While touting super foods, the media also barrages us with cheater methods, like “supplements are a must”, “take those vitamins”.  To that I say pish posh to that.  Bullroar.  Nonsense.  Put that protein powder aside and get into super foods.

Super foods are all the rage…to talk about.  But are you ready to dig in and add them to your diet?  I hope so because nutrient dense foods are cool!  So is having variety in your diet and trying new things.  Expand your palate!  Try new foods and enjoy crazy good health benefits.  Take the leap and delve into super foods.  What to try first…hhhmmmm.  Put cabbage on the menu.  Why?  Glad you asked.  Didn’t like it as a kid?  Well it’s time to try it again,   Overlook its nonglamourous reputation and appreciate the cabbage contribution to good health!  It is loaded with micronutrients.

Micronutrients in food provide the nutrition your cells need to run your body.   These are important for cell function, simply put, by eliminating some bad molecules in our bodies.  Antioxidants are prize fighters in this arena and are essential in a healthy diet.  Where are these elusive antioxidants found?  In many foods, including cabbage.  What else does cabbage do for good health?

In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, cabbage has significant amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K, making it great brain food.  It is also a good source of folate in the diet, which is essential for red blood cell development.

Want to leave the medications at the drugstore?  Me too.  So consider that cabbage has long been used as a natural remedy for relieving constipation, curing headaches, and easing joint inflammation. For a new mother that has breast pain, cabbage is a natural way to eliminate it.  If you aren’t a nursing mother but went out last night and indulged in adult beverages, cabbage has been used for centuries as a hangover remedy.  Hey, I’m just sayin’…

Moving on….it is a vegetable that is often overlooked in its flexibility.  Cabbage goes in soup, can be piled on a sandwich, is a great side dish, and can even make a fantastic appetizer.  It can be eaten raw or cooked.  Also, fresh cabbage is budget friendly so it fits into any lifestyle.

Need a quick healthy vegetable to go along side your baked chicken or grilled steak?  Cabbage can simply be sautéed with butter, salt and pepper for an easy side dish.  Simply core a 2 pound head of cabbage and slice thinly.  Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan.  Add the cabbage, stir occasionally, and voila!  In 15 minutes you have a super side dish.

Let’s review.  Cabbage is a really healthy flavorful flexible super food.  It packs a nutritional punch with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease fighting properties.  If that isn’t enough, let me give you one more reason to try cabbage.  Cabbage contains beta-carotene, and that contributes to the growth and repair of the body’s tissues, and that may help protect your skin against sun damage.  All great stuff!  Its time to try cabbage again, so pick a recipe, cook it up, and enjoy a good contribution toward wellness!

Disclaimer: You have to take the good with the bad. Not only does it create a unique and somewhat lingering  scent when you cook it, cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable.  That is a fancy way of saying that it is a gas producing veggie.  Yup, you’re gonna fart.  Do not let that stop you from enjoying this delicious vegetable, but eat it with folks you know really well!