Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beets - expanding our food preferences

Red and Golden Beets being prepped to make chips
As a child and even as a young adult, I just did not like beets. I had only ever tried red beets that were boiled to death and had used them to dye clothing for a science project, but had never found a way in which I liked to eat them. Granted, I didn't try very much. I just ate what people gave me and didn't like it.

But these days, I've been trying to expand the boundaries of what I know I like, and find a variety of ways to prepare things. I want to get more nutrients in my food, and eat more whole foods, so I've been coming from that perspective. Here is some good information on the nutritional properties of beets:

An early morning look at a golden sunrise beet
Recently we visited Sprouts, a grocery store with some great produce, and saw some golden sunrise beets. I'd never seen anything but red beets, so we picked one up to try it out. I tried a piece raw, and loved it! Finally something with a sweetness and crunch to rival carrots! I am always looking for something to replace carrots as I am allergic to them. Plus it added a gorgeous yellow color to anything I put it on!

Sprouts had cut off the tops of the golden sunrise beets, but the thing was so delicious it emboldened me to try red beets, and the tops were so gorgeous so I started looking up ways to use the tops as well. I found quite a few. And also noticed that whatever beet tops are not used the same day you bring them home from the store tend to wilt quickly. Unfortunately this meant that a lot of them went straight into the compost instead of getting eaten. Next time I will cook them up the same day. Here are some of the recipes I found:

The beet and apple salad above inspired me to try my own version which was delicious and non allergenic, the original version had lemon juice and something else I can't do, so here's mine:

Leaving this salad in the fridge only improves the flavor.
I also found putting it on top of a baked tortilla and cheese as a personal pizza was delicious

Orange, the juice and zest of 1 medium orange
Apples, fresh, 1 small (2-1/2" dia) (approx 4 per lb)
*Yambean (jicama), 1.5 cup matchstick sized slices
Red Beet, fresh, 1 beet (2" dia)
Watercress, 10 sprigs
Baby Spring Greens 1 cup
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 3 teaspoons
Green Onions, raw, 5 slice thin
Salt, 1 dash
Pepper, black, 1 dash
Red Pepper Flakes, 1 dash
Walnuts, chopped, 3 Tablespoons

slice one small apple into matchstick sized pieces and set aside in a medium salad bowl
peel and slice enough jicama to make 1.5 cups of matchstick sized slices and add to salad bowl
peel and slice 1 beet into matchstick sized pieces and add to bowl

In a small water tight container, mix 3 tablespoons olive oil, the juice from one medium orange, and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid. cover and shake till well mixed, then pour over the apples, jicama and beets and mix well. Grate half of the orange's rind over the salad, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss well and set aside in fridge to marinate (if you can eat lemon and limes, you can substitute a teaspoon of that juice for the 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid of course, but it will alter the flavor of this salad of course)

Mince the head of one green onion and slice 2 green stalks into thin, even slices. I cut mine to the length and width of the other pieces. Set aside

Lay 1 cup of mixed baby spring salad leafs and 10 watercress on each plate, then remove the salad bowl from the fridge and layer 1/4 over the top of each. Sprinkle green onion pieces over the top. Grate the other 1/2 of the orange rind over the salads and enjoy.

Serving Size:
Makes 4 servings at 1/2 a plate of salad for each person

Here are a few other ways we enjoyed beets and all their parts:
Golden beets in various salads, Beet Greens cooked with other vegetables and mixed into a cheese sauce then put over whole wheat spaghetti, Beet Greens mixed in with the Sweet and Spicy Beet Salad which I may make again but with golden beets added for it's bright yellow flavor and slightly sweeter essence, and red and golden beets sliced up, coated in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and herbs and dehydrated into chips, on pizza, in soup, roasted, juiced, in smoothies, and there are so many more. Plus, we only used red and golden beets because that's what was in our local stores, but there are other versions I look forward to trying some day as well. Next fun and new to us vegetable we'll be exploring is rainbow chard!

A friend warned that juicing and drinking large quantities beet greens can lead to temporary vocal paralysis in some people. I did look into this, and posted a link above with information. I would say, all things in moderation. Many people eat beet greens mixed in with other things and have no problems. But eating them raw and juiced in large quantities means you're exposing yourself to more of the quantity in them that can be harsh on the throat. We ate them in small quantities mixed in with various other veggies and had sometimes meat like the bacon, sun dried tomatoes and zucchini mixed in with beet greens to the left here, and had no problems.  Also, I found juicing beets and adding to smoothies was wonderful except for right after my having my tonsils out, at which point it was too harsh for me. Try various combinations till you find what you like. Personally, I don't like boiled beets which is the way I had them as a child. Primarily because I do not like the texture. But there are so many other wonderful ways to eat them, that I no longer avoid them in the grocery aisle or farmer's market. Now back to rainbow chard adventures!

Open Faced Sandwiches

Heritage Tomato Yumness
One of my favorite things to do in cutting down carbs is to simply have an open faced sandwich, and previously where I would have had just meat, cheese and bread, instead having a healthier lower fat cheese, veggies, maybe some meat, and a healthier higher protein lower carb bread or just a REALLY delicious bread. Both of which often go together for me, because I like some of the heartier breads with nuts, seeds, etc.

Yesterday I wasn't sure what to have for lunch but knew I wanted to use up some of the heritage tomato that was left. We go the last 2 organic, heritage tomatoes in our local grocery store, and they were delicious. In fact, this sandwich was SO good that I'm having it again today. Here's the basics:

Take a thinly sliced, hearty bread, I chose flax and sunflower seed bread from Sprouts. Spread 2 Tablespoons of a light cream cheese or neufchatel cheese which I may be spelling wrong, but it 1/3 the saturated fat of cream cheese and still less than light cream cheese as well, and has a slightly cheesier flavor than cream cheese, which I like. Lay 10 leaves of fresh basil on top. I get mine from a neighbor whose basil garden is amazing. Heck most of her gardening efforts come out great!  Add two thin slices (sharpen that knife) of gorgeous, locally farmed, organic heritage tomato. 6 slices of bell pepper on the side to nosh on. Oh, and by the way, the bread was accidentally gluten free. We did not go looking for gluten free, I just thought flax and sunflower seed bread sounded delicious and like it would have some oomph to the texture. It does, it's not a fluffy white slice of bread, but I really am enjoying it.

Fresh Local Basil and Dehydrated Bell Pepper - POW!
Obviously the locally farmed and organic are my personal choices, but I recommend you try them if you can get them because OH MY GOSH talk about a difference in texture and flavor. I think tomatoes are one of the things I try never to skimp on these days. I was never a fan of the fruit as a child. I still do not like the seeds and the slimy pouch they are surrounded by, but I've found heritage tomatoes usually have less of that goop, and non pesticide tomatoes just taste so much better to me. Plus they no longer give me a stomach ache or headache. I used to think I was allergic to tomatoes, but turned out I was allergic to the chemicals people were spraying on them.

Finished off with a side of home made sweet potato chips
Just writing this has made me hungry and although I had planned to make a pizza with the last of my sweet beet salad, I think I'm going to go make one of these sandwiches today too! Only difference is today I will be putting bell pepper that I dehydrated on top, and I'm going to try toasting the bread first to see what that's like. So have fun with your food, get creative and please let me know what you come up with! You never know what gourmet moment your kitchen may already have waiting for you to whip up.

Stay tuned, I have a lot of delicious food adventures to blog about, just have to catch up! Next up, exploring the flavors, textures, colors and general variety I never knew existed around beets!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pizza Yumness!!!!

Today I got a message that a friend had left basil on my front door... yesterday. Being that this is a hot part of the country, we suspected it had wilted. However we were pleasantly surprised to discover it had not. She also sent me some dehydrated and ground sweet peppers which are a sweet and delicious spice I have now added to my pantry and will be making more of in the future once we get our dehydrator. These combined with a recent conversation with a dietitian inspired today's Pizza Yumness! BEST home made PIZZA EVER! No seriously, it was the best home made pizza I have ever had.

We have been using pitas to make pizza in the past, but the dietitian recommended we try out a tortilla instead. So today I did, and it was SO GOOD! I have been making a lot of mandalas lately, and so that may have affected my pizza making a bit.

Small Ancient Grain Tortilla, 1 tablespoon pizza sauce, 8 leaves spinach, 1/6 cup mozzarella cheese, 5 leaves torn basil, 1/2 small red bell pepper, and then after taking a photo, I sprinkled another 1/6 cup mozzarella cheese on top.

To go with it, I had a salad with some of the sweet pepper on it, and some Jicama. And it was so good I practically licked the plate clean:

I will definitely be making my home made pizzas with tortillas in the future. Made a perfect portion. Only down side to this was the relatively low protein for a meal. Any suggestions for having a vegetarian meal like this with more protein? I thought of having a bit of hummus with the jicama.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A light dinner

I notices a couple of the sweet peppers were going bad and we had a bunch left so decided on a hummus plate and salad for dinner. After this i will dehydrate the rest.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Veggie Tuesday

Cinnamon Apple Casserole
Yesterday was supposed to be Meatless Monday in our house, but we're on vacation and forgot it was Monday. So while shopping at Sprouts in Ahwatukee, we remembered, and decided to make today Veggie Tuesday instead.

For this morning's Vegetarian Breakfast I mixed some Macadamia nuts and mixed bean sprouts in with Zen's Cinnamon Apple and Cactus Casserole. It is delicious, I will definitely be asking her for the recipe!

We will be going out for lunch. I'm not sure where, possibly here: as it would be fun to try a vegetarian restaurant we haven't tried yet. It's the last day of Staycation for Patch, so it would be a fun adventure.

And for dinner we bought all sorts of interesting veggies to put in a stir fry. I will take a photo of it when it's done and post the recipe if it's as delicious as we suspect.

Also while at Sprouts we discovered they had Golden Beats which are GORGEOUS and I decided I wanted to try them. Plus I bought a starfruit and a couple of persimmons which should be interesting fruit to mix it up a bit since I've been eating primarily apples and strawberries with the occasional orange. Getting in food ruts has always proven a bad idea in my life. Time to switch it up a bit!