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!

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