Ginger-Orange Borscht

Beets might be my favorite vegetable. They are a relatively new discovery for me as we never ate them growing up. I had never considered them, and in the back of my mind the florescent purple flesh most likely made me a little nervous. But after a first taste the fear disappeared, and I have been experimenting with more ways to incorporate it into our diet: steamed, baked, braised, shredded and raw in salads, pureed into a spread. This is the first time I’ve tired a soup. Not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier, but just like carrot or squash soup, pureed into a broth and lightly seasoned, its delicious. With a touch of citrus and ginger, it is fresh and delightful!

Ginger Orange Borsche

1 yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, roughtly chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1 clove garlic
4 large beets, roughtly chopped
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
salt to taste
1/2 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange, reserve a little for garnish
fresh mint and yogurt for toping (optional)

Simple simple simple. Sautee onion until translucent, add carrots, ginger and garlic and cook on medium heat until carrots are soft and ginger and garlic frangrant. Add beets, stock, water, juice, and zest. Cover and simmer on medium high for an hour, or until the veggies are tender. Puree, season with salt and pepper to tast. Garnish with additional zest, crushed fresh mint leaves, and yogurt.


Roasted Caramelized Beets

Sometimes I really miss the television. Usually I’m too busy for it, or it would just keep me up insanely late.

Thankfully we go to the gym, and there I can get my T.V. fix. We go to the gym at 5am most weekdays, which means my early morning programing consists of Married with Children followed by The Nanny (luckily the volume is muted and we are provided with subtitles so that instead of listening to her screeching voice we can listen to the techno-pop music they have in the background. Actually, I’m not sure which I prefer.)

When I’m lucky, however, I get one of the treadmills or ellipticals with a T.V. attached to it, and I can select my own show. Those occasions are few because, despite how early it is, the gym is packed at this hour. When I can choose my show, it is always the food channel. In Spanish of course. Which is usually a strange experience because they are often shows originally in English but dubbed in Spanish. I can read their lips sometimes in English. weird. I prefer subtitles to dubbing, but I take what I can get.

This morning, Sunday, there was hardly anyone at the gym. Still, 3 out of the 4 machines with their own screen were taken. I ran for it. It was mine. Immediately I scrolled to the cooking channel and I encountered this recipe. One root veggie roasted to perfection with the most simple seasoning. It was a good thing we had beets at home. This is my new favorite way of preparing them. Crispy and salted around the edges; the stems are particularly delicious. It’s almost chip-like. Sweet and caramelized, even more dramatic than your average beet.

Roasted Caramelized Beets
adapted from food network canada

4 beets, thoroughly scrubbed and sliced into wedges. Leave stems in tact.
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 425ºF. Roast for about an hour.

Beet and Orange Salad

This salad is simple and unexpected. Perfect in beauty, flavor, and nutrition. The acidic fruit balances nicely with the distinctly sweet beet flavor. A little red wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh mint, and orange zest bring it all together.

Beet, Apple, and Grapefruit Salad

Yes…more beets!

Beet Apple Grapefruit Salad

Just now I felt like something light, healthy, but sweet. We had yet more beets to use up, and I had half and apple from an egg salad sandwich I made a day earlier, so this is what went down: Beets, apples, grapefruit, red onion for a bite, dates and some maple syrup for some additional sweetness, red wine vinegar and olive oil for balance, and toasted walnuts for a salty crunch. Exactly what I was craving.

1 beet, roasted and chilled
1/2 medium apple (I used fuji)
1/2 grapefruit wedges, bitter part removed
2 tablespoons thinly slivered red onion
1 date, chopped (or a tablespoon of rasins. optional)
A few walnuts or other toasted nuts
A dash redwine vinegar
A drizzle honey or maple syrup
A drizzle olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice beets and apples in thin discs, as thin as you can. Add grapefruit wedges and thinly sliced red onion. Toss with vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Add finely sliced date, or whole raisins, and toasted nuts.

Good Things Happen When You Buy Too Many Beets: Beet Slaw Three Ways

There different versions with the same base: grated raw beets and carrots. The raw beets maintain more of there superpower nutrients than boiled or even roasted beets. And they are fresh and delicious. Besides how they stain my hands, I love how they make everything they touch fuchsia. People, give beets a try!

Beet Salads - Mint

1. Beets, carrrots, apples, grated. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, freshly torn mint leaves- quite a bit of it.

Beet Salads - Cilantro Dressing

2. Beets and carrots grated. Cilantro-lime yogurt dressing (1/2 cup plain yogurt, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1/4 cup cilantro pureed). Salt and pepper to taste.

Beet Salads - Pepitoria and Queso Seco

3. Beets and Carrots grated. One tablespoon pepitoria (ground, toasted pumpkin seeds. Try sesamee seeds or sunflower seeds as an alternative, toasted and crushed a bit in a coffee grinder). One tablespoon queso seco (use finely grated parmesan or roman as an alternative). Juice of one lime. Toss to combine.

“Red Velvet Cake”

Red Velvet Cake - Pouring batter

So, I’ll come clean from the start. The title is misleading. While it may appear to be a red velvet cake, with the red-tinted cake and the white frosting, it isn’t. It’s a beet cake. Yeah. I know. I but figured that no one would stop and read this if I titled it beet cake. At least not many of my family or friends. Perhaps I underestimate you. But anyway, I can do that, right? That’s not exactly false advertising…I’m not making any money here. (By the way, if anyone is interested in supporting a young passionate social worker living in Latin American about to accept a job that pays nothing and has no health benefits, you can contact me…just kidding!)

The thing is we had lots of beets we bought about a week ago. We like to support our local beet-farmer and personal friend, Dwight. But we got too many I guess. The other day I threw out a entire bunch of un-touched radish because it took a turn for the worse, and because I ruined the freezer when I was chiseling out the ice, our refrigerator functions more like a giant freezer and I lost all my lettuce as well. I didn’t want these babies to go to waste too. But last week…every.single. day… I ate one version or another of my beet and carrot salad. As much as I love beets, I didn’t want to choke another one down. This was a great (maybe…) solution. Plus think about it: beets were once used to make sugar in Europe before they learned to more efficiently exploit the cane, and the people, of Latin America. And its always nice to pack extra nutrients into our favorite dishes. So if you’re trying to sneak veggies into your child’s (or spouse’s) diet, perhaps this is one way.

Red Velvet Cake - ChocolateRed Velvet Cake - BeetsRed Velvet Cake - SliceRed Velvet Cake - Cream Cheese Frosting

I loosely based my recipe from one I found online, but I made many adjustments.

1. I cut the recipe in half because (a) I didn’t want too much cake sitting around, (b) I don’t have a pan that can hold more than 4 cups of batter, and (c) I had very low confidence in this recipe. I mean…a beet cake.

2. I used all the beets I had (three large) which made about 1 cup of puree — 1/4 of a cup more than called for.

3. I don’t like using too much butter or oil in my baked goods, so instead of the hefty half cup it asked for, I used a scant 1/4 cup and put in a 1/4 of a banana we had in the fridge. I didn’t want it to taste like banana, but it’s a good substitute for fats.

4. I almost trippled the amount of chocolate they used. Initially I mixed up a batch with twice the amount called for because the measly 1 oz looked like nothing compared to the amount of beets I was using, and when I tasted the batter it was way way way too beety for me. I’m a batter-taster, and I demand that the batter taste just as good as the cake. So I put in the rest of the chocolate I had, which was about 3 oz in total. I tasted it and it was much better. I did in fact lick the bowl clean, as I would normally do with anything I’m baking.

Red Velvet Cake - Enjoying a biteAnd the verdict? I couldn’t believe it. I had very little faith in this recipe to be honest. But it was honestly delicious. Every so often I found a bite that was slightly reminiscent of beets, however for the most part I could not tell at all. The color was mysteriously chocolaty. That batter was purple, I mean purple. But after baking it was hardly noticeable…however when I frosted it and let it sit for a while, the white turned fuchsia. So if you are trying to trick someone, maybe use a chocolate frosting.

The problem with this recipe is… why would you make it? It’s not much healthier (although I did cut the oil in half). You certainly could use apple sauce instead of any oil but it would sacrifice significantly in the flavor department. Its got loads of sugar (for my taste). I guess just if you have lots of extra beets lying around like me perhaps you’d give it a shot, or if you just wanna try something different. It was really really yummy, but to be honest if I want to make a chocolate cake for someone I think I would use a traditional recipe because its just as healthy as this one I suppose. Anyway, I’m glad I did it. It was new and a joyous surprise!

Mock Red Velvet Cake

3 large beets, cooked and pureed (about 1 cup puree, but you may use as little as 1/2 cup if you like)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate (melted and cooled. I actually used a bar of 71% cacao, cuz thats all I had. I bet anything semi-sweet to bitter would work).
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter, or coconut oil, or canola oil
1/4 – 1/2 of a banana (optional..instead you can use an additional 1/4 cup butter or oil)
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine chocolate, eggs, and beets, and banana with a hand blender or in your food processor until smooth. Mix in butter and vanilla. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda, then mix into the chocolate-beet mixture. I had to use a loaf pan, so my cooking time was much longer. I suggest using an 8×8 baking dish, and baking at 350ºF for 30 minutes, but check at 20 and 25 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. We are probably at different altitudes.

Whip together one 8oz contain of cream cheese with 2 or 3 tablespoons honey, until creamy, about 1 minute.