Beet Kvass

When I first head about a drink made out of soaked beets, I just couldn’t wrap my taste buds around the whole concept. When offered a glass, I literally puckered-up like I was about to sip poison, but I was pleasantly surprised! It tasted earthy, a bit salty, a hint of sour, yet a titch of sweetness and a light effervescence that I wasn’t expecting. I liked it!

The history of beet kvass is that the Ukrainians and Russians have been drinking it for over a thousand years–czars and peasants alike. An electrolyte drink, this lactose-fermented beverage could be called the traditional, real-food version of Gatorade since it provides great hydrating balance.

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Warm Beet Salad

Beets are an antioxidant-rich root vegetable that provides serious support for the liver and gallbladder. The deep pigments that give beets their rich color, called betalains, are special phytonutrients that provide anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits.

Loaded with a variety of nutrients such as folate, potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function), magnesium, fiber, manganese (good for your bones, liver kidneys and pancreas) and immune-boosting vitamin C, beets are a great way to increase the nutrient-density of your diet. Eating beet root may help to lower blood pressure, boost your stamina, and fight inflammation and cancer.

And we’d be silly to throw away the beet greens! They are among the healthiest and most nutritious part of the plant! The greens supply significant amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium and may strengthen your immune system as well as support brain and bone health.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

Have you tried garlic scapes? If you are a garlic lover like me, you’ll find this yearly delicacy right now (early to late spring) at your farmer’s market or green grocer. Young, tender scapes can be chopped into salads or used as a topping like you would scallions. Mature scapes can be treated like asparagus – sautéed lightly and tossed into pasta or a egg dish, mixed with cooked greens, pickled or in any dish that would be complimented by garlic. My favorite way to use scapes is in this garlic scape pesto.

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Call in the Cauliflower!

“How’s your cruciferous vegetable intake?” asked the doctor never.

When concerned with anti-aging strategies, fighting off cancer, and reducing inflammation, cruciferous vegetables should be on your plate.

In general, cruciferous veggies are jam-packed with dietary benefits. They are low in calories, and high in fiber, calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and beneficial enzymes.

Crucifers contain important disease-fighting phytochemicals that may help lower your risk of cancers. In lab studies, the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane, indole 3-carbinol and crambene – stimulates enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they can damage cells.

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Give Us This Day…But I’ll Skip the Bread

My students used to ask, “If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what two foods would you bring?”

My standard answer used to be bread and cheese. But several years ago I started toying with the idea of giving up bread in my diet…Crazy idea, huh?

Bread is everywhere in our American diet! It’s in some form at e-v-e-r-y meal and given freely at restaurants to tide us over while waiting for the plates to come. A handful of crackers, a piece of toast or half a bagel is an easy snack to grab between meals. In fact, toast slathered in peanut butter or topped with a fried egg was my grab-and-go breakfast most morning as I rushed out the door to teach.

 

How do you go without toast in the morning? And how do you eat a sandwich without bread? Will I be able to keep from uncontrollably stuffing delicious, crusty artisan bread in my mouth during monthly book club meetings if I’m depriving myself day to day? What will I use to sop up that delicious pasta sauce/gravy/broth without a warm loaf of sourdough or French bread? No Chonga bagel, banana bread or scone with morning coffee? These questions vexed me as I thought about the challenge I was delivering myself.

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Beets with Garlic and Fennel

I planted my beets in February this year and I received a bumper crop! Unfortunately, they began to bolt last week so I knew it was time to harvest them. What to do with a sink full of beets? Ferment them!

 

Fermentation? Like beer? Well, yes, but . . .  You know that yogurt you enjoy? That’s fermented milk. Not only does it taste good, but it has probiotics – good bacteria – which benefit your digestion.  Did you realize that every civilization throughout time has had their history of fermented foods and beverages? They had to utilize fermentation for lack of refrigeration. Today, many of us eat versions of these ferments such as aged cheeses, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, wine and cider which all began as naturally fermented foods.

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Zucchini Boats

Happy first day of summer! Here in the Pacific Northwest, we joke that summer doesn’t actually start until after the 4th of July. The last couple of years our weather has been so cold in the spring that tomatoes didn’t grow very well or produce much at all. Squash? Never a problem, is it?

This year we’ve had bouts of warmer than usual weather…followed by periods of chilly, wet days when we wish our tomatoes were getting more heat. I have my fingers crossed that this will be a great year for my heirloom varieties and I’ll be harvesting plenty of tomatoes to can, dry, freeze, and, of course, eat off the vine by August.

With the activities of summer swinging into high gear, before we know it we’re going to have oodles of tomatoes and tons of zucchini squash. You can’t give all your squash away so I think we should plan ahead.

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Blood Orange Vinaigrette with Spicy Greens

There is nothing tastier to brighten up a meal in the dead of winter than a refreshing orange. Citrus is in abundance in supermarkets right now, but have you tried a blood orange? Grown since the 18th century in China and the Southern Mediterranean regions, blood oranges are now primarily grown in Italy, Texas and California.

Along with the usual citrus notes, a  blood orange has an almost raspberry flavor though it is less acidic than most oranges. The anthocyanins – some of the strongest antioxidants available – give this fruit its crimson blood-colored flesh. Other than its antioxidant activity, anthocyanins have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, reduce the risk of cancer, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

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Have You Tried Delicata Squash?

Piled in front of the acorn and butternut squash, the distinctive dark-green longitudinal stripes of this winter squash’s creamy yellow body is what initially attracted me at the farmer’s market. Cooking that first beautiful delicata several years ago, I’ve been hooked ever since! I’m not sure if I had my eyes closed to them before, but they are in most US grocery produce departments all fall, winter and, if they last, into the spring. Why not pick one up next time and try one of the recipes below?

 

Many of you may moan here thinking if the delicata is akin to the butternut squash, then you won’t bother. That awkward peeling of that behemoth is not for you! Let’s then refer to this heirloom squash as the delicate cousin of the butternut. After halving and scooping the seeds, the delicata has a similar taste to a butternut, is as easy to prepare as an acorn squash, but better than either of those because the skin is also sweetly edible!

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Kale Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado

Have you noticed how gorgeous the grapefruits in your market are this year? Why not get a few Ruby Reds or Rios on your next visit for a refreshing, tangy pick-me-up full of many micronutrients including vitamin A and C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, manganese, folate and many B-vitamins. Some of the health benefits attributed to grapefruit include treating colds, fever and pneumonia, weight loss, boosting the liver, breaking up gallstones, lowering cholesterol, lessening joint pain, and promoting better digestion and immunity.

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