Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beets; Roasted, Borscht and Everything You Need To Know

Beets and carrots from
my parents' AMAZING garden!
As you get older, (yes, I'm using the "O" word again), your friends, doctors, naturopaths and nutritionist-type people are going to start asking you if you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
If you're vegan, of any age or gender, you've probably gotten the questions and the raised eyebrows already.

But if you're female, and over, oh... a "certain age"... the words like "folate" and "vitamin C, antioxidants, potassium, iron, magnesium and thiamine" are going to pop up in conversations with more and more frequency. (Not that you shouldn't have been aware of these nutrients all along...).

Well, I'm NOT going to write out a long healthy-living "how-to-get-all-your-vitamins" lecture here. I'm not a health-care professional. The Internet, libraries, bookstores and real, actual professionals are FULL of information - and the bottom line is that each of us needs to be responsible for our health, do our research, and choose the path that works best for us. (Choose it now, while you're still young enough to read this post without bifocals, by the way.)

But in keeping with my VeganMoFo theme of "This Is What 50 Looks Like" I did want to talk a little about the health benefits of one of my all time favorite vegetables; one that, coincidentally, is full of all the above mentioned vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. That vegetable? BEETS!

My friends are well aware of my obsession with this pretty red veggie. They hide whenever I distribute gift bags of produce from my parent's overly abundant garden... They make German Borscht jokes (which are really lame) and they give me beet-themed gifts!
My friend Darla made me this (my very favorite EVER!) v-e-g-a-n bracelet - with a beet - for VidaVeganCon two years ago, and I've worn it non-stop ever since. (Ask her to custom-make you one at her Etsy shop if you'd like!)

And another friend made me these awesome BEET coasters in her woodworking store. (See a theme here?) I have earrings and tee-shirts and even a beet mug, perfect for drinking my beet-juice smoothie.
 (OK, I don't juice or do smoothies, but many people are into that, and a few beets ARE a good addition to your morning blend of veggies and fruit and whatever you people put in those.)

But I digress:
This colorful, cardiovascular-friendly root vegetable is SOOOO good for you!! It has anti-aging effects (important for those of us who *might* have turned 50, right?) and is rich in vitamins A, B and C, potassium, magnesium and thiamine and a great source of iron.  Beets have also been shown to improve immune system function and help guard against cancer. Why would you NOT want to eat them?

Now, I realize kale seems to be the official vegetable of veganism and the darling child of juice-and-smoothie drinkers everywhere, but I contend that beets are probably just as valuable and sadly, shunned by so many people because they think they don't like them or they just don't know what to do with them!

Shredded in salad!
First of all, if your only experience with beets is those slimy things in a can, please, please try them again. But good Lord, NEVER, NEVER from a can! Ever!

Second, get FRESH, small beets. Try them prepared VERY simply the first time: Roasted, boiled or steamed.
Finely shredded (raw) in a salad.
In a nice, simple borscht soup recipe.
I think you'll be amazed.
Following are some of my favorite recipes.  I am OBSESSED (have you noticed?) with beets and probably have enough recipes to write a small cookbook. Just ask me, if nothing here looks/sounds do-able, and I'll find something that works!!
Roasted Beets

  • 4 medium sized beets, washed, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sprig each rosemary and thyme
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 9×9 pan add all the ingredients and toss to coat with oil. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size. Test for doneness by pricking them with a fork.

Maple Glazed Beets
2 cups cubed roasted or steamed beets
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp Real Maple Syrup
2 teaspoons vegan margarine

Cube the roasted beets into 1 cm pieces. In a small saucepan or frying pan, add all the ingredients. Simmer until the liquid becomes syrupy and is reduced to a approximately a quarter. The syrup will lightly coat the back of a spoon. Anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Use warm as a side dish, or cooled on top salads or like a relish.

Maple Glazed Beet and Cheese Bruschetta
  • Maple Glazed Beets
  • Sour dough bread or other kind of crusty bread
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Italian Parsley and Arugula, as much as you need
  • 3 Tbs vegan Cream Cheese (or homemade cashew cheese)

Slice and toast the bread.
Brush the toast with olive oil. Peel the garlic. Rub the raw garlic clove onto the bread, approximately 1/4 clove per slice. Top with a smear of vegan cream cheese, a tablespoon or so of chopped arugula and parsley and a couple of spoonfuls of the beet mixture
Serve as an appetizer or along side a salad for lunch, it looks SUPER cool!

Beets in a sandwich.
NOT as weird as you'd think!
(Or, this sounds weird, but it's delicious:  just put slices of chilled, cooked beets in a sandwich with good mustard, onions and other veggies. It's seriously VERY good!)

OK, back to something a LITTLE more traditional: My favorite use for my favorite veggie: Borscht.

One of my favorite meals growing up, was the delicious borscht my German-Russian Grandma would make. Smelling it cooking even now takes me back to her steam-filled kitchen with the soup-pot bubbling away on a rainy afternoon, munching on Pfeffernusse and listening carefully to her heavily German-accented cooking tips. She never used a recipe.
Life seems to fly by a lot faster now, than 40++ years ago when I sat in her kitchen. I wish I had time to stand and watch my soup simmer for hours. Fortunately,after many experiments over the years, I discovered that Grandma's Borscht translates very well to either a pressure cooker or crock-pot with very similar results.
For this particular recipe, I much prefer the pressure cooker as the veggies cook up beautifully but don't disintegrate. If you haven't discovered the wonders of this cooking machine, I implore you to read up on the benefits and see for yourself. They are great time-saving devices. Huge. And the best part? My Grandma's Borscht takes about twenty minutes! I think she would be baffled by the need for speed but would approve of the authenticity of the final product.

My Grandma's Borscht and
some homemade bread!
Even if you think you're not a beet fan, you need to try borscht just once, you may be surprised at the subtle blend of flavors and what a wonderful, and healthy winter soup this is. And don't worry about an exact measurement of each veggie, or using ones you don't care for - as long as you have around the total amount.

**If your veggies are organic, go ahead and leave the peelings on and scrub well. They soften up nicely in the pressure cooker.
If you want to do this in a crock-pot, peel the veggies first, chop in more uniform, smaller pieces and cook on low for about 5+ hours until done

Miller Family Borscht
(Pressure Cooker Edition)

  • 2 Tbsp margarine
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (28 oz. ) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 lb. small beets, scrubbed well, and sliced in 1/4 in. slices
  • 1 lb. cabbage, coarsely shredded or chopped
  • 3 large carrots, well-scrubbed, cut in 3 or 4 chunks
  • 2 small parsnips, well-scrubbed, cut in 3 or 4 chunks
  • 1 largish turnip or rutabaga, cut in chunks about the same size as the carrots and parsnips
  • Coarsely chopped chard, kale or beet tops, about 2 cups, packed.
  • 6 cups vegetarian "beef" flavoured stock
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • optional garnish:
  • vegan sour cream
  • sauerkraut

Easiest Soup Directions EVER:
Heat margarine in pressure cooker. Saute onion about three minutes, until soft. Add remaining ingredients except vinegar, sauerkraut and sour cream.

(I'm going to assume you already know how to use your particular pressure-cooker now - these are the guidelines that work with my model, but pretty standard for most types.)
Lock lid in place and bring to pressure over high heat. Adjust heat to maintain high pressure and cook for ten minutes. Quick release under cool running water. Remove bay leaves, stir in vinegar and add some salt if needed.
Garnish (optionally) with a spoonful of sour cream and/or sauerkraut and


Amey said...

oooh, I am a fellow beet fan! I love them so much. I also really love the beet greens! I would love to try your borscht recipe. I usually make the one from Voluptuous Vegan - have you ever tried it? It's really super, but yours sounds pretty fantastic too. I really really love borscht! :) Plus, all the vitamins! ha ha

Darla Buhler said...

From someone who also loves beets but does not live with other beet lovers, potluck is now my solution :)

I've also discovered that Costco has yummy non-GMO ready-to-eat packaged beets!

For a different photo of Marti's vegan bracelet:

(Thanks for the shout-out!)

Mollylivebearer said...

Looks delicious! I love borscht. I don't have a pressure cooker, but I'll figure it out.