You can’t beat this cooking technique: My favorite way to eat beets (Or, how to roast beets)

How to roast beetsImage credit: Beet it by darwin Bell, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0. (modified)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve developed a fondness for eating beets and have developed a hobby of finding new recipes with beets as a featured ingredient. A few years ago, the technique of roasting vegetables came my way, and I was grateful for this new way to enjoy vegetables. Since then, it’s been my go-to method to prepare any fresh beets that come my way, but roasting vegetables is a technique that can be used on most types of vegetables.

Why roast vegetables?

Roasting vegetables is a simple technique that helps bring out the deliciousness of vegetables. Roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, which makes vegetables like Brussels sprouts more palatable to many.

You can roast just about any vegetable. Hearty root vegetables (like onions, garlic, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and beets) and winter squash (think butternut squash) tend to work best, because they hold up to the high heat roasting requires and contain more natural sugars to support caramelization, but I also like to roast peppers, squash, cauliflower and tomatoes.

How to roast vegetables

To roast vegetables, cut them into similarly sized pieces and toss them in a little olive oil and any seasonings you wish. Then, spread your vegetables out on a baking sheet, leaving a lot of room between the pieces. The temperature you use will vary depending on how hearty your vegetables are and how brown you want them to get, but somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees (vegetables with a higher water content, like tomatoes, should be cooked a the lower range).

Cooking time will vary as well, but generally 30-45 minutes is the average. You’ll want to toss your veggies a few times during the roasting process, to ensure everything cooks evenly. You’ll know your veggies are done when they start to get a pleasing brown color on the outside and, for vegetables like butternut squash, a fork pierces through easily.

It’s that easy!

My favorite way to eat roasted beets

My favorite method for preparing beets is slightly different from the method I just described. I clean the beets and trim the tops and bottoms, then I put them on a piece of aluminum foil. I take a second piece of foil and place on top of the beets. Then I fold the edges of the two pieces of foil together, to create a pouch to cook my beets in.

Next, I place the pouch on a baking sheet and bake it in a 400 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I flip over the pouch and bake for 20 minutes more. Then I check the beets for doneness, by piercing a beet with a fork, if it passes through easily they’re done, if not, I reseal the foil flip them over and check again every 10 minutes until the beets are the desired tenderness.

Once they’re done, I leave my these little gems in the foil pouch to cool. Once they have cooled to room temperature, I peel and slice the beets into a bowl. Next I drizzle with a nice balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. This preparation makes a nice dish own its own or atop a nice salad.

What about you? Do you love roasting vegetables? What’s your favorite way to eat them? Let me know in the comments or take your discussion to Facebook!

Soap making secrets: The challenges and benefits of working with olive oil

Soap making secrets: The challenges and benefits of olive oil80% olive oil soap

If Castile soap were a high school student, it would be voted “Most Likely to Test a Soap Maker’s Patience.” Castile soap, named for the Castile region in Spain where it originated, was originally defined as soap made with 100% olive oil. Today, you’ll find Castile soap made with other oils, like coconut and palm. As a soap maker, I can understand why this shift took place.

Soap made with olive oil as 100% of the oil in a recipe can be a challenge to work with. After adding lye water to the oils, it can take a very long time for the oil and lye to react and start to turn into soap. This means a soap maker has to spend more time mixing the batter to ensure the full chemical reaction, known as saponification, takes place.

Because olive oil is a liquid oil, there is a lot of moisture that needs to evaporate from the bar. After pouring the soap into the mold, it can take several days before it hardens enough to be removed and it can take up to a year of curing for a bar to reach its full potential. The normal four to six week cure time recommended for most handmade soaps doesn’t work for 100% olive oil soap. A short cure time results in a softer bar of soap that doesn’t lather very well and isn’t as gentle on the skin as it could be.

So, why do I use olive oil in almost all of my recipes? It’s a skin care powerhouse. Olive oil is highly moisturizing and considered to be hypoallergenic, which means it’s excellent for babies and people with sensitive skin. Additionally, like rice bran oil, its slow reaction time makes it an excellent oil to use when I want to achieve beautiful swirls and designs in my soap.

I don’t have the patience to wait a year for my soap to cure so I do some things to help it along. I add coconut oil, which helps boost the lather, and palm oil, which helps the bar to harden faster. I’ve experimented with using olive oil at up to 80% of the total oils in a recipe and love the results. The lather is thick and creamy instead of bubbly and my skin feels soft and lovely after using it.

If you are interested in giving olive oil soap a try, you’re in luck!  The Emmet Street Creations Etsy store has one pound bags of unscented 80% olive oil soap on sale for $10. The lack of fragrance makes this soap an awesome choice if you normally have sensitive skin. The low price makes it easy to stock up and save!

Do you have a question about the soap making process? Ask it in the comments or on our Facebook page and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post. 

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Canada geese babiesWe’ll be seeing lots of little guys like this around here soon…

It’s been another busy week here on Emmet Street. Christine decided to indulge another hobby of hers, birding, and take in the migration that is happening around the Jersey Shore this time of year. Hopefully, the species flying through got their GTL in before Christine got there so she won’t be disappointed!

We also got confirmation that Emmet Street Creations will be a vendor at  The Flea at the Evaporator Works in Hudson, Ohio on May 30. We’ll be there (51 South Main Street) slinging soap from 9 AM to 4 PM. So make plans to come by and see us!

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds (inspired by the arrival of spring and my favorite springtime flowers) on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

  • Lilac soap – My lilac tree is in full bloom right now. The scent is enchanting. Once the blooms are gone, this soap from Sciarretta Farms bring back fond garden memories.
  • Lavender soap – I love, love, love lavender. I love the packaging on this melt and pour soap made by Sarah Johnson.
  • Violet soap – Wild violets are blooming all over my yard right now. They are so sweet to look at. This soap from i am handmade is, too.

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Memorial Day is next Monday! Since it’s the unofficial start of summer, you’re probably going to a cookout. Looking for some easy cookout recipe ideas? How about a couple of my favorite heart-healthy cookout recipes: five bean salad and vegan black bean burgers?

Did you know this was a thing? The International Biscuit Festival

Biscuits will save your soulLast year during my “Great Dolly Parton Adventure” in Knoxville, Tennessee, I learned that I had just missed an event of monumental proportions: The International Biscuit Festival.

This festival spans a jam-packed weekend each May and celebrates the Southern biscuit making tradition with a juried art exhibition, a songwriting competition music, dance and a Mr. and Miss Biscuit pageant. I was also interested to learn than the Southern Food Writing Conference is held concurrently with the festival, making me disappointed my schedule did not allow me to make a trip to Knoxville this year.

To soothe my disappointment, I’ll read these biscuit making tips from the Tupelo Honey Cafe and watch an excerpt from Alton Brown’s former Food Network show, “Good Eats.” (Specifically, this clip where Alton Brown makes biscuits with his meemaw.)

How about you? Do you looooove a good biscuit? Have you ever been to the festival?

8 tips for surviving the outdoor handmade marketplace and flea market shopping experience

Outdoor market shopping? 8 survival tipsIf you’re like me, one of the best parts of summer for you is attending outdoor handmade markets and junking at a good flea market.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of survival strategies (and observed a lot of poor behavior by my fellow shoppers). To help you be prepared for the upcoming season (come out and see us May 30 at The Flea at the Evaporator Works in Hudson, Ohio!), I thought I’d share some of my tips.

  1. Set a budget & pay with cash. Before you head out, figure out how much you’re prepared to spend at the event. Then, go to the bank and withdraw that amount. If you leave your credit cards at home, you’ll curb impulse buying (and you’ll save the vendors, who are cost-conscious small business  owners, credit card vendor fees).
  2. Scope out vendors before you go. Many handmade marketplaces and flea markets promote the heck out of their events and the products the vendors will bring with them. This will help you prioritize your “must buy” items and help you stick to your budget. If you’re lucky, the event host will provide a map of where each vendor will be located prior to the event date. If so, take some time to take a look at it; doing so will help you plan your trip and make the best use of your time (which is super important when the event is large or your time is limited).
  3. Bring a notebook and pen. (And get a printed vendor location map, if one is available.) If you want to think about an item before buying it, you’ll think you’ll remember where the vendor is located. You won’t. After seeing your fifth Steampunk jewelry artist, fourteenth typography booth and your twelfth upcycler, you just won’t. Trust me, you won’t regret having a method for note taking.
  4. Social media sharing is fun… but make sure the vendor is okay with it. Most vendors welcome social media sharing so others can learn about their products (as long as you tag their business in your posts). However, a lot of vendors at handmade marketplaces are artists who carefully control how their work and ideas are shared with the world, so ask before taking pictures or sharing on social media. If they are okay with it, help promote them effectively by asking how they prefer to be tagged in social media.
  5. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen. Sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer suck. Do what you can to avoid these conditions.
  6. Pack a lunch and a water bottle. This is good advice for many reasons. You want to save your cash for buying new lovelies. Market food and drink is pricey ($5 bottles of tap water, I’m looking at you) and if there is a super-hip food truck at the event, the lines will be looooong. Avoid the risk of hassle and getting hangry; bring your own provisions.
  7. Bring your own bags. Once you start acquiring your loot, you’ll want something more comfortable to carry around than a plastic grocery bag (I recommend a sturdy canvas tote). If you’re planning to bring home a lot of stuff, bring a granny cart along, too.
  8. Do NOT bring a wagon. Your (well-behaved) kids are welcome but if they can’t handle walking around for a long period of time, please find a sitter. Handmade marketplaces and flea markets are crowded. Wagons take up a lot of room and are difficult to move around, to the annoyance of many. Don’t be that annoying person.

What about you? Do have any other tips to share with your fellow outdoor shopping aficionados?


Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Banana soap by Emmet Street CreationsEmmet Street Creations’ Handmade Banana soap (available in our Etsy store)

It’s been a quiet week on Emmet Street. Christine’s been enjoying the bird migration through northeast Ohio and gearing up for a birding trip on the east coast (hopefully, she’ll add some new entries to her lifetime sightings list).

As for me, I’ve shown great bravery this week. The local stray cat left a gift on my doorstep: a deceased garter snake. Though I was appreciative of this misguided gesture, I mustered up the courage to pick it up and usher it to its final resting place. After all that excitement, all I’ve wanted to do is enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures (and a fruity beverage).

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers that inspire us. Check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

  • Elemental Swirl soap – The patterns and colors in this soap from Otion Soap remind me of sunshine and blue water, making it a great way to start your day.
  • Silk Soap – The colors and pattern in this silk soap by Soap Making Essentials look like an up-close-and-personal meeting with the sun. Mesmerizing.
  • Sunrise Soap – Here comes the sun! I imagine this soap from Sunlit Soap would perk me up on the dreariest of mornings (and leave me humming that tune by The Beatles all day long).

Good, clean fun

If you’re not following us on Facebook, here’s some of the fun you missed:

  • Congrats to Cleveland Chef Jonathon Sawyer! – The word is getting out that the Cleveland food scene rocks as hard as we do. Chef Jonathon Sawyer snagged a prestigious James Beard Award this week, being named Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. Represent, Chef!
  • Did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? – If you didn’t, but love guacamole, Hungry Girl provided us with a lightened up version of this favorite Mexican condiment.
  • This may be my signature summer cocktail – Refreshing and boozy, what could be better? I see a session on my backyard swing with this sangria in my future.

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

Spending time outdoors has lately been high on my priority list. Last weekend, as I walked the wooded area of my beloved’s farm, I was keenly aware that tick season is now upon us. I need to refresh myself on how to avoid being bitten by a tick, because those little jerks are out in full force.  (Maybe I’ll take my bug frustration out on a nice plate of crickets. Did you know 80% of the world’s population includes insects in their diet?)

Get this all up in your grill: Vegan beet burgers

Vegan Beet BurgersWhen I met my beloved, I had no idea he would open up a whole new world of eating to me. At the time, he had a small specialty produce business, growing heirloom vegetables such as tomatoes and fingerling potatoes and selling the fruits of his labor to local restaurants. One of the most popular sellers in his lineup was a surprise to me: beets! (They were second to heirloom tomatoes, because who doesn’t love a good homegrown tomato amiright?)

During the early days of our dating, I learned two things: I love beets and small-scale farming is hard and takes a lot of time (so don’t scoff if the prices at farmers market are a bit higher than what you’d pay at your local grocery).

As time has marched on, I’ve become increasingly interested in finding tasty, satisfying vegan recipes. Eventually I stumbled upon Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her website The Post Punk Kitchen, a great source for vegan recipes (though it isn’t updated as frequently as I’d like).

When I was first gifted beets, I was puzzled what to do with them. The PPK came through, with a wonderful vegan beet burger recipe. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a bit, and thought I’d share it (also, Christine has been bugging me to share the recipe ever since she tried my version).

The only downside I can find with this recipe is that it’s basically impossible to make it without a food processor (unless you have a lot of time on your hands and endless patience). I find my food processor to be as essential to my kitchen adventures as my refrigerator–so if you don’t have one, drop some hints to your loved ones that you’d like one as a gift!

Have you tried The PPK version of this recipe? Have you tinkered with it?

Beet Burgers

Makes 6 burger patties, or 12 slider-sized patties

1 c.  shredded beets

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 c. cooked brown lentils

1/2 c. dry bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic

2 T. ketchup

1 t. dried thyme

1/2 t. fennel seed

1 t. dry mustard

1/2 t. salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Hamburger buns (optional)

Prepare your food processor to use the metal cutting blade. Add all ingredients to the food processor bowl and blend, until all ingredients are well incorporated (it will resemble bright red Play-Doh). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is heating, form the burger mixture into patties and place on a nonstick cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, turning patties once halfway.

Alternate cooking methods: I always bake my burger patties to keep the fat content low. If you like a nice burger-y charred crust on your burger, you can cook the patties in a well-oiled skillet (instead of baking them) or if you bake them, you can lightly oil the patties and broil them for a few minutes on each side. I think these burgers would probably hold up to grilling, if they are baked first, but I haven’t tested that method to know for sure. (If you try grilling them, let me know if are successful.)