Cooking curiosity: Why are beets good for you?

 Why are beets good for youImage credit: Beet it by darwin Bell, on Flickr. CC BY 2.0. (modified)

What is a beet?

A beet is a root vegetable–like carrots, turnips and radishes–that is quick growing and is quite tolerant of cold growing conditions, which is why you see it on spring and winter menus. It comes in red, gold, white and one variety–the chioggia–has a red and white striped root that looks very pretty when sliced.

Red beets are also used in food production as natural colorant for products such as tomato paste, jam and once I saw it as an ingredient in my strawberry yogurt!

What do beets taste like?

Growing up, I didn’t think I liked beets. I had it served to me one time–it came from a can; it was waxy and tasty odd and I and refused to try it again. My family didn’t have a cultural tradition of eating beet-centric dishes, so I never had the chance to learn what was so wonderful about beets.

That is, until I met my boyfriend.

At the time, he was running a small commercial produce farm that sold heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes and beets to local restaurants. He dazzled me with the tomatoes (my favorite summer treat), but when he gave me a bag of beets… let’s just say I was less enthusiastic.

He loved to talk about eating beets and their health benefits, so he convinced me to give beets a chance.

I’m glad he did, because now they’re one of my favorite vegetables. Beets are sweeter than carrots and, like carrots, can be eaten raw or cooked. Beet greens are edible, too, so don’t throw them away! I’ve used beets in variety of ways (more on that in a moment) and have yet to be disappointed with my cooking results.

What are the nutritional benefits of beets?

Before I tell you about the nutritional benefits of beets, I’m going to start with a public service announcement: Eating beets may induce beeturia.

This is a real condition; it means after eating beets, your urine or stool may take on a red hue. No one warned me of this, and I was a bit alarmed the first time I used the bathroom after eating a big batch of roasted beets. I didn’t feel poorly, but I did start to wonder if a trip to the emergency room was necessary. Then I remembered my earlier meal.

Now that’s out of my system, on to the reasons why you should be eating beets:

  • Beets contain high amounts of folate, which is good for your brain and nervous system.
  • Looking to prevent heart disease? Beets contain betaine, which reduces inflammation in the blood vessels.
  • Beets contain manganese, which is important to have in your diet to help your body make bones, connective tissues and sex hormones (and they say oysters are a natural aphrodisiac).
  • Beet greens are a superfood, too. Beet greens are high in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C.

How do you use beets in cooking?

Beets can be prepared in many ways. My favorite way is to make oven-roasted beets, but you can also boil or steam them as you would a potato. Raw, shredded beet is a delicious (and attractive) addition to a salad. Pickled beets are delicious, too.

Did you know you can even make sweet treats using beets? I’ve made beet cake, beet bread (similar to banana bread) and I’ve eaten beet ice cream!

If you’re looking for ways to cook beets, try these links to get you started:

What you about you? Do you think beets can’t be beat? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? 

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slaw

Vegan tofu tacos with Asian slawI love tacos. They’re the perfect thing to throw together when you’re busy and want a fast, easy and tasty meal. If you pick the right ingredients, they’re pretty darn healthy, too.

These tacos definitely fit the bill. They do require some forethought, since you need to give the ingredients some time to get to know the marinade and dressing, but it’s definitely worth the effort to plan ahead. Your reward will be a healthy, flavor-packed dinner. You’ll get a hit of sweet and sour from the citrus and vinegar and hint of nuttiness, thanks to the seasame oil.

What about you? Are tacos a go-to menu item in your house? How do you make yours?

Vegan Tacos with Asian Slaw

Makes 6-8 tacos

6-8 6″ flour tortillas

Sriracha (optional, but recommended)

For the slaw:

2 c. shredded cabbage

6 radishes, julienned

1/4 c. carrots, julienned

1/4 c. rice vinegar

2 t. sesame oil

1 T. brown sugar

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

Put cabbage, radishes and carrots in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic and ginger. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

For the tofu:

16 oz. extra-firm tofu, pressed to get rid of excess water (if you’ve never pressed tofu, see this article)

1 c. orange juice

1 t. low-sodium soy sauce

1 t. garlic, minced

1 t. ginger, minced

Slice tofu in half (lengthwise to maximize the surface area) and set aside. In a container large enough to marinate the tofu, mix all remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

After marinating, remove tofu and pat dry. Cut into slices about 1/2″ thick and place on to lightly greased baking sheet. Heat oven to broil setting and put baking sheet on the rack directly under the broiler. Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until they start to brown on the edges (cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the level of moisture in the tofu, so keep a close eye on it).

When the tofu is to your desired doneness, remove from oven and assemble your tacos! Warm the tortillas and top each with slaw and tofu. If you like yours a little more spicy, drizzle with sriracha (you’ll be glad you did).

Quick and easy appetizer: Radish and butter crostini

Radish and butter crostiniI’m loving all things radish right now. Radishes provide many nutritional benefits and in northeast Ohio we’re approaching the time of year when eating them fresh from our own garden is a real possibility.

I also love eating radishes with a little butter and salt. I know the fat content of the butter negates some of the healthy benefits of the radish, but a girl has to treat herself now and then! All things in moderation.

If you’re looking a for an easy, flavorful appetizer with springtime flair for your next garden party, try this crostini recipe. Almost everyone likes toast with butter and adding the radish adds an extra dimension of flavor and texture to the experience.

Have you tried eating radish with butter and salt? What do you think about the combination?

Butter and radish crostini

Makes 12

1 French baguette (cut into 12, 1/2 inch slices)

4 T. butter, softened

6-8 radishes, thinly sliced

Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Heat oven to broil setting. Arrange bread slices on a cookie sheet and place under broiler to toast (I like to mist mine on both sides with a little extra virgin olive oil, but it’s optional). It takes less than a minute of broiling on each side to get the bread its perfect, golden toastiness, so keep a close eye on it! Remove bread from oven and allow to cool.

Spread butter on toast and arrange radish layers on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top as desired and enjoy!

Monday musings: Handmade soap and good, clean fun

Photo of handcrafted soapImage credit: Formulary 55

Even though yesterday was Easter, it felt more like Christmas on Emmet Street! I got a new toy for the soap lab: a soap planer and beveler from CDA Soap Works. I tried it as soon as I opened the box and I absolutely love it. It creates nice flat sides and beveled edges that will give my soaps a polished finish. It’s going to be very useful as I prep for my first maker event this year: Mom & Pop Shoppe sponsored by Crafty Mart. Mark your calendars to come to Musica in Akron and see me on April 25th! 

Handmade soap

There are so many creative soap makers we are inspired by, check out some of our favorite finds on Pinterest! (Are we pinning buddies there? We should be.)

Good, clean fun

Are you a fan of Instagram? Me, too! You can find us there @emmetstreet. Follow Emmet Street Creations and you’ll be treated to outtakes from the soap lab and other (mis)adventures. Here’s a few:

Previous musings from Emmet Street you might have missed

National Grilled Cheese Day is April 12! Check out this love letter to tomato soup and grilled cheese (one of my favorite comfort foods). Looking for a sweet toasted bread treat? Why not try these vegan french toast recipes? You’ll be glad you did.

Cooking curiosity: What is a radish?

Cooking curiosity: What is a radish?Image credit: Radishes by Tim Sackton, on Flickr (modified). CC BY 2.0. 

It’s spring and that has me thinking… radishes. Yep, radishes fresh from the garden will be gracing the tables of home gardeners (if they can keep rabbits out of the garden long enough for the plants to grow) and those who take part in community supported agriculture.

I’ve been having visions of epic salads and treats like radishes with butter and salt, but I’ve also been curious. I know the radish is a vegetable, but what exactly is it?

What is a radish?

You probably already know that the radish is a root vegetable, but did you know the radish is part of the cabbage family? Me neither. You’re welcome. Here are some other facts to consider:

  • The radish is tolerant of cool temperatures, so you can plant the seeds early in the spring and have mature vegetables by late-May.
  • The radish is a bit of a prima donna and doesn’t like to get its feet wet, so make sure to plant radish seeds in well-drained soil in a sunny location.
  • Radishes grow from seed to mature vegetable very quickly, so you can get a spring and a fall harvest from your garden.
  • If you’re trying to avoid using pesticides in your vegetable garden, radish is known to be a good companion plant to cultivate in your garden. Apparently, its vegetable B.O. keeps insects away.

What do radishes taste like?

In the high-rolling circles I run in, the radish is always a welcome guest at the party. But, if you haven’t had the chance (or have simply refused) to try one, radishes have a pleasant crunch and can range from kind of earthy and sweet to having a peppery bite, depending on the variety.

What are the nutritional benefits of radishes?

The radish is a superfood, since it’s a member of the cabbage family. It’s a calorie bargain, too. If you can finish it, a cup of radishes contains about 20 calories. In that cup you’ll also get:

  • A powerful heart disease fighter – You’ll get healthy dose of vitamin C (about 30% of the recommended daily intake), to help lower your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and potassium (close to 10% of your daily dose), which reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Help maintaining a healthy nervous system – Radishes are a high folate food (seven percent of the recommended daily amount), which helps support healthy function of the brain and nervous system.
  • A healthy dose of color and cancer protection – Thanks to its high levels of the antioxidant vitamin C and compounds called isothiocyanates that may provide protection against several types of cancer.

How do you use radishes in cooking?

Cooking will reduce many of the nutritional benefits of the radish. If you’re looking to add radishes to your diet for good health, eat them raw. If you want to maximize your nutrition, the radish greens are edible, contain higher levels of several vitamins and minerals (notably vitamin C) than the roots and are fibertastic (they also add peppery deliciousness to a salad).

You can also roast, steam or saute radishes (my favorite cooked radish preparation). Add a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and you’ll have a delicious side dish.

What you about you? Do you relish the radish? What’s your favorite way to eat them?  

What’s your snack obsession? Apples and cheese are a healthy snack option to chew on

Apples and CheeseWhen you get a late afternoon hungry tummy rumble, what snack do you reach for to quiet the angry beast?

My guess is you walk to the vending machine and buy a bag of potato chips, because salty snacks are a common snack food in the United States.

I’ve been there.

But, I’ve also learned that tiny bag of salty goodness won’t keep my hunger at bay until dinner. I’ve found that fruit will. Why, you ask? Fruit contains carbohydrates that provide energy and slow digesting fiber that quells hunger and keeps blood sugar stable (goodbye 4 PM sugar crash!).

Apples are a key player on my healthy and affordable snack roster. Apples are a healthy snack choice, but obsession worthy? Yes, if you pair your apple with a bit of something special.

Lately, Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese has been my indulgence of choice. It’s an easy, portable snack and when you nibble on a morsel of cheese with a slice of apple you’ll have a delicious snack experience. The sharp tang of the cheese coupled with the sweet, tart flavor of the apple lifts your spirit (and your hunger). This is not a snack to gobble down. That would be a choking hazard and a missed opportunity. Slow down, savor the experience. Contemplate the lush, green hills of Vermont. (I feel less stressed already.)

Not only does adding a bit of cheese to your snack make you feel like you took a mini-vacation, a half-ounce portion of cheese has some healthy snack benefits. You’ll get 10% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and little bit of fat and protein to help you feel full longer.

Watching your nutrition a bit more closely? Here’s some more stats for you to consider:

  • A medium apple contains about 100 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, over four grams of fiber, 14 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and is fat-free.
  • A half-ounce portion of cheese contains about 55 calories, zero carbohydrates and three grams of protein. It does contain five grams of fat (three of those are saturated fat), so moderation is the key to making it a part of a healthy diet.

What’s your snack obsession? Because mine change over time, I’m always looking for suggestions. Leave them in the comments or take part in the discussion happening on Facebook.

Sip on this: Apple-cinnamon infused water

Apple cinnamon infused waterWe all know the benefits of drinking water. Water is great. If you have a glass or a refillable bottle, it’s an inexpensive way to keep you hydrated at your body’s optimal level of 60% of your body weight.

So, why do I find it so hard to drink enough of it? Maybe it’s because I’m from the Kool-Aid generation, but my liquids need to have some flair and flavor to get me to drink ’em down. Since I’m trying to keep it healthy, drinking a sugared beverage is not an option. So, what’s a girl to do?

The answer is flavor-infused water.

You’re probably familiar with the front-runner of the infused water movement: the ubiquitous lemon wedge that comes with your water at a restaurant. But, it can be so much more. I’ve been experimenting with different options (so has Christine, check out her post on Cucumber, Lime and Mint infused water), and this apple-cinnamon infused water has been a favorite lately.

A little bit sweet, a little bit tart it’s the perfect way to get in your 64 (or more) ounces of wateer. You also get a bonus with your beverage, since apples are a healthy snack you’ll have a treat when you finish your glass.

Have you tried infusing your water with flavor? What’s your favorite?

Apple-Cinnamon Infused Water

Makes six, 1 c. servings

6 c. water

6 cinnamon sticks

2 medium apples, cored and sliced

2 T. apple cider vinegar

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add cinnamon sticks and boil for about five minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

When water has cooled, remove and discard cinnamon sticks. Place sliced apples in a larger pitcher, add apple cider vinegar and gently stir to coat the apple slices. Add cinnamon water to the pitcher, then place the pitcher in the fridge to allow it to chill to desired temperature before drinking.

If you want, you can add a little sugar or honey to sweeten this drink, but I found it refreshing without it. Let your palate be your guide!