Beets & Greens: Two Fall Harvest Recipes

‘Tis the season, people. Time to cover those arms.

See that right there?  That’s a sweater sleeve.  And do we wear sweaters in the summer?  No.  No, we do not.  We wear sweaters in the fall.

Oh, yeah.

How you doin’, Fall?  Wanna come cozy up next to me on the couch so we can clink our mugs of mulled wine together and toast how awesome you are?

Why is fall so awesome?  Well, besides comfy apparel and alcohol on the stovetop, it’s really all about the food.  Everything becomes pumpkin flavored, and there’s not a thing wrong with that.  And the jewel-toned vegetables that come out of the earth when the weather cools are really something to be celebrated.  Ruby beets, emerald kale, golden squashes… If you ask me, Fall kicks Summer’s ass when it comes to produce.  Hands down.

Beets and turnip greens

On this particular fall day, I decided to try something different with a few of the goodies we got from the local food cooperative that we just joined.  There’s plenty of time in the season left for soups and stews and roasting vegetables in the oven with olive oil and sea salt.  Come February, I’ll admit that I usually suffer from root veggie burnout from doing the same things to them over and over.  So, with beets and turnip greens as the stars of my feast, I took on a pancake and a tart, respectively, for this chilly fall evening meal.

I adapted these recipes from two of my favorite sources – Vegetarian Times and 101 Cookbooks.  If I’m being totally honest here –and I am – I’ll admit that neither of these were easy dishes to make and I kind of wish I hadn’t made them both together.  Separately?  Sure.  I could see having the beet cakes stuffed into a whole grain pita shell and served with some oven-roasted potato wedges.  Or the turnip green tart with a side salad and maybe a little fruit.  But not together.  It was just too much work.

Beet Pancakes with Dill Yogurt Sauce (adapted from Vegetarian Times’ recipe, here)

Dill Yogurt Sauce

  • 6 oz. plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Pancakes

  • 3 medium [I used 6 small] beets (1 lb.), trimmed and scrubbed
  • 2 medium carrots (6 oz.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites, beaten

To make Yogurt-Dill Sauce: Whisk together yogurt, dill, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 3 days.

To make Pancakes: Preheat oven to 250°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray, and set aside. Shred beets and carrots in food processor fitted with grating blade, or grate with box grater. Place beet-carrot mixture in large bowl, and toss with garlic and salt. Add egg and egg whites, and mix well.

The beets and carrots, all shredded up from the food processor. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Lightly spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Drop 1/4 cup beet mixture into skillet, and flatten slightly to form 3-inch-diameter pancake. Repeat, forming 3 other pancakes in pan. Cook 4 minutes, or until undersides are golden brown. Flip pancakes, and cook 3 minutes more. Respray pan, and repeat process with remaining batter, keeping prepared pancakes warm in oven. Drizzle with Yogurt-Dill Sauce, and serve immediately.

The verdict?  They were a little difficult to keep together in the frying pan.  They didn’t seem to be bound together well enough.  The flavor was okay – it was what you’d expect from eating beets and carrots together.  Very earthy, very… beety.  Without a good roast on them to mellow them out and enhance their sweetness, I think beets can be a little powerful, so I think if I made this recipe again I’d maybe swap out a beet or two for a potato of the same size, to make these more hash-like, and to soften the flavor up a bit.  I’d also season them more.  I think that some paprika would have been lovely in here, or a heavy dash of chopped herbs like tarragon and flat parsley.  Topped with that yogurt sauce (which I could have eaten all by itself with a spoon.  Yum.), these would be really yummy in a pita pocket with some fresh greens and a bit of feta or chevre.  So, I don’t want to write these pancakes off entirely… they just need a bit more pizzazz and a helping hand from the spice cabinet.

Beet pancakes in the skillet

Turnip Green Tart (adapted from 101 Cookbooks’ recipe, here)

I did a few things differently here.  For one, when I parbaked my tart, I didn’t cover it with parchment and dry beans, as the author instructs in her original version, because I didn’t have parchment paper.  It still turned out fine.  Also, Heidi’s recipe calls for Gruyere cheese, which I also didn’t have.  So I used a sheep’s milk queso fresco, whose creaminess worked really well with the mustardy zip of the tart’s filling.  Finally, I omitted the red pepper flakes and used whole wheat flour instead of spelt.  Note that doubling this recipe is a lot easier for measurement purposes, so Heidi did just that and made two tart shells.  I had no interest in doing that, so I halved everything and made just one.  To simplify the prep, feel free to double everything below to make two shells.

I just love the soft texture and the bright, mustardy flavor of turnip greens. This batch was particularly gorgeous.

Cornmeal Tart Shell:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cut in cubes
  • 1/2 large egg yolk (*use the other half in filling mixture.  See below.)
  • 1/4 cup – 3/4 cup cold water

Turnip Green Filling:

  • 1/4 lb. turnip greens
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 2 large eggs + 1/2 yolk (*use the other half from your tart shell)
  • 3/4 cup veg. broth
  • 1/4 cup milk or cream
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon salt (more if broth unsalted)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning, Herbs de Provence, or other herb blend
  • ½ cup sheep’s milk cheese, Gruyere, chevre, or other cheese

Process flours, cornmeal, and salt in food processor. Add butter and pulse 20-30 times.  Add the egg yolk and 1/4 cup water. Pulse, trickle in more water if needed, just until dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured countertop and gather into a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Carefully roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/8” thickness and transfer to tart pan.  Press all around the surface of the dough with the heel of your hand and be sure to fix any holes.  Use your rolling pin to trim off any excess.  Bake for 25 minutes.

For the filling, process turnip greens and garlic in the food processor. Add the eggs and yolk, pulse. Then the broth and cream. Lastly, incorporate the salt, mustard, and herbs. When you’re ready to bake, fill the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes or so, or until the center is set, and has firmed up to the touch. When there’s only 10 minutes left on your oven timer, top the tart with the shredded or crumbled cheese of choice.

Ready to eat, bubbly cheese and all.

This one was a pretty big success.  The toddler loved it, which is the only true barometer of what’s considered a good meal in our household.  It was a lot of work, a lot of prep time, but worth it.  A great, outside-the-box recipe to use up those bright fall greens in a creative and satisfying way.  I’m going to keep this one in my bag of tricks and try it with spinach, arugula, maybe even chard.  With a sweater on my arms and warm wine in my hand, I can do no wrong.

Happy Fall, all!

Turnip Green Tart and Beet Pancakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Recipe for a Lazy Sunday: CrockPot MexiCasserole

Okay, here goes nothing:  My first recipe post.  Now mind you, I consider myself a more-than-decent cook, but what I’m not good at is measuring, following directions, or giving instruction.  I toss in spices here and there without much regard for what’s a pinch versus a palm-full.  So, in order to share my ultra-easy, no-fuss Crock Pot MexiCasserole recipe with you, I had to discipline myself and measure everything out precisely.  I think it turned out great, but I’ll let you be the judge.  A few notes:

When cooking rice and/or beans in the Crock Pot, slow and low is the preferred method.  So start this dish early in the morning and give it time to come together.  Also, I’ve noted that the chipotle powder is optional because this is what gives the dish its heat; if you’re making this for the whole family, including spice-sensitive kids, you may want to either omit it or cut it in half to 1/8 of a teaspoon.  Lucky for us, our 16-month-old has pretty adventurous taste buds and actually likes some heat to her food.  Finally, this dish – as are all recipes that I’ll share on this blog – is vegetarian because, well, that’s what we are.   If you’re so inclined to omnivorize this meal, go right ahead, but please choose your meat responsibly and consciously.

As I mentioned , this meal is super easy.  It’s also really delicious and filling, perfect for a lazy winter Sunday.  If you ask me, I’d say it’s substantial enough to stand alone, though I could also see it pairing well with a green salad with diced avocado or some lightly toasted olive bread.

I'd bet you've got most of these in your pantry/fridge already!

(Makes 4-6 servings, depending on how much you fill up your bowl.)

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • 2 cups frozen (or fresh, if in season) peppers/onion mix
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (any variety, but those mixed with chiles, jalapeños, cilantro & lime, or other Mexi-style flavorings work best)
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or Mexican-style blend cheese

Toss all ingredients into your Crock Pot or slow-cooker except for the cheese.  Stir, cover, and set to a low/8-hour setting.

While your dinner roasts away in the kitchen, filling your home with a yummy cumin-y, onion-y fragrance, feel free to trot your toddler on down to the playground and get everyone a healthy dose of crisp winter air.

32 weeks preggo

My gorgeous daughter

Once you’re back at the homestead and ready to grub, stir in cheese just before serving.

Cheese is optional, but so, so good.

Scoop into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and freshly diced cilantro, if desired.  Enjoy!

A great, big bowl of Yum.

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Welcome to my Homestead

home·stead: n. 

1. A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land.
2. Law Property designated by a householder as the householder’s home and protected by law from forced sale to meet debts.
3. Land claimed by a settler or squatter, especially under the Homestead Act.
4. The place where one’s home is.

FINALLY.  I’ve started a blog.

I’ve been told by more than a few people that my Facebook statuses are too verbose; that my neverending posts on birth and breastfeeding and natural parenting and politics and food (okay, well nobody really complains about the food) are excessive; that I really need an outlet for my out-loud musings on motherhood.

So, here it is.  In all its shiny, WordPress-y glory.  My blog, Homestead Instead.

Don’t expect big things from me.  (I certainly don’t.)  I’m going to aim for an entry a week to start.  That’s a manageable goal.  If this thing takes off into the stratosphere of Mommy Blogs like Annie’s from PhD in Parenting or Jill’s from Baby Rabies then I’ll step it up a bit.  For now, though, let’s keep the razzle dazzle to a minimum.

What you’ll be hearing about in this blog, for the most part, will be my adventures in raising the world’s most intelligent, charming, fussy, endearing, impatient, delightful toddler.  My daughter — who shall henceforth be known as “B” — is my universe, a space also shared by my awesome and hardworking husband, Mr. T.  Our universe is ever-expanding, though… as is my waistline.

You see, Baby Number Two is due sometime around the end of February/early March 2012.  I’m psyched beyond reason for this event despite the fact that it means I’ll be saddled with two babies under two to care for from the hours of 7:00 a.m. until 5:-something p.m., five days a week.  You’ll be hearing all about my heartburn and backaches in the coming weeks as I near the finish line for my first homebirth.  (And yep, I’ll talk about that, too.)

You’ll also read about some of our upcoming projects as we adjust to the simpler life and try to live as fiscally independent as possible.  Since I quit the professional workforce to stay at home with my daughter, penny-pinching’s become the name of the game.  Our lives have been turned upside-down (there’ll certainly be a post or two about how we got here, as well) but I have to say we’re quite happy with how things have turned out.  That being said, there’s a lot of comedy around the corner as we attempt to turn our backyard into a self-sustaining vegetable garden (coming Spring/Summer 2012!), and as I attempt to learn how to sew, knit, and craft my way through motherhood.  I’ll be thrift-shopping, upcycling, and Crock-Potting my days away with the kiddos and you, my friend, will have a front-row seat for all the action.  (Please, do try to contain your excitement.)

Now that you’ve been treated to a sneak peek of what’s to come, I’ll wrap this up for now.  I’m excited to put some thoughts on paper (er, screen) about our simple, ordinary life and to document just what happens when a girl ditches the desk job and opts for homestead instead.  Thank you in advance for joining me on this journey.

-Suzanne