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

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma, The Omnivore’s Solution

Has it really been since April that I’ve last posted?  Yikes.  So much for maintaining a blog.  Well, what can I say — it’s a busy life raising two young children.  So busy, in fact, that we didn’t exactly start our homestead this year as planned.  Neither I or my husband had too many free hours during the week to plant or tend to a garden.  The good news is that we’re moving to a new homestead (yay!) in November and will definitely be planning some raised beds this spring.  I’m really looking forward to growing some of our own food.  And speaking of food…

Coming this fall — our new/old farmhouse! And yes, Phish’s “Farmhouse” has been stuck in my head ever since we first saw it.

I became a vegetarian for ethical reasons when I was 21 years old.  It was a class discussion during Philosophy 101 in college that prompted the switch.  I’d always been an animal lover and a reader of labels, always checking for the little bunny logo to tell me that no animal had been harmed in the making of the product.  To stop eating animal flesh altogether was a natural and easy choice to make.  I read everything I could on the subject – learning the horrors of factory farming, the heart-breaking sadness of the life of an average dairy cow, the deplorable living conditions of sows confined to gestational crates.  I started shopping differently at the grocery store, trading meat for “faux meat” products.  Veggie burgers, veggie chick’n nuggets, veggie hot dogs, veggie sausage patties, veggie bac’n… you name it, they faked it.  I was happy with my newfound diet and subsequent self-righteousness.   Yes, everyone who wasn’t also an enlightened  vegetarian was, as far as I was concerned, a murderer.  Or at least an accomplice.

Soon, being a vegetarian wasn’t enough.  I needed to take it a step further once I learned that a conventional egg-laying hen would never spread her wings, never see sunlight, and would share a space the size of an 8×11 sheet of paper with several other hens.  For her whole, short, miserable life.

So, it was out with the eggs and in with the Ener-G Egg Replacer.  And scrambled tofu.  Also gone was the milk and cheese – in their place were soymilk and soy “cheeze.”  I was on a sanctimonious high.  Look at me now!  Look how humane I am!  Look at my healthy, vegan lifestyle!

Did you know that Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos were vegan?  Me, neither.  I threw two bags in my shopping cart each time I went to the store.  And Oreos?  Also vegan.  And soy ice cream and vegan whoopee pies and even vegan buffalo wings.  With vegan blue “cheeze” sauce.

No animals were harmed in the making of this fatty.

That’s right.  I gained weight.  A lot.  Over the past ten years, I’ve justified every crappy, caloric morsel that’s gone into my mouth on the basis that it was “humane.”  The trouble was, my definition of “humane” was very, very narrow.  It either had animal ingredients in it, or it didn’t.  I saw food in absolutes, in black and white.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, B, I craved meat.  I craved cheese and eggs.  Especially eggs.  In my Bradley Method birth classes I learned how critical eggs were to fetal development, how perfect the composition of Omega 3 essential fatty acids were, and how these nutrients couldn’t be replicated with a supplement.

So I ate eggs.  But I knew that if I was going to eat eggs, I’d have to do it the right way.  I had to keep my conscience clear.  I bought eggs from our local farmer’s market one weekend after talking to the farmer about his chickens and how they were kept and raised.  Satisfied with his answers (and with the fact that I knew exactly where his farm was and had driven by it several times in my life), I bought a dozen and went home that very day to cook up an unforgettable swiss chard omelette for lunch.

Slowly but surely, I started adding dairy back into my diet, too.  And more whole foods – luscious fruits and bright vegetables from the farmer’s market, which we were now frequenting on a weekly basis.

When B was about 10 months old, I gave her her first piece of tofu.  She vomited for six hours.  Weeks later, we’d try again, with the same result.  She had a soy allergy.  With this discovery, gone were the Morningstar Farms products I’d come to love and count on as dietary staples for nearly a decade.  They all contained soy protein isolate as their key ingredient, the thing that made them “meaty.”  As it turns out, lots and lots of food products contain soy in their ingredients.  And they were no longer allowed in our house.

We began relying on grains and dairy as our primary protein source, as the baby was too young for nuts and neither she nor my husband liked beans.  (The same isn’t true for me.  I could eat lentils every day and never tire of them.  Mmmm.  Lentils.)  So dinnertime was usually a pasta dish or a rice-based casserole.  Usually with cheese on both counts.  And pizza.  We ate a lot of pizza.

After the birth of Mister, my second child, I was absolutely disgusted with my weight.  But it was more than just the pregnancy – it was the result of truly irresponsible eating for the better part of a decade.  Now I’ve never been what one would consider “textbook” thin, but I was a very healthy weight in college before I became a vegetarian/vegan.  I don’t mean to villainize the lifestyle or the diet because both are legitimate, healthy, respectable options.  And I share the ideals and the values and the meaning behind it with those who practice it.  And I’ll also say that there are definitely ways to do it right so that you’re eating a varied diet full of whole and healthy foods.  But I hadn’t been doing that and, with a family who couldn’t eat soy and who hated beans, our sources for complete proteins were very limited.  I was tired of eating pasta all the time.  I mean, literally tired.  My energy levels were nil and I was just putting way too many carbohydrates into my body.  I needed a radical change.

I talked it over with my husband many times.  Many, many times.  These were long, thoughtful conversations.  He’d been a vegetarian for three years; I for ten.  To make the switch back to omnivorism was a huge decision to make, and we wanted to do it right.  We agreed to carefully research the farms in the area for our meat sources and select a few from whom we’d be comfortable sourcing our meat.  We based this on how the animal was fed (e.g.: grass-fed, grass-finished for cows), whether growth hormones or antibiotics were used (definitely no on both counts), what kind of life the animal led (not just “access” to the outdoors, but truly living a pastured life), and how and where the slaughtering was done.

Happy pastured chickens, photo via MotherEarthNews.com

After weeks and weeks of research and satisfied with our findings, we bought a chuck roast to cook in the crock pot with some seasonal vegetables from the farmer’s market.  I seasoned it simply then cooked it low and slow in its own juices for a whole day.  Before we took our first bite, I led our family in a prayer – and I never pray – to thank the cow for his sacrifice so that our family could be so well-nourished by his flesh.  I thanked the farmer for his hard work to raise such a happy animal and to ensure it had such a good life.  And then we all took a bite.

It was delicious.  And soon, it was gone.  Even my daughter – whose iron levels tested very low at her recent two-year-old doctor’s visit – enjoyed the meal and has really taken to eating meat.  I’m thrilled to see her eating a more varied diet and to be getting a complete source of protein.  We agreed that we’d add a meal that contained meat from one of these farms to our menu planning for one or two nights a week, depending on that week’s budget.

Ah, yes.  The budget.  See, in order to fund our omnivorism (local, humane meat ain’t cheap), we had to cut out a lot of our staple food products from our grocery budget.  To find money for a whole pastured chicken or for uncured Heritage bacon, we had to eliminate the processed and packaged foods.  So now, if we want cookies, we bake them from scratch.  If I want a snack, I dehydrate kale in my food dehydrator or roast chickpeas in the oven until they’re crispy.  It’s a lot more work but a lot more rewarding.

No elastic waistband! Real, actual jeans! Yay, me!

Because yesterday, I zipped up my pre-pregnancy jeans for the first time in… well, it’s been so long that I’ve lost count.  Without adding in any exercise to my daily routine (and yes, I know that I should), I look and feel better than I have in months.  Maybe even years.  The first time I ate meat, I could actually feel my energy levels increasing with each bite.

Again, I want to emphasize that plenty of vegetarians and vegans do just fine – in fact, they thrive – on a meatless menu.  And ours is, for the most part, still a vegetarian lifestyle.  Except, once or twice a week, we eat a humanely-raised animal to give our bodies what we feel they need.  It’s what’s right for our family.  We still don’t support factory farms or inhumane practices when it comes to raising animals for food.  Our dollars go exclusively to local farmers who we feel exemplify the farm-to-table ethos.  I feel really good about this change, and I’ve found a whole new appreciation for my slow cooker and the wonderful magic that it can work on a meal.

I still share a bed with a rescued Jack Russell mix each night, and I still shampoo and condition my hair with cruelty-free products each morning.  I am the same animal lover I always was.  In a strange way, eating animals has renewed my appreciation for them.  I live near a lot of farmland.  Running errands or visiting friends always means driving by some farm or another out here.  And when I drive by – often slowly, so that the toddler can have a look and wave at them – I look at the animals differently now.  I genuinely appreciate what they do and why they exist.  I am grateful to them, and to the farmers who thanklessly work so hard to raise them from birth to death for the purpose of feeding people.  It’s an admirable job that they have.  They’re not murderers, not by a long shot.   Motherhood has afforded me the good sense to start seeing things in shades of gray, instead of in black and white.

I am happy in my shade of gray.  Happy and sated.

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.

Pin It