You Can’t Beat Beets!

As we slog through these winter months, the choices of fresh local vegetables become fewer. But just when you thought all was almost lost, root vegetables come to the rescue, and beets are the star players of the root vegetable team. Whether you kept yours in the garden under special mulch or safely stored in your root cellar, or if you purchase yours at a local winter farmers market or from an organic produce section in your grocery store, you can count on beets to be a great part of a late-winter meal.

Beets have been around for a long time, and I don’t mean the ones you still have from LAST winter! “Beets are an ancient, prehistoric food that grew naturally along coastlines in North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Originally, it was the beet roots that were consumed; the sweet red beet root that most people think of as a ‘beet’ today wasn’t cultivated until the era of ancient Rome.”1

Beets have many health benefits, including that they:

  • Are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying
  • Fight cancer
  • Help lower blood pressure
  • Boost stamina
  • Are chocked full of vitamins and fiber2

Tip: For a vegetable, beets are high in sugar and carbohydrates, so eat in moderation

For a thorough breakdown of nutritional data on beets, go to http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2348/2.
A Chef’s Take on Beets
Joey Meicher, chef at The Local Lounge in Eau Claire, offers his insight and inspirations regarding beets.

“Beets are an incredible ingredient available almost the entire year. A fall planting, followed by proper storage in the root cellar (or the bottom drawer of your fridge,) results in one of the few ‘fresh’ vegetables that is still available toward the end of winter. Not only are they almost always available, but they are an incredibly versatile ingredient. Beets can be roasted, boiled, pickled, fermented, juiced, canned, sautéed, or even served raw. I love how they are used in so many different ways across a broad spectrum of cuisines.

“The beet + cheese + nuts combination seems to be a staple at almost every restaurant these days (and for good reason), but there are so many other directions to go with this vegetable. Pickled beets are a fantastic accompaniment to Nordic dishes and flavors (salmon, dill, dense rye breads, and cultured dairy products). Borscht is a name that can be applied to any sour Eastern European soup, but most are made with fermented beets. My favorite beet dish is a chilled soup in which fermented beets are pureed with a light broth and topped with raw cucumber, salted cabbage, sour cream, cilantro, mint, and dill. It is incredibly complex while still remaining vibrant and refreshing.

“One must not forget about the greens either! If you have ever grown beets, you know that the greens often need to be thinned out before the beetroot is mature. This is because beet seeds are actually pods that contain about six separate seeds all trying their best to grow into a big, beautiful beet. The easiest way to handle the excess beet greens is to warm a little onion, garlic, and chili in a lot of olive oil, add the washed (but not dried) greens and a splash of vinegar, than let them cook for a few minutes before piling on toast and topping with a fried egg, grated cheese, and maybe a few pickled beets from last year.”

Sources:
1. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx.
2. Ibid.

Celebrate Earth Day by Investing in Your Community and Your Health: Join the Forest St. Community Garden!

By Kerri Kiernan, Master Herbalist

This Earth Day, consider giving back to the planet, to your community, and to yourself by joining a local community garden. The Forest Street Community Garden is celebrating its eighth season and is now open to new and returning gardeners; it is located in downtown Eau Claire, just a couple blocks north of Phoenix Park.

The Chippewa Valley is blessed with several existing community gardens offering rental plots for the public. What differentiates the Forest St. Garden from other gardens is that it also offers a Shared Garden that is run jointly by members who share in the work and harvest. The Shared Garden also serves as a learning community for members to gain experience in basic gardening skills, leadership, teaching, coordinating, and community outreach.

Members of the Shared Garden participate in weekly sessions to maintain the nearly half-acre plot as a collaborative effort. Seeds and transplants are started in early spring, and members work together to plan and prepare the garden as the last frost ceases. During the garden season, the work and the produce is shared amongst the contributing members. Extra produce is harvested and donated to the Community Table, which supplements meal services benefiting Eau Claire residents who may not have access to healthy meals due to lack of finances, education, or due to other life situations.

Besides benefiting the community, Shared Gardeners experience a deep sense of connection to their community, to each other, and to the Earth. Social events such as potlucks and gatherings are often held at the Forest St. Garden Pavilion, where members and plot renters spend time together connecting over beautiful meals made from the very veggies they grew together in the garden.

Besides decreasing carbon emissions, gardening helps to increase physical activity and vegetable consumption and also helps to foster a sense of wonder and gratitude for the bounty of nature. The shared struggle of growing one’s own food serves as a relatable conversation topic between people who may otherwise never cross paths nor have much in common. Any gardener can share their own story of patience, diligence, failure, and success, but it’s the commonality of spending so much time in the dirt, paying very close attention to the rhythms of the weather, and savoring the fruits of one’s labor that bring people together through gardening.

Join the Forest St. Community Garden and learn how to grow food together. Prices increase after June 15. Please visit the Forest St. Community Garden website for more information.

 

To Join the Co-op/Shared garden or to rent a plot at the Forest St. Community Garden, please visit: http://eauclairecommunitygardens.com/ or email: eauclairecommunitygarden@gmail.com

Kerri Kiernan is a local Master Herbalist who works with plants from her garden as well as wild weeds from the Chippewa Valley to help people thrive with handmade remedies and personalized herbal consults. Kerri is the owner and operator of a small herbal business, River Prairie Apothecary, located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and is also the founder CommuniTEA, the Herbalism Outreach & Internship Project located downtown Eau Claire at the Forest St. Garden.

Contact Kerri: River Prairie Apothecary on FB: www.facebook.com/riverprairieapothecary/

www.riverprairieapothecary.com/contact.htm.

Resolve to Eat More Plants this New Year!

It’s the start of the New Year and many of us are resolving to take better care of ourselves by eating healthier and exercising more. With the endless amounts of nutrition information out there, it may seem like a challenging task to find the right approach. Luckily, many strategies to eating healthier have one key component in common – eat more plants … or rather, plant-based foods!

Plant-based foods include lots of delicious and nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Filling our plates with these types of foods is commonly referred to as plant-based or plant-forward eating. And, plant-based eating serves as the basis for several different popular lifestyle approaches including Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan and paleo. Although each lifestyle approach is varied and may be appropriate for different individuals, there is a common theme between each – plates are filled with mostly plant-based foods.
Filling our plates with a variety of mostly fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, nuts or seeds can help promote health and prevent serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, followers of the Mediterranean diet, a plant-based approach, have some of the lowest rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease in the world. Enjoying a variety of nutrient dense, plant-based foods can help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, while promoting long-term health.
Not only do plant-based foods provide a lot of quality nutrients, but plant-based foods also promote sustainability. According to the United States Geological Survey, it takes roughly 2600 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat compared to the 110-250 gallons needed to produce one pound of wheat. With staggering figures like this combined with the knowledge of our steadily growing world population, eating a plant-based diet may promote sustainability.
Resolving to eat more plants this year is the easy part. The “doing” is often a little more challenging. So, here are some ideas to help you make this 2017 resolution easier:

• Remember that all forms matter – meaning that fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned or dried or 100% juice, are all important and count toward your daily intake.
• Discover the world of herbs and spices! Add flavor to vegetables, whole grains or beans without adding calories or sodium.
• Experiment with global flavors! Many traditional cuisines from around the world consider plant-based foods staples.
• Magical meat extender! Substitute cooked beans or lentils for half of the meat in some of your favorite recipes for soups, casseroles, meatballs and more
• Sneak in plants! Blend beans into brownies, zucchini into cake or butternut squash into macaroni and cheese for extra nutrition.
• Join Festival’s #halfplateplants campaign for a little support and accountability by sharing pictures of your plates filled with mostly plants on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for even more plant-based or healthy food ideas this New Year? Visit FestFoods.com/health for additional nutrition information, product recommendations, tips and meal ideas.
Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Fall off Their Diets

C’mon. One bite’s not going to hurt you. It’s the holidays. Live a little.”

There’s one in every crowd: holiday diet saboteurs. Whether it’s among co-workers, family, or friends, they’re out there. And although their intentions might seem harmless enough, they can derail months of concerted effort in losing weight and improving one’s health.

Diane Dressel, a registered dietitian and coordinator of Weight Management Services at Mayo Clinic Health System, offers advice on how people can stay on track with their weight loss goals amid saboteurs during the holiday feasting season.“Successful weight loss is about successful behavior modification,” Dressel says. “And because we’re social people, when we change our own behavior, it affects others in some shape or form. So it’s not surprising that people do encounter some ‘push back’ from others when trying to lose weight.”

When caught in a situation where someone is applying food pressure, Dressel advises having a couple stock responses, such as:

• “No thanks. I’m already really full.”
• “It looks great. Maybe you could wrap some up for me to take home for later?”

If people know someone who’s trying to lose weight, Dressel offers the following advice on how to become a food friend instead of a foe:

• Offer to take a walk instead of going out to eat for lunch
• Become a “get healthy” buddy by offering encouragement instead of peer pressure
• When bringing treats to the office or hosting a party, offer low-calorie alternatives
• Ask what you can do to be supportive

A lot of successful weight loss programs offer education groups because we can learn from each other, and that mutual support can go a long way,” Dressel says.

For information about Mayo Clinic Health System weight management programs and education groups, or to sign up for a free orientation in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie or Rice Lake, call 715-838-6731.Diane Dressel, R.D., Weight Management Services, Mayo Clinic Health System.

 

Combining Tradition and Innovation in Holiday Meals—Without Stress!

by Will Martin, The Coffee Gounds

Having traditional dishes is so important to the holidays, our family gatherings, and the sense of familiarity and calm that comes with those days. Don’t be afraid to make the same meal this year as last: roast a turkey, make a casserole, simmer a cranberry sauce, and mash some potatoes. Your family probably hasn’t eaten this meal for a year. It will be both fresh and nostalgic for them. Do what you are comfortable with and add a riffon it: “That cranberry sauce last year was great, and I had tons of leftovers.  I’m going to make it, remove half from the pan, and add a chipotle in adobo to it.” This lets you keep the tradition and try something new without adding much extra work to your plate.

Or you can complicate a classic but make it so much better. Sauté some green beans in a little (or a lot) of butter and salt and set them aside. Then use the same pan to make a mushroom gravy. You can either serve the beans with a little gravy on them, or go the casserole route and bake them together.

Want to challenge yourself this year? Scorpacciata (score-pah-chee-ahta) means to eat a lot of an ingredient that is currently in season. We have a monthly food and wine pairing meal at The CoffeeGrounds (TCG) that we did sweet corn for last September–it was fantastic. Every dish highlighted sweet corn in a different way. For the coming season that means storage- and weather-hardy vegetables: onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, cabbage, turnips, celery root, carrots, beets, storage radishes, sweet potatoes, etc. Try picking one of these vegetables, incorporate it into a few of the dishes, and make it the highlight of one.

Fall also means Midwesterners eat more meat.  Right around the holiday at TCG we start taking orders for local turkeys.  My dad got the family’s turkey through Block and Cleaver meats in Siren (where TCG gets our turkeys) and thought it was fantastic. And he gave me the turkey stock he made after the meal.

Enjoy your holiday. Eat well. Relax while you’re cooking (if you struggle with that, take a hint from my parents and grab a G&T, the kitchen will be hot enough for it). And cook what you’re comfortable with.