Are you missing a beet?
Have you gone off the beeten path?
Don’t beet yourself up!
No one wants to be defeated …
🎵 Just beet it 🎵
But don’t beet it too a pulp … mushy beets? That’s nasty.
Ok … I’m pun … I mean, done.
It’s hard to be serious when writing about a word that just begs for jokes and lyrics and a vegetable that is this beautiful! Look at those pictures … the deep reds and greens, the stripes of the stems and the ruffles of the greens? How is it possible so many people refuse to enjoy this nutrient-dense, sweet and earthy plant?
Of those who do enjoy them, many are only exposed to the pickled version … delicious, but literally soaked in sugar. I’m not going to beet around the bush (sorry … last one, I promise), they don’t need sugar. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness and tenderness of the beets without adding sugar or losing nutrients in the boiling process.
What are those nutrients? I recently found a website, lovebeets.com, that has a fantastic collection of the health benefits of beets, as well as some fun facts. Here are a few of my favorites:
- betaine: aids in proper and active liver function
- antioxidants and cholesterol control
- high iron, folic acid, and potassium
- aids in proper digestive health
- “Nature’s Viagra” – I am not making this up
- my personal favorite – beets can be made into a port-style wine!!
Starting to think a little differently about beets? Let me add that they are low calorie (75 cal/cup) and simple to prepare. Messy? Yes. But you just need the right tools.
There are a few things that will make the process of roasting beets much more pleasant and greatly reduce clean up:
- a slow cooker
- slow cooker liners
- plastic gloves
- an apron
- a soft toothbrush
NOTE: I realize that by using a slow cooker, it is not “roasting”. Please don’t beet me up for this technicality. (Insert eye roll and exasperated sigh here.)
For the first year or two that I grew my own beets, I roasted them in my oven. This works great except for the fact that I very seldom want to heat up my house with a 400° oven in the summer and sometimes I want to walk away from that oven without worrying that I’m going to overcook the smaller beets and under-cook the larger ones.
Hello, crock pot!
To minimize the skin- and utensil-staining hassle of working with beets, I lined the crock pot with a plastic liner and covered my hands with plastic gloves. An old apron is also important to avoid staining clothes with the inevitable splatter which occurs while scrubbing and peeling the beets. The final piece of advice that I have for you when it comes to working with beets is to use a soft toothbrush (obviously not one you want to use for its intended purpose) and a cutting board that will not stain or that you do not care if it becomes stained.
Do not let these “warnings” beet you down (oops … there I go again). Each year, I go through this process two, maybe 3, times. The rest of the year, I am enjoying the results. Once they are roasted and sliced/diced, I freeze them in serving-sized portions and they retain their flavor and texture wonderfully.
It’s really quite simple … start with fresh beets.
I grew these beets in my small, urban garden. After I pulled them, I rinsed them outside with the garden hose, to remove most of the dirt. If you don’t have a garden, of course you can use beets from the farmer’s market or grocery store. Look for healthy green leaves and beets that do not look dried out.
Cut off the leaves and stems and the root about one inch above/below the beet. The leaves are a nutritional green that can be eaten raw in salads when small and tender or sautéed like chard, spinach, or kale.
Wash the beets in cold water.
Gently scrub the beets with a soft toothbrush to remove the remaining dirt.
The beets do not have to be perfectly clean. After roasting, the ends and peels will be removed. After cleaning, place beets on paper towels to remove excess water and then place in crock pot.
Drizzle the beets with olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Cover crock pot and choose a temperature setting. Each crock pot or slow cooker is a little different so timing and temperature require a bit of experimenting. If I’m going to leave the slow cooker unattended for more than 4 hours, I use the “Warm” setting and plan on 6-8 hours. If not, I will use the “Low” setting and plan on 3-4 hours. All of this depends on how many beets you put in the pot and how big the beets are. The best way to test if the beets are properly cooked is to insert a thin, but sharp, knife into the beet. If the knife easily runs through the beet without much pressure, it is done.
Remove beets from slow cooker to a glass (or stain-proof) pan. Allow to cool just until they can be handled. Removing the skins will be easier if they are still warm.
Put on plastic gloves. Slice off the stem and root ends of each beet. Using a small, thin knife, gently scrape off the skin. It should virtually slide off with little pressure. Slice or dice beets into uniform pieces. Allow to cool completely.
Refrigerate for up to one week or divide into desired portions, place in resealable plastic bags, and freeze.
The beets can be eaten warm or cold. To reheat, simply add a small amount of water to the beets in a pan and slowly heat over a low to medium-low temperature. If you reheat the frozen beets, allow beets to defrost about half-way at room temperature before placing them in a pan (omit the extra water as the ice crystals from freezing will provide enough moisture) and heat as directed above.
Add the roasted beets to smoothies (a little goes a long way) or salads. My favorite way (so far) to enjoy them is a Walnut-Feta-Beet Salad with prosciutto.
If this doesn’t convince you to give beets another shot, then I think you belong with Michael in this group of people:
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