I was not always a fan of beets. It took a little green-gal bravery to introduce them into my menu. They always seemed so “earthy,” but not in a good way—more like, you know, dirt (Dirt, my gardener-daughter tells me, is an inaccurate term, anyway—“It’s soil, Mom.”). Well, okay…

A few years ago, I finally gave beets a try because they were showing up everywhere, and everyone in the culinary world was talking about them and making amazing dishes with them (sorta like bacon now—don’t hold your breath on that one.).  For my first try, I roasted beets in the oven. Not bad—sugary and rich! Then they appeared on a salad I’d ordered at a nice restaurant. Super-thin slices of sweet and tangy explosions on my tongue. So THESE are beets! Then I found the golden beets—and the beet goes on, so to speak.

Most recently, I created a layered beet salad for that Fourth of July party we had a few weeks ago, stepping up the beet (Sorry, but this will probably continue.) with a special quick-pickle concoction, inspired by Chef Vivian Howard of PBS A Chef’s Life fame, only Chef Howard was pickling peanuts (Yeah, peanuts, gotta love it!) at the time. Her recipe sent me right to the kitchen– I just had to do something with those main ingredients, even if fresh-dug North Carolina peanuts were beyond my reach. So I reached for the beets.

Everything on the platter for my special salad was local and/or organic and incredibly fresh. I added a creamy dressing and some slices of rich goat cheese on the side, for those who wanted “it all.” My great photographer friend Darlene McGee captured this dish for me—what you call the “money shot,” I believe.

So see what you think; it’s fairly quick to pull together because the beets are made in advance and many of the ingredients can be sourced from your farmer’s market or nearby, independent retailers. Can’t beet it! (You KNEW I was going to say that, right?)

Just one word of caution before you begin—I used a mandolin to slice the fennel and red onion paper thin and feathery. Familiar with the mandolin? Well, if you are not, a mandolin is an indispensable slicing tool that can quickly create beautiful, uniform slices ranging from whisper thin to about a half-inch thick, and (on occasion) turn your kitchen into the bathroom scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho at the same time. I know because I’ve managed to pull this off…several times.

The mandolin is incredibly sharp, which is why it works so well and why I was not allowed to use it unsupervised for several years after the first few bloodbaths—there was always someone at the ready with 911 on speed dial. Practice makes…mmmm…much better and so does religiously using your safety guard and watching a good demonstration before you attempt your first recipe with a mandolin. Be brave, but be careful.


Now that I’ve embraced the beet, they show up everywhere in my cooking, from desserts to casseroles. You can check out my use of roasted beets and some tips on roasting in my post on ground cherries (Ground cherries will be showing up again at the market any time now!).

Beets for a Healthy Breakfast or Snack

berry beet smoothie bowl from Delicious Living Magazine

The Berry Beet Smoothie Bowl. YUM!

Beets are also the perfect smoothie ingredient—full of antioxidants and great for digestion. Delicious Living Magazine published a new twist on smoothies in their July issue—They threw out the big drinking glass and replaced it with a bowl –a satisfying Berry Beet Smoothie bowl designed to aid digestion. I think this is a great idea because many of my friends simply don’t want to “drink” breakfast; they feel it’s just not a meal. So this thick and rich smoothie bowl idea is just what they were looking for. Be sure to check this recipe out. If you are looking for more smoothie bowl ideas, Delicious Living Magazine offers five more recipes that are condition specific. Being healthy never tasted so good.


Conversations with Cooley Farms

Crystal Cooley

Crystal Cooley is bubbly, knowledgeable and a proud member of a farming family committed to providing natural and sustainable produce to the Midwest community.

Crystal Cooley is quickly becoming a good market friend. We’ve started sharing our stay-well tips and recipes every Saturday. One of the most important facts she brought to my attention was the nutritional value of her family’s raw pecans. Because they are truly raw and not dried to become shelf-stable for large commercial distribution and sale, they contain enzymes that store-bought pecans just don’t have. Their ability to help cleanse the digestive tract is equal to organic apples, Crystal tells me. And, they freeze very well, retaining all their nutrients. So, no reason not to enjoy their rich flavor and tender little crunch. Using my little Bella processor, I ground them into a raw nut butter, sprinkled in a dash of quality sea salt and added that to my morning smoothie. OMG.

Keep dancing to a healthy beet (Okay, last bad pun.) and share your creations!

bage of Cooley Farms fresh raw pecans

Cooley Farms pecans come in $5 and $10 generous bags, half-cracked. Easy to prepare and scrumptious right out of the shell. My suggestion: buy the big bag.