Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad

Happy Fourth of July, ya'll!

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

I'm spending this Fourth at one of my favorite places: back home on the farm. It's been a great weekend. I went to my high school reunion and caught up with friends I haven't seen in 10 years (am I getting old??). I cleaned out the basement with my mom (and acquired *a few* more items to fill my own home with). I played the traditional family game of Pegs & Jokers while reminiscing about the good 'ole days.

I went to church with my family and listened to the angelic voices of the Anthony girls (also back in town for the 4th) and went to lunch with some new/old friends (the Splitters) and met their two adorable daughters. We went to the Sterling Community musical - shout out to Betsy & the crew for another incredible show! - and drove to the great city of Wichita to enjoy a dinner in celebration of my parents' 30th wedding anniversary. We topped off the evening with a humble fireworks show in the driveway for our new Iowan friend - her very first home-fireworks show!

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

The weekend isn't even over, and I'm already the luckiest person in this county. Maybe the country. Maybe even the whole world.

I started off the actual holiday by placing third (ha! who knew I was a runner?) in the 5k Freedom Run this morning, cheered on by my amazing parents. And now I'm baking sourdough bread for the family (made with Scheufler Farms' whole wheat flour, of course), enjoying a quiet day on the farm, and looking forward to fireworks tonight.

I love my life!

If you, too, are enjoying time with your family - and perhaps a few tasty holiday favorites? - maybe you'd like an idea for a healthy, delicious side to take to your gathering. In the spirit of the holiday, I thought a red, white, and blue combo might be fun. In the spirit of health, I thought I'd introduce you to one of my favorite root veggies: beets.

Beets - Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Beets: Nutrition Powerhouse!

There are different varieties with different colors, but let me refer to the bright red beets that I'll use in the salad below. With this glorious coloring, is it any surprise that beets are good for you?

The red color that you see is an antioxidant called betanin. This water-soluble pigment is actually used as a food dye in foods and pharmaceuticals, but (more importantly) boasts a host of health benefits. Betanin acts as an antioxidant, capturing reactive oxygen species. Because of this action, it is believed that betanin may prevent LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidation and DNA damage.

Of course, beets also contain lots of the good vitamins and minerals (Vitamin C, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, and Manganese) and is low in the bad stuff (sodium and zero fat - of course). It has plenty of fiber (like all veggies), so helps keep you full with a small caloric price tag.

Beets - Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Beets: Ultimate Fuel!

If you're feeling resourceful, beets are a great veggie to invest in, as all parts of the beets are edible (except maybe that stringy part of the root?). Choose beets with leafy green tops intact and you can sauté these much like kale or Swiss chard.

Beet roots are technically a non-starchy veggie, although most of their carbohydrates come from sugar. There is a difference between table beets (found whole in the grocery store and used in the recipe below) and sugar beets, which accounts for about one-third of the world's supply of sugar.

Although table beets contain sugar, they also contain a good amount of fiber, so the impact on blood glucose levels is minimal. Don't be fooled - it's much better to eat beets than it is to eat potato chips, soda, or brownies, even if they contain some natural sugar.

Beets - Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Beets: Super Yum!

While some may feel that beets taste like dirt, I love their sweetness when roasted. 

Beets can be eaten raw, grated into salads or slaw. They can be boiled, roasted, steamed, or pickled. I've seen them juiced, but why would you want to get rid of the amazing fiber?

Serve them warm as a side dish or cold in a salad. Whatever you do, be sure to serve them!

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

I tried out this recipe at my high school reunion. Because, of course, as a dietitian I both love to and feel obliged to make a healthy dish that expands taste bud horizons and encourages healthy eating. A few of ya'll asked for the recipe, so here it is:

To begin making your Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad, roast your beets. Remove the green, leafy tops (if still attached) and set aside to sauté with your eggs in the morning. Depending on how pretty they are, either scrub your beets well to remove all the dirt or peel the outside like you would a carrot or potato.

Beets - Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Dice into half-inch cubes, toss with a teaspoon of canola oil and two teaspoons balsamic vinegar, then spread evenly on a sheet pan or baking dish. Roast at 425 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking.

Meanwhile (since your oven is already on), lay three strips of bacon in a baking dish and cook these along with the beets. It will take about 30 minutes for your bacon to crisp up; time well and make sure to turn half-way through cooking. For the last 10 minutes of cooking the bacon, toss in a half cup of coarsely chopped pecans and roast these along with the bacon.

While your beets and bacon are cooking, prepare your greens for the salad: wash a Romaine lettuce heart and tear into 1-inch pieces. Toss in a large bowl with about two cups of raw, washed spinach leaves.

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

When beets, bacon, and pecans are roasted, allow them to cool. Crumble bacon into small pieces, then add all ingredients to the lettuce. Cut an apple into small slices, dip in a mixture of lemon juice and water (to prevent browning), and add to the salad. Toss together and add two ounces of blue cheese crumbles.

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

For the dressing, mix together 1/4 cup canola oil, two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon sugar, and one tablespoon lemon juice (best if from a fresh lemon, but refrigerated lemon juice will do). Mix this well (I like to mix in a mason jar, put the lid on and shake - rather than stir).

Add dressing to your salad immediately before serving (to avoid limp lettuce), then watch the faces turn to amazement as you watch your eaters actually enjoy beets.

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Happy Fourth to you and yours! Enjoy!

Red, White, and Blue Cheese Salad

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1/2 c. pecans
  • 1 Romaine heart
  • 2 c. fresh spinach
  • 1 small apple
  • 2 oz. blue cheese

Dressing

  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare beets: remove the green, leafy tops and peel. Dice into half-inch cubes, toss with 1 tsp. canola oil and 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, then spread evenly in a baking dish. Roast at 425 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  2. Lay three strips of bacon in a baking dish and roast these at 425 for 30 minutes until crispy, turning half-way through cooking.
  3. Coarsely chop pecans and roast at 425 for 10 minutes (add to bacon pan for bacon's last 10 minutes of cooking)
  4. While beets and bacon are cooking, prepare greens for the salad: wash a Romaine lettuce heart and tear into 1-inch pieces. Toss in a large bowl with raw, washed spinach leaves.
  5. When beets, bacon, and pecans are roasted, allow them to cool. Crumble bacon into small pieces, then add all ingredients to the lettuce.
  6. Cut apple into small slices, dip in a mixture of lemon juice and water, and add to the salad. Toss together and add four ounces of blue cheese crumbles.
  7. Mix together all dressing ingredients and toss with salad immediately before serving.

Serves 6 - Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups - Nutrients per serving:  242 calories -- 21g total fat -- 4g saturated fat -- 0g trans fat -- 11mg cholesterol -- 243mg sodium -- 10g total carbohydrates -- 3g fiber -- 7g sugar -- 5g protein

Sources:
http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/fall-produce-picks
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2349/2
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25178819
https://cals.arizona.edu/fps/sites/cals.arizona.edu.fps/files/cotw/Table_Beets.pdf