Overcoming my fear of beets and leeks

When I am eating out, I often order beet salads and I have always enjoyed the flavoring of leeks in soups and other dishes. Yet,  I had never bought beets and leeks at the farmers market or grocery store, because they just seemed too difficult to prepare. So when we were given this week’s assignment, I knew exactly the vegetables I would tackle.

My husband and I buy most of our groceries at Kowalski Market, where we shop once per week. We don’t live near a Kowalski’s, but we love the quality of the produce and meats there so we drive to the St. Paul store each weekend.

The recipes I selected for this week required a lot of beets and leeks, eight beets and a total of seven leeks. I nearly bought out the stock of beets and leeks at Kowalski’s with my purchase. While in the produce section shopping for class, I decided to take this  opportunity to add more vegetables and fruits into our diet overall this week, so we ended up buying a number of other vegetables as well. And my husband got inspired to make homemade hummus to accompany all the vegetables we were going to be turning into snacks and sandwiches this week. I have to say that when we were at the check out at Kowalski’s I stood a little taller, feeling proud to be buying more healthy foods. (The frozen pizzas and chips in my cart in the past always make me feel slightly guilty at the checkout.)

On Sunday night we decided to make filet mignons so I decided to take on the beets since they take more time to cook. I selected an Ina Garten balsamic roasted beet salad from the Food Network. The beets are roasted for 50 minutes. You then peel and cube them and drizzle a homemade vinaigrette over the warm beets. The beet salad is served on a bed of arugula with marcona almonds on the top. The recipe also calls for a goat cheese topping, but I substituted a sheep’s milk feta instead because I find goat cheese to be too bitter for my taste. The only challenge with the beets was peeling them. At first I tried to peel them with a knife and it was labor-intensive. Around beet eight, I realized you could more easily remove the skins with your hands in one simple motion. Voila!! The salad was a perfect accompaniment for the steaks, and I ate the salad for lunch the next day too.

I took on the first batch of leeks on Monday night by preparing a Creamy Pasta with Leeks, Peas and Parmesan recipe from Woman’s Day that I found online. The recipe called for sautéing the leeks and lemon peel, and then combining them with cream and the boiled  orecchiette pasta and peas at the end before serving. I didn’t time the pasta well so the leeks and cream cooked longer than I liked. While the pasta was still good, it would have been creamier had I better timed the pasta. We enjoyed the pasta for dinner and I took it to work the next day for lunch as well.

On Tuesday night, I took the remaining leeks and made a potato leek soup I found on Food.com. This was by far the easiest recipe I made, and it turned out beautifully. We plan to reheat the soup tonight for dinner and we already froze another serving for later.

Given our assignment, we definitely bought and ate more vegetables this week, and it even inspired me to bring my lunches to work, which is a much healthier option than eating fast food in Dinkytown–my default lunch choice. The advantage of buying produce in bulk is that you only need to shop once and can make several meals out of your purchases. The disadvantage is you are “committed” to using them so you need to use them. Another disadvantage is they take up a lot of refrigerator space.

Overall, this was a valuable assignment because I realized trying to cook something new is not that hard since YouTube videos are available to guide you for almost every food preparation technique. I also realized that I can make the time to cook healthy dishes during the week.



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