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Archive for April, 2013



Arugula and pickled beet salad recipe

I wonder how many beets I’ve eaten in my lifetime?

As a toddler, my mom gave me roasted and smashed up beets for “dessert.” With no hesitation, she actually called beets “dessert.” So did I until I was set straight by Penny Bell at my first sleep-over. You can imagine my surprise when I found out other kids got Twinkies and Ding Dongs for dessert, while I was eating some version of root vegetable paté.

Such is life. We learn early on, that in one way or another, all families are weird, quirky, different, and wonderful. My mom was a mixture of Elizabeth Taylor (glamorous), Julia Child (a gourmet cook), Amelia Earhart (adventurous), and Lucille Ball (off-the-wall funny). “Beets for dessert” was just part of her unconventional culinary repertoire.

In all this time, it’s never dawned on me to pickle beets. In fact, I’ve never pickled anything. It was easy. I made a batch of pickled beets and ate them for four days straight. I have a new addition to my beet arsenal.

Arugula and pickled beet salad
What you need

For the beets
1 bunch fresh beets (I used 3 large beets), scrubbed with tops cut off (leave 2 inches)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons raw cane sugar (I used organic Turbinado sugar)

For the salad
fresh, organic baby arugula (any salad greens)
chopped pecans
shaved Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese

For the Dressing
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I use Annie’s Organic Dijon Mustard, it’s gluten-free)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or organic agave nectar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

What you do

1. Place scrubbed and trimmed whole beets in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add enough cold water to cover with about 3 inches extra. Bring to a light boil, turn heat down and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and let beets cool. When cool enough to handle, slip the skins off and slice in thick rounds.

2. Place apple cider vinegar, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and slowly simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir often to dissolve sugar.

3. Place sliced beets in a shallow glass dish. Pour liquid over the beets, making sure all are covered. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Drain and store pickled beets in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

4. To make dressing, first place mustard in a glass jar. If you start with the mustard, it won’t separate. Add apple cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Replace the lid and shake like crazy.

5. Place arugula on salad plates, arrange beets on the greens, sprinkle chopped pecans and grated Parmesan over the salad. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

And the beet goes on—you might also like
From my blog
Deadly serious beet and spinach salad very similar to this salad
Beet greens and brown rice  with tips on preparing and storing beets
Performance enhancing beets why beets should be on every athlete’s table
Chocolate beet cupcakes
Beet ice cream
Beet nutrition

From Alta at Tasty Eats at Home (she’s also a beet fanatic)
Orange and beet salad with basil vinaigrette 
Raw summer beet salad a favorite of mine
Roasted squash, caramelized beets, and beet greens
Roasted beet humus this is a new “must try” post

Peace, joy and beet love!
Melissa

Bacteria, metabolites, and a big juicy steak

Here we go again.

The “what to eat and why” plot thickens. So do our artery walls if we’re not careful.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women. Back in my exercise physiology days, I had a fascination with heart disease. I wrote my thesis paper on the effects of exercise on coronary collateralization, worked in cardiac rehab, helped develop an outpatient exercise program, watched up-close-and-personal heart procedures, and was convinced I’d make an awesomely fantastic cardiac surgeon (some of the docs back then were alpha males and not the best listeners). If not for that sternal saw thing, I might have given it more thought.

What I did learn from that experience, though, is that heart disease is a complex condition and doesn’t always follow a direct line to diagnosis or treatment. Researchers are now questioning some of the basic assumptions about causes, lab biomarkers (blood chemistry), nutrition protocols, drug therapies, and invasive surgeries. Some in the medical community are even rethinking our obsession with low cholesterol and statin drugs. I’ll resist picking up that rope, but suffice to say, there’s no easy answer. Throw in genetics and lifestyle choices and there’s a lot to consider.

And now, like there’s not enough to think about regarding heart health and that all-too-common side effect known as sudden death, researchers have discovered those pesky gut bacteria are also playing a role. It appears there’s a type of meat- and egg-loving microbe that produces a substance, which in turn, increases the risk for heart disease. It’s a convoluted pathway, but these microbes convert carnitine (in meat) and choline (in eggs) into a chemical the liver quickly converts to TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide). TMAO ends up in circulation and is associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis. That’s not good.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve never been much of a meat fan. I’ve always felt we’re better off sticking to a diverse, plant-based diet. If I eat red meat at all, it’s on very rare occasions and in condiment-sized portions. Plants high in beneficial fiber encourage the proliferation of good gut bacteria. Those are the microbes I want on my disease-fighting team, not the carnitine-fueled, gas-belching, TMAO-producing critters. There’s also growing evidence that carnitine and choline supplements promote higher TMAO levels. Beware.

The conclusion from the scientific and medical community might be (is) to develop antibiotics to eliminate these microbes. If we wipe out the bacteria that play a part in TMAO production, we solve the problem, right?

Hmmm? I wonder what the unintended consequences of that will be? How about we support the magic of our own innate healing power and skip the drugs?

Bottom line (in my humble opinion)? Eat more plants and rethink the use of supplements and energy drinks.

If you’re on a meat-laden Paleo diet, you might want to read the research.

For more information about plants, fiber, and gut bacteria, check my last post.
Plants, peels, fiber, and gut bugs

If you’re still with me, thank you. I’ll post some recipes that promote good bacteria later this week. No science talk, I promise. Just good food.

We’re all in this together. Peace, love, and plant power.
Melissa

References:

Husten, L “Researchers Find New Path Linking Heart Disease to Carnitine.” Forbes, online. http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryhusten/2013/04/07/researchers-find-new-pathway-linking-heart-disease-to-carnitine/ (accessed April 7, 2013)

Kolata, G “Culprit in Heart Disease Goes Beyond Meat’s Fat.” The New York Times, online. http://www.nytimes.com/pages/health/index.html (accessed April 7, 2013)

Wang Z, et al. “Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease.” Nature 472, 57-63 (April 2011).

Willyard, C “Pathology: At the heart of the problem.” Nature 493, S10-S11 (January 2013).

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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