Monthly Archives: April 2015

Beets: try them, you’ll like them!

Beets — four+ ways to use them.

Having been raised in a somewhat ethnic family (the “old country,” in this case, being Russia/Poland), I tend to be more open to trying– and usually liking–foods that most Americans would not even consider touching. Heart, liver, kidneys, trotters, blood puddings: my relatives had a real “waste no part of the animal mentality.” Nose to tail consumption. As I’ve always been slender and healthy, I figure I must be doing something right. I’ve also never met a vegetable I didn’t like. I’ll never starve to death, that’s for sure!

beets for kvass

All you need are beets, salt and clean H2O to make Kvas.

One vegetable that I enjoy, yet a lot of people will turn their noses up to, is the humble beet. Beets are typically a deep, rich ruby red in color, although you can also find orange and two-tone ones (alternating layers of red and white). Vegetables that have deep colors tend to be supersaturated with nutrients, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

I grow beets in the garden and have come to love the beet greens (tops) as well. Some people say that beets taste like dirt (maybe that’s why I like them, lol), but the tops, when sautéed, taste similar to spinach. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time from several plants throughout the summer and early fall will cause replacement leaves grow, thereby creating a sustainable situation. The leaves can also be added to salads, raw and chopped, therefore retaining their nutritional value.

beet kvas

Kvas: day 1 and ready to ferment.

Some of my favorite ways to use the beet roots is pickling (these can also be canned), roasted and cut into pieces for salads, grated raw into salads, fermented pickling, beet kvas and a cold or hot soup called borscht. Beets also have a natural earthy sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with salty/sour pickling and fermentation.

Pickled Beets
This makes a great cold side dish, especially with summer barbecues or added to a chopped salad. Food Network has a nice Alton Brown pickled beet recipe that calls for roasting the beets first, and then letting them soak in a seasoned brine mixture for up to 7 days before serving. I’ve tried this one and it’s a winner!

beet kvas

Ten days later…

Old Fashioned Fermented Pickled Beets
I’ve tried the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for whey and it’s just “okay.” I prefer not using whey for fermentation, the results just don’t taste the same as natural fermentation. Here’s a good fermented beets recipe that calls for simply beets, salt and water. Personally, I would also add onions. And fermentation = probiotics!

Borscht
I’ve never actually made this soup, but I have had it a few times in both Russian and Jewish restaurants. In those instances the cold soup was puréed, served with a dollop of sour cream, and I couldn’t identify what was in it other than beets. Served in this way, the soup makes a nice appetizer (as opposed to a meal, which calls for a heartier recipe).

My search on the internet brought up a variety of recipes that include all sorts of ingredients, some with meat, some without. This Borscht recipe from Cooks.com has the best rating and comments from cooks. I am tempted to take the advice in one comment about using tomato paste, fried in butter, rather than canned tomatoes. Note: Try not to use canned anything, unless you have no other option! Fresh is best!

beet kvas

After 10+ days the Kvas is ready to drink. Yum!

Beet Kvas
This is a fermented, naturally carbonated beverage made from only three ingredients: beets, filtered water and salt. The first time I made and tasted this I just knew it was a tonic for the blood. There’s something about the combination of salty-sour-carbonation that I crave at times. And Kvas practically makes itself.

Update: A week in the fridge and the little kvas I have left has turned a brownish red. But it still smells and tastes good, so keep that in mind.

Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Ingredients
  • 3-4 beets a generous medium size
  • 1-1/2 quarts water filtered
  • 1 TB sea salt (or a little more if you like)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic Optional
Servings: quarts (roughly)
Instructions
  1. Wash beet roots to remove any dirt but don't overdo it, you don't want to remove all the good (lactobacillus) bacteria.
  2. Chop into, roughly, 1" chunks.
  3. Add beets to a half gallon jar.
  4. Add 1 TB sea salt.
  5. Add filtered water to within 1/2" below lip.
  6. Cover with lid and write the date on the jar with a Sharpie.
  7. Allow to ferment, out of direct sunlight, for 1-1/2 weeks or more.
  8. When done, this can be strained, or just serve right out of the jar, chunks and all. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don't drink this if it smells or looks bad or has mold growing in or on it. Natural fermentation can sometimes go wrong, so be smart! My beets sometimes turn almost black, but there is nothing wrong with them and the kvas smells sweet and earthy. Delicious!

The Kvas could become syrupy towards the bottom of the jar. Just mix it back in before consuming.

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Lotions and Potions – Do it yourself!

debsters lab signAs a child, I was a bit of a junior scientist, experimenting with mixing fragrances and ingredients from the spice cabinet to make new and amazing concoctions. Always testing, testing, testing things to see what I could make, how things work together and learning along the way. As an adult, I became interested in the process of making soaps, non-toxic household cleaners and whatever else I could create using essential oils and simple ingredients—including lotions and potions to slather on my body. Just for fun.

remineralizing toothpasteFast forward to just a few years ago, when I got serious about reading labels on store-bought products: moisturizers, creams, toothpaste, makeup, deodorant… and it occurred to me that anything it put on my body will certainly end up in my body. Why expose myself to unpronounceable lab-created chemicals, petroleum products and ingredients that are often by-products of some manufacturing practice, which we have been duped into thinking have some curative value? For instance, fluoride in toothpaste was/is a by-product of aluminum manufacturing and before that, atom bomb manufacturing. As disposing of this by-product was expensive and cumbersome, fluoride was artfully finessed into a miracle cure for tooth decay.

the best soap recipeWe know that anything applied to our skin ends up in our bloodstream. Otherwise, nicotine, pain and birth control patches would not work, right? The skin as a barrier (like the legend of the placental barrier) is pure nonsense.

So… being the mad scientist that I am, with a desire to have personal products that are truly natural, organic and nourishing, I began making my own. I’ve found many great recipes on the internet and so have created a DIY personal products page here containing links to “tried and true” recipes. I have also made a page containing recipes for household cleaning products, which are comprised of minimal and less toxic ingredients and work as well, or even better, than something you can buy in a store.

homemade personal productsRecently a couple of people have asked me if I would sell my products at their get-togethers. One is the local chapter of WAPF, a group of people who are more inclined to make their own products than buy mine. But the other is a friend who has formed a therapy ranch for people with brain injuries. She intends to eventually turn her ranch into a CSA. I currently donate my graphic and web skills to her, and am willing to also donate proceeds from the sale of my products. So, with these in mind, I’ve designed a product line called “True Blue” — products that I make that contain nothing but pure, organic, minimal ingredients. The identity design came to me in a flash. The products are not cheap to make, but in comparison to prices of similar commercially-made products from stores, are surprisingly economical and are the real deal. Even commercially-made products that tout themselves as being organic or 100% “natural” have ingredients that I can’t identify. Mine do not. Mine are so pure, made with food grade organic ingredients, that you could actually eat them.