Showing posts with label beets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beets. Show all posts

Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Salad

Christmas salad? Really? Isn't this the wrong season? Well, it is red and green and white, and I have an excuse—a new toy. Meet my spiralizer.

It all started in Skibbereen a couple of weeks ago, when we had lunch at the café attached to the West Cork Arts Center. Those nice people were responsible for the amazing red (beet and carrot) soup I wrote about here a while back. They make good food there, including desserts, which of course we had to investigate thoroughly.

They had a beet salad on the menu. Have I mentioned before that I don’t like beets? Well, I’ll have to edit that opinion: I don’t like the gummy sweet kind my mother used to serve. But the simple raw version is growing on me, so I tried the salad.

What was intriguing was that the beets formed a kind of spaghetti-like cluster on top of the greens. You’d think by now I’d have every kitchen gadget known to humankind, but somehow I’d missed the spiralizer. So now I have one (a rather rudimentary version, I will admit—I will have to investigate further options).

Before I tackled the beet recipe I had to experiment with the little critter. Carrots bombed—too tough. Turnips worked once I peeled them. So did potatoes. The zucchini was a pleasant surprise--it worked very well. Apples were a disaster—they fell apart. But the raw beets, once peeled, came out fine. (Note: I now have a stash of vegetable strings in the fridge. Not all would I want to eat raw, so I parboiled the tougher ones for a couple of minutes before refrigerating them. Haven’t gotten to all of them yet, but I fried up the potato strings and they cooked up nice and crisp.)




I tracked down whichever salad green has the red stems (the packages weren’t much help—mostly they say something like “Leafy Medley. The Irish call them “mixed leaves” on menus) which was what the café used, and which fit the holiday color theme. Putting the salad together is simple:

--wash your leaves if necessary and spin dry. Array on individual medium-size plates.

--shred the beets.

--make a nest of your shredded beets (or whatever other vegetables you’re using) on top of the leaves.

--sprinkle with sunflower seeds (the white note)—toasting them briefly gives them a slightly mellower flavor, if you have the time and space in your oven.

--drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette (or any non-creamy dressing)


In hindsight I think marinating the shredded beets in the dressing would have been a good idea, but not for too long or they’d get soggy and limp.

The result? A pretty, easy-to-make dish to add to your holiday table.

And a giveaway! While the next County Cork Mystery, Many a Twist, will be out next month, I thought it would be more appropriate for the season to give away a hardcover copy of Cruel Winter, which takes place during a blizzard and involves cooking for a group of stranded strangers who are snowed in at the pub--and one of them might be a murderer.

Leave a comment by the end of Sunday and I'll pick a winner!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Your Cheatin’ Heart: yummy chocolate-beet cupcakes #recipe #veggie #giveaway @AbbottMysteries

Well Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and here WE are with our on-going veggie challenge. What to do???

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be in the draw for the veggie platter shown below!

There's no way we'll give up on our challenge yet and yet, there’s something about that special day that calls out for chocolate treat with a special sweetie, family or friends. 

Could we cheat and have it all?  Although we’d never had one, we had heard of chocolate cakes with beets and that seemed to us to be just the right kind of compromise. To spur ourselves on, we raced out and bought some new gear.  

We waded through recipes and couldn’t find one that had everything we wanted (like that nearly full container of buttermilk) so we mixed and matched and made things up. Do you do that too?

At any rate, the results sounded alarming to the little mister, but even he had to agree the finished product was excellent. 

Chocolate-Beet Cupcakes
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (We also experimented with a blend of flour and oat hull fiber and they were--surprisingly-just as good. You may not believe this and we understand.)
½ cup best quality cocoa: we used Penzey’s for a potent punch!
1 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
 ½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 extra-large egg, room temperature
1 14 oz can sliced or diced red beets, drained and pureed in food processor
1 ½ tsp good quality vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp cold coffee
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F
Grease the muffin pan or use liners. 
Sift flour with cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a large bowl.
Beat the sugar and oil until smooth. Beat in egg, pureed beets, vanilla and coffee.
Beat in 1/3 flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk until just blended. Repeat: flour, buttermilk, flour. Do not overbeat.
Fill muffin cups to ¾.   We had enough batter left over to make a small cake in a ramekin.  It didn’t last long enough to take a photo. Gobble. Oh well.  
Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  
Cool on a rack.  Don’t ice until completely cool, one of many things we’ve learned the hard way.

Ice with butter-cream icing or chocolate cream cheese icing or chocolate ganache whatever frosting you love.
These cupcakes are rich and moist but not overly sweet and that suited us perfectly.  We found that they were better the second day and that means we’ll make them ahead in future. We froze a few and they thawed and were still good in taste and texture. We chose to use a cake decorator tip and make a butter cream rosette rather than ice them all over. You must be true to your own self.  Nudge nudge wink wink.

We hope you’ll savor these as much as we did. Invite your friends, light a few candles and enjoy!

And in case you have forgotten who we are:  Victoria Abbott is a collaboration between me: the artist and photographer Victoria Maffini and other me:  Victoria’s mother, Mary Jane Maffini.

Together, we write the award-winning Book Collector Mysteries. We love writing together and oddly enough, we have fun.   


Want to see the books? Here they are!  All are available in print, e-book and audio.

Winner of the 2016 Bony Blithe Award!

Now hear this!
Get in on more fun with  our email newsletter.  All you need to do to get on the list is ask us RIGHT HERE
We’re also on Facebook and love to hear from you. Mary Jane Maffini
and Victoria Abbott

Don't be a stranger!  💘💘💘

Friday, July 1, 2016

Roast Carrot Soup

I know, I keep giving you carrot soup recipes, but this one was just so gorgeous I had to share it. I found it at the Kalbos Café at the West Cork Arts Centre in Skibbereen (West Cork, Ireland), when I stopped in for a quick light lunch (I’ve eaten there before). The Arts Centre itself took years to build, and opened in 2015. It’s been a very busy place ever since, and it plays an important role in the local cultural community. Brilliant move to have an place to eat right alongside it. (I tried to find a picture that showed both, but the cafe is kind of tucked in and it's hard to get both in the same shot.)

You may think of vegetable soup as a winter dish, but let me remind you that it’s cooler in Ireland than in the US in summer. Plus this is not one of those you have to stew for hours (oh, well, there is that turning on the oven thing). There are plenty of carrots in Ireland, year round, as well as other hearty root vegetables. Kind of reminds me of Massachusetts, where summer vegetables don’t really appear at the farmers’ markets until June or even July, at least in my part of the state. 

The Kalbos Cafe soup
When I ordered the soup (the special of the day) I expected something bland and comforting, but what I hadn’t expected was an intense red blast of color. As you might guess, the “body” of the soup come from the carrots, but the color comes from beets (or beetroot, as they call it there--I had to ask). Both are root vegetables with a fairly high sugar content. Roast them and they caramelize a bit, adding a sweet element to the soup, and a deeper flavor.

I’ll confess, I looked for recipes online, but they all looked like ordinary carrot soup—orange. None had this wonderful rich red color. Let me add that the dominant flavor is carrot, not beet (as a child I used to gag at the taste of beets, so I’m still wary of them).

At the café it was served simply, with a piece of brown bread and some butter. If you want to dress it up, you could add a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill or another herb. Also note that this is vegan—all vegetable, unless you want to use chicken stock. It’s simple, healthy and tasty—what more could you ask?

Roasted Carrot Soup


1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 lb beets, peeled and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
2 Tblsp good olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a bowl, toss the carrots, beets and onion with the olive oil, then spread them in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. 

Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times (so they don’t stick), until they are tender and beginning to brown around the edges.

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place the cooked vegetables in a large saucepan. Add the stock, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until all the vegetables are tender (about 20 minutes).

Bought this at a yard sale across the street
for $3. I've used it a lot.
Puree the soup in a blender or food processor (to whatever smoothness you desire), or use an immersion blender. Keep the soup warm in the pan, and season with the salt and pepper. (If it's too thick for you, add a bit more stock, or even water.)

Serve in deep bowls. If you want to dress it up, add a dollop of crème fraiche and maybe a sprig of dill. Serve immediately. (This recipe makes about four servings.)

My nod to the Fourth of July: it's
red, white and blue!

Note: in winter you can add other vegetables as well—butternut squash, parsnips, sweet potato—to make it a heartier soup. You can also spice it up with a dash of pepper sauce or chile powder—it’s a very versatile recipe!

My feeble effort to add an Irish design

I'll stop rambling on about all things Irish soon, I promise. I am working on other books, really--the next Irish one (still nameless), another Orchard mystery, another Relatively Dead story, a short story or two...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Beet, Red Onion and Feta Salad

by Peg Cochran

Beets belong to the chenopod family which includes chard, spinach and quinoa.  They are also nature's "Viagra." The ancient Romans used them as an aphrodisiac. And even though my sister-in-law claims they taste like dirt, prepared properly (like in this salad), they can be delicious.  And save the tops for a soup or a saute. The greens contain an incredible amount of vitamins and minerals.

This recipe is adapted from One Dish at a Time.  The original recipe calls for lime juice and zest, but I lost my grocery list in the produce section (I was shopping with my granddaughter and somewhat distracted) so I used lemon which I happened to have on hand.  It was delicious!  Next time I'll try the lime, and then I think I might even try it with orange juice and orange zest.

The original recipe also called for hazelnuts, but I forgot those, too (see note above).  It was just as delicious without and less expensive (hazelnuts aren't cheap.)

2 large beets
Grated zest of one lemon (or lime) 
Juice of one lemon (or lime)
2 tsps. canola oil (I used evoo because I use it for everything)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 red onion sliced into rings
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place beets in a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake until easily pierced all the way through with a paring knife -- about one hour and 15 minutes depending on the size of your beets.  Let them cool slightly.

Whisk together the lemon zest, juice, honey and oil.  

Rub off the beet skins (wear thin plastic gloves or use paper towels to keep the color from staining your hands) and slice into thin rounds.  

Place in a salad bowl along with the red onion and toss with the dressing.  Sprinkle the feta cheese on top.

Reg says "Bone Appetit!"

I used three smaller beets

Beets after roasting

Slice beets and red onion

Top with feta cheese


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Or catch up with me on Twitter @pegcochran 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Roasted Beet and Apple Salad

This weekend, I attended a fun signing with fellow cozy authors Melissa Bourbon and Diane Kelly and brand new romance author (and Sunday's guest blogger) Molly Cannon.  We had a hoot.

It was Molly's very first signing, and it was only a mile or so from her house, so she had tons of friends and family out to cheer her on.  Melissa Bourbon always brings a smile and her adorable wrought iron dress form (which is so cute it makes *me* smile).  And Diane was promoting her newest book which happens to feature a pink beehive and extra hold hairspray ... so, you guessed it, she donned a tall pink beehive wig.

Melissa Bourbon Ramirez, me, Diane Kelly, and Molly Cannon

Add the balloons and Molly's purple feather fascinator (sent by a Canadian friend for good luck) and NO ONE walked past without gawking.

Needless to say, much laughter ensued.

Because we enjoy each other's company so much, the whole party adjourned to the Cheesecake Factory next to the bookstore after the signing wrapped up.

I have to confess, I haven't eaten at a Cheesecake Factory in about fifteen years.  I associate it with too-big portions and lots of fried food, so I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of up-market salads and tasty little nibbles.

I had a roasted beet salad (with apples, goat cheese, and pecans) that inspired this recipe.  Seriously, it was so tasty that I was immediately inspired to try to replicate it.  This isn't quite right (for one thing, I didn't bother with picking up any goat cheese), but it was still dang tasty.

A note on roasting beets:  If you don't have access to pre-roasted beets in your grocery store, it's easy (if a bit messy) to make your own.  Preheat oven to 375.  Scrub beets and cut the greens off.  Rub with a little oil (canola or olive), wrap in foil, and bake for about an hour (until a knife slides in easily).  Allow to cool and the cut off tops and bottoms, slide off the skins, and dice.  Dress leftovers with a little vinegar for a yummy side dish.  Remember, beet juice stains, so cook with care!

Beets, roasted and diced

Roasted Beet and Apple Salad


6 Tbs. salad oil (I used half canola, half EVOO)
2 Tbs. coarse grained mustard
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch salt
two or three grinds (or a pinch) of freshly ground black pepper

baby salad greens
diced roasted beets
chopped pecans
diced granny smith apple

Combine salad ingredients in proportions that look good to you (I used about 1 c. of beets, 1/2 an apple, 1/4 c. pecans, and 2 c. salad greens).  Dress to taste.

Take it to the next level by serving with some high end goat cheese and crusty French bread.

Friday, November 12, 2010

You CAN Beet Chocolate Cake (just don't underestimate Flour Power!)

Chocolate Cake - You just can't BEET it.
Or can you?

A recent issue of MORE Magazine featured a gorgeous chocolate cake - made with beets! Can you believe it? A healthier alternative to regular, decadent, moist, chocolate cake. Something that I could love that might be good for me? I was in!

There was no recipe provided (what??) so I was forced to seek one out on my own. That cake looked far too luscious and I was in the middle of a massive chocolate craving, so I dug everywhere, hoping someone would have a recipe for a chocolate cake made with beets.

What surprised me was discovering how many recipes there are out there. Seriously. I thought I would have trouble finding a recipe. Nope. There are dozens. Maybe hundreds of variations.

I culled the choices down to four that sounded particularly good and that got rave reviews on their various cooking sites. From these four, I pulled together my own recipe, figuring that a cake is kind of a standard size, so mixing and matching ingredients shouldn't be a problem.

Mostly, it wasn't. But I did make one tactical error.

More on that in a moment.

Here's the question you're all eager to ask right now... How did it taste?
In a word: Good.

I liked it. Everyone who tried it, liked it (or they lied very convincingly)
The cake was nicely moist and not too dense. The chocolate flavor was strong, but not overly sweet. I think the beets beat back the sweetness a bit - which in my book is a good thing. I'll take chocolate over sweet any day.

I didn't intend to frost it - I planned to dust it with powdered sugar, but I ran into a little problem and was forced to come up with a frosting. For that I followed the instructions on the back of my Hershey's cocoa container. Wonderful, very chocolatey, gooey frosting. For my purposes (which will become apparent in a moment) I needed it to be more liquidy - like a glaze - so I simply increased the amount of milk.

Ready for the recipe?


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light brown, would have preferred dark, but I was out)
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 can beets, drained - but reserve the liquid (I got about 1/3 cup)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a cake pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg.

Puree beets in a food processor or blender.
Melt chocolate in microwave or over stove. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl - cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time. Add pureed beets. Add cooled, melted chocolate.

When these are all nicely combined, add the dry mixture a tablespoonful at a time. Mix well. Once it's all put together, look at it. Does it seem a little too dry/sticky for a cake? Mine did. If so, add the reserved beet liquid and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan. Place in oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Use the toothpick method to test for doneness. This cake doesn't spring back as bounciliy as some.

Allow to cool, remove from pan, dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Well.... unless you run into problems. Like I did.

I used a Bundt pan and halfway through the cake's baking time I realized that even though I'd greased it well, I'd forgotten to flour it. Oops!! When the cake came out and cooled a bit, I tried turning it over onto a plate. That baby didn't budge. Nope. It wanted to stay.

Yikes! I planned to take it to a Sertoma fundraising event - Trivia Night - that evening. It was supposed to be part of my contribution to the team table of snacks. What to do?

I let it cool a little longer (should have waited much longer, but I was impatient) and finally kinda shook it until it dropped.

Great! Except that really pretty Bundt shape - the very top of the cake - stayed inside the pan. The good part was that it allowed me to steal a piece and taste it ahead of time. If it was terrible, I might have run out and purchased something else to supplement my snack contribution. But it tasted pretty good, so I moved forward. I gently pulled the cake top out of the pan and put it back together like a puzzle. It still looked funny, so -- frosting time. As I mentioned earlier, I just whipped together a quick glaze, drizzled it on top (liberally!) and it didn't look too shabby if I do say so myself!

Just do yourself a favor and don't forget the power of flour! What a difference a greased *and* floured pan would have made!

Here we are at Trivia Night, enjoying the cake (among lots of other delicious appetizers and treats). Do these folks look like they're enjoying the cake? Hope so!

By the way, our team came in third overall! Woo-hoo!

Have fun today! Read a book and play in the kitchen!


PS - Take a look! I've changed the book cover opposite my name -->
Buffalo West Wing comes out in January and I'm already getting excited. Berkley does such a magnificent job with covers. I love this new one!

* * *

And don't forget Krista's Christmas Cookie Contest!

Krista's Christmas
Cookie Contest!

Krista Davis is celebrating the upcoming release
of her new holiday mystery, The Diva Cooks a Goose.

She's holding a delicious contest! Send Krista your favorite cookie recipe
at Krista at KristaDavis dot com and you might win!

Find out more
clicking here