Tag Archives: Beet

Picnic at Northwest District Park

Picnic Food

Rami and I stayed close to home for this weekend’s picnic, at Northwest District Park in the Shoal Creek neighborhood of Austin. This park is one of my favorites in the city, and it’s the perfect place for families to hang out on Memorial Day Weekend.

Northwest District Park Sign

Northwest District Park has lots of picnic tables, a pool, a pond, basketball courts, and a large playground. It’s a huge park, with two entrances: one on the east side of the park at 7000 Ardath Street, and another on the west side of the park at Shoal Creek Blvd. between Dover and Pinecrest Blvd. The park has many grassy lawns and paved walking areas shaded by tall trees.

One of the best things about picnicking at Northwest District Park is its abundance of picnic areas. Like many of Austin’s parks, Northwest has three large, reservable picnic areas with many tables. However, it also has several more secluded picnic tables tucked around the park.

 

We chose this one to set up our picnic since it was situated in the shade of a pecan tree and overlooked the playground.

Our menu for this picnic was our favorite yet.

  • Mint sun-tea from Zhi Tea: fill a large mason jar with water and add two teaspoons of tea for each six ounces of water. (I used a large tea filter like this to hold the loose tea.)
  • Peanutty Carrot Tea Sandwiches: these are a wonderful alternative to plain PB&J. We skipped the raisins and used Confituras marmalade in the recipe. Yum!
  • Corn Radish Salad with Jalapeno Dressing An awesome spicy salad that uses radishes! I’m going to play with this recipe again for next week’s picnic since we enjoyed it so much.
  • Strawberries and Blackberries: sadly, local strawberries are gone for the season, but the blackberries from Wheeler Farm were super sweet!
  • Summer squash bread with beet-pecan sandwich spread.
I loved the corn radish salad and the blackberries. Rami’s favorite thing was the peanutty-carrot sandwich spread and the iced tea. And see the mint leaves garnishing the berries?? I grew those in a flower-pot outside my house! 😀

One thing that’s not coming across in these pictures is the ridiculous number of bugs swarming around us and our food. I got 13 mosquito bites while I was plating the food and taking this picture!

Because of all the bugs, Rami and I ate in record time and hightailed it outta the park. We spotted an egret at the pond as we left, just before the sun set.

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Picnic at Montopolis Youth Sports Complex

The second weekend in our picnic adventure took Rami, Barclay and me to far east Austin. We stumbled upon the Montopolis Youth Sports Complex when we were looking for Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park on Saturday night.

After a jaunt east on Airport Boulevard from I-35 and a winding drive through the Montopolis neighborhood, Rami and I found ourselves at 400 Grove Boulevard, the address registered with Google Maps for Guerrero Park.There is a parking lot and some trailheads that lead into Guerrero Park at that address, but the more obvious landmark there is this lovely sports area. Montopolis Youth Sports Complex has a few baseball fields with concession stands and bleachers, a batting cage and a small playground. We counted six picnic tables at the park, situated near trash cans at the edges of each playing field.

There are lots of tall trees at the park, and most of the recreation areas around the baseball fields are in full or partial shade. It’s obvious from the manicured lawns and clean trails that the Montopolis Sports Complex is well cared for, and it’s probably very busy during baseball, softball and tee-ball seasons. However, Rami and Barclay and I were the only souls there at dinner time on Saturday night. The solitude at the park was great! We enjoyed our whole meal uninterrupted and Barclay was able to run around on his long lead and explore the park.

The menu for this week’s picnic featured tons of local veggies in various salad preparations. We were gluten free except for some pita bread and vegan, since I forgot my bacon-laden potato salad at home:

These salads were a really easy picnic menu since I was able to make most of them ahead of time during the week. I don’t know what I was thinking packing pickled beets on a picnic. They taste awesome, but the magenta beet juice threatened to stain our orange picnic blanket with every bite! Rami did a smart thing and packed a few paper napkins so that we could wipe down our dirty plates before we packed up to head home.

The wax beans and green beans from Acadian and Tecolote Farms were the standout ingredients in this week’s picnic. I used these fresh treasures in place of canned green beans in my favorite four bean salad recipe.

Four Bean Salad (serves 6)
One bunch fresh green beans
One bunch fresh wax (yellow) beans
15 oz. can garbanzo beans
15 oz. can kidney beans
Two green bell peppers, seeded and ribbed
Red or purple onion
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation: trim ends off of green and yellow beans, then snap beans into bite-sized pieces.Bring a scant inch of salted water to a boil in a large saute pan. Add fresh beans, cover and cook for about five minutes, until beans are tender. Drain the beans and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, open and drain canned beans. Chop the bell peppers and onion into small pieces.  In a small bowl, whisk together oils, vinegars, sugar, salt and pepper. Put all the beans, onion and pepper into a large salad bowl and pour dressing over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Spiced Beet Whoopie Pies

These whoopie pies sandwich a layer of fluffy cream cheese frosting between two pillowy mounds of spice cake.  They’re like a cross between a gingersnap, a cupcake, and a cloud from Care-a-Lot*. Perfect for holiday gatherings, or for eating by yourself during a claymation movie marathon.

Pumpkin has become a popular ingredient in holiday whoopie pies, but it makes the cake stickier than I like.  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart’s and Rachel Ray’s recipes for pumpkin whoopie pies, using beet puree in place of the pumpkin.  The beets give the finished cookies a soft, cake=like texture, and an earthy flavor that’s not too sweet.  The beet flavor in this recipe is complemented by a blend of traditional holiday spices: cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg. (I would have added cloves and ginger if I had them on hand.) Don’t skimp on these spices!  The taste of beets needs a big spicy kick to balance it out.

Spiced Beet Whoopie Pies
(makes 8 large desserts; each serving 2 people or one very hungry elf)
Cookies:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup beet puree, from 1 large beet or several mini beets (instructions below)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon cardamom
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2/3 cups flour
Filling
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed for texture

First, make beet puree. I used 6, ping pong ball-sized beets to make 3/4 cup puree.  One or two large beets would work, too. Place whole, unpeeled beets in a saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for at least half an hour, until flesh is tender and can be pierced with a fork.  Drain beets and allow to cool. Once beets can be handled safely, remove skin with a paring knife or your fingers and puree cooked beets in a food processor.

Next up, make the cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.  Combine in a food processor 3/4 cup beet puree, 8 tablespoons softened butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Process until mixture is smooth and well combined. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and dried spices. Carefully pour the beet mixture into the mixing bowl, and use a rubber spatula to fold the beet mixture and flour mixture together.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, portion cookie dough into 16 mounds, spaced evenly onto each baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, until springy to the touch. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream 4 tablespoons softened butter with cream cheese.  Add the confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on low until blended and then at medium-high speed until fluffy. Depending on the weather, the frosting may reach the appropriate texture before the full two cups of sugar are mixed in.  If necessary, thin frosting with a little milk.

Spread cream cheese frosting on the flat side of half the cookies; top with remaining cookies.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for at least an hour and up to three days before serving.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*Remember Care-a-lot?  I like to think that even Professor Coldheart would get into the holiday spirit if he were served beet whoopie pies at a Festivus party.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza

Earlier this week I read a wonderful article in The Atlantic online by Austin’s own Carol Ann Sayle, co-owner and co-founder of Boggy Creek Farms.  In  “Eat Shoots and Leaves: A Case for the Whole Vegetable”, Sayle argues that even conscious eaters among us waste a great deal food and money by discarding the greens that are attached to our CSA produce.  (The greens attached to grocery store produce are DOA before the veggies even arrive at the store, but that’s another matter.) In her article, Sayle suggested a few recipes for salads that utilize radish greens, beet greens, and more. My imagination was piqued. Inspired by Sayle’s column, I devised this recipe for roasted beet pizza that utilizes the whole veggie.  The sweet, earthy flavor of the beets is offset by salty goat cheese, pungent onions and garlic, and slightly bitter beet greens.  A whole wealth of flavors is captured in each bite!  Many thanks to Carol Ann for the inspiration.

A few notes about the preparation: I found this recipe to be a bit involved for a weeknight.  However, by roasting the beets and making the pizza dough the night before, I was able to put dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes! Since this recipe makes enough for 2 medium pies, I was able to put dinner on my friends Nathan and Amy‘s table, too!  I owe Amy big time for taking my picture each day as I embark on the 30×30 challenge.  If you’re not in the favor-returning market, just prepare one pizza.  The dough and all the toppings will keep in the fridge for a few days until you’re ready for pizza number two.

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza (makes two medium pies, each pie serves 2-3 people)

The day before: prepare pizza dough and roast one beet.  My favorite pizza dough is NY Times writer Mark Bittman’s;  step by step instructions with photos & recipe here. To roast beet, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Scrub beet clean and cut off the greens and root end. Save greens in the fridge for later and discard the straggly root. Drizzle the beet with olive oil and wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil.  Bake on a cookie sheet in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until beet is tender.  Place whole, roasted beet in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

When you’re ready to make the pizza, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Remove pizza dough from fridge and allow to come to room temperature while you prepare the toppings:
1/2 yellow onion, sliced as thin as you can manage
1 beet, roasted according to instructions above and chopped into small pieces
4 oz. goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper
1 bunch beet greens, stalks removed, sliced into thin ribbons
balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Once toppings are ready to go, prepare two cookie sheets or pizza pans with baking parchment.  Roll out pizza crusts, one at a time, on a floured surface until they are the correct size for your pans.  Mine ended up at 14 x 10 inches, but any size and shape will work.  Transfer to the prepared pans.

Brush each crust with a tablespoon of olive oil and top pizzas with sliced onions, minced garlic, chopped beets, salt and pepper.  Use your fingers to break goat cheese up, distributing the 4 oz. of cheese evenly between the two pizzas.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  At the 10 minute mark, pull the pizzas out and top with beet greens.  Bake an additional 3-4 minutes, until greens are bright green and tender.  Drizzle finished pizza with balsamic vinegar immediately before serving.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.