It's a rare, glorious time in St. Louis.
If you've ever lived around this part of the Midwest, you know how cruel and fickle our weather can be. Ordinarily, we have relatively mild winter weather (temperatures average in the 30s) that seemingly shifts straight into full-blown summer with absurd humidity and lots of heat and then slams back into winter again.
Those sweet, cool, breezy spring and fall days are far to rare.
But people, we're there.
This week's 45+ temperatures have been magnificent, especially after a harsher-than-normal winter season. The snow is melting. The birds are chirping. The sun is shining. Costco has their pool toys out. People are doing their happy dances.
Enjoy it while it lasts. We'll probably get pummeled with snow or find ourselves in a record-breaking heat wave tomorrow.
When I was deciding what I wanted to make for this month's Recipe Redux challenge featuring healthy drinks, I had a lot of ideas running through my mind. I like to make foods that are guided by the seasons, so for a winter drink recipe, I was initially thinking along the lines of spiced hot cider, pumped-up tea, or cocoa. But when our week of gloriously warm temperatures hit, a winter vegetable smoothie seemed perfect: a cold drink to celebrate the warming temperatures and root vegetables to commemorate the soon-ending winter season.
Beets belong to the chenopod family along with chard, spinach, and quinoa. They promote a myriad of amazing health benefits, and they're totally underrated. Their unique phytonutrients - betalain pigments that contain contain powerful nutrients and give beets their gorgeous fuschia color - have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxification properties. Some new studies on beets are uncovering their potential to protect the heart by lowering blood pressure.
An interesting study conducted by St. Louis University and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that eating cooked beets improves running performance. All of you training for spring races, listen up. The research team had 11 "moderately fit" runners complete two 5K races on treadmills. Before one race, they gave the volunteers a placebo, and before the second race, they gave them a 7-ounce serving of baked beets. (Side note: the thought of people eating a beet "placebo" in a double-blind trial is a little hilarious and a lot confusing. Turns out, the runners were given a cranberry relish with the same caloric content as the serving of beets.) The runners completed the 5Ks an average of 41 seconds faster (a 3% improvement!) after eating beets. The improvement in performance is owed to the high nitrate content of beets. You might associate the word "nitrate," with processed meat products, but many vegetables contain naturally-occurring, non-harmful nitrates that help improve blood flow to the heart, brain, and muscles and may help reduce blood pressure. If you're curious about how this would work for you, try eating a 7-ounce portion of beets an hour before your next training run and see if your pace improves.
If you'd like to add more beets to your diet, do keep in mind that steaming beets for longer than 15 minutes or roasting them longer than an hour can destroy the beneficial phytonutrients inside, so keep cooking times reasonably low. Also note that you could experience a red tint in your urine and stool after consumption. This is completely harmless although possibly freaky if you don't anticipate it.
Are you as amazed with that gorgeous color as much as I am? A word to the wise: when working with beets, wear an apron. Unless you're the free-spirited type who doesn't mind some extra color on your clothes.
Winter goodness smoothie
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 clementine or 1/2 of an orange, peeled
1 medium red beet, cubed
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
7 frozen strawberries
1/2" knob of ginger
Combine all the ingredients in your blender beginning with the softest items at the bottom and finishing with the firmer ingredients on top. Blend on high for about 60 seconds, carefully pushing the ingredients toward the blades if needed. Add additional water while blending to adjust thickness as desired.
Labels: drinks, fruit, Recipe Redux, root vegetable, vegan, vegetable, vegetarian, winter