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all grown ups like beets

May 19, 2011

“Just try one bite.”  I hear myself spit out this phrase at dinner and cringe.  Little Friend has made the dinner frittata public enemy number one.  I weep a bit inside because: A) it’s good for her growing body B) it really is delicious with oozing cheese, perfectly set eggs, and spring-fresh greens, plus surely it’s easy enough to ignore the burned crust {oops} and C) Do you know how long I slaved in a hot kitchen to make this dinner?  You WILL eat it!

“Just try one bite,” and I’m transported back to the dinner table of my childhood where a bloody carved hunk of beet leers menacingly up at me.  I’m convinced that taking that one bite may indeed kill me, or at least force the rest of the contents of my stomach back up for re-acquaintance with the dinner plate.  I now get the position my parents were in: they loved beets.  They wanted the best for me in life.  Therefore, by dint of logical reasoning, my life would be infinitely improved were I to sample that little bite of beet, luxuriate it on my tongue, and explode, phoenix-like, out of the ashes of my grayer, impoverished, unenlightened beet-hating existence.

Many “trying” bites later, I still hate beets.  I.  Hate.  Beets.

Somewhere along the lifeline, I think I missed growing up.  Really.  I can’t stick a pin in any moment that turned the corner from acting childishly to acting maturely.  From sneering at beets and making gagging sounds to oh-so-elegantly placing a sliver of maroon candy on pink tongue with moans of ecstasy.  If I use acceptance of beets as a litmus test for maturity, I’m definitely not there yet people.

In some small areas, I’ve made steps toward “grown-up.”  I’ve conceded that tomatoes are indeed tasty.  I’ll cozy up to the occasional pepper or cucumber.  I’ve even made salads in general frequent guests at my table.  But I can’t fool myself for long.  Put beets on my plate and the temper tantrum is not far behind.

I’m starting to get a little worried that on paper, as I work my way toward the fourth decade of life, I should already be able to stick a pin in it:  That exact moment, act, event, or circumstance that commenced adulthood.   I had a little experiment the other day, just to test my resolve.  I ordered a beet salad in a restaurant. Really.  It came with some goat cheese, and I had envisioned some greens that didn’t materialize.  So there it sat: bloody carved hunks of beet.  And I would try just one bite.  I did.  Didn’t go so well.  Let’s just say I might as well have wrapped up $7 to leave behind in my napkin.  If my beet-litmus test holds true, I haven’t quite turned the corner from kid to adult yet.

On the other hand, I’d have to admit I’m one of those old souls that prefers early bed times, listens to NPR, went to the symphony for the first date with her husband, read Smithsonian magazine cover to cover as a kid, and fantasizes that a nursing home will someday be fun–like a return to college, just with more adult diapers involved.  Somewhere along the line, I must have fallen into the crack between childhood and AARP membership.

So how do you know you’re grown up?

I once thought that having kids would make me feel grown up.  Nope.  From the moment that surgeon’s knife sliced a lovely c-shaped doorway for Little Friend to enter the world, I grew small.  I grew small through the traumatic moments of recovery, through the confusing moments of keeping a preemie alive, through the overwhelming moments of grief over the loss of my “old” life as I determined (complete with foot-stomping and grimacing antics reminiscent of my childhood beet-tasting days) that I did NOT want this “new” life.  Right when I was supposed to become a bona fide grown up, I grew small instead.

Sometimes growing small is good, too.  As I weathered the life changes, healed from the birth, and raised a child past the four-pound mark, I began to revisit joys of childness–joys that had assumed a layer of dust from sitting undisturbed on a high-up shelf.  When did I tuck these things away?  Through Little Friend, I feel free to release the inner child again: swinging until my tummy flops, wrenching my arm sockets on the monkey bars, blowing dandelion fuzz until I sneeze, making a three-act production over a batch of chocolate chip cookies, rushing into the swirling assault of ocean waves, stomping into mud puddles for the sheer glory of the squelch, and reading for a quiet minute of the day in a rocking chair.  Who wants to grow up, anyway?

I’m wondering, is it possible to be both adult and child?  To have a tangled web of maturity instead of a straight line climbing with perfect vector trajectory toward the heavens of adulthood?  If so, I’m the former.

I had a glimmer of hope the other day.  I actually paused in my perusal of Penzey’s Spices magazine to consider this recipe:  “Why-Plant-Yellow-Beets-In-Your-Garden Cake” (page 14 in the Spring 2011 edition, for all you lucky Penzey’s subscribers).  I actually stopped, intrigued, to consider the possibilities.  “Yes,” I thought, wondering who this person speaking in my head was, “Yes.  I might just try a bite of that!”  A cake with beets in it?  And I might try it?  Who am I?

Maybe, just maybe, I am a grown up after all.

Penzey’s Quarterly Magazine is free for the asking and includes tried and true family favorite recipes from Penzey’s varied and dedicated customers.  Not only do I love the Penzey products, the recipes appear frequently as guest stars in my meal plans.  Here’s the recipe that may finally give me the Aha! moment I’ve been looking for in my attempt to pin down adulthood: 

Why-Plant-Yellow-Beets-In-Your-Garden Cake

Priscilla Weaver (story on pg. 21) got creative when she got yellow beets in her farm share box. She came up with this twist on carrot cake and enjoyed it so much she now plants yellow beets in her own garden. If you can’t find yellow/gold beets, use the same amount of the sweetest carrots.

1 tsp. CINNAMON (Priscilla likes VIETNAMESE) 1⁄2 tsp. GROUND NUTMEG 1⁄4 tsp. GROUND FENNEL 1⁄8 tsp. GROUND CLOVES

1⁄2 tsp. salt 11⁄4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda 23⁄4 Cups unbleached flour

3 large eggs 1 egg white 1 Cup brown sugar, lightly packed 1 Cup sugar

1⁄2 Cup vegetable oil

3 Cups peeled and grated yellow beets (about 4 medium beets)

1 TB. orange zest (or 1 tsp. MINCED ORANGE PEEL rehydrated in 1 TB. water)

3⁄4 Cup finely chopped walnuts Cream Cheese Frosting (optional):

8 oz. low fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), room temperature 4 oz. regular cream cheese, room temperature 1 tsp. PURE VANILLA EXTRACT 2 Cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or spray two 8-9 inch round cake pans with vegetable oil spray, line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, using a hand mixer on medium speed (stand mixers will overbeat this cake), beat together the eggs, egg white and sugars until creamy and somewhat thickened. Add the oil in a stream until completely incorporated. Sprinkle half of the dry ingredients over the mixture and fold in gently. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients. Finally, fold in the beets, orange zest and walnuts.

Divide the batter between the cake pans, smoothing the tops. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes and then rotate the pans for even baking. Bake for 10-20 more minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, with only dry crumbs sticking. Smaller cake pans take a bit longer than larger ones. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then remove the cakes by turning the pans out over a rack. Remove the parchment paper. Flip the cakes and continue to cool for at least 2 hours before frosting.

For the frosting: Beat together the cream cheeses and VANILLA. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until creamy. The longer you mix, the thinner the frosting, so decide ahead of time how thick you want your frosting.

Prep. time: 20 minutes Baking time: 30-40 minutes Serves: 12-16

Nutritional Information: Servings 16; Serving Size 1 piece (114g); Calories 360; Calories from fat 140; Total fat 16g; Cholesterol 50mg; Sodium 270mg; Carbohydrate 51g; Dietary Fiber 2g.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2011 9:30 am

    I have a friend who always says Growing Older is inevitable- Growing UP is optional. So, there you have it. You CAN be an adult and yet be childlike. Not a bad thing.

    Thanks for the heads up on Penzeys. I will check it out.

    Stopping by from Mama Kat’s.

  2. May 27, 2011 8:43 am

    I like that–“Growing Older is inevitable-Growing UP is optional.” And actually, in growing smaller, we really grow larger in the more important ways. Thanks for a great post.

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