Blog

Gettin' down with real food.

Update & what I've been up to

It's been some time since I gave this space any attention, but not for lack of inspiration. My food voice has been finding a monthly home in our city's newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Today, my most recent article was picked up by USA Today online, crazy. Now in the swing with my newspaper gig, I hope to get back to sharing more here on the blog. I wanted to take this opportunity to compile the articles I've written over the past year. so while you're waiting for some new Funky Beets content, here's a little something to browse through. I'm filled with gratitude today for family and friends who've shared my recipes and writing and supported me wholeheartedly in this journey that I hope is just beginning. I have some big dreams about how to share my love of cooking and make real, delicious food more accessible to everyone. I love to chat with anyone who feels the same. AshleighMKE@gmail.com

Indulgence without guilt - a healthier way to enjoy the holidays - November 30, 2016
Thanksgiving brunch  - November 12, 2016
Unlikely spice pairings autumn dinner menu - October 8 , 2016
Oktoberfest - stay in or go out - September 15, 2016
Summer-fall gluten free barbecue menu - September 8, 2016
Harvest time celebrates side dishes - August 11, 2016
No oven recipes for hot summer weather - July 9, 2016
Floral-inspired baby shower gathering - June 11, 2016
Spring weekend local produce dinner - May 7, 2016
Heart fare for heavy lifters - moving day menu - April 9 , 2016
Spring forward with fresher, brighter meals - March 12, 2016
2016 food trends with a healthy twist - March 7, 2016
Warm and cool flavors balance winter meal  - February 13, 2016
Restorative, warming winter menu for New Year - January 16, 2016
Make-ahead holiday brunch - December 12, 2015
Vegetarian Friendsgiving - November 7, 2015
Crowd pleasing football party food - October 10, 2015
Inviting vegetables to breakfast - August 30, 2015
Host an all-local, vegetarian feast - August 22, 2015
Picnic party, eating fresh outdoors - May 23, 2015


 

Adventures in Indy: Day 2

After a morning of learning about motivational interviewing and practicing the technique with a vibrant, open-hearted woman, I walked a mile in crappy flats to a restaurant whose online menu I’d been oogling since I got to Indy. The place is Milktooth. The meal was: a tall glass of housemade cashew-hazelnut milk, a bowl of local popcorn grits topped with poached egg, bacon and scallions and a sourdough chocolate croissant. Swoon. I wanted to order everything. on. the. menu. Dear Milktooth, please open a second location in Milwaukee. Riverwest would love to have you and you’d really fit right in.

Running late after lunch, I rented a bike to get back to the conference more speedily, enjoying the wind in my hair all the way. I finished off the last few bites of my croissant with the complementary (and really not too bad) hotel coffee and listened to more fascinating talks from incredibly accomplished women. 

Then it was dinner time. I headed out with 11 other RDs and RDs-to-be for a meal shared while learning about one another, talking about life and laughing at ourselves. This relaxed atmosphere was much needed after a long day of thinking hard about the future of my career and my role in this wide world of child nutrition. For supper I ate Thai Curry Swai at Tavern on South. The flaky white fish was perfectly cooked, tender and bathed in a creamy red coconut curry broth, topped with sweet, sautéed red pepper slices and a sprig of alfalfa sprouts with a side of grilled yet still crisp bok choy. No bite left behind.

After dinner, I decided to sneak in another ride on a rental bike (I paid for a 24 hour pass) and tooled around the city taking it all in as the sun set between the tall, silent buildings. Downtown Indy has an amazing system of wide, separated bike and walking lanes and user-friendly paths that make getting around the city a breeze and much safer than the in-road bike lanes I’m used to back home. I noticed a lot of bikers (fixies apparently are not yet OVER here in Indy) on my excursion as well as so many folks walking the canal and surrounding trails. The tunnels I passed through on my way in and out of downtown even had motion-sensing lights to shine the way through darker area as I rode. So great! I imagine these kinds of enhancements to a city make it so much more appealing for inhabitants to get out and get moving.

On my ride, I stumbled upon the one bar Brandon and I stopped at during an overnight in Indy we spent a couple years back on our way home from Nashville, TN. A guy walking by saw me taking a picture and asked if I was going inside. I explained the story and he told me the place has gotten a lot of reviews lately as “Indy’s best dive bar” in local media so now there are a lot of “hipsters” hanging around there. Well, I guess that bar is "over." 

To cap off the eve I stopped for a gelato at Café Nonna, whose walls were covered with black and white photos of proud, smiling Italian ladies, from girls to grandmothers in aprons, wedding dresses and Sunday best. I ordered half salted caramel, half pistachio and enjoyed the creamy blend slowly, letting it melt just enough, while sitting at a table outside, channeling my inner Elizabeth Gilbert.

After another bout of cycle-exploring, I turned in for the night, eager to share my experiences here with you.  There are so many more places I want to see and restaurants I want to eat at here in Indianapolis, I hope to come back for a weekend with my travel partner sometime this summer. Have you ever been to Indianapolis? What are your favorite things about the city?

Adventures in Indy: Day 1

Hi friends! I come to you this evening sipping white wine beneath crisp white sheets propped up by a pile of fluffy feather pillows on the seventh floor of the Hyatt in Indianapolis, IN. (Photos below if you wanna skip the wordy stuff.) I'm sunk into my very first solo travel adventure here in Indy for a two-and-a-half-day conference on child and adolescent weight management. After day one, my mind is already buzzing with ideas, dreams, goals, frustrations and inspirations from the speakers who’ve shared their passion and struggles in practice with 133 of us dietitians and RDs-to-be. I’m eager to put into practice what I learn at this conference, to use this knowledge to better myself as a dietitian and to serve families and kids who carry extra weight and are fighting for healthier futures.

 When I finish the conference, I’ll have plenty of time to reflect and synthesize my learning on the 4 ½ hour Greyhound bus ride home, so for now I’ll share what I’ve seen so far in my free time, exploring this friendly, welcoming city on foot. After the presentations wrapped up today, I went straight to my room, threw on my running shoes and headed out.  I discovered a feast of paths and trails along a canal, and despite whipping winds, I didn’t want to turn back, but to keep hungrily taking in the scenery, people and fresh air.  I finally called it quits after seven miles but can’t wait to head back out tomorrow for more discovering.

I’ve eaten pretty well here in Indy so far. Lunch today was a homey mélange of cornmeal crusted tofu and hearty avocado slices on a bed of crisp mixed greens accompanied by blue corn chips and zesty salsa from a vegetarian food stand called Three Carrots located inside the City Market, a more quaint and affordable cousin to Milwaukee’s Public Market. This was the perfect amount of fuel to get me through the second half of the conference without weighing me down or leading to a carb-crash. After the evening jog, I showered with luxurious and complementary bath products (I heart hotels) and enjoyed a handful of trail mix before heading out into the tepid city air in search of dinner.

...Okay I make it sound like I was being all spontaneous, ready to discover any hole-in-the-wall joint I stumbled upon, but in reality I researched walkable eateries for a half hour before venturing out.  I had my eye on a few spots and landed at Palomino, whose self-described “Urban-Italian/Rustic European” cuisine drew me in with buzzwords like “charred kale salad” and “caramelized cauliflower with herbed mascarpone.” I sidled up to the bar and sipped on a glass of Malbec, settled on a hot and cold combo: an appetizer of Sicilian meatballs in a smoky, tangy tomato sauce topped with citrus zest, parmesan cheese and chopped pistachios and a salad of chopped romaine, roma tomatoes, crisp bacon and a disappointingly excessive douse of creamy dressing.  It wasn’t until I discovered the perfectly toasted hazelnuts nestled within the greens that I allowed this dish some redemption and stopped scolding myself for ordering poorly. The back and forth bites between spicy, tender meatballs and cool crisp salad worked really well together, offsetting one another’s flavors amidst sips of wine and lines from the novel I’ve been trying to finish for the last two months. Dining alone isn't half bad. (But I do miss my hubby and travel-partner extraordinaire.)

I stepped out of Palomino at dusk and couldn’t possibly turn in before another jaunt around Monument Circle, where I marveled at not only the sculptures, but also the hominess of it all: couples hand in hand, young families discussing architecture, a smiling man with oversized headphones, a shabbily dressed woman knitting curbside telling me to “have a blessed day.”  I got the message: I’m still in the Midwest, and there’s no place like home.

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Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake with Labneh Walnut Topping

Why do you bake? I bake to relax. I bake to fill my kitchen with oven warmth and the smell of caramelized sugar. I bake when I want dessert, one made with ingredients I can pronounce. I bake to share my creations, to lift spirits with muffins.  

I've been plotting to bake this cake, adapted from a recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog, since Christmas, and today was the day I finally got my shit together. Yes, I define my current level of pulled-togetherness by whether or not I'm actively engaging in pastry arts...

 
Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake | Funky Beets
 

Meet carrot cake's spunky sister, parsnip cake. This recipe nestles a half pound of shredded root veg goodness amid a not-too-sweet but very moist and slightly spicy crumb topped with tangy thickened yogurt, crunchy toasted walnuts and tart dried cranberries.  Unlike zucchini bread, where the vegetable fades into the background, the parsnip flavor in this cake is unmistakable. Parsnips are slightly sweet and nutty, and so work well in desserts and play nice with the ginger, cinnamon and hint of orange in this recipe. The flours used are brown rice and oat, making this cake 100% whole grain and wheat-free.  If you're in the mood for something a little different after dinner, please give this funky cake a shot.

 
Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake | Funky Beets
 

Tip: to make the labneh for topping, simply drain plain, whole milk yogurt (or Greek yogurt) in a coffee filter or cheese cloth set over a bowl for 6 to 8 hours or until it is thickened but still spreadable.

Maple Ginger Parsnip Cake with Labneh Walnut Topping

Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories 

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch or potato starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 pinch clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 lb parsnips
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp orange bitters (optional)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Topping

  • 1 cup thickened plain whole milk yogurt (labneh) - see above tip
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Generously grease a 8 or 9 inch springform pan. Set aside. 

  2. Whisk together the flours, starch, baking powder and spices.

  3. Peel and grate the parsnips. I used the fine shredding blade on my food processor which worked like a dream. 

  4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until slightly frothy. Add the oil, maple syrup and vanilla and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the parsnips and then the flour mixture. 

  5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes, or until golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before before removing cake from the springform pan.

  6. Make the topping by simply stirring together your thickened yogurt with maple syrup and ground ginger. Spread the icing over the cake when it has cooled completely. Garnish with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries.

  7. The cake will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and its flavor is actually better the second day. 

 
 

PS: This cake is completely acceptable breakfast fare!

 

 

 

Dark & Delicious: My Three (Gluten-Free) Christmas Cookie Recipes

The fog and rain have cast a moody tone over the decorated streets and glittering houses leading up to Christmas day. In Wisco, this is far from ordinary winter weather, but I'm not complaining a bit. I've never been attached to classic or traditional when it comes to the holidays. I like shaking things up.

Not to mention these skies are the perfect complement to my Christmas cookie repertoire. Each of my three sweet picks this year features dark chocolate and espresso powder; no cookie cutters, no icing or food coloring here. These recipes come together quickly, making them perfect for that last-minute urge to bake up something scrumptious and pretty to share with friends and fam. Whether your holidays are a little offbeat or beautifully routine, there's always room for a little chocolate in that Christmas spread. 

 
Three Gluten Free Christmas Cookies | FunkyBeetsBlog.com
 

Vegan Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffles

The first recipe is one I've made three years running. It's vegan, gluten-free and grain-free, a total crowd pleaser with deep cocoa flavor that melts in your mouth as a hint of roasted espresso flavor lingers in the background. It just might be that one perfect bite of dessert you crave after a rich holiday meal.  They're red wine's best friend and will make you some quick pals too when you gift them in a little tin tied with a bright red ribbon.  

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao), chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic unrefined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling

Method

  1. Melt chocolate on the stove over medium heat with oil and the water stirring constantly. Remove from hear and stir in vanilla, sea salt. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish, and refrigerate until mixture is set but still pliable, about 2 hours.

  2. Using a 1-inch ice-cream scoop or regular metal spoon, scoop out 28 portions, using hands to roll into balls to make smooth. Roll in cocoa powder to create a swirled effect as shown. Refrigerate on sheet 10 minutes before serving. Truffles can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.


Coconut Pistachio Macaroons

The next recipe is a new one for me. It comes from Mark Bittman via New York Times Cooking and it's SO good. I love a classic macaroon, but these nuggets of joy step things up to a whole other level. The creamy, rich coconut cookie is studded with pistachios and then half-dipped in the same chocolate used to make the truffles above. Hide a few for yourself or you'll never even get a taste. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten until just foamy
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Mix in egg whites and vanilla with a rubber spatula or your hands  until fully incorporated.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wet your hands and grab small piles of the mixture (1 to 2 tablespoons each) packing into nuggets that hold together. Place on baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake until firm to the touch and lightly browning on edges, about 15 minutes.Cool cookies on a rack for at least 30 minutes . Dip cooled cookies halfway in dark chocolate truffle mixture (above) while chocolate is still warm and set on parchment to dry/harden. Macaroons keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days

Chunky Oat n' Cocoa Haystacks

The final cookie is just the right mix of naughty and nice. Sugary enough to win over the kids but virtuous enough (thanks to oats and dark chocolate) to justify having a second one. Gluten-free if you use GF Oats. A kiss of almond extract is my secret weapon here. 

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups plus 1 tablespoon rolled oats
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup evaporated milk
  •  Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup finely grated coconut

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread rolled oats on a baking sheet and toast for 20 minutes, until slightly darker and toasty smelling. Remove from heat.

  2. Line some free counter space with parchment or wax paper. In a saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cocoa powder, evaporated milk and salt and bring to a boil, stirring consistently. Remove from heat once boiling and stir in vanilla and almond extracts, oats and coconut.

  3. Immediately drop the warm mixture by scant tablespoons onto parchment or wax paper to create little "haystacks." Allow to cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Merry Christma-hannu-kwanza-kah to all... and to all a good feast!