Saturday, August 16, 2014

Six Years

Six years ago today, I married my best friend and soul mate. I remember waking up the morning of our wedding feeling excited, happy, and so incredibly joyful. Since I woke up before anyone else in the house, I immediately went into the kitchen and baked a couple loaves of banana bread for the family to enjoy for breakfast. I remember being so impressed that I did not feel nervous in the least! The butterflies that had taken up residence in my stomach over the previous couple of weeks had suddenly departed and I was peaceful, calm, and happily looking forward to the beginning of my new life as a Mrs.

Across town, my husband-to-be was in a completely different mental state. He was anything but zen.  Unable to eat, unable to relax, he was driving his poor family crazy with his stressful demeanor. He was practically having a full out anxiety attack while getting ready to head over to the church. When I arrived at the church and saw my sister-in-law Amy, I asked her how Paul was doing that morning and she replied: "Ummm...he's a little grumpy."

Happy Me.

Stressed Paul.

Long story short, Paul managed to walk calmly down the aisle at the appropriate time and stand next to Peter, his identical twin, while waiting for his bride (me!) to arrive. He claims that the moment he saw me walking towards him, all his nerves suddenly calmed and he felt peaceful and happy. It's kind of funny, because I had the opposite reaction when I saw him. Suddenly, I was very nervous - still excited - but very nervous and in a state of disbelief that we were actually, finally to be married! Walking down the aisle while clutching my father's arm was so surreal. We had known we wanted to marry one another for three years - and now it was finally happening!

And here we are, six years later. We have two pretty cute kids - which shouldn't be surprising given how incredibly cute my hubby is. I knew he'd make some adorable children. I love him more and more each day and cannot imagine walking through life without him. I could not have chosen a more loyal, honest, hard-working, dedicated husband and father than my Paul. He is always striving towards self-improvement and cares so deeply for me and the kids. How lucky I am to be married to my favorite person in the whole world!

I love you, Paul! Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

DIY Coconut Milk

I am so psyched about how wonderful homemade coconut milk tastes that I simply had to share the method as soon as possible. I use coconut milk all the time - in baking, cooking, or even poured over my cereal as a non-dairy substitute. The problem is that coconut milk normally runs at around $2.99 per can, which is a little bit steep. When I came across an article detailing how easy it is to make coconut milk at home, I had to test it immediately. Now I can't stop. Shredded coconut is so cheap in the bulk section of our store (like $0.99/pound) that this may very well become a way to cut down on our grocery budget. As an additional incentive, homemade coconut milk tastes so much better than canned coconut milk. I have no idea why - and maybe this is all completely in my head just because I feel so proud of my homemade batches - but I do find it more creamy, pure, and rich tasting.

Coconut milk could not be more easy to make. All you need are equal parts shredded, unsweetened coconut and water. Plus a dash of baking soda at the end. That's it.

First, the water is brought to just under a boil - or to about 200 degrees. The temperature is important since water that is too hot will cause the mixture to take on a curdled appearance. The hot water is mixed with the shredded coconut and the entire mixture is blended at high speed for two minutes. Then, it is poured through a fine-mesh strainer. Be sure to press on the solid coconut left behind in the strainer with a spatula to extract as much of the yummy liquid as possible. Discard any remaining solids and allow the milk to cool for about 15 minutes.

Whisk in a touch of baking soda to keep the milk mixture more alkaline and thus further discourage the proteins from clumping. Voila! Coconut milk!

Keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Delicious in all kinds of Thai dishes, oatmeal, smoothies, curries, rice pudding...oh the list is endless!

Homemade Coconut Milk
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated

1 3/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pour the unsweetened coconut into a blender. In a small saucepan, bring the water to near boiling, or to about 200 to 205 degrees. I used my instant-read thermometer to keep track of the water temperature. Don't let it get too hot before adding the coconut or it will curdle. Pour into the blender with the unsweetened shredded coconut. Process for 2 minutes. Transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over large measuring cup and press to extract as much liquid as possible; let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer shredded coconut to clean dish towel in large bowl. Gather sides of dish towel around coconut and squeeze remaining milk into measuring cup. Whisk baking soda into milk. Discard shredded coconut and use milk as desired or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes the equivalent of one 13.5 ounce store-bought can of coconut milk but doubles or triples easily!

Monday, August 11, 2014


Emma is growing up too fast.

Overnight, she has suddenly shown a very grown up interest in books. She asked to be read to constantly, sitting still and listening intently to the entire story. Whenever I notice that she has left the room and is no longer playing with Matthew, I often find her in one of the rocking chairs - either the one in the living room or next to her crib - sitting calmly while paging through a book (usually upside-down). She no longer abhors trips to the library, but rather enjoys them. While Matthew picks out the books he wants to take home, she will peruse the board books until something catches her eye. Last week, we ended up checking out a gigantic 500-page encyclopedia on domestic cats because it was filled with pictures of kittens and she insisted on bringing it home with her. I think the book is half her height. However, to her credit, she has spent quite a bit of time looking at it. When she found a picture of a cat that resembled our Riley, she started pointing at it enthusiastically while declaring: "Ryeee! Ryeee!" That is now her favorite page - it sports a gigantic wrinkle as a permanent memento of Emma's affection.

While I'm seriously enjoying reading to both kids (sometimes for what may seem like hours on end), I can't help but feel sad knowing that my little baby is no longer a baby! This time last year, she was still such a helpless little angel - still so new to the world! Now, it is honestly difficult for me to remember a time when she was not here!

The normal bedtime routine: Prayers, story, screams, silence.

However, now that she is growing up and becoming more of an equal to her big brother every day, I am able to truly enjoy the sibling interaction between them. I'm not talking about the fighting - even though that happens a lot and is often comical to me because they get so worked up about the most ridiculous things. I'm talking about real, bona fide sibling affection. For example, we were at Mass  on Sunday and the two of them were sitting in the pew next to one another paging through the missalette. Suddenly, Emma wrapped her arm around Matthew and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He in turn gave her a hug which they held for several seconds. After they released their embrace, Matthew touched his forehead to Emma's and whispered: "I just love you, Emma." They did not know I was watching so I know it was not put on as a show for me. It was a truly sincere display of the affection they have for one another. My little mommy heart nearly burst with joy at the sight. Those little monsters might drive me crazy most of the time, but they are certainly my pride and joy.

Guess which child was not afraid of the dinosaurs at this museum?

But not my pride and joy when it comes to their hatred for everything I have been baking lately. Matthew was bugging me all week to make blueberry muffins with him. We finally got around to baking them - and had a grand time while doing so - but then Matthew just completely refused to even try his creation.

"No thank you, I just look at them!" he told me nonchalantly as Emma happily began gulping down her fourth muffin.

What is wrong with this kid? As much as I enjoy cooking and baking with him, I want him to also enjoy the end product. Now he is requesting to bake sugar cookies (with frosting!) but I'm pretty sure I'm going to ignore him for fear the same thing may happen again.

Matthew's pickiness is precisely the reason I have begun baking desserts with more adult tastes because, let's be honest, the kids are probably not going to touch it anyway! Which is why I made my very first tiramisu the other night! Now, I have never ever eaten tiramisu before so I have no idea how this version stacks up against other, more authentic variations. However, I can state with full confidence that this was ridiculously delicious! Paul and I were in heaven while stuffing our faces with this fantastic dessert -full of coffee, whipped cream, chocolate, and booze! I eventually broke down and sent the remainder of the pan into work with Paul because otherwise we would have finished off the whole thing and I'm not sure either of us could deal with the guilt! The pan returned empty with many compliments from Paul's co-workers. I am beginning to build up quite a fan base over there. What a contrast from the upturned noses I get from my children. I love feeding engineers.

This recipe will definitely be made again soon! I'm already thinking that it would be perfect as a non-traditional addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table or possibly a fantastic sweet ending on Christmas Eve!

adapted from Cook's Illustrated, As seen on Brown Eyed Baker

2½ cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature
1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
6½ tablespoons Kahlua, divided
6 egg yolks
⅔ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold heavy cream, divided
24 ounces mascarpone cheese
14 ounces dried ladyfingers (savoiardi) - not the puffy, soft ladyfingers
3½ tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Stir coffee, espresso, and 2½ tablespoons Kahlua in a wide bowl or baking dish until espresso dissolves; set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat yolks at low speed until just combined. Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1½ to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once or twice. Add ⅓ cup of the heavy cream to yolks and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape bowl.

Set the bowl with yolks over a medium saucepan containing 1 inch of gently simmering water; cook, constantly scraping along bottom and sides of bowl with heatproof rubber spatula, until mixture coats back of spoon and registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir vigorously to cool slightly, then set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons Kahlua until combined. Transfer bowl to standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, add mascarpone, and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl and set aside.

In now-empty mixer bowl, beat the remaining cream at medium speed until frothy, 1 to 1½ minutes. Increase speed to high and continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the whipped cream into mascarpone mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set mascarpone mixture aside.

Working one at a time, drop half of ladyfingers into coffee mixture, roll, remove and transfer to 13 by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. (Do not submerge ladyfingers in coffee mixture; entire process should take no longer than 2 to 3 seconds for each cookie.) Arrange soaked cookies in single layer in baking dish, breaking or trimming ladyfingers as needed to fit neatly into dish.

Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers; use rubber spatula to spread mixture to sides and into corners of dish and smooth surface. Place 2 tablespoons cocoa in fine-mesh strainer and dust cocoa over mascarpone.

Repeat dipping and arrangement of ladyfingers; spread remaining mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers and dust with remaining 1½ tablespoons cocoa. Wipe edges of dish with dry paper towel. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours. Cut into pieces and serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

My entire family makes fun of the fact that I do not cook or serve a lot of meat-based dishes. This is not based on any food philosophy, dietary restriction, or generalized abhorrence of animal products but rather simply because I enjoy eating fruits and vegetables much more than meat. Thus, they normally take the center stage at mealtime. Everyone in my family feels sorry for Paul. Naturally, being a male, Paul must feel deprived by not being able to eat his fill of bloody, rare steaks on a regular basis. After all, a man has to eat man food - not effeminate dishes full of beets, carrots, and quinoa! I wish I was kidding when I admit that my parents are known for stocking our freezer full of bacon in honor of Paul's birthday.

However, I believe that meatless meals can still be just as flavorful and satisfying as those featuring chicken, beef, or pork. This vegetable lasagna is just one example - but it's a good one! It's packed full of awesome summer produce - zucchini, eggplant, summer squash - and then sandwiched between layers of pasta, chopped kalamata olives, a Parmesan cream sauce, a tomato-basil red sauce, and a generous sprinkling of Mozzarella. Oh my word, it's fabulous!

We made this lasagna for a dear friend who came over to dine with us earlier this week. I decided upon a vegetarian dish simply because I could not pass up on the beautiful produce at the farmer's market and because I love using the time the lasagna needs to bake in the oven to clean up all the mess from the dinnertime preparations. Nothing is worse than sitting down to dinner with a mountain of dirty dishes piled up behind you. Especially when company is over.

Anyway, our friend arrived with a bottle of imported Italian wine in hand, a bottle he had carefully selected to be paired with a good steak dinner since he was positive that Paul was going to be grilling that night. But instead, we plopped down a casserole dish of vegetable lasagna. I have to admit, I think he was a bit skeptical. He's definitely more of a "meat and potatoes" type of guy. However, he was a good sport and talked about how beautiful and delicious it looked. Then he took a bite - and the compliments continued - only this time, I could tell that he meant it! He kept talking about flavorful the entire dish was - the perfectly cooked vegetables, the perfectly seasoned sauce! He couldn't stop and was already digging into his second generous piece before I could finish my salad. I'm telling you folks, this meal is enchantingly delicious. It's not just me!

Do yourself a favor and make this. Make it, make it, make it! If you're not feeding a crowd, you might be eating lasagna for a few days. But that's ok! These are leftovers you'll look forward to enjoying!

Summer Vegetable Lasagna
from Cook's Illustrated Magazine

For the Tomato Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the Cream Sauce:
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 cup whole milk cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the Vegetable Filling:
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 pound yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
12 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 cup minced pitted kalamata olives
12 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

To make the tomato sauce, whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

To make the cream sauce, whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Line surface of large plate with double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over filters. Wipe out and reserve now-empty bowl. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, about 10 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that eggplant cooks evenly. Let cool slightly. Return eggplant to bowl and toss with zucchini and squash.

Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and thyme in small bowl. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half eggplant mixture, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add half of garlic mixture to clearing and cook, mashing with spatula, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine garlic mixture with vegetables and transfer to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant mixture, 2 tablespoons oil, and remaining garlic mixture.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining teaspoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to paper towel–lined plate and drain 2 minutes. Stir into eggplant mixture.

To assemble the lasagna, spray 13" x 9" baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish; shingle 4 noodles on top of sauce. Spread half of vegetable mixture over noodles, followed by half of olives, half of cream sauce, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining olives, remaining cream sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella. Place remaining 4 noodles on top layer of cheese. Spread remaining 1 cup tomato sauce over noodles and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Lightly spray large sheet of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray and cover lasagna. Bake until -bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack 25 minutes. Cut into pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Matthew's Favorite Snack

Matthew often gets ideas into his head for things he would like to do, see, or create and does not stop bugging me until they happen. For a while, he was determined to ride a roller coaster even though I'm' pretty sure he had no idea what a roller coaster was. Paul and I finally took him to an amusement park and fulfilled his dream. After completely terrifying him on that coaster ride, I think Matthew has had his fill of coasters for the next decade.

Then, he decided that he wanted a pet spider after seeing a caged Tarantula at the pet store. I worked for weeks trying to talk him out of that idea (and I never told my arachnophobic husband about it since I know the thought alone would keep him up at night). When I told Matthew the spider would eat Riley (our cat), he finally agreed that owning an arachnid was probably not the best idea. Now he's deathly afraid of spiders. Good job, Mom.

Note the lettering on Matthew's t-shirt.

Then there were the three months leading up to Emma's first birthday where Matthew talked nonstop about making her a strawberry cake. He even had me search Google for pictures of strawberry cakes so he could select the right one. It was cute at first, but quickly became irritating. I almost decided to move up her birthday celebration by a couple months just so we could bake it and be done with it.

Which brings me to the story behind Matthew's favorite snack, a snack that Matthew has been determined to make for over a year.

Matthew has been checking out the same 10 books from the library for what seems like forever. They are a variety of Thomas, Curious George, and Little Critter books that he just enjoys reading over and over. When we get to the library, I turn him loose in the Children's Section and then take Emma to the book return to drop-off our old books. By the time I have returned, he is sitting at one of the little tables with a stack of books completely identical to the ones we just returned. Goodness gracious, child! Variety is the spice of life!

One of these books is Curious George Picks Apples. The book is just about as exciting as it sounds. In fact, the title pretty much gives away the climax. At the end of this gripping tale, there are three "recipes" that kids can easily make using apples. One recipe in particular for "Apple Teeth" caught Matthew's attention and he would not stop begging me to make some apple teeth with him. "You need go to the grocery store, get some marshmallows, get some apples, and then we make the teeth!" he would remind me every time we entered a grocery store.

Finally, I got around to buying a bag of mini marshmallows and this has been Matthew's snack every single day this week. I think they're a bit disgusting looking, essentially some gruesome apple dentures. Although, I have to admit, the marshmallow and peanut butter combination is killer.

To make these delightful snacks: slice an apple. Spread a thin layer of creamy peanut butter on one side. Stick marshmallows along the curved side to resemble teeth. Repeat with all slices. Sandwich slices together to make a smiling mouth of teeth! Eat!

And Matthew's latest obsession? He wants a pet turtle. He's actually laying on the couch now "reading" a National Geographic Book on turtles while every once in a while making a plea for his case: "Mommy, turtles are nice. They don't bite. I pet the turtle. I sleep with the turtle. Turtles make eggs. We can eat the eggs for breakfast. Riley can't make eggs. Turtles do. Turtles swim in the bathtub with me....."

Not happening.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fresh Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze

We look froward to blueberry picking every year. Blueberry season normally spans approximately two months during which time different varieties of blueberries mature and ripen. The blueberries picked earlier in the season tend to be a bit more tart than those picked towards the end, meaning that each batch of berries tastes different!

Emma hated blueberry picking. She might have just been upset that I was making her walk around the blueberry patch and not carrying her in my arms. However, once she realized the large, blue berries hanging off the bushes in front of her were edible, she ceased her whining, plopped herself down under one of the nearby bushes, and proceeded to snack and munch for the remainder of our outing. Matthew was so excited to be out picking blueberries that I think he forgot to pick some. He ended up with about 20 berries in his bucket by the end. That's actually an improvement from the 10 he picked last year.

We brought home some beautiful berries that were a bit on the tart side. This, of course, did not stop us all from eating about two pounds of berries over a three day period. I managed to set aside a heaping cupful to use to make these blueberry sweet rolls.

Someone couldn't keep her hands off the freshly baked rolls!

Basically, these are made in the spirit of a cinnamon roll without the copious amounts of butter and sugar. Instead, the freshness of the fruit and brightness of the lemon are the true highlights of this breakfast treat. The dough is more like a sweet challah than a traditional cinnamon roll dough - but it's firmer texture is essential for holding in the juices from the berries! The original recipe calls for using frozen berries, but I found the cold berries actually inhibit the dough from baking all the way through in the middle while the outside of the rolls browned quickly. The best part about the rolls? The lemon glaze on the outside. I could eat that with a spoon!

The children enjoyed this breakfast treat, although they employed an unusual method to eat them. They picked out all the whole berries from the insides of the rolls, ate those first, and then proceeded to eat the rest of the bread. To each his own!

Fresh Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Lemon Glaze
adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

For the Rolls:
2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
2.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, at room temperature

For the Blueberry Filling:
1 and 1/3 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

For the Lemon Glaze:
Juice and zest from 1 large lemon
1 cup powdered sugar (or more as needed)
1-2 Tablespoons milk

First, make the filling by tossing the blueberries with the 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch. Set aside as you prepare the dough.

In a measuring cup, heat the water, milk, and butter in the microwave until it reaches about 115 degrees. If the temperature is higher than that when you remove it from the microwave, give it time to cool so you don't kill the yeast!

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 1/4 cups of the flour, salt, and the yeast. Mix briefly to combine. Mix in the milk mixture and then add the egg.  Mix well. Using a dough hook, knead the mixture while slowly adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time until a soft dough comes together. I only needed an additional 1/4 cup. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is soft, smooth, and elastic. This might take about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can remove the dough from the mixer and finish kneading it by hand on the countertop.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, roll it out into a 8 x 11" rectangle. Spread the blueberry filling evenly over the top and then roll up from the long side of the rectangle into a tight log. Cut the log into 10 pieces and place in a lightly greased pie pan. Cover and let rise for 2-3 hours in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

After the rolls have finished rising, slide them into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until they are lightly browned, covering with a sheet of foil during the last 10 minutes or so of baking to avoid over-browning. Let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the glaze.

To make the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, powdered sugar, and milk until a glaze consistency is reached. You can adjust the liquid or sugar to make the glaze as thick or thin as you like. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls while they are still warm.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Arugula

Beets were a vegetable that I absolutely detested while growing up. I really was not a picky eater at all, but beets were, in my opinion, one of the most disgusting things a person could eat. On a few occasions, my parents would try to convince us kids that beets are so sweet and rich that they "almost taste like candy." Their ploy might have succeeded in conning us into trying a beet, but after that first miserable bite all of us concurred that beets do not taste anything like candy. As in, if the neighbors suddenly started passing out beets instead of lollipops, licorice, and fun-size candy bars at Halloween, we would all most definitely forgo trick-or-treating that year.

I carried my disdain for beets well into college. When I first began dating my future husband, he revealed over a dinnertime conversation that he loved beets. I thought he was crazy and wondered how we could possibly make our relationship work if I hated something he loved so much.

Fast forward several years, Paul and I are newly married and enjoying dinner at a fine restaurant. On the menu was a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and an ice wine gastrique. It sounded fascinating and I decided to order it even though I hate beets. I figured I would just push them off to the side. But oh my word, when that salad arrived it looked so beautiful and perfectly put together that I decided in a temporary moment of insanity to give the beets another chance. I am so glad I did - the flavor and texture of the roasted beets were fantastic! They married together so nicely with the sweet vinaigrette and the tangy goat cheese. I inhaled the salad and really don't remember anything else I had for dinner that night because to me that salad was a revelation. I did like beets - especially when roasted. Maybe my taste buds have matured since childhood or maybe it was the preparation that convinced me that beets can be palatable.

Not a beet eater. Surprising, considering she eats anything else. Including cat food.

Not a beet eater. Totally unsurprising.

This salad is a fantastic way to serve roasted vegetables. The vegetables are tossed with a tangy vinaigrette while hot and then allowed to sit as they absorb it. They end up being so incredibly flavorful. When paired with the peppery arugula and creamy feta, this is something I would not mind eating several times a week. Beets and carrots are so beautiful and abundant at the farmer's markets right now that I'm sure I'll be making this wonderful salad several more times before the summer is through.

Oh, and Paul convinced Matthew to try a piece of the roasted beets: "Here's a beet. It kind of tastes like candy!" (Not that lie again!)

Matthew, while thoughtfully chewing the beet: "I like it! I like the beet!"

Paul: "Want to try another one?"

Matthew: "No!"

Maybe one day he'll be a beet convert like his mother.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Arugula
adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated Magazine, March/April 2008

1 pound beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges (cut the wedges in half crosswise if the beets are large)
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
6 ounces arugula (about 4 cups)
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss beets and carrots with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sugar in large bowl. Remove baking sheet from oven and, working quickly, carefully transfer beets and carrots to sheet and spread in even layer. (Do not wash bowl.) Roast until vegetables are tender and well-browned on one side, 20 -25 minutes (do not stir during roasting).

Meanwhile, whisk remaining tablespoon oil, vinegar, sugar, shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in now-empty bowl.

Toss hot vegetables with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette and cool until barely warm, about 20-30 minutes. Toss the arugula with the remaining vinaigrette and pile it onto a large serving platter. Arrange the roasted vegetables on top of the arugula. Sprinkle the feta cheese over the top of the vegetables. Serve!