1% Better: Diet

It’s hard to make an abrupt change in your diet. You can stick with it for a while, but then you start to cheat a little, and then it all falls apart. Instead of an abrupt change, I’m making small changes as part of a system to improve my eating habits over the long term. I don’t have any rules like gluten free, paleo, no carb, or anything like that. I’m just starting to replace less healthy foods with healthier options. Here are a few of the meal changes I’ve made recently:

  • I gave up french fries. Today every restaurant offers an alternative sides menu. I don’t regularly eat out, but when I do, I’m only ordering an alternative side.
  • Finish that bag of salad. Whenever I buy a bag of lettuce it always goes bad before I finish it. They seem to have a shelf life of no more than three days in the fridge. Now when I buy lettuce, which I try to do on every trip to the store, I eat some at each meal to ensure I finish it.
  • I replaced my deli lunch sandwiches with pita pocket sandwiches. I generally use turkey, cheese, and mustard. When I ran out of pita pockets I made tortilla wraps.
  • I substituted ground turkey for hamburger in tacos. I use the 99% fat free turkey.
  • I used zucchini and squash as meat substitutes in a few dishes.
  • I stepped up my block cheese for snacking on from the cheap stuff to the deli cheeses. They’re so much richer in flavor.
  • I know crackers are bad and loaded with simple carbs. I’m replacing some of my cheese and cracker snacks with baby carrots and hummus.
  • To get more variety of veggies (I eat lots of broccoli) I bought a bag of frozen stir fry veggies and made stir fry and rice.

Pickled Beets!

An important followup on canning safety will be coming soon. I probably didn’t process these long enough. Recommendations are 30-35 minutes. The recipe I used only called for 10. 

 

Last Saturday I harvested 6 lbs of beets from my garden. I have never had a harvest this big before so I wanted to find a good use for them. I chose to pickle them because that can be done with a boiling-water canner. Canning raw (not pickled) beets requires a pressure canner, which I don’t have.

Planting & Harvesting

I planted Detroit Dark Red Beets on June 5th before heading to Texas for the summer. While I was away, my family watered the garden, but it doesn’t look like the beets got thinned out very much. Since beets are a cool weather crop, I wasn’t sure how they would do during the summer months. Last year I did not have good luck. Thankfully this year was cooler and much wetter.

I harvested the beets on August 17th, 73 days after planting. This species is ready for harvest at 60 days but since I was travelling I was not able to harvest at the correct time. The beets were roughly evenly split between 2, 1.5 and 1 inch diameters. Most of the smaller ones were due to not being planted far enough apart. Leaving beets in the ground too long can make them tougher. During the cooking process they softened up and were easily pierced with a fork. I won’t know for another month if the taste was impacted. 

Recipe

I looked at several recipes and youtube videos for ideas. I ended up using this recipe since it did not call for many spices.

  • 10 lbs beets (I used 6 lbs)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups beet brine
  • 4 cups vinegar
  • 1 tbs pickling salt
  • Whole cloves

I split the beets into large and small sizes to cook separately. Leave 1 inch of greens on the beets while cooking so the skin does not fall off. The large beets cooked for 30 minutes and the small beets for 25. After cooking, I could easily pierce the beets with a fork and the skins fell right off under cold water.

Next I mixed the brine, sugar, vinegar, and salt together and brought it to a boil for 10 minutes. I sanitized half-pint jars (smaller than I expected!) in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then I quartered the beets and put them in jars, added 2 whole cloves, and poured in the brine, leaving 1 inch head space in the jar. The jars were processed in boiling water for 10 minutes. (Research the appropriate time for your area. The recommended minimum is 30 minutes! oops)

I ended up with 6 and a half pints. 

Storage

Pickled beets should be stored in a cool dark area. I choose the refrigerator. I’ll let them sit for one month before I sample them. They should keep for up to one year.