ya can’t beet a brownie

I don’t know about you but I love brownies. Rich, chocolatey, cakey, satisfying brownies. No nuts. No frosting. No edges. (I’m a center of the pan kinda girl.) I love those classic, foundation of many a bake sale and potluck, way better than a slice of cake treats— But I almost never make them. Why? Because while they exude an air of nostalgia and casual effortlessness, they are in fact persnickety little monsters and total baking with ease impostors. Let me explain..

Over bake them and they’re tough and chewy, sticking to the pan and in your teeth. Under bake them and they’re a mushy, gooey, fall apart mess. And then there’s the cooling factor. Even if you time the baking exactly right you still have to let them cool an inordinate amount of time before even attempting to cut into them. Can’t fight you’re impatient inner child and start slicing while they’re still too warm… Hello stuck to the knife brownie mess! And honestly, whom among us hasn’t been lured into making a batch (whether it be from scratch or boxed) only to end up standing at the counter scraping bits of brownie off the bottom of the pan, smushing them together to create a pitiful brownie lump and shoveling them into your mouth so as to not have your efforts wasted. All the while swearing “NEVER AGAIN”. I know, I’m with you. I’ve totally been there. Which is why it’s all the more surprising that I decided out of the blue to make brownies from scratch. Perhaps I was feeling invincible or perhaps I was simply feeling that keeping up with work, kids and home wasn’t enough of a challenge that week. Whatever the case may have been there I was whipping up a batch of brownies for two sick kids. (Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that my kids were both home sick from school. Yup, they were. Two sick kids. Both home. Two days. Good times.) Anyway… Amid the chaos that was last week I decided to make brownies, no doubt as much for myself as for them.

I’m a bit of a recipe pack-rat; squirreling away magazine pages, newspaper clippings and dozens of forwarded to myself emails containing recipes that I plan to make “someday”. One of the scraps of paper at the top of my pile was a brownie recipe from C for Food & Agriculture. (If you’re not familiar with Stone Barnes then by all means you should be, it’s an incredible place with an equally amazing restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns smack at the center.) The recipe was for rich, decadent brownies with a subtle orange flavor and beets as the secret ingredient. This wasn’t the first time I had decided to sneak beets into my baked goods, remember those yummy Chocolate Cake Donuts with Chocolate Ganache, so I jumped right in. I knew the beets would add moisture and texture to the mix and that once cool, their flavor would be virtually undetectable. And I was right, they were delicious! Rich, moist and chocolatey with just the right hit of orange and just the right amount of soul soothing decadence to make this harried mom and her two sick kids feel momentarily better.

The kids are thankfully on the mend and everyone will be heading back to school (and work) tomorrow, perhaps with a tasty little square of Orange-Beet Brownie tucked into their lunch boxes. Unless of course I tell them the brownies are all gone and secretly polish off the rest myself. A little white tie never hurt anyone and frankly, I think I’ve earned it.

Orange-Beet Brownies
Once these babies are cool no one would ever guess they contain beets!

beet brownie3

3 small beets, trimmed
8 oz. good-quality bittersweet chocolate (such as Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
1 stick salted butter, diced
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
zest of 1 orange
3 tbsp. orange juice, divided
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour*
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

  1. To make the beet purée: Preheat oven to 400°F, wrap the beets in foil and roast for 45 minutes or until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. Let cool until they can be handled easily, then peel and dice. (I usually do this the day before I plan to bake the brownies.)
  2. Add diced beets and 1 tablespoon of orange juice to the bowl of a food processor and blend to a purée, set aside to cool.
  3. Lower oven temp to 350°F and lightly grease an 8×8 pan, set aside.
  4. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the diced butter and let melt, stirring often.
  5. In another bowl, beat the sugar with the eggs until smooth and creamy. Stir in the orange zest and remaining orange juice, puréed beets and flour. Then slowly add the melted chocolate and beat until fully combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan before removing to a rack. Then cool for another 15 minutes before attempting to cut. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy!

*To make gluten-free self-rising flour: Combine 2 cups of gluten-free flour with 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Whisk to combine.

*inspired by stone barnes center

ya can’t beet a donut

Four weeks ago I set out to convert each and every one of you into whole-hearted beet and blue cheese lovers. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, but I have learned a few things along the way. 1. Beets can inadvertently dye a white t-shirt the most lovely shade of purple. 2. Don’t buy cheap pre-crumbled blue cheese, it tastes nothing like a good quality wedge. Spend the extra few dollars, it will make a huge difference. 3. A sizable consumption of beets will turn your urine red. Don’t panic! Think back on what you’ve eaten recently, then laugh at yourself for being such a nervous nelly. 4. Stop throwing out those beet greens. Eat them raw, sauté them with some garlic, throw them in some soup. They’re full of nutrients and deserve a little more love and a little less composting!

As the culminating recipe for my of my month of b & b I wanted to give you something truly unexpected, a recipe that you never saw coming and which perhaps makes you question my sanity. Are you ready? Is the anticipation killing you? Okay here goes. Here is my families all time favorite way to eat beets… as the secret ingredient in chocolate donuts! Sounds crazy right? It’s not. Well okay it’s kinda, but no matter, it’s a fantastic way to get a boost of natural sweetness, give your chocolate goodie a deeper more intense color and enjoy all the health benefits of beets without actually having to commit to eating a beet. I know some of you reading this are positive that you would be able to taste the mere cup and a half of puréed beet in this recipe, and for that very reason you would never consider doing something so unthinkable to a perfectly lovely chocolate donut. Here’s what I have to say to all you sceptical naysayers… change is good, embrace it. I promise that no matter how hard you try to detect the taste of beet in these babies, you won’t be able to. Seriously, once they’ve cooled and been glazed it’s impossible to taste anything but deliciousness.

And it is with that dear reader that I wrap up my month of beets and blues. But never fear, this won’t be the last time I feature a recipe with these ingredients. (I still have a few little gems up my sleeve just waiting for the right reveal.) I hope you enjoyed my little food exploration and discovered a few things about these two foods so near and dear to my heart that a month ago you never knew— including perhaps that you actually love them as much as I do.

Chocolate Cake Donuts (with beets) & Chocolate Ganache
If you don’t tell people about the secret ingredient they’ll never guess it’s anything but good ol’ chocolate glazed donut.

beet donut lilly*2

1 1/2 cups puréed beets (about 3 medium)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. espresso powder
3 tsp. dark cocoa powder
chocolate ganache glaze (recipe below)

  1. To make beet puree: Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim the stems off the beets and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap them tightly, place the bundle in a pie tin and roast for an hour or until the tines of a fork easily pierce the beet. Allow them to cool so that you can handle them, peel off the skins, dice them and place the beets in a food processor. Process until a smooth puree forms and set aside. (I often roast and puree my beets a day or two in advance.)
  2. Grease or spray two donut pans and set aside.* In a mixing bowl, cream together 3/4 cup (1 stick plus 4 tbsp.) butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the sides after each addition.
  3. In a small saucepan or the microwave, melt together the chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) butter, stirring until smooth. Allow to cool slightly before adding the melted chocolate, beets and vanilla to the creamed butter mixture. Mix well, the batter will appear a bit separated but not to worry.
  4. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, espresso powder and cocoa. In two separate batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Fill each doughnut form half way with batter. (I find it’s easiest to pour the batter into a ziplock bag, snip off one corner and pipe it into the pan.) Bake in a 375°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they spring back when touched.
  6. When the donuts are finished baking carefully transfer them to racks and allow them to fully cool, they are VERY crumbly while they are still warm.
  7. Glaze the tops of each donut with the ganache either by dunking or spreading it on. The ganache will firm up as it sets, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying one right away!

*I have also used this recipe to make a bundt cake which I then drizzled with the ganache. Bake in a well-greased and floured bundt pan for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

*adapted from straight from the farm

Chocolate Ganache
It doesn’t get much easier or tastier than this three ingredient ganache.

4 oz. bar semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling cream over chocolate and stir until smooth. Add in the vanilla, stir and let cool slightly then glaze away!

Hello world!

My name is Jan Greco, welcome to my kitchen…

I come from a long line of women who show their love through food. It’s probably not a coincidence that my interest in cooking really took off after my son was born. I don’t consider myself a “foodie”; in my opinion that term rings of pretension and elitism. Rather I’m a girl who enjoys making and eating good food. I love going to the farmers market with my family on Saturday mornings and I just recently discovered the joys of raised bed gardening. So if you’re like me and enjoy shopping for the ingredients almost as much as preparing the meal, then greetings soul-sister. (But be forewarned… If we should meet in the store one day and both reach for the last wedge of Wensleydale, I’m not above throwing elbows to get it!) However having said all that, if store brand is the best you can do, then that’s perfectly fine by me as well. I think the act of cooking; the time, thought and care that you put into creating something delicious for someone you love is more important than using the finest San Marzano tomatoes or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla.

I’ve been told in the past that I should open a restaurant or start catering, which made me think “maybe I actually do have something interesting to say about food and some recipes to share.”  My plan for this blog is to post weekly about the kind of food I enjoy thinking about, preparing and eating. Food that’s simple, delicious and looks much more involved than it actually is.

In my mind the perfect example of simple, easy and delicious would be a salad of roasted beets, toasted walnuts and creamy blue cheese.

And so a blog was born…

Roasted Beets with Walnuts and Blue Cheese
I often make this salad with a mix of golden and purple beets,
but it’s just as delicious if you choose to use all purple instead.

2 1/2 lbs. of beets
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup walnuts, toasted

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Remove the greens from the beets, scrub well and place in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil. Gather sides of foil together to make a little beet package and place on a baking pan or cookie sheet. Roast beets until a fork easily pierces them, approximately 1 1/2-2 hours.
  2. While beets are roasting toast the walnuts and set aside. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and salt.
  3. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into small wedges.
  4. Gently toss together the beets and blue cheese and add in the walnuts (breaking up any overly large pieces). Drizzle with vinaigrette (you may not need it all), give another gentle toss and serve immediately or chill.