Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Lately I’ve been on a dessert kick where the main ingredient is a vegetable. First there was that Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chunks, followed by the Pumpkin Cheesecake. I also baked a splendid carrot cake for my sister’s birthday and now – Chocolate Beet Cupcakes.

I’ve been skipping the baking aisle at the grocery store and taking my inspiration for desserts straight from the vegetable stand at my local market.

And why not? It’s harvest time and the season’s bounty can be used for more than roasted vegetables side dishes – although we love those too. Don’t you feel just a wee bit better about downing a serving of what is usually an indulgent dessert when you know it is actually crammed with nutritional value?
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Weekend Links

Roasting Vegetables 101: Simple, Seasonal Side Dishes

We’ve been reveling in the recent fall weather; getting out for frequent walks, sitting around the fire down at the back of our property, and relishing the cooler temperatures and lack of bugs. When my husband and I think back to the stress of last fall – buying and selling a house, a sick child, and career shifts – we’re even more grateful for the calm that this season holds for us. Sure, it is busy, but there is a constant peace in our home life now that refuses to be ruffled, even as the bustle of the holidays approaches.

Now that it feels like the autumn chill is here to stay, I like nothing better than coming indoors from invigorating play and cranking up the oven to warm the kitchen – and roast vegetables for the night’s dinner.

Side dishes don’t get much simpler than roasted vegetables. Three ingredients – fresh produce, salt and olive oil – are all that is needed to transform the vegetables from crisper drawer contents to elegant side dish.

The other all-important element? High heat. It brings out the flavors of the vegetables, enhances their natural sweetness, and crisps up the edges into tantalizing bites.
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DIY: Homemade Yogurt


My sister, Haidi, was kind enough to pass along her method for making homemade yogurt to me. Since hers is the best I’ve ever had, it’s only fair that I share it with you. All I ask is that you, in turn, pass it on to someone else.

I started making yogurt when my youngest, now seven, started eating solids. Feeling uncertain about the benefits of store-bought, pasteurized milk, I decided that the least I could do was give her something which I knew was beneficial for her developing digestive system. Cultured milk products contain “good bacteria” which help build a healthy immune system and aid digestion.

Besides, I am not a milk drinker, but I do love yogurt. So anyway, my eldest ate yogurt. I’m happy to say that she still enjoys yogurt because I mixed everything you could think of into it. I should qualify that statement: everything healthy.
She ate it with chopped sprouts, grated carrot and cucumber, brewer’s yeast, minced parsley, finely ground seeds and nuts – oh, fresh fruit as well.


I have made yogurt countless times over the last few years, and I would say I have fine-tuned the process. I usually make a gallon, which lasts our family about two weeks. I have used all kinds of milk including raw cow and goat milk. My preference is for raw milk, but if that is not available, I try to use organic. If I find it on clearance, all the better – I bring it home and make a batch that day.
So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Haidi’s Homemade Yogurt

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 cup good-quality plain whole-fat yogurt

In a large pot, slowly heat the milk to 180 F, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool to 110 F. As the milk is cooling, I measure the starter (yogurt) into a bowl to allow it to warm a little.

Wash 5 quart jars and lids and fill with hot tap water.

Prepare your method of incubation:
There are many ways to incubate yogurt. I have used these two with good success.

The first is a small down comforter which I put in my laundry basket and line with a dishtowel. The second is to use my camping cooler.

You will no doubt come up with your own method which is most convenient for you. In the center of my incubator of choice, I place a couple of quarts of hot water (120 F) to help maintain the heat during the incubation process.


So, the jars are ready, the incubator is ready, the starter is sitting out, and the milk is cooled to 110 F. Take a ladle-full of the milk and stir it gently into the starter. Now pour the starter into the pot of milk and stir again. Empty the jars of hot water into the sink ( I use the water to wash my yogurt dishes) and pour the milk into the jars.

Wipe clean, screw on lids, and place in incubator. The yogurt should be ready in six hours.

If it still seems thin when you tilt the jars, leave for a couple more hours. The cooler the temperature of the incubator is, the longer it will take to set, which will also produce a tarter flavor.

If you accidentally let your milk get too cool, just turn it back on and carefully bring it back to 110. If your yogurt doesn’t turn out perfect the first time, don’t be discouraged. It will still make great smoothies. Try a different brand of yogurt starter and see if that makes a difference.

I have converted several friends to making their own yogurt when they saw how easy it is, and how much money it saves. Besides, it’s so much fresher than store bought.

Homemade – it’s the best!

* All photos by Haidi. Written by Haidi.

Spotlight Ingredient: Brussels Sprouts

When the first stalks of brussels sprouts appear at my local market in the fall, I greet them with the same enthusiasm as I do a basket of strawberries in the spring.

I can finally bypass the staunch, yet stodgy broccoli and bring home a vibrant green vegetable that I’m excited to cook.

I’ve always loved brussels sprouts, perhaps because my father always took such delight in them whenever we ate them growing up; the British, are, after all, the top consumers of sprouts, and my dad hails from across the pond. Brussels sprout lovers are aptly labeled, lovers, and most can wax poetic over the little green sprouts all the day long.

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