Cheesecake Factory Inspired Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Thanks to childhood memories of a pickled beet tasting experiment gone terribly wrong, I’ve since avoided beets like the plague.

But as a woman searching for ways to thrive throughout menopause and beyond by eating nutritious foods, I simply can no longer ignore the health benefits of adding beets into my diet.

When I stopped by “The Healthy Kitchen” booth at my Farmer’s Market this past week, these gorgeous beets were on full display. Their beautiful, deep colors reminded me of the benefits of eating from the rainbow with a silent promise that phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals were just a nibble away.

Why Add Beets to My Shopping List?

After watching my grandmothers suffer from osteoporosis and macular degeneration, I’m especially interesting in finding foods that fight these diseases.

Beets are high in manganese which is essential for healthy bones, but they’re also high in antioxidants that help prevent cancer, slow down aging, and protect eye health.

Sold! Beets are in my shopping bag.  Now for the big question.

Which Recipe to Try?

For inspiration I turned to an unlikely source for a healthy meal – The Cheesecake Factory.

This restaurant is known for it’s abundance of indulgent and unhealthy offerings, but at my last rare visit I noticed they offer a  “SkinnyLicious” menu.  While lower in calories, most of the foods on this menu still don’t meet my standards for healthy eating, but one item caught my eye – a Beet Goat Cheese Salad.

When eating out, I search the salad section first because I’ve found it much easier to avoid temptations and stick to my plan if I load up on greens first.  I’m always hoping to find a new version of a salad so I can mix things up a bit while enjoying a fun and healthy meal.

This salad passed the test and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Since then I’ve tried many different beet salad variations, especially in farm to table restaurants, but have never prepared one myself.

How to Prepare

For my first try, I experimented with two different cooking methods.  I peeled half of the beets, chopped them before roasting, and tossed them with thyme (thanks for the inspiration Ina Garten).

The other half of the beets were simply wrapped whole in aluminum foil, roasted until done, then peeled and chopped.

My favorite version by far was the peeled, chopped, then roasted version.

I loved how this preparation caramelized the beets, sweetened the flavor,  and gave them a more palatable mouth feel – less grainy and more like a roasted potato for those beet newbies who are a little hesitant to give them a try.

Pairing them with a taste bud favorite like oranges and adding some creamy goat cheese and crunchy walnuts is a great first time recipe if you’re like me and want to at least give them a fair shot at being invited back to the family dinner table.

Beets are too nutritionally valuable to sit on the sidelines any longer, so experiment yourself and let me know which version is your favorite.

Check out the Barefoot Contessa roasted beet recipe here.

 

Cheesecake Factory Inspired Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Yield: 2 dinner salads or 4 side salads

Cheesecake Factory Inspired Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium size beets
  • 1 large or 2 small oranges
  • 4 to 6 cups of mixed greens
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar, or vinegar of choice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. With a vegetable peeler, peel the beets. If available, use food prep gloves to avoid staining your hands.
  3. Cut the beets into 1 to 2 inch chunks or half moons.
  4. Place on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, thyme leaves if desired, sea salt, and pepper.
  5. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes until tender, tossing halfway thru the cooking time. They are done when you can easily insert a fork into the beets.
  6. While they are roasting, make your dressing and prepare your salad.
  7. Cut your orange in half. Remove the peel and pith from one half and cut into slices.
  8. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half into a small jar. Add the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add a dash of salt and pepper and shake well.
  9. Toss the lettuce with 1/3 of the dressing. Arrange on a plate and add the oranges.
  10. Once the beets are done, toss them with 1/3 of the dressing and add to the salad.
  11. Sprinkle the goat cheese and walnuts on top.
  12. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.
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