Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monthly Mingle - A Taste of Yellow for Barbara

Pickled Golden Beets, Cucumber and Zucchini Salad
Cancer is indiscriminate, the deadly tendrils snake it's way into the fabric of our lives without care. Those stricken are left to suffer and decide how to live the rest of their lives. That is, if they are fortunate enough to have a choice. Loved ones are heart struck and numb in their efforts to be supportive and desperate make it all better, easier. As if will power alone could make it so.

I lost my grandfather, "Smokey Joe" before I got to know him. What a loss to never know his love and feel that special connection. There are vague memories of visiting him in the Sister's Hospital, facing the ocean. I can't say now if they are real or imagined. I was so small. Mom says he carried a lock of my red hair in his wallet. My heart says he loved me.

Cancer, so pervasive, it has touched all of us. A grandfather, uncle, aunt, sister, mother, or friend or even pet. There is no escape. With outreached heart I have witnessed dear friends struggle to get through the treatments. Each with a bravery and spirit I don't know if I could muster given the same circumstances. Helpless on the sidelines. Whether a world away or next door we wait, praying and hoping it will all get better. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.

We have learned much about cancer through research and science. Treatments have improved and in some areas the survival rate has increased. But the heartache of the journey is never made easy. That is why the true courage and personal fortitude of someone like Barbara Harris of provides inspiration and awe as a life well lived. Diagnosed in 2004, she fought the good fight with honesty, grace, humor and compassion as a human, and blogger.  She inaugurated a Taste of Yellow across the blog-o-sphere in 2007 to raise cancer awareness in conjunction with Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Foundation. Regardless how you might feel about Lance, the ubiquitous yellow bracelets urge us all to LiveStrong. Year after year bloggers joined in with inspiring memories, recipes and images. Dear Barbara lost her battle this June.

To honor her memory, this month friends Meeta (What's for Lunch Honey) and Jeanne (Cooksister) have rallied for an ultimate Taste of Yellow, Monthly Mingle as a tribute. You still have time to participate if you want to!

Make or bake something yellow (sweet or savory), or something using yellow ingredients. Let your imagination run wild: lemons, yellow peppers, yellow plums, yellow carrots, yellow squash - the possibilities are endless! Participant directions at the above link to Cooksister.

Whether you blog or not why not celebrate and participate in the remaining days of the month? Take a moment and have a taste of yellow, say their names aloud. Barbara, Beth, Andrea, Mimi, Fawn, John, Frank, David and Christopher.

A call to remember, raise awareness and honor those we've lost but to also cheer on our loves that are fighting through it, and a celebration for survivors who have won a reprieve.

My Taste of Yellow tribute starts with golden beets, fresh from the earth.

Farmer's Market Fresh Golden Beets

They almost look orange don't they? But wait for their transformation. Pickled Beets were a favorite my Dad whipped up from time to time. Only enough for a quart jar in the 'fridge, but oh, so tasty. Spoiled me forevermore. At the salad bars or grocery store, my disappointment finds mushy, spice challenged and bland offerings. Bleh, really? Granted, Dad prepared the traditional red beets, but the cloves, cinnamon pickling spice flavors were embedded in my taste buds. Why not with golden beets? Something yellow.

Spiced and pickled golden beets

Once pickled, what better compliment to your salad?
The one below is simple napa cabbage leaves, zucchini wrapped in wafer thin cucumber, pecans and dried cranberries. A drizzle of white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Wouldn't a sprinkle of goat cheese be lovely too?

Recipe for Pickled Beets
Makes about one 8 oz Jar.

4 whole fresh golden beets, tops trimmed, roots on
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup reserved beet juice
1/3 cup white vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon
Pickling Spices
4 whole Cloves
2 whole Allspice
1 Star Anise
1 stick Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon whole Mustard Seeds
6 Tasmanian Peppercorns (or black peppercorns)
2 Lemon Zest strips (1/2" x 4")

  1. Wrap pickling spices in cheesecloth, tie with butcher's string to make a bundle.
  2. Scrub and trim tops of beets, but leave roots and peels on (they will peel very easily once cooked.)
  3. Cook beets covered in water with 1 tablespoon white vinegar (which will help retain the color) and spice bundle. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium. Cook for 30-40 minutes until tender. 
  4. Drain liquid, reserving at least 1/3 cup. Cool beets so you can peel and cut in quarters or smaller wedges.
  5. Put sugar, beet juice and vinegar in a medium saucepan with the cut beets and I reused my spice bundle. Bring liquid up to a boil then turn off. Cool, remove bundle and place in a sterile jar. 
  6. I added more spices to my jar because I like intense flavors. That is up to you. Keep pickled beets in the refrigerator for several weeks (if you don't eat them up right away!)

In Barbara's Words:

A Taste of Yellow - LiveStrong


  1. Your photography, your phraseology, your sleev'd heart. May your recipe warm our collective souls and your words sooth our life-deep aches. Nice posting. How about blue cheese crumbles on the salad?

    1. Thank you my friend. I will try and remember the cheese crumbles next go round.

  2. Such a beautiful, thoughtful post, Robin. Your photography is becoming more dazzling all the time...

    1. Thank you Jenn for continuing your visits and heartfelt comments.

  3. Such wonderful words Robin. Thank you! Love these bright yellow beets they bring a smile to my face. Great to have you join us!

    1. Monthly Mingle was my first introduction to the fabulous Meeta and Jeanne only two short years ago. A virtual potluck that has literally changed my life. Thank you dearling Meeta for continued inspiration.

  4. What a beautiful, heartfelt post, Robin. Cancer is such a scourge and strikes like lightning. I lost a friend to cervical cancer, aged only 29 - which is about the time I realised that we all need to start living as if we don't actually have forever ahead of us. LOVE these yellow beets - I have only had them in Sweden as they are not too common here in England. Your pickling spices sound phenomenal too - thanks for taking part this month and for being a gracious lady and a good friend :)

    1. Only to honored to participate this month and giving voice to our dear friends Jeanne! (Spices work with the red beetroots you have your way I bet!)

  5. Such a wonderful post and delicious-looking recipe!

  6. great post! I have sent a link of it to a friend who is looking for a pickled beets recipe :)

    1. I hope your friend likes the results, we did! Thank you for your kind comment.

  7. i love the way the golden beetroot look in the salad. what a great idea.

  8. Such a beautiful tribute to Barbara and to every loved one we have lost to this and other tragic illnesses. Your words never fail to touch. And these beets, an ode to your dad, are lovely and I am intrigued. I've never had pickled beets but they do sound like they'd be perfect with goat cheese.

    1. This was a tough post to write, the beets and photos far easier. Often times, people just serve them boiled, what a shame to a lovely root. I hope you find some good ones in your travels. Thanks Jamie!


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