Tasty Tuesdays: Meet Emily from Oat & Sesame

Emily from Oat and Sesame

"I am just a firm believer in the wise old saying 'Eat your vegetables!' And I encourage others to do so! If not for the environment - do it for your health!" -Emily Brees

Welcome to Tasty Tuesdays! Are you hungry? Want to "beet" those hunger cravings? Me too! I am thrilled and honored to introduce the talented and lovely Emily from Oat & Sesame who continually inspires me with her delicious beet recipes and culinary creativity. Have you tried Chocolate Beetloaf or Beet Burgers? Both are a must, and your kiddos (and resistant veggie eaters in the family) may even start asking for more beets on their plates!

In this Tasty Tuesday's interview, Emily shares 5 delicious beet recipes, tips for making our environment a more sustainable place, and incredible travel adventures which include eating her way through countries all over the world! 

MEET EMILY: extraordinary cook, passionate gardener, food enthusiast, adventurous traveler, fabulous program coordinator, and kitty lover (seriously, her cats Rootbeer and Della are too cute for words!).

 Interview with Emily Brees from Oat & Sesame

1. Tell us about yourself and your website: Oat & Sesame. What do you write about, and what inspired you to launch Oat & Sesame? 

"I always find talking about myself to be so difficult! Let's see, I live in Scranton, Pennsylvania which is in the northeast corner of the state. I'm fairly new to this area, but I have already grown to love so many aspects of it.  I'm surrounded by rolling hills, farmland and I can take day trips to New York City! Really, it's a perfect location.  I've lived all over though, I grew up in Chicago, had a stint in Asheville, NC, hopped on over to Tucson, AZ for 6 years, north Florida for awhile and finally landed here in Scranton, PA. One day I'll be back in Arizona. That's my place. But for now, both my husband and I work for the university here. 

I love gardening! Now I didn't say I'm a great gardener, but I make some pretty big attempts at it. It's all a learning process.     I manage two community gardens in my neighborhood - one that grows food for the local food banks. I just love being outdoors and working in the dirt! And I love rhubarb. Anything rhubarb. I'll have a rhubarb week on Oat & Sesame coming up soon.

I spend most of my time hiking, biking, cooking and soaking in all the summer warmth possible. The winters are long and gray here, but the spring, summer and fall are glorious. Let's just forget about winter for now.

Why did I start Oat & Sesame? I wish there was some super impressive reason I could offer here, but well, there just isn't. I started Oat & Sesame to share recipes. I have a background in marketing and dabbled in graphic design - I needed a new creative outlet. However, as I continue to blog, I find myself delivering more than just recipes. I hope that I have inspired someone to cook for themselves and live a healthier life. I've found that it's a way to connect to others to share in life's imperfections. And most recently I've been working on a special features section called Source{d} that highlights different aspects of our food system and takes a look a some companies that are out there making a difference in the world. So while I started it to share recipes, it continues to evolve and takes me along for the ride!"

2. Your beautiful website features several beet recipes. Why do you cook with beets? 

"I didn't grow up eating beets. In fact, it wasn't until several years ago that I incorporated them into my eating habits. I think my dad used to eat them out of a can - but I'm not sure.

Beets are probably one of the most under-utilized veggies out there.  First and foremost, they are easy to prepare and both the greens and the beets themselves store well. Beets are the kind of veggie that you can buy and not worry about in the fridge for a week as long as you trim the greens and store roots and greens in a sealed Ziploc. Go ahead and go on vacation and they'll be waiting for you. They are often my back up plan for lazy weeknight meals. Wrap them in foil and roast them for an hour - that's it.  Peel the skins, chop them and toss with pasta or just eat them by themselves with some goat cheese, sliced almonds and don't forget to saute those delicious beet greens. It really can't get much easier.

Tasty Tuesdays Beetloaf

Beets are also great for baking and result in very moist baked goods - just like pumpkin. My neighbor has trouble getting her five year old triplets to eat vegetables, so I baked them into a chocolate beetloaf for her and the boys loved it! It may seem strange to add beets to baked goods, but this is not something new age - my grandmother's recipe book has several handwritten recipes for chocolate cake made with beets."

3. What are your favorite beet recipes on your blog, and why? 

Tasty Tuesdays Beet and Black Bean Burgers

"I believe that the best way to eat beets is to savor the simplest form. So my favorite way is to eat them as a salad. One of the very first recipes I posted on Oat & Sesame was a Warm Beet & Greens Salad.

I also really enjoy beets in my  Black Bean and Beet Burgers. I once tried to convince my dad that these were in fact real hamburgers - being that they are pink and all - he saw right through my trick but he enjoyed the burger nonetheless. Anything in patty form that I can make ahead and freeze are high on my list.

There are two new beet recipes on Oat & Sesame that are easy and super healthy. 

Tasty Tuesdays Black Bean and Rice Bowl with Golden Beets

The first one is my Tropical Black Bean and Rice Bowl which uses golden beets. Those are my favorite kind. They are much more mild than red beets and less messy! Plus in this recipe the beets look just like mango pieces so it's easy to trick picky kids into eating beets! 

The other recipe is for Golden Panzanella.  If you've never made panzanella - it's an Italian salad featuring toasted bread cubes.  The cubes soak up all the delicious juices from the dressing and the rest of the salad ingredients. It's pretty tasty!  This one features citrus, golden beets, sunflower seeds and pistachios with a sumac vinaigrette.  All of these are bright, sunny flavors for spring."


4. Your website features many tips for successful gardening and “eating your way to a better carbon footprint.” Can you expand how our eating habits effect the environment? What are some ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint and help our planet? 

"The environment is sensitive and highly debated subject, but what is often left out of that conversation is how our food, our food system and our daily choices directly affect it. I recently did some research on this topic for Earth Day at the university I work for. Bottom line is that by adopting a plant based diet you can have a greater impact on climate change than let's say recycling or taking shorter showers. Animal agriculture is a water hog (no pun intended!), pollutes our water and air, is responsible for most of the deforestation of the rainforest and let's not even start with the health-related illnesses that are a direct result from a diet rich in animal products and low in plants.

I do believe that dietary choices are our own and I do eat meat from time to time. I am just a firm believer in the wise old saying "Eat your vegetables!" And I encourage others to do so! If not for the environment - do it for your health!" 


5. On your website, you share many food adventures while traveling. What are some of your most memorable "traveling and eating" experiences? Why?

"Traveling is really one big eating experience. Sometimes I feel like we go on vacation just to eat! I find that most of our memories whether it be traveling or just in our day to day lives revolves around food. The act of making food together or just dining with friends and loved ones - food is always a centerpiece in our lives.

I'm pretty lucky because every summer I accompany my husband who is a college professor and a group of his students on a study abroad trip. In fact, I'm about to embark on a trip to Prague and Amsterdam at the end of the month! 

My favorite food-related travel memories usually involved finding some secret locale. Somewhere off the beaten path. Someplace where we have no idea how to read the menu and we just try what we think might be delicious."

"I can remember about 8 years ago we were in Kyoto, Japan. Our ryokan (like a Japanese B&B) was sort of out of the main tourist area. We arrived later in the evening and needed to find someplace to eat. The streets were dark and there wasn't much around.  We stumbled across an open restaurant, walked in and it was like the whole restaurant went silent and everyone was staring at us. Yep, we were the only crazy white people in a restaurant teeming with Japanese locals. Needless to say, there was no English menu, there wasn't even a menu I don't think.  We just looked around at what people we eating and starting pointing. We ate an entire plate of some sort of roasted green peppers that were amazing. We were really tired of eating pickled food and rice.  You get a lot of that in Japan.

More recently, in Barcelona, Spain I had researched a bunch of restaurants.  I typically go on trips armed with all the food related knowledge possible. I've done a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor.com. Anyways, we went looking for one particular place. And you have the address, you know you're standing in front of it, but you just can't find it. Usually because it doesn't look like a restaurant and there is no sign. That's always a good way to know you've found something special.  We walked a few inches into the doorway - well because that was really all the space there was- and waited for someone to notice. After a short wait we got a table. In Spain you just drink wine at every meal, so I ordered a little carafe and then we proceeded to order some of the most delicious small plates of food imaginable. Especially the artichokes. I don't think I'll ever have artichokes that well prepared and delicious ever again.  You can see some of the food I devoured in Barcelona in my Traveling & Eating section on Oat & Sesame (blame the bad photography on the vino!)

Keep an eye out later this summer for my Traveling & Eating post from Prague and Amsterdam!" - Emily Brees

Tasty tuesdays with oat and sesame.jpg

A Note from Just Beet It

Emily says, "Food is always a centerpiece in our lives." This statement truly resonates with me as some of my greatest food memories involve preparing meals in the kitchen with my mom and grandma, savoring fresh Pain au Chocolat (a.k.a. chocolate bread, pastry) while sipping warm lattes at a French cafe with friends, and delightfully tasting street fare in Southeast Asia with my sister. With each piece of bread kneaded alongside my mom and grandma or street-side Nasi Goreng eaten with my sister, invites a beautiful soul sharing memory of laughter, conversation, and connection. Food connects us all in remarkable ways. 

Thanks, Emily for sharing your love for beets, food, travel, and the environment. You inspire me! Beet lovers, are you inspired too? Stop by Oat & Sesame and follow Emily for more delicious recipes, gardening tips, and travel adventures. 

All photos provided by Emily from Oat & Sesame.