Beet & Arugula Salad with Spicy Maple Vinaigrette

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This month’s heart centered holiday has us all thinking about decadent, sensuous food (amongst other things) and the usual default is a chocolate dessert. Surely there must be something more unique and health supportive to get the blood pumping? Oh yes, there is. This aphrodisiac filled salad straddles sweet and savory effortlessly, and makes the perfect sexy side dish to serve up at your romantic dinner for two. It is also a delicious and satisfying meal if you are enjoying a quiet night for one. 

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 90 mins (passive)

Serves: 4-6

Season: Fall

Challenge Weeks: 1,13 & Living WILDFIT

Ingredients

Salad

  • 16 ounces baby arugula
  • 6 small-medium sized beets, peeled and roasted
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup raw pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tsp avocado oil
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼  teaspoon Himalayan salt

Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons stone ground mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • ⅛ -¼  teaspoon organic cayenne pepper (to taste) 
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • A few strands of saffron 
  • 1 teaspoon sea vegetable flakes
  • ¼  cup olive oil

Preparation

Most people believe beets to be boring, but there are so many reasons for them to become your favorite root vegetable. Their earthy flavor is due in part to a rich mineral profile which has potent benefits for your endocrine system. For example, they contain high amounts of boron, a mineral which helps to increase the bioavailability and efficiency of sex hormones. Beets are also rich in natural chemicals called nitrates. Through a chain reaction your body changes nitrates into nitric oxide which helps with blood flow and blood pressure, boosting stamina. If that wasn’t a good enough reason to place these juicy, red beauties on your plate more often, beets are also a natural source of tryptophan and betaine, substances that promote a feeling of well-being. 

Begin this recipe by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F and placing one rack in the center of your oven. One dish of beets is the only thing going into the oven, so if you crave efficiency the way I do, you may want to do some other food prep at the same time by baking some chicken or mixed root vegetables on the bottom rack. 

Once your beets are cleaned with a brush under water, place them in a baking dish with a bit of oil while they are still wet. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and they are ready to go. Some people avoid beets due to the high levels of oxalates they contain, but by roasting them while covered they steam from the inside out which lowers oxalate levels. This cooking method also softens them while concentrating their sweet flavor.

Place the dish in the oven and roast the beets until they are quite tender when poked with a fork, about 70-90 minutes depending on your oven. You may want to check on them one hour in and rotate them with a spoon to avoid brown spots. Allow the beets to cool enough to handle, then peel them using a potato peeler or paring knife, and slice them into disks. You may want to further cut them into bite sized pieces. Remember that these health supportive veggies contain potent juices that can stain, so handle them with a fork or wear gloves if you want to avoid pink fingertips.

While the beets are roasting, the rest of the recipe comes together easily. Make your dressing next so that the flavours have time to meld together. The base of this recipe is a vinaigrette, using more health supportive elements than you might find in a more traditional recipe. This is more of a sexy health elixir than a salad dressing, but regardless it is decadent, slightly exotic, just the right amount of spicy and definitely delicious. 

I chose maple syrup rather than honey as it deepens the flavour with notes of vanilla, caramel and prune and also increases mineral density. These minerals do great work for your body including things like cell formation, maintaining healthy red blood cells, and immune support which are (behind the scenes) all necessary for satisfying sex. If you do not have access to maple syrup though, honey will still work nicely. 

Each of the other elements of this dressing were chosen with equal consideration. Saffron, a rare and exquisite spice, has a sweet, floral taste. It is so expensive because each red thread is one hand picked stamen of a crocus flower, which only blooms one week each year. A case when truly less is more, and a few strands can create a beautiful golden colour and complex nuanced flavour in any recipe. 

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which creates heat and improves circulation and blood flow, both of which are crucial to both sex drive and stamina.  Even the humble garlic, which is not usually associated with sexiness, contains allicin, which builds heat in the body and has been proven to increase testosterone.

Nutmeg, although toxic in high quantities, is often used in the kitchen for it’s warm, comforting and nutty flavour and aroma. We have talked about it before as an antiviral, immune boosting food but it may also have bedroom benefits. The aphrodisiac and narcotic properties of nutmeg make it a stimulant and relaxant, and those warm fuzzy feelings it creates can be used to your benefit after you eat it. 

Finally, although it doesn’t look or sound sexy, from a nutritional standpoint seaweed is classified as an aphrodisiac the world over. It is rich in vitamin B1, which combats fatigue and depression. Its vitamin B2 content aids in hormone production. It also contains vitamin E, which helps in maintenance of healthy sperm by fighting free radicals in the sperm membrane. Vitamin E has also proven useful in helping regulate the function of sex glands. 

Combine the maple syrup, raw apple cider vinegar, stone ground mustard, smashed garlic, organic cayenne pepper, nutmeg, saffron and sea vegetable flakes into a small blender and pulse a few times to combine well. Add the olive oil and blend to emulsify. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in a small jar (be sure to chop the garlic more finely) and stir well to combine before slowly pouring in the oil while stirring vigorously to blend well. Place a lid on the jar and set aside to infuse. 

Next prepare your fruit and nut topping by first adding the oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and cranberries, stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes until the berries start to look deflated and the nuts are toasted. Stir in the fresh ginger, cinnamon and maple syrup until sticky, about one more minute. Turn off the heat and set aside. Maple syrup is again my preferred sweetener here, as it is not further damaged by heating like honey would be. If you don’t have it, use coconut sugar as an alternative. 

Even in this mixture each element has a purpose. The pecans are a great source of zinc, which can boost testosterone levels and act as an aphrodisiac. As a plant-based source of protein, nuts promote the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, chemicals that are associated with alertness, motivation and the ability to experience pleasure. Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is clinically proven to keep sex glands running. The berries are also a source of vitamin A, which is important for reproduction. The cinnamon and ginger can improve blood flow and circulation, improving cardiovascular health overall but also positively impacting sexual performance and the ability to reach sexual climax.

Prepare your plates or salad bowl with a generous serving of baby arugula leaves. We don’t generally associate greens with sexy times as most of us cringe at the thought of smiling while unknowingly having salad stuck in our teeth. However leafy vegetables are full of minerals and antioxidants which play an important role in producing healthy sperm and inhibiting the introduction of potentially libido-reducing contaminants into your system. Greens also boost histamine production, which is necessary for the ability to reach orgasm. I chose arugula as it pairs perfectly with beets. It’s subtle bitterness and spice perfectly balances the sweet, earthy flavour of the roots, brightening the recipe up.

Once your bed of greens is laid, top it with roasted beet pieces, toasted pecans and cranberries. Remember that we eat first with our eyes. A beautifully presented dish will create a certain impression that can lead to an improved sexual experience, so take care in your presentation. Finally drizzle the dressing over the top of the salad and enjoy. This dish is so good I couldn’t bear to only offer two servings. If you are not eating all this salad at a romantic meal for two, keep the elements separate and only combine right before serving. 

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