A Beet Recipe for My Mother


I became mortal last week. One phone call and one letter took away that lingering innocence of youth and reminded me that no one, not even myself, can live forever. Here, in the center of my being, is the undeniable understanding that every moment we have is precious; every morsel of food is important; and nothing is to be overlooked.

The phone call was from my mother. She just got the news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Then, in what felt like seconds later, I received a letter from my doctor. My blood tests came back abnormal. I have high cholesterol.

The news effected me in unexpected ways. When I spoke with my mother, I found zen-like calm, hope and positivity for my mother’s recovery. I felt oddly at peace, without fear and satisfied with the idea that we will find a treatment that will heal her. And then, in the privacy of my own home, I openly mourned the loss of bacon in my life.

Goodbye Guanciale

My off-the chart 250 cholesterol number on the doctor’s letter read like a foodie death sentence. The letter suggested in detail I “replace butter with olive and canola oil…Replace red meat with fish, poultry and tofu…Limit foods with high cholesterol.”

I started freaking out. No more fearless consumption of fennel sausage pizza at midnight? No more bacon draped hamburgers for lunch? No chicken liver bruschettas as a quick mid-day snack? What about those yolk-dripping bacon and egg sandwiches I love so much? No more gobbling up the frosting-heavy corner piece of birthday cake?

I paced my apartment. I was a vegetarian once. I could do it again, right? But now that I know what I know, how could I turn my fork away from all those great foods I’ve come to love and build my whole life around?

The cure for cancer

It’s been days since we received her first diagnosis. There’s still so much we need to find out. But in the meantime my mother and our collective family have been doing our share of internet research. My mother doesn’t care much for “traditional” medicine. She fears the mainstream medical line of thinking and clings to the old ways of healing.

My mother says she can cure herself of cancer with the power of raw food. She says that with lots of whole grains, flax seed oil and raw fruits and vegetables she can bring healing to her body without the use of chemo. There are other people—beautiful young and thriving people like Kris Carr of crazy sexy life–who say such things are possible.

The idea of clean living through a wholesome, locally sourced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables makes sense to me. I’ve seen the awesome power of food. The farmers’ market is my church. But what I don’t understand is HOW raw food can heal cancer. Is the cancer that my mother has responsive to such dietary changes? Will she need other helping factors to make the cancer go away? Will she need estrogen therapy? Chemo?

These are questions that will take time to answer. There’s still so much to learn. In the meantime, I offer this recipe for my mother. Because it’s her favorite dish from when she visited Pizzeria Mozza. And she asked for it.

Mom: I know this isn’t a raw dish. But I did find a way to incorporate some flax seed oil and the flavors of the beets make me feel so alive. I know it will do good things–for both of us.


Beets in Horseradish
Inspired by a dish at Pizzeria Mozza
Makes 2 servings

1 small bunch of baby beets (golf ball sized)
1 tbsp flax seed oil
1 tbsp fresh horseradish
2 tsp white wine or champagne vinegar
1 tsp Dijon or whole grain mustard
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425º. Rinse beets well, dry. Place on a sheet pan and tent with tin foil. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife easily slices through the beets’ center. Let beets cool.

When cool enough to touch, slip the skins off with your hands. Roughly chop the beats into small chunks. Should be about 1 ½ – 2 cups. Put beets in a mixing bowl and drizzle with the flax seed oil. Toss to lightly coat the beets. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix in horseradish, vinegar and mustard. The beets should have a slightly creamy look to them. Taste. Add salt, if needed. Adjust for taste.

Serve cold or room temperature. Perfect as a side dish (literally), since beets have a way of coloring everything they touch!


Recent Posts

Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. The Food Librarian
    March 28

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. She is lucky to have such a supportive family around her making antioxidant full dishes. I know very little about the raw food movement (except that I could never give up rice and soup) but eating healthy food sound good for body and soul. I am thinking positive thoughts about your mom!

  2. matt
    March 28

    You and Mama? In my thoughts, yes you are.

  3. MyLastBite
    March 29

    This is so honest and heartwarming.

    My best wishes to you and your mom.

  4. White on Rice Couple
    March 29

    Ahh Brookie. Serious hugs for you. In regards to your mom, some things alternative treatments we’ve heard about is Vitamin C treatments as well as macrobiotics. My aikido sensei’s father is a proponent of macrobiotics and has written interesting articles about it. As for your diet, we’ll just have to make your more Viet foods. They fit the bill of health to a T (mostly) and the “bad” stuff on your list can become the occasional treat to be savored even more as any rare and beautiful thing should be. Love ya Brooke. Hugs from both of us. Todd.

  5. The Domestic Diva
    March 29

    What a touching article – both you and your mother are in my thoughts! A close friend also had a high cholesterol reading at a very young age, but if it's any comfort, through healthy eating and exercise she has completely turned it around in a matter of months. I wish you both healing.

    If you're looking for inspiration and recipes, my blog & cooking are focused on eating food that's both delicious and healthy! For the most part, I use no butter or dairy in my cooking and eat red meat only rarely. However, I promise you that my food is not lacking in the taste department. It's called Domestic Divas. I also write restaurant reviews and blog about health news.


    And, lastly, when I read your beet recipe for your mother, I couldn't help but think about the fact that I recently blogged one of my favorite recipes for my mother – Roasted Beet Risotto. I thought your mother might enjoy it. Here's the link:


  6. Brooke
    March 29

    Thank you Food Librarian, Matt, WORC, Domestic Diva and My Last Bite for your sweet and supportive words. It’s so good to know I have a community of food loving friends around me, supporting both my mother and myself on this new and challenging chapter in our lives.

    Hugs and kisses to you all.

  7. Jen
    March 30

    Brooke, Oh lady, very sorry to read these updates. I’m sending your way lots of positive energy and thoughts, and if you need anything, feel free to let me know. My mom and I are both firm believers in the healing powers of acupuncture, so if you both don’t mind the needles, I say try it out in conjunction with your dietary changes. I wish you all the best!

  8. Leah
    March 30

    What a beautiful post brooke. You know I’m with you all the way. You’ll get your cholesterol under control and mama will get better, whether solely through raw foods or in combination with something else. Lots of love coming at you both. XO, L

  9. Elizabeth
    March 30

    There is so much depth to your posting and the accompanying photograph. Everything is important and we will touch each others lives in ways that we barely understand…

    From my post on March 24th:
    …events over the last few days are taking shape to create a shift in my life; a shift that will provide me with the opportunity to step into the universe and change my life’s path. This is the intent of miracles; to leave life changed enough so that healing can happen.

  10. Steve
    March 30

    Sorry to hear this news. I wish your mom the best, and your family will be in our thoughts.

  11. matt wright
    March 31

    Thoughts are with you and your Mum.

    Danika did some research on natural healing of cancers a little while back, for a family member – and I have to say, after seeing everything she found, I would never do chemo. I will try and dig up what she found. Our old naturapath cured her pre-cancerous tumors 20 years ago by drinking 6 raw fruit/veg smoothies a day – she was living mid west, and actually had to get organic produce flown in to her every few days! It worked though.

    As regards cholesterol – from what I understand, modern research (not that from drugs companies..) has shown that eating foods high in cholesterol have little to no impact in your cholesterol level. Diets rich in whole grains and vegetables are key – olive oil is obviously great too. Fish is really awesome – but I wouldn’t worry too much about eating cholesterol rich foods (unless you do 5 times a day…). Remove all trans and hydrogenated fats..

    Certainly keep eating the chicken livers! Tons on nutrients in those. Keep eating eggs too!

    I love beets just boiled, really thinly sliced, and topped with finely diced parsley and garlic – dress with olive oil and sherry vinegar. Doing a post on that next week actually.

    Shout if you need anything.

  12. Carolyn
    April 1

    Brooke, sorry to hear about your mom. This is not news any of us want to hear. I agree with White on Rice’s Todd that Vitamin C has been shown to be beneficial. Diet and attitude absolutely affect how a disease runs. Meditation has also been shown to be helpful.
    As far as your cholesterol is concerned, most research shows that eating cholesterol does not directly affect your cholesterol. Eating healthy and getting some activity keep the levels down. Eggs might actually be beneficial, not harmful, to the cholesterol level.
    Sorry, long reply. Send me email for more info. And you know I love beets!

  13. Jim
    April 5

    Brooke, I’m sorry to hear the news about your mom. I wish both of you all my best. I think I’m going to plant some beets today.

  14. Anonymous
    April 14

    Brookie, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom… I went through that a few years ago but my mom unfortunately didn’t have the attitude your mom has. Please be thankful for her positive attitude about food, which is really good. I have heard about that theory too, eating raw and fresh food. I personally think is great. Please say hi to her for me and you, recieve all my love. Gaby. (hola a Hansito)

  15. November 23

    A beautiful post; I admire your mother. I also added your recipe to my blog for Thanksgiving side dishes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *