Getting back to my roots

Moving to LA has been a transition. Somehow in this huge city that has so many diverse communities, it's been hard for me to find my niche. I've absolutely love finding sweet hiking spots and hidden eateries around town and definitely have a better sense of the area. But something's still been missing. I realized I need to get back to my roots. Not my ancestral roots, but the roots I set and cultivated in college. During those 4 years, I made it my mission to find myself a home away from home. One of the ways that I found a community was through volunteering. 

From urban gardening to classroom tutoring to collecting native seeds for preservation, volunteering was a part of my weekly routine. Here in LA, I've been missing that. When working at the VRC, I always told my fellow students that volunteering is one of the best ways to figure out what you want to do and where you want to be. So I took my own advice and sought out some local opportunities, hoping to find one that would be the right fit.

First on the list was Food Forward. A few months ago I volunteered with them to help with produce collection at the Culver City farm mar. Each of the vendors packs up their goods and sets aside boxes full of produce that would be otherwise thrown away. Then us volunteers would sort through the donations and divide it among 3 deserving organizations working to bring fresh, local food to schools and shelters. I like what this organization is doing - serving as the connection between the resource and the need - but I wish I'd gotten to interact a bit more with people and actually see where the food ends up.

Last weekend I volunteered with the Garden School Foundation and helped at their monthly workday. A bunch of us cleaned out a greenhouse and prepped it for the spring, clearing out weeds and old tables so elementary and middle school students could learn about horticulture. It was such an amazing breath of fresh air being outside and seeing this school that's right next to the 10 and has views of downtown, yet is proudly growing produce in its little oasis in the city. I'm definitely coming back for next month's workday and wish I could be more involved with the kids, but sadly I'm working when school is in session.  

Garden School Foundation
This weekend I made it to L.A. Kitchen where we prepped fresh, local veggies and worked alongside culinary students that are transforming themselves, and soon their communities. They were all so eager and happy to share what they've been learning in their culinary training. Their positive attitudes definitely rubbed off on me and I even learned a few tips on how to make some good old fashioned gumbo! It was also neat running into another volunteer that had also been at the Garden School Foundation the weekend before - I guess it really is a small world.  

In honor of getting back to my roots and volunteering, I thought why not share my way of prepping my favorite root vegetable? BEETS!

Cut stems and greens from the root and set aside. Rise beets and add to a pot of water. Boil for 20-30 minutes.

Don't forget the greens! I like to use them just as I would cook spinach.
Stick a knife in each beet testing to see if the knife comes out easily. Once tender, take off the heat and drain the colored water. Be careful not to stain your clothes! Beet juice will get ya!

Carefully take each beet and rinse under cold water. They'll be hot, but if you keep them under the water you won't burn your hands. To peel the skins off, simply push the skin away using your thumbs. The entire skin should come off pretty easily.

Peel off the skin.
Peel the skin off all your beets and set aside. You can now prep your greens if you'd like or just stick to your beets and slice them to add to your favorite salad or just eat them as they are. I love just slicing them, drizzling them with olive oil and adding a pinch of sea salt.

This week I just sliced them up and added them to a salad with kidney beans, red onion, lettuce, and sugar snap peas.

I made my mom's creamy dressing to toss it all together too.

- mayo
- red wine vinegar
- pepper
- sugar

Mix a tablespoon of mayo with a teaspoon of sugar and crack a bit of pepper in. Then add a few glugs of vinegar until it turns just pink and is a fairly runny texture. Taste to be sure it's sweet, tart, and creamy. Voila!

Beet salad with grilled cheese
If you want to have beets on the go, just prep your salad, add it to a mason jar (to keep salad's freshness and pretend you're a hipster) and then go!

I'm excited to be getting back to my roots. Keep an eye out for my next post where I'll show ya another fun outlet I've found. Hint: it involves another hobby of mine and one of my favorite online publications. Have a sunny President's Day weekend!