Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project: Beets Two Ways

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As I considered what I would make for my final Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project for the Capital Area Food Bank, I found myself thinking of what it feels like to be in the place of choosing between buying food and other essentials like medicine or paying rent.  What most of you may not know about me is that I know that feeling all too well.
Many years ago I made a series of truly regrettable and painful choices that turned my life upside down and forced me to start over.  For the two years before I started the blog, I lived on a budget so tight that I had $25 per week for food – $1.19 per meal.  Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank told me that I probably would have qualified for SNAP, but I never asked for the help.  
I made it through that period because I had a safety net of friends and family who loved me through it and kept me fed, inviting me over for dinner and sending me home with more leftovers than we ate.  I also found a job where I traveled quite a bit and my clients often picked up the tab for my meals.  I was lucky, but not everyone has such fortune which is why the SNAP program exists – to help people fill those gaps so that they don’t have to make those choices.  
One of the great lessons I learned on that tight budget was to use every little bit of food.  Scraps that I used to throw away became valuable commodities and I would seek out foods that could be used for more than one purpose.
Beets became a new favorite in my kitchen then.  Before that I wasn’t really sure what to do with beets other than roast them and I had never considered eating the greens.  My friends Ana and Sandy changed all that.  Ana gave me a recipe from Mark Bittman for beet pancakes, similar to a potato pancake, that can be eating on their own or as the patty for a veggie burger and Sandy taught me to saute beet greens like spinach.  
I started making the two together using the beet pancakes as my entree and the beet greens as the side.  For $3-$4, I could make two vitamin-packed meals.  Perfect. 
Now you know why I am so passionate about helping end hunger in Central Texas and why I still volunteer for the food bank today.  If you agree that hunger is unacceptable, please donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Beet Pancakes with Sauteed Beet Greens

Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman

Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsps olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of beet greens, rinsed
Separate the beets and the beet greens.  Rinse the beet greens in a colander and set them aside to dry.  Tear the beet greens from the stems into bite sized pieces and set aside. 
Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes.  It helps to leave part of the stem on the beets so that you have something to hold on to while you peel them.  After the beets are peeled, you can trim off the ends.

Beets

Beet greens

Grate the beets in a food processor or by hand.  If you grate by hand, place a towel over the bowl to keep the beet juice from getting all over the kitchen. (Thanks Hector for the tip.)

Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.
Form patties with the beets – four smaller patties or two large patties. 
Preheat a skillet over medium heat and heat two tablespoons of the olive oil.
Place the patties in the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook until the beet cakes are nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the cakes and continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned.
Remove the beet cakes from the skillet, and either heat the final tbsp of olive oil in a new skillet or add it to the previously used skillet.  Add the garlic and beet greens and saute until the greens are wilted.

Plate the beets and greens.  If desired, add a small dollop of sour cream to the top of the beet cakes.

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