SweetRoots brings vegetarian cooking classes for girls to library: First session is 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25

While the La Jolla Riford Library has books, magazines and more about cooking, a new monthly workshop is taking things a step further.

Dubbed “SweetRoots,” the first in a series of free workshops will be 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at the 7555 Draper Ave. library and themed “Totally Raw-some: Raw Vegan Recipe Workshop,” to introduce the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle to girls, ages 8-18. It will focus on no-cook snacks, such as fudge brownie energy bites, zesty lemon hummus and raw granola.

Each workshop will consist of three parts: personal development skills, including leadership and confidence; sustainability and wellness lessons; and hands-on culinary exercises, complete with take home recipes and samples.

As SweetRoots founder and food blogger Erica Barry explained: “Young girls are exposed to so much in terms of dieting that is not very good for you — especially in the tweens and teens years — so it’s important to teach them ways to be healthier by integrating more fruits and vegetables into their life, rather than just dieting.

“It’s not about pushing some extreme vegetarian agenda. It’s about small changes to make themselves and the world a little healthier. Less than 25 percent of kids in the United States get their daily (vegetable servings of) five a day, so we make creative recipes, such as sweet potato brownies.”

And while all subsequent workshops will feature plant-based recipes, the totally raw workshop is more pragmatic than anything. “It’s hot outside,” Barry says with a chuckle. “So we’re going to make hummus in a blender, and raw granola, which is a great energy snack.”

But down the line, and as the temperature drops, classes will include seasonal ingredients such as a root-vegetable themed workshop in September.

And for Barry, the concept is personal. “When I was growing up, nothing like this existed and it’s amazing how misinformed I was about nutrition,” she explained. “I was in college and was living on a diet of energy drinks and chips. I was working full time and had a full course load. I was always tired and just thought it was due to my busy lifestyle. But then I discovered a plant-based diet and I saw my energy skyrocket — that was the only thing that changed. I wish I knew this before I tortured myself for years.”

For this reason, she wants to reach the age group before the college years, so they get a good foundation. “These are the formative years when you make food choices for yourself,” she said. “I’m so pumped to be doing this.”

SweetRoots was a brainchild of her college years, her food blog and the desire to empower young women. The name comes from her love of baking (sweet) and the way she uses her cultural “roots” to come up with the recipes (which have been featured by Martha Stewart Online, BuzzFeed, Food 52, The Kitchen, The Huffington Post and Fox News Magazine).

“My roots really influence what I do in the kitchen. I’m half Japanese and half Irish, and those two cultures use vegetables so differently, so it’s fun to explore,” she said.

The workshop is limited to girls, ages 8-18, but parents are welcome to attend and observe. Learn more, view recipes or sign up for the workshop at sweetrootskitchen.org

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