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How to Make Agua Fresca - 4 Recipes

You've heard it a hundred times - water has so many benefits. Still, for some reason, most people find it hard to drink the recommended amount of water in a given day. To make water intake more appealing, trends such as flavored waters, zero calorie vitamin waters and more have been heavily marketed. In reality though, none of these are as good as the real thing. Flavored water comes with more sugars and chemicals that you bargained for, making it  more malnourishing than healthy.

If you struggle to drink plain water and prefer something with some taste, then try agua frescas as healthy alternatives to flavored water. Translated directly, this means “fresh water” in Spanish. Agua frescas are blended beverages that often contain a combination of fruits, cereals, seeds mixed with water.

Here are a few of my favorite fruit agua fresca recipes (adapted and modified into their healthy versions), that are refreshing and delicious and, most importantly, a great way to get in more water in your system.

General tips:

1. Don't add any sugar. Even though traditional agua frescas have sugar in them, remember that you are using these as a way to drink more water. Your drink will already be sweet from the sucrose in the fruit you use, so don't feel like you need more sugar.

2. Reiterating on the water intake point, make sure your Agua Frescas are diluted and watered down. The fruit additions are just for taste.

3. For all the recipes below, blend the “tastegivers” and water in a blender. The approximate ratio for one 8 oz. glass should be around 1 oz. of the fruit pulp, to 7 oz. of water. Even though this isn't traditional, I promise the finished drink will still taste great, and be much healthier too!

4. The reason the proportions are per glass is because I believe in making and consuming something in the freshest possible way, so that you are benefited most by the nutrients. However, if you have time constraints, feel free to double/triple the recipe for the fruit pulp and refrigerate. Mix the water as and when you are drinking it. I wouldn't suggest refrigerating the pulp for more than a night.


Photo via Healthy Bits and Nibbles

Waterberry!

This recipe is adapted from Healthy Bits and Nibbles. Watermelon is  a cooling fruit, so this recipe is perfect for hot summer days. Mint is great for the stomach, and also helps cool down the system.

• Two cubes of watermelon
• Two strawberries

Garnish with mint


Photo via The Wanderlust Kitchen

Honeydew and Lime

I first saw this recipe on The Wanderlust Kitchen, and instantly fell in love. The sweetness of honeydew and the slight tartness of lime not only compliment each other in flavor, but also in terms of benefits to your body! Honeydew has high levels of potassium, helping maintain stable blood sugar levels. Lime has a plethora of benefits, ranging from skincare to weight loss.

• Two-three cubes honeydew
• a lime, juiced

Garnish with a few berries of your choice (I like raspberries or blueberries)


Photo via The View from Great Island

Papaya and Lime

A slight variation of the recipe above is featured on The View from Great Island, subbing in papaya for honeydew. Papaya does wonders for the digestive tract, and also, the final drink comes out in this beautiful pinky orange that is sure to please.

• Two cubes papaya
• a lime, juiced


Photo via The Little Spice Jar

Peach, honey and jalapeño

For those looking for a unique taste, this recipe, modified from Little Spice Jar is the perfect mixture of sweet and spicy, with jalapenos adding just the right kick. Peaches are packed with nutrients and fiber, and raw honey is a great finisher to smooth out the taste.

• Two peach slices
• 1 tsp. raw honey
• 1 jalapeño slice (blended in for more spice, or used as a garnish for less)

So there you have it - four wonderful alternatives to flavored water! These are better in every way, from being more nutritious to tasting a whole lot yummier. Do you have any favorite agua fresca recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

 


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Homemade Carrot Ketchup


Michaela Hayes

As a chef turned farmer, few things excite me more than food preservation. It’s a perfect match for the waves of produce we have on the farm at various times of the year. It is also the sweet intersection of three of my favorite subjects: food, art, and science.

Here on the farm, though the days are getting slightly cooler now, our summer season still has some kick. Nothing says that more than the continuing deluge of heirloom tomatoes coming out of the field. Though we sell many of our heirloom beauties, we can’t always sell the split tomatoes (also knowns as “seconds”), so we scramble to preserve them in a myriad of ways.


Michaela Hayes

One new way to preserve tomatoes arrived this year, thanks to a class I teach for Farm School NYC called Community Food Arts. This is the fifth year I have taught the class and each year I feel reenergized by the excitement of the students. People take the class for a variety of reasons - to save produce from their gardens and farms from going to waste, to create a product for a new food based business, or to eat more healthily. Some students want to recreate foods of the cultures they grew up in or to learn the preservation methods they saw their elder family members using. Others are excited to build new flavors to use in their own cooking. In addition to these reasons, drying, freezing, canning and fermenting are also simply delicious.

As a teacher, helping the students transform their relationships with food is a joyful experience. One of the big projects we do in the class is to create a group small batch product. Every year it’s different because the students bring in their own ideas and we vote on what to make. This year, carrot ketchup stole the show. After some recipe development to make sure our recipe was safe for canning, we were ready to go.


Michaela Hayes

On our production day, the class met at the farm - first we had some harvesting to do! We hit the carrot bed with forks and gloves, loosening the soil and pulling out handfuls of tender carrots. We raided the farm tomatoes - scooping up flats of heirloom seconds that would be perfect for flavor and preventing waste. And we gathered onions and cured garlic to round out our ketchup flavor. One of the requirements for the class recipe submission this year was that at least one ingredient come from the farm. Fantastically, with this recipe, all of the produce did.

After a fieldside lunch, it was off to the Chester Presbyterian Church, home of the commercial kitchen space we temporarily use to make our value added products. In the next two months, Rise & Root Farm will build our own commercial kitchen down the road from the farm. We have big plans for the new kitchen space, including a dedicated fermentation walk-in cooler, drying room for herbs and more, large scale equipment for quicker large batch processing (including a steam kettle!), and multiple work stations so our neighbors can work alongside us. The kitchen will be a welcoming, dynamic, healing space that will focus on local produce and healthy cooking. Future Farm School NYC classes and other students will be able to see fermentation and preservation happening at every stage of the process. They’ll be able to experience the farm-to-kitchen-to-table, all on one road.  

Happy cooking!

Michaela


Ethan Harrison

Carrot Ketchup

Yield: 4 pints

• 2 pounds carrots, sliced
• 2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 medium white onion, chopped
• 1 cup cider vinegar
• 2/3 cup maple syrup
• 1/3 cup honey
• 1 clove garlic, sliced
• 4 teaspoons sea salt
• 1 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
• 1/8 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

1. Clean and prepare all the ingredients.

2. In a large pot, cook all ingredients together until carrots and onions are soft.

3. Carefully puree the hot ketchup until it is smooth, and strain to remove any chunks.

4. Return ketchup to a pot and cook down until thickened.

5. Meanwhile, wash jars and lids. Bring hot water bath to a boil and warm jars.

6. When thickened, ladle ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.

7. Wipe jar rims, seal with two piece or button lids and process in boiling (212ºF) water bath for 15 minutes.

8. Remove jars and cool. Check for a proper seal.

Enjoy within one year!*

* The trick is to let the ketchup sit for at least three weeks before you eat it - that way the natural sugars from the carrots and tomatoes will meld with the acidity of the vinegar and taste more smooth than if you eat it right away.


Michaela Hayes, Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger and Jane Hodge run Rise & Root Farm, a 3-acre organic farm in Orange County, New York. They are currently raising money to build a new community and commercial kitchen space. Find out more, and support their project on Indiegogo. Read more about Rise & Root in this article from our September/October 2016 issue: Growing Community at a Social Justice Farm in New York.

5 of the Best Food Subscription Boxes for Healthy Snacks

Bestowed food box

Photo courtesy Bestowed

1. Snacks that Give Back

Love With Food sends organic snacks, with an option for celiac-safe, in sizes for individuals or whole offices. For each box sold, Love With Food donates meals to food banks.

To Buy: From $9 monthly

2. Plants and Protein

Healthy Surprise specializes in customized snacks for vegan and Paleo diets.

To Buy: From $43 monthly

3. A Deal for Every Diet

Urthbox offers a wide range of tasty snacking options, from classic natural snacks to gluten-free and vegan—all sustainably sourced and nutritious.

To Buy: From $13 monthly

4. Beehive Bounty

Hive Box’s organic and locally sourced bee-themed items range from raw honey to pollinator seed bombs.

To Buy: From $25 monthly

5. Whole-Body Health

Started by a dietitian, Bestowed goes beyond snacking, offering food, supplements and personal-care items.

To Buy: From $20 monthly


5 Healthy Ingredients to Stock Your Kitchen With


Photo by Fotolia

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you struggle with your weight, there are many options available that can help promote a healthier lifestyle. One of the most important is to stock your kitchen with healthy foods. Here are five staples you can add to most any meal to make it both nutritious and delicious.

Salmon

Salmon is high in quality protein, vitamins and minerals. The benefits of wild salmon are even stronger. Salmon and other fish are particularly high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your skin and heart. Omega-3 fats contribute to healthy brain function, and may even lower the risk of some cancers. It also lowers cholesterol and helps protect against heart disease. Other Omega-3-rich fish include Albacore tuna and oysters.

Seeds

Seeds also are a great food to keep on hand regularly. They are full of protein that can help you build muscle and gain energy. In addition to adding them to baked goods and breakfasts, they’re also a convenient snack that you can keep handy on the go. To make it even easier, you can order seeds online from sites such as www.sincerelynuts.com, saving you a trip to the grocery store. It really is amazing how much good seeds can do for you. For example, just one ounce of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein!

Kale

Kale has become a particularly popular health food, and with good reason. This leafy green has the highest levels of beta carotene of all green vegetables, as well as high levels of vitamins A, C and K. These vitamins are important for making a person feel full and keeping them healthy while they’re dieting. Too often, people will neglect their nutrition for the sake of losing weight. Kale can help you eat a delicious meal that fills your stomach and fortifies your body.

Watermelon

If you're constantly feeling hungry in between meals, you may be tempted to eat unhealthy things. Instead of chips and cookies, it's important to stock up on good, healthy treats such as watermelon. The health benefits of watermelon are pretty impressive. Due to being over 90% water, a 154-gram serving contains only 84 calories, but loads of nutrients. A 10-oz wedge of watermelon has about one-third of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and C, and is also one of the best dietary sources of lycopene, an antioxidant linked to the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

Onions

Onions are loaded with goodies. Just a few include Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber. They are also loaded with antioxidants. In particular, the antioxidant quercetin. This food, as well as garlic, is not only full of healthy nutrients, but are an easy and flavorful addition to many dishes as well.

Sprogs: Healthy Snacks for Healthy Kids

If the name Sprogs doesn't catch your attention—and in case you were wondering, sprog is a British term for kid or youngster—their product will. Rice scooters are made with wholesome, local and often organic brown rice, vegetables and proteins. Different variations are packed together into little rice cubes, similar to Japanese o-nigiri.

making rice scooters
Photo by Fotolia/asab974

Inspired to Do It Right

Ching-Yee, the creator of Sprogs, is passionate about real food. "Real food goes bad," the company states, insisting that we should embrace the natural processes untainted food goes through. She became inspired to create the delicious, flavored, sticky rice snacks so she and her kids would have something better to snack on. The idea was obviously a success. Several times a week, employees hit up top spots for fresh, local ingredients that are used to make the best product possible.

No Harmful Preservatives = Short Shelf Life

Rice scooters have a relatively short shelf life, like any fresh product. However, they keep in the fridge for several days. The fresh food dilemma has kept rice scooters limited to the San Francisco area, but as the company grows, that will likely change. I’m hoping I will soon be able to have a box delivered to my Georgia doorstep. I’ve been craving sticky rice snacks since my trip to Japan!

Satisfying Food On-the-Go

Sprogs is changing the snack food biz. Rice scooters are portable, not very messy, and super-healthy. There are many flavors, some kind of crazy while others are picky eater friendly. Of course, I love the unusual, so my favorite was the Kale and Kimchi Scooter. It's spicy, with delightfully crunchy pieces of Sprogs’ housemade, vegan kimchi spread throughout. The Shiitake Scooter was my second favorite, with the Bacon and Egg, Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Teriyaki Tofu falling close behind.

The little packages of goodness are extremely satisfying. I made a meal out of them by pairing a couple with steamed veggies. Rice scooters are perfect picnic food as well, since they are prepackaged and ready to go.

Get Into the Sprogs Mentality

The idea behind Sprogs is one that we need to adopt. We should always consume real, nourishing food. No exception. Our minds tend to be fixed on the misconception that a snack is a bag of potato chips or artificially colored gummies. No! Real food nourishes, it doesn't damage. It's time to reevaluate the way we view our food.

Sprogs is a blueprint for rethinking food, especially snacks. No more artificial crackers, cookies or “protein” bars. Companies need to build on a foundation like this so real food is available in convenient forms.

Organic Living Superfoods creates organic, superfood snacks that are sourced from sustainable, fair-trade farms. Their kid-friendly, vegan products, like the Organic Raw Sprouted Pizza Almonds, are loaded with flavor and are a perfect example of a tasty, health-boosting snack. Let’s start feeding our kids these healthy foods. If you’re in the San Francisco area, try out some rice scooters and support a company that looks beyond a dollar sign.


Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

3 Delicious Whey Protein Drink Recipes


Photo by Fotolia

Considered by health experts to be an excellent source of protein, whey protein powder is an easy way to pump up the macronutrient content of your diet. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, whey protein creates muscle protein, can help regulate appetite, and may even reduce the risk of allergic reactions to cow’s milk in children.

Whey protein is easy to add to your diet in several healthy, delicious drink options. Here are three tasty recipes including this powerful protein source, from BioChem, producers of organic, gluten-free whey protein.

 


Photo courtesy BioChem

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Shake:

• 1 scoop BioChem Whey Protein, Chocolate
• 8 oz. coconut milk
•1 scoop powdered peanut butter
• 1/2 banana
• 2 - 3 ice cubes

Blend to combine.

 


Photo courtesy BioChem

The Whey Colada

• 2 scoops BioChem 100% Whey Vanilla Protein
• 6 oz. coconut milk
• 3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
• 3 - 4 ice cubes

Blend to combine.

 


Photo courtesy BioChem

The Healthy PSL

• 2 scoops BioChem 100% Whey Vanilla Protein
• 6 oz. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
• 2 heaping tsp. organic canned pumpkin
• 1 1/2 - 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• 3 ice cubes

Blend to combine.


How to Use and Where to Find Wild Ramps


Photo by Fotolia

The world of trendy food is a fast-paced and fickle one. Big ticket items, like ancient grains and street food inspired dishes, are popping up in menus left and right. One hit item you won’t want to miss? Ramps.

Ramps (allium tricoccum) are a type of wild onion native to the moist deciduous forests of the Northeastern United States. Also called wild leeks, these plants have a taste similar to a combination of onions and garlic. (Ask any chef, and they’ll tell you that onions and garlic go together like peas in a pod.) On the onion spectrum, ramps have a stronger taste than the typically mild leeks, and have a more robust garlic flavor.

These pungent plants are so popular, festivals are held in celebration of their many culinary applications. Likewise, foraging for ramps draws increasing crowds to the Northeast every year. Ramps typically sprout in early March or April and continue to grow until around June, when the temperature rises and the leaves die back.

A Foraging We Will Go!

If foraging for ramps sounds like an activity you’d like to try, start right after the snow disappears, when plants just start growing back. Look for their broad, light green leaves and deep purple stems poking out from the forest floor. Check to make sure you have the right plant by tearing off a leaf and sniffing for the onion scent. This is to ensure that you don't accidentally pick the near identical, but highly poisonous, lily of the valley. The plants are in the same family, so they share many characteristics. However, lily of the valley leaves are scentless. Lily of the valley also has tiny, bell shaped flowers along the stem, while ramp blossoms are clustered at the end.

While many acknowledge that the peppery, garlicky flavor of ramps really kicks up dishes, their popularity has led to a sharp decline in their wild population. At the aforementioned festivals, nearly all the ramps used are foraged locally. Should you go hunting for some ramps of your own, don’t get greedy, and follow sustainable harvesting methods.

Once you have located a patch of ramps, use a trowel to gently remove dirt from around the top of the bulb. Using a small knife or scissors, carefully cut away a few of the leaves, leaving the bulb in the ground. Finish by covering the bulb with soil. Ramps have a strong flavor, so don’t take more than you can use in the next few days. While it is possible to preserve them, they’re best fresh.

Ramp Up Mealtimes!

Besides tasting great, ramps have the added benefit of being high in vitamins A and C. While their strong scents may dampen your desire, pinch your nose and forge ahead. Taking the time to incorporate ramps into your dishes will be a rewarding culinary adventure. To get started, consider the recipes below.

Pickled Ramps

This easy-peasy recipe is extremely versatile, and will circumvent ramp’s tendency to quickly spoil. Pickled ramps can be used like standard pickles in sandwiches or salads, or used adventurously to pep up fish and grilled meat.

Simply heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a saucepan, and add some bay leaves, mustard seed, allspice and red pepper. Once all the salt and sugar is dissolved, pour the hot brine over your ramps. Screw on the lid, and allow the jars to cool. Refrigerate for at least three weeks before eating to ensure the best flavor.

Poached Eggs With Ramps

For those looking for more of a challenge (and an immediate reward), poached eggs with ramps are the way to go. Make this recipe on a lazy weekend morning, when you have a lot of time to invest.

Start by sautéing your ramps in some butter until they’re soft. Then bring two inches of water to a simmer, and mix in some vinegar. Gently slide an egg into the water, and cook until the whites are just set. Remove, and place on top of toast spread with goat cheese and the ramps. Finish it off with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Grilled Polenta With Ramp Chimichurri

For those who don’t want their hands held, grilled polenta with ramp chimichurri will be a rewarding culinary challenge. Make some polenta with cornmeal, stock and coconut milk, and season it with olives, oregano and honey. When it’s done, pour it into a pan to chill. After it’s chilled, thickly slice and grill until golden and crisp on each side.

To make the chimichurri sauce, combine ramps, parsley, cilantro, vinegar and olive oil in the food processor, and pulse until blended but chunky. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Serve with the grilled polenta.

Give these recipes a try, and you’ll see for yourself why ramps are so popular. Because they grow in the wild, foraging for them can even be its own reward. Just remember to harvest sustainably to keep the population strong for years to come!