By Chef Yadira Garcia (@HappyHealthyLatina)
Once a upon a time in East Harlem a group of students gathered to learned about how to grow, cook and heal from our ancestral knowledge and food led with lots of love by a Dominicana from the South Bronx who only cooks for her people. Hi, thats me, Yadira aka Happy Healthy Latina!
Growing up on a steady diet of a S.A.D. (Standard American and Dominican Diet) I grew up keenly aware and in love with convenience of easily prepared and quick foods, or what we call “fast-foods” as well as the rich and delicious meals that came at dinner time in the Bronx, holidays or trips to my grandparents farm in Dominican Republic where they grew coconuts, plantain, sugarcane and lots of herbs like culantro, cilantro, oregano.
Meal times were filled with stewing, braising, roasting, searing of ingredients intoxicating smells and flavors that came from hours of the women in my family preparing to welcome us, a Santo or a holiday.
The problem is, in 2019 we have lost our way quite a bit from what our ancestors did just one or two generations ago. We’ve traded campos and access to land for a fast paced city life where the first thing to often suffer is the health of our communities.
The extreme rise in chronic illness due to lack of access to fresh food in our neighborhoods and schools, knowledge on how to prepare them and extremely condensed meal times that often happen in front of a screen, rather than around a table, amongst many reasons.
Growing healthy empowered kids in our communities, bringing joy back into meal time, the kitchen, the land and innovative ways to grow our own food with whatever resources available combined with the preservation of culturally relevant foods to heal, nourish and celebrate food, creating living wage jobs for youth has become the driving purpose of The Happy Healthy Latina INC. team.
Urban Farmers, Educators and Chefs (there's only 3 of us adults) with our youth army, have dedicated ourselves to building relationships in our communities and creating educational program, that empowers us all to do better once we know better, and demand healthy and real food in our neighborhoods.
Some call it "food justice" or "social Justice" or "healing health trauma" - the name doesn't matter as much as the results, those we are fortunate to reach with this message.
Partnering with a company like Loisa, is like primo match made in heaven. Your extended family and community partners is what makes any of it possible! After what felt like years of preaching that many of our foods have been culturally appropriated and sold back to us with horrible ingredients in them, like: artificial hambone, more sodium in one packet of seasoning than you should have in a week let alone day, funky preservatives that can be longer or odder than some relatives names. I finally have a solution for my hungry teens, families and community members.
While we grow much of our own food, ever seen a conference room farm?
The truth is everyone, even a Chef, needs options to quick, healthy foods - those that can be ready in a pinch and go beyond a salad or smoothie. Hello, Loisa Brown Rice & Black Beans! This product is full of protein and a very affordable healthy option! When youth and families feel that companies care about them, our health and quality of life not just sucking out the dollars and siphoning in the compounded effects of eating overly processed meals, the relationship to food and its purveyors really change.
As we received our box from Loisa with healthy sazon, adobo, rice & beans, and rice & quinoa, our babies (yes I call them that even when they are teenagers) opened the box with the excitement of 3 Kings Day. They went to work in teams photographing for a food media counter marketing assignment, because sharing is caring, especially with information! They incorporated these dishes into community cooking demonstration they held for a night of foster family reunification, and cooked for each other in teams while testing out their lesson plans with accompanying recipes.
We look forward to continuing our blooming and blossoming relationship with Loisa and integrating into all of our spaces from tiny tots to the adults and seniors. Here, we leave you with a youth made recipe anyone can enjoy or make, especially teen chefs...
THE RECIPE: Loisa Stuffed Peppers With Youth Grown Parsley
- 1 Bag of Loisa Organic Brown Rice & Black Beans With Sazon
- 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil, Divided
- 1 Cup Organic Coastal Veggie Blend - Carrot, Corn, Broccoli Mix
- 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste - Low or No Sodium
- ¼ Cup Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp crushed garlic
- 4 Green or Red Bell Peppers, destemmed with tops cut off
- Sea Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Slice the tops off the peppers, discard the seeds
- Sauté Frozen Vegetables in EVOO, soy sauce and garlic
- Sauté Loisa rice just until heated through, add tomato paste until incorporated
- Stuff peppers with Rice and Vegetables, optional top with shredded cheese
- Place in the oven at 425 and roast for 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with a fresh cilantro or parsley garnish and a drizzle of hot sauce if you like it spicy like our teens!
Con Mucho Mucho Amor,
The People's Chef,