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Playing with Water

We are 70% water, so it’s no mystery why it is one of the most necessary nutrients our body needs. But why is it so hard to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day? We know the endless benefits of drinking water: heart circulation, metabolism, joint health, digestive health, clearer skin, etc.

Think of a dried prune; it’s all dry and wrinkled. Now, think of a fresh prune; full of hydration, smooth and healthy. As much practical sense that this all makes, I have to admit the idea of sipping on the same thing all day long can get boring. So lately I have been experimenting with Infused Water. Spring brings us bright, beautiful, and colorful produce that can naturally enhance the flavor of water. Infused water can be any combination of fruits, vegetables, herbs and even flowers. Why infuse water? The answer is simple. By improving the flavor with a healthy option, it’s an easier way to achieve your recommended daily amounts but also include essential vitamins into this healthy drink.

Although there are many flavored waters on supermarket shelves, producing a homemade option is cost effective and far healthier. Most infused waters available at supermarkets include preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and refined sugars. All of these are bad for your short and long-term health, in addition to being an enemy of your skin health.

Everyone has their favorite fruit infused water ingredients, but some are more popular than others. Lemon, lime, strawberries, apples, and oranges are the most popular fruit ingredients, while cucumbers, mint, basil, cinnamon, and ginger are the most popular vegetable ingredients. I think it’s time to produce your own, so I’ve included a basic method to follow. Have fun with it; the rest is up to you! To make your fruit-infused water, simply wash and slice a combination of fruits, vegetables and herbs. Pour cold filtered water on top. Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator. The flavor will get stronger after a few hours. You can replenish the water throughout the day.

Some of my favorite infused water combinations are: Lemon with Strawberry and Cucumber, Cucumber with any Citrus, Apple with Ginger and Cinnamon, Watermelon with Mint, Pineapple and Berry…sounds refreshing, doesn’t it? Here are 3 more tips I follow to ensure I drink enough water throughout the day:

  1. Set a specific goal for the day: Mine is to drink at least 32oz a day, I am working my way to 64oz but for now, 32oz is the goal!
  2. Get a bottle you will actually use and keep it close: My bottle requirements are: absolutely no dripping, BPA free plastic and it must fit in the car cup holder.
  3. Use a straw: I notice that when I use a straw I drink more and faster.

Here’s to a more hydrated you!

Sara Balcazar-Greene (aka. Peruvian Chick)
Peruvian Food Ambassador


Asparagus Soup                              

Growing up we had soup as the first course almost every day, this soup made it to our family table at least once a week. Enjoy!


2 lb. asparagus, trimmed, cut in ½ in pieces

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek (white part) chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon oil

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

¾ cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter and oil in a medium size saucepan at low heat. Add onion and leek and cook until golden brown. Add asparagus and season to taste. Cook stirring for 5 minutes. Add broth and simmer covered for 20 minutes or until asparagus are very tender.

With an immerse blender blend mixture until creamy and soft. Return cream to pan and add milk or cream. Serve with bread croutons if desired.


Uncooked asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. The secret is to keep the vegetable cool and damp. Store spears upright in a container with the stems wading in an inch of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag. Easier still: Wrap the ends in moist paper towels and drop the bundle into a plastic bag.

Use: cooking asparagus takes only a few minutes. The goal: Preserve the bright color and delicate flavor. Broiling or roasting the spears intensifies their inherent sweetness. Steamed or boiled asparagus is great for salads.


If you boil, forget the fancy equipment. Just launch the spears in a skillet full of lightly salted boiling water. The pan should be large enough to fit the spears in one or two layers, so that they cook evenly and quickly. Don’t cover the skillet; otherwise the asparagus will go from bright green to army drab. Start testing for doneness after two or three minutes by piercing the ends with a knife. They should be barely tender, with a slight crunch. Asparagus will continue to cook after you’ve removed it from the pan. If you like asparagus with snap, drop it into a sink full of cold water to stop the cooking.

Tips from

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Hold Your Horses!

That saying is so universal and it stems from another era, but the message still resonates and is applicable today.  When I farmed with Belgian draft horses, “hold your horses” took on a deeper meaning. Those “girls” of mine were big 1,700 lbs. of muscle and single-mindedness; gentle giants, for the most part.

However, getting them to stand still and wait could be a challenge. Shoot, getting me to stand still and wait is a challenge, and I don’t even have a bit in my mouth! Conversely, waiting and learning to wait is a necessary life skill for all of us.

This spring has been tough to wait! We have had incredible weather, warmer than expected and dryer than expected. I have had several non-farming folk in the community ask me how the farming is going: “Have you planted your peas yet?”  The look on their face is priceless when I tell them, “No”. They think I am joking with them, but I am not. I did work a little bit of ground to transplant some blackberries, but other than that, I am waiting.

I have learned to “hold my horses” and wait for April.  I remember a spring like this in 2005 and I had chomped right through the bit and started discing and plowing. I was appalled that my neighbors hadn’t started yet. After all the weather was perfect, but those 3 and 4 generational farmers who had farmed here for years were holding their horses.  I finally ran into one of those “slow out of the gate” neighbors. I asked him, “Why haven’t you started working the dirt?” His response was profound, “It is only March?” not a hint of superiority in his voice, his eyes, nothing derogatory at all. His answer was simple and, quite frankly, honest.

This year I was the one in the valley holding my horses, and all those multigenerational farmers got started early. Farming is akin to gambling and with the global warming as a new factor, it is hard to know if March will be the new April. And now? After a 1” rain event last week with more to come, I am glad that I have finally learned to hold my horses. After all it is only March!



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Kale Raab Salad with Chickpeas and Ricotta


Ingredients                                                                                                                         Serves 4

1 bag of kale raab, rinsed and trimmed

1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained or equivalent amount of cooked chickpeas (available in our grocery section)

2 cloves garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil, plus more for drizzling

sea salt

1 cup of fresh ricotta or soft goat cheese

red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

handful of fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)



  1. Preheat your broiler. Combine the raab kale mix, chickpeas, and garlic with oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and toss to coat.
  2. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for about two minutes, taking care to flip the broccolini once. Broil for another two minutes.
  3. Divide among plates and top with fresh ricotta. Season with red pepper flakes (to taste) and more sea salt.
  4. Drizzle with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped mint. Serve with toast.


Many people do not know that kale raab is fit to eat, let alone delicious, but it’s actually sweeter and more delicate than actual kale leaves. The small, yellow flower bud clusters that pop up when kale crops are about to go to seed are known as kale raab, or kale rabe. This little-used treat makes for an impressive ingredient, but is surprisingly easy to prepare. Quick cooking will highlight the fragrant, clean taste of your kale raab.

Store: Store just like you would kale, unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Prep: If the stems are tender (test by snapping one off with your fingers) you can use the whole bunch. You may wish to remove the outer stems and just use the sweet inner stems and leaves.

Use: Kale Raab can be used in substitution for kale in many recipes. It it fantastic lightly steamed, sautéed, as well as blanched!

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Fresh Spuds

Last November we ran into two issues on the farm; rain and storage. The weather had turned bad and we were harvesting more mud than spud. J We’d also run out of room to store any more potatoes. So we left them in the ground, anticipating that the rainy and freezing last winter would kill the spuds.  Last week we “opened up” a few fields with the disc to start drying out the soil. As soon as we started down those left behind rows of potatoes, it was like we hit a brick wall. Bam! The disc sliced through some of the whitest, rock hard potatoes. I was not expecting to see that.

As a farmer, I spend a lot of time building my soil and my soil biology (microbial and fungal populations). I earnestly believe that having healthy soil and microbial activity helps my produce grow better and last longer. However, to have those spuds overwinter and be in as good of a shape as they are was not even on my radar. I called a few farming friends and shared what I discovered – radio silence. So I sent them a picture of the inside and then their responses came in as “WOW!” or “Nice!”

Of course we had to cook up a few and yes, they are good! So we geared up, got the digging equipment set up and headed out. Bummer! It turns out that the winter weather has caused our soils to pack together so tightly around the potatoes it is almost impossible to dig them. Ugh! As we ran the digger through the soil ever so carefully, we were cutting through more than we were harvesting! We have had to resort to hand digging to get the potatoes out. That is really the epitome of slow food!

Needless to say, what was going to be a pretty good harvest and a little extra profit has produced fewer high quality potatoes, which means I could only put them into a few boxes this week. That is painful for me! I love to grow food and love to get it to you.  We will keep digging, but it will be more of a slog than a jog!

I have definitely learned that digging potatoes in the spring is not going to work, but it was sure fun to find this buried treasure.

From local spuds to local speaking!

Last year, our team added a goal to have me spend more time out in the community sharing about organic farming, eating healthier and just visiting! I have spoken to Rotarians, preschoolers and at large farm conferences, and I have been to health fairs and community meetings.  So if you need some entertainment at one of your local meetings or events, just call the office and we will do our best to come and share about the importance of local farms and healthy eating. I will even bring a box of good to be raffled or auctioned off with the proceeds going to your group’s favorite charity.

The farm is waking up!


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Caramelized Leeks and Cabbage

We know some people aren’t huge fans of cabbage, because it can be bitter. Want to know some good news? It’s actually really, incredibly easy to make caramelized cabbage that isn’t bitter, bland or boring. Here’s what you’ll need:

Caramelized Leeks and Cabbage

1 medium leek (or 1 medium onion)

1 1/2 tablespoon butter (or olive oil- but butter really is the most delicious here),

1 head green cabbage.

Trim, separate, and wash the leeks. Rough chop the white parts of the leek, then sauté in pan with butter on medium heat.

Cut stem off cabbage, then slice in 1/2″ thick wedges, removing any tough stem parts as you go.

Pull apart cabbage into shreds, toss in pan.

Rotate cabbage every 5 minutes or so (it will wilt- not as much as spinach but quite a bit). You want to get some great brown caramelized bits on all the shreds of cabbage, but you don’t want them to burn- so tossing often is key.

When the cabbage is a golden color with lots of browned bits, you’re done!

Serve as a side dish for Corned Beef, chicken, or really any dish. You can also add broth or stock and turn it into a soup. The leftovers actually taste better a day later. Just re-heat them by quickly sautéing in a pan again.

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There is a New Superfood

I can’t quite get my mind around it, but Lettuce is the new super food. It is a new variety of lettuce created by a team of researcher breeders from Rutgers University. Nutritional breeding is the newest frontier, where in a lab a single plant cell is selected and “grown out”. From these single cell lettuces cultures, the cultures with the most desirable traits are selected and re-grown and re-selected until the Nutritional Breeders get what they are looking for. From there it is grown out as a plant to produce seed for the vegetable growers. While this new lettuce variety is not GMO, it is produced in a lab.

This process has the potential to really speed up the hybridization of vegetable breeding, shaving years off the process of bringing new varieties to market. And this new lettuce called Rutgers Scarlet is supposed to have as much nutrition as blueberries, quinoa, almonds and kale. Those are some hefty claims! Lettuce was chosen as the first vegetable to work with because it is the second most popular vegetable behind potatoes that we eat. And unlike blueberries, the season for lettuce is much longer, thus adding a nutritionally potent fresh food source available for a longer season.

I am still on the bubble on this concept of nutritional breeding. In this discussion, no one is talking about the soil, sunshine and the environment it is grown in. I believe that the soil is everything. I spend a lot of time focusing on my soil health, striking a delicate balance with nature and the ecosystem on my farm. I am hypersensitive to getting the soil as nutritionally charged as possible so that the food we grow can “do its thing”. I am not sure that food grown inside a laboratory can ever compete with food grown outside.

However, if the nutritional breeders can really produce a super food through speeding up the genetic selection within a lettuce plant and I can grow it in my organic system – I can make the mental leap to accept it. As long as the plant breeders are staying with lettuce to lettuce, carrot to carrot, apple to apple etc.

However if they start to add non lettuce traits to lettuce, I am out! I would never consider any crop that has a transgender component, which is what GMO technology uses.

I have other concerns about being so gene selective: vegetables are very complex and selecting certain traits will limit our genetic diversity of our seeds going forward. I understand the debate and the need that they are trying to meet, but maintaining a genetically diverse seed stock is also important for future generations to meet their nutritional needs.


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March to Health

Reposted from a March 2014 newsletter.

Here we are in March, where days of sun give hope for spring and colorful crocuses push through the stiff dirt in protest of those long dark winter days. It’s also the month where we’re focusing on health.

I was asked to talk to you all about my tips for how I stay healthy and to be perfectly honest, at first I laughed. Me, talk about health?! I ate ice cream last night and have a roll of cookie dough lounging in the the fridge because you never know when the urge might strike. And then I started thinking a little deeper, beyond my sugar cravings, and realized that I do have a lot to say on the subject.

First of all, I have no rules. There was a time when I put a lot of limits on the way I eat. You know what happened? All I could think about was food. All day long I would sit, hungry, dreaming about the food I told myself was off limits. I’m terrible with rules. Give me a rule and I’ll obsess over it. I thought about food day and night and yet never felt satisfied. I limited myself so much that it became my obsession. When I broke a rule I felt terribly guilty and shameful. These rules took the joy out of food and nearly made it my enemy.

With a diet of no rules, however, I can think more clearly about eating that cookie. Do I really want it? Today, maybe yes. But I don’t sit around dreaming of the cookies I can’t have, so I don’t crave them nearly as much. When I do enjoy them, I savor it—feeling good about its sweetness. I don’t fret over the calories. I enjoy the moment and move on.

I also listen to my body. I know that I feel much better when I eat meals laden with fresh produce. There’s no denying it. I feel strong, alert, energetic and healthy. I like that feeling. So when I’m not feeling those things, I take it as a sign that I need more vegetables and good food. Those are the times when I pack the blender with fresh spinach and toss in an apple, carrot and lemon juice.

When you listen to your body you are also aware when it says, “I’m done.” There’s no need to keep eating when I’m full. Again, when there are no rules it’s much easier to avoid overeating because you have no reason for an unhealthy binge. You’re free to stop and look forward to the next meal when you’ll feel hungry again.

I practice radical moderation. What’s so radical about it? Sometimes even my moderation needs moderation. I’m a firm believer in Julia Child’s great quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” There are vacations, birthday parties and holidays which make healthy eating difficult. Enjoy the party then the next day, recover with salad. I’m not talking about plainly dressed greens here. Even salads can be fun (see recipe on back).

Just like everything else in life, it’s all about the little decisions. Do I really need to find the closest parking spot? Why don’t I take a few moments to walk around the block? Is that second latte the best idea? One cookie really is enough, mostly. These little decisions add up to big changes over the course of a few months, years and a lifetime. It’s not about big, radical changes that fall by the wayside before dinner is ready. It’s about a lifetime of little decisions that value yourself, your health and the health of your family.

One last thing before you go make the salad. People often ask how I teach my kids about health. I live a life following the advice I just gave you. My kids are watching. They see me choosing to walk to the store rather than drive, they see me happily enjoying a produce-packed smoothie and a colorful salad for dinner. They also see me enjoying a bowl of ice cream. I want my kids to see food for the gift it is. Not a burden or a set of rules that need to be governed. My desire is for them to respect food and to love their bodies well. I teach them by doing the same for myself.

Ashley Rodriguez

Food Blogger ~


Recipe from Ashley’s new cookbook, Date Night In is available on Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship. Recipe used by permission.


Ingredients                                                                                                                            Serves 2

4 ounces (110 grams) pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 bunch Lacinato kale or spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small shallot, finely minced (1/4 cup or 40 grams)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 apple, unpeeled and diced (I like something tart and crisp, like Pink Lady or Granny Smith)

1/4 cup (35 grams) dried currants

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1/2 a small lemon)

Shaved Parmesan, for finishing



  • Add the pancetta to a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Cook until brown and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the pancetta to a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Cook until brown and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.
  • While the pancetta cooks, wash the kale, remove the tough inner ribs, and cut into 1-inch ribbons.
  • Once the pancetta is brown, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the shallots and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until the shallots are golden around the edges and cooked through.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, mustard, and red wine vinegar.
  • Pour the warm vinaigrette over the kale. Add the apples, currants, and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Use a vegetable peeler to shave large, thin wisps of Parmesan over the salad to finish.