Mint Lemon Agua Fresca

Mint Lemon Agua Fresca

Let’s suppose someone opened a Mason Jar and poured you a glass of Mint Lemon Agua Fresca. It’s refreshing, full of zest and sweet intensity from the coconut water, and if acidity can be thrilling, this recipe has it. Would you be surprised to learn this is a staple from my cookbook Latin Superfoods? I usually drink it right after exercise, or as soon as I wake up, on an empty stomach. It feels pretty awesome. And you can watch a video of this recipe on You Tube. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel!

 

Mint Lemon Agua Fresca

Makes 2 Ball Mason Jars

 

6 sprigs fresh mint

10 thin slices of cucumber

1 lime, sliced thinly

4 cups coconut water

Ice cubes

 

  • Divide the mint, cucumber, and lime between the 2 Ball Mason Jars. Fill each with coconut water.
  • Close the jar and let it steep in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. Add ice before serving.

 

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H.O.P.E Through Community Services

 

It was the late 70’s, and a young girl in Brazil wanted to be like her older sister and do gymnastics. Bibiana Pinto was born in Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul (south of Brazil), and fell in love with gymnastics at the age of five and then embarked on a 12-year long career as a Rhythmic Gymnastics (RG) athlete.

Bibiana Pinto as a young gymnast

In the early 80’s, RG was a completely unknown sport, just starting to make its first appearances in the national scene. Little did Bibiana know at that point, that rhythmic gymnastics was the sport that would become her passion.

“Looking back, I realize that my team was responsible for establishing the group culture in the sport that is known today. We conquered the first international silver medal for Brazil in the Pan American Games in Cuba 1991. I competed in two world championships: 1989 in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia and 1991 in Athens, Greece”, Bibiana told me.

an old photo from Bibiana’s archives during a competition

After three intense years of competing on the RG Brazilian national team, Bibiana retired from the sport at the age of 17 and went to college to study civil engineering. She then married a young Brazilian man and the couple immigrated to the U.S.

Bibiana Pinto as a teenager

Decades passed since Bibiana did anything with or about RG, but nostalgia hit when her daughter was born in 2012. In 2015 the family moved to Greenwich, CT and Bibiana wondered if there was anything that could possibly be similar to rhythmic gymnastics in the area. When her daughter Amanda was three and a half years old, she found a program in Stamford, CT.

Bibiana and her daughter Amanda

“Stepping again in a gym, handling the apparatus and watching my daughter take her first steps into the world of RG, the gymnast in me started to come out in another role: that of a coach. I was interacting with the little gymnasts and each day I realized that RG was still a huge part of me”, Bibiana said.

Some time in 2016, while participating in a fundraiser for the 9/11 victims, Bibiana felt the urge to give back to the community in return for the many wonderful opportunities that this country gave her and her family.

H.O.P.E, which stands for Humanitarian Organization for Physical Education was created as a non-profit organization a few months after that event with a small group of five girls, all her daughter’s friends. Bibiana found a space available at a local church and decided to send e-mails to other moms asking if they were interested in bringing their daughters to a free RG trial class. The program quickly grew to 15 girls. Then 50 girls. Then 70 girls.

More girls, more classes, more hours; bigger operations, a new space, bigger responsibilities and most importantly, bigger challenges.

H.O.P.E evolving from a tiny gym to a bigger one

The biggest challenge of all, is the unfortunate unpopularity of the sport when compared to Gymnastics Artistic Olympics. Names like Nadja Comaneci, Aly Raisman and Simone Biles immediately come to mind for the sport. What names do we associate for Rhythmic Gymnastics? What do we know about it?

“In the state of Connecticut there are all but three clubs. The vast majority of RG clubs in this country are confined among the Eastern Europeans communities where coaches teach in Russian and parents understand the sport perceiving it as a serious competitive activity and not a girly little dance with a ribbon”, Bibiana explained.

Rhythmic Gymnastics is a sport developed by women for girls; it involves ballet, dance, gymnastics and feminine movement. Because the appeal of RG is more feminine, unfortunately the sport attracts little sponsorship and therefore doesn’t appear often on prime-time TV, making it very hard for rhythmic gymnasts to reach the professional level. Without the necessary recognition, there is no demand. Without demand we cannot have children being stimulated to participate in a serious sport. Girls end up playing soccer, basketball, running track, and other mainstream sports.

Up to this point, the Rhythmic Gymnastics community in the USA has made very shy attempts to expand RG programs nationwide. Most of these efforts never succeeded because the officials in charge never tackled the root of the problem: in order to expand, RG needs more exposure to the American public. The sport needs a competitive structure with more public appeal and excitement. However, taking the sport in this direction would counter the current culture of RG in this country, appealing mostly to Eastern European girls and pressuring them to sacrifice their childhood in pursuit of rhythmic gymnastics.

Against all odds, Bibiana steps into a gym full of girls four times a week and every single time, she reaffirms her commitment to be the vessel that brings the right attitude and sets the right example to the girls who look up to her as a role model. In these classes, she teaches cooperation, team spirit, kindness, respect, and effort. “My girls love H.O.P.E. and they are proud to wear their team jackets. They are aware they’re part or something much bigger than themselves”, Bibiana said.

If you are an organization looking to know more about the work of H.O.P.E Gymnastics or are a brand looking to participate in social change through community services, and help unprivileged children to participate in sports through need-based scholarships and affordable classes, I highly encourage you to get in touch with Bibiana Pinto and get on board! Your interest could be the next step toward making this sport a force for girls and teenagers to do good in this country and around the globe.

You can also find more photos of H.O.P.E on Instagram and Facebook.

To get in touch with Bibiana Pinto:

e-mail: [email protected]

Tel: (203) 990-0098

 

 

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And remember always,

Cook at home! Body Up! Health up! Wise up!

See you next time!

Leticia

 

 

Avocado Spinach Smoothie

Avocado Spinach Smoothie

Avocado Spinach Smoothie

Here’s to the New Year Cleansing, with an inspiring drink:

An Avocado Spinach Smoothie! Because juices and smoothies are high on the list to fuel all of my hopes and dreams!

Hope you’ll join me on this new decade!

Avocado Spinach Smoothie

Makes 1 smoothie:

½ avocado

1 cup spinach

¾ cup almond milk

¼ teaspoon honey

Few drops lime juice

½ cup crushed ice

 

Procedure: Beat everything in a food processor until nice and smooth.

Drink and enjoy!

 

I’m so happy that you visited today! Thanks for reading and browsing my site!

If you like what you read, tell your friends about it,

I’d love to connect with you! Please do send comments and suggestions,

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And remember always,

Cook at home! Body Up! Health up! Wise up!

See you next time!

Leticia

Meyer Lemon Caipirinha

Meyer Lemon Caipirinha Drink

Of all things Brazilian, you’ve probably heard of Caipirinha, our heraldic emblem and one of Brazil’s greatest contributions to the food and wine world.

Essentially, caipirinha is a simple cocktail based on a mixture of mashed lime with sugar, ice, and cachaça. As elementary as it is, there are a few variables that could make all the difference in your drink. The lime should be cut into medium-sized chunks. It is then mashed with sugar by a wooden muddler until the lime releases its oils. Transfer this mixture to a shaker, add some ice, cachaca, shake it, and pour. Done!

It was OMG at first sight when I saw some Meyer Lemons at the farmers market and used it as an inspiration for this gleaming new recipe. It subtly glimmers for an occasion that blends easy Connecticut elegance with a casual, Latin spirit.

 

Meyer Lemon Caipirinha

 Makes 1 caipirinha

 

2 Meyer Lemons

1 tablespoon organic cane sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons cachaça (adjust amount to taste)

Ice cubes

 In a grinder, mash lemon and sugar together.

Transfer to a drink shaker. Add Cachaca, and ice; shake well and pour into a cup.

Cheers!

 

 

 

I’m so happy that you visited today! Thanks for reading and browsing my site!

If you like what you read, tell your friends about it,

I’d love to connect with you! Please do send comments and suggestions,

If you prepare any of the recipes on the site, snap a photo and send it to me!

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And remember always,

Body Up! Health up! Wise up!

See you next time!

Leticia

 

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate

It’s snowing outside. You’re wearing flannel shirts and velvet blankets. You are cozy in a soft couch and craving for the memories of your childhood hot chocolate. I got you! This Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon and Cocoa Nibs will satisfy your cravings and make you want to stay under the covers! Enjoy!

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs

Makes 4 small hot chocolates

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons organic cane sugar

1 cinnamon stick, more sticks to serve as garnish

4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 teaspoons cocoa nibs for serving

 

1- Bring the milk, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil over medium heat.

2- Add the chocolate, reduce the heat to low, and whisk constantly until it becomes thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Yes, this is the secret to a good hot chocolate, you have to whisk non-stop until all of the water in the milk has evaporated and it becomes creamy.

3- Let it cool for 5 minutes.

4- Strain through a fine sieve and serve in small cups.

5- Garnish with cocoa nibs and a cinnamon stick.

 

I’m so happy that you visited today! Thanks for reading and browsing my site!

If you like what you read, tell your friends about it,

I’d love to connect with you! Please do send comments and suggestions,

If you prepare any of the recipes on the site, snap a photo and send it to me!

Follow my food adventures on Instagram !

Contact me!

And remember always,

Cook at home! Body Up! Health up! Wise up!

See you next time!

Leticia

Red Fruit Juice

Red Fruit Juice (Berry Juice)

Ingredients:

4 large(80g) strawberries

1/3 cup (60g) Raspberries

1/3 cup Blueberries (60g) or Cherries or Blackberries

1 cup coconut Water

1 tablespoon honey

 

Place all ingredients in a blender, puree for 3 minutes or until very smooth Strain over a tall glass

Makes 1 tall glass.

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

It’s freezing cold again! This weekend my kids asked me for “my famous” creamy hot chocolate, which I am sharing the secret here with you. The glass in this photo is really small, about 4 ounces—all you need is a small shot of hot chocolate with this recipe! Perfect for the freezing temperatures of the North East these days, and a nice way to  warm up!  Let me know how you like this recipe!

 

Creamy Hot Chocolate

Makes 4 small shots-hot chocolate

2 cups whole milk

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons organic cane sugar

4 ounces (115g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1- Bring the milk, water and sugar to a boil over medium heat.

2- Add the chocolate, reduce the heat to low, and whisk constantly until it becomes thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Yes, right here it’s the secret to this creamy hot chocolate, you have to whisk non-stop it becomes dense and creamy.

3- Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Serve in small shot cups and enjoy!

 

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Vanilla Extract

Brazilian Vanilla Extract

One night last month I spent several hours baking all kinds of goodies: cookies, brownies, cakes, and so on. The one ingredient they all had in common was vanilla extract.

Vanilla is for baking what salt and pepper is for cooking— it enhances the flavor of everything! Vanilla pods are enclosed in beans produced by orchids, which only opens once a year, justifying their expensive prices. It is cultivated in a number of tropical countries like Madagascar, Indonesia, Uganda, India, and Papa New Guinea, but the most prized ones come from Madagascar, Mexico, and Tahiti.

When vanilla beans are harvested, it doesn’t really taste as we know it. The aroma develops later, during the drying and fermentation process. And the result is a bean that is soft and oily, slightly sweet, tasting almost caramel, with a far undertone of camphor, perfect for cookies, brownies, cakes and a world of baking.

Length matters: the longer, the better— the more flavor it will have.

A good vanilla bean, with its astounding range of familiar tastes, transports you to a mystical place. After hours of confectioning and flavoring everything with vanilla, I decided to step back and started to contemplate on how the extract is made. The answer is simple: essentially alcohol infused with vanilla beans or compound.

And then my typical self came out: why not try to make a vanilla extract at home? And with a Brazilian alcohol beverage instead? Cachaça of course! The national spirit of Brazil varies in flavor from floral to cinnamon, herbal to fiery, and it might just work great!

I made a trip to The Container store and bought a jar/ glass bottle with a cork top, like this

http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodStorage/commercial?productId=10019593

My experiment was easy and pleasureable. And now I can give a touch of Brazilian flavor even to the most American of sweets.

Brazilian Vanilla extract

Makes 1 small jar of 4 oz

2 vanilla beans, very moist and oily, split length-wise

½ cup (125 ml) cachaça

1- Sterilize the container by simmering in hot water.

2- Put the vanilla beans inside the glass jar and cover with cachaça, completely submerging the beans. If the beans are taller than the jar, cut it.

3- Close the bottle and let it stand in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks before using. The extract is done when is dark and fragrant.

Have fun making your own! And let me know about it!

Hugs,

Leticia

Orange Papaya Smoothie

Vitamina de Mamão com Laranja

 

Today, for no specific reason, I woke up kind of sad. I know, you’re gonna say come on! There are so many bad things that could happen and didn’t, why on earth are you feeling sad? Get up and smile!

You’ll probably say that because you want to encourage me, but you also might say that because you are terrified of sadness. Didn’t smile today? Where is Valium? Want to cry all day? Call the therapist. Sad is bad, sad is contagious. Sad is not attractive. Sad doesn’t sell.

The truth is nothing really happened to make me sad. Everything is normal. But even when I am sad, things are also normal. Because being sad is just as legitimate as being happy. Sad is not depressed. Depressed is so much more serious than sad.

When I feel sad it’s because I am paying attention to my own feelings. It could come from being disappointed with someone, or being tired of the same old, or feeling vulnerable, or a million other reasons.

We all make an effort to run away or revert the picture but we seldom make the effort to face it and brave it. Of course it is much better to be happy than sad, but the greatest of all would be if we could just allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we are feeling.

Perhaps I am just too demanding on my self, always trying to maintain a certain level of euphoria. I know I feel sad when I don’t feel like cooking. I just need to retrieve, stay quiet, and be alone. I’ll be back. We all come back, usually stronger. Ready to face the next wave of sadness, whenever that might be. Hopefully not so soon.

Alleluia, I hear my stomach! It’s growling. It’s alive! I need to eat. The natural necessity of having to prepare something to feed myself might do the trick. What can lift me up in this morning? My husband went to Costco this past weekend and bought Papayas from Brazil. Bingo! Papaya is tropical, bright, buttery, and has a complex sweetness. The fruit never found big roles in dessert, but in Brazil, Suco de Mamão com Laranja (Papaya and Orange Smoothie) is as classic as it gets.

Off to the kitchen I go. Cooking is my medicine. What’s yours?

Vitamina de Mamão com Laranja (Orange-Papaya Smoothie)

1 small papaya, seeded and peeled (between 120-150 g of flesh)

1 cup orange juice (about 2 oranges)

Place the papaya and orange juice in a blender and puree until smooth. If you’d like a little less thick, adjust with orange juice. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.

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