Putting on our healthy pants!

Wendy over on our Facebook wall asked for breakfast. Not the “indulge yourself and taking in ALL THE CARBOHYDRATES” kind. The “let’s put on our healthy pants and go to yoga” kind. So just call me grainy and wholesome. Or don’t. Your choice.

Let’s play with quinoa. Say it with me…keen-wah. Not kin-noah. Keen-wah. (It took me a while to pronounce correctly too. Crazy.) Quinoa is a superbly healthy grain. It’s easy to cook, not a hard to ruin (a must for me) and again, healthy as they come.

Our quinoa is going to need friends. Grains and fruit. Fruits and grains. And milk. Almond, soy, cow. Your choice. For our recipe we are going to borrow Joy‘s idea of adding toasted coconut, almonds, and fresh mango to our breakfast quinoa.

A very healthy breakfast by Joy the Baker

Breakfast Quinoa with toasted coconut, almonds and fresh mango

Makes enough for 2 breakfasts

Print this Recipe!

1 cup red or yellow quinoa (or a mix!)

2 cups water

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons applesauce

2 tablespoons shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

4 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/2 to 1 cup fresh mango chunks

milk to taste

brown sugar to taste

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread coconut in a single layer across the sheet.  Toast the coconut.  Keep a close eye on the coconut, it could burn quickly.  Coconut will be browned and fragrant after about 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place in a small bowl.  Place almonds on the baking sheet.  Toast almonds for about 6 to 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in a small bowl.

Rinse dry quinoa.  Place quinoa, salt, and water in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.   Simmer the quinoa until all of the water is absorbed.  Stir occasionally.  Turn off the flame and allow quinoa to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine a heaping spoonful of quinoa, applesauce,  a sprinkling of almonds and coconut, a generous helping of fresh mango, a sprinkling of sugar and a splash of milk.

Nom nom nom by Joy the Baker

Get fancy and share your quinoa’s best friend’s in the comments! Enjoy. It’s breakfast.


Raspberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

How’s that for the best picture to see first thing in the morning?  I’m happy to have you back, I’ve missed you.  Truly!  I enjoy our (albeit) one-sided chats.  You are always welcome to comment.  I’ll chat with you there and you can chat back with me.  I’d love to hear about your day.

Let me start the conversation going… How’s did your weekend treat you? Sleep in a little? Stand in the shower a little longer? Yeah, me too. Sans the sleeping in part. My nearly four year old has yet to get the “sleeping in” concept.

Since I didn’t sleep in I had time. Lots. So I made cupcakes; yes they were perfect and of course they are a Joy the Baker recipe.  Raspberry almond cupcakes with chocolate ganache.

The best part about the cupcakes is I try to only buy my produce in season and raspberries are it right now. Summer, baby, in all its glory. The cupcakes are not nearly as hard to make as they sound but are still gourmet style delectable.

They are dinner party perfect; light and delicate with the flavors of almond and fresh raspberry. Great for adults and not too overpowering and strange for kids. The chocolate ganache is not too sweet or heavy and spreads on the cupcake with a beautiful sheen. Kids absolutely love them, but they’re sophisticated enough to enjoy with coffee or a glass of wine long after the kiddies have gone to bed.

Raspberry Almond Cupcakes

Print this recipe!

makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup whole milk

1/3 cup fresh raspberries, roughly chopped

Put a rack in the middle of the oen and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt inside a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg and almond extract.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until incorporated.  Fold in the raspberries.

Divide the batter among lined muffin cups.  Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Turn cupcakes out onto a rack to cool completely.

Spread frosting on cupcakes once cooled.

Photo by Joy the Baker

Chocolate Ganache

3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)

1/4 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan.  Pour cream evenly over chocolate.  Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth.  If frosting is too loose to spread, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, frosting will continue to thicken as it stands.

Did you know carrots used to be PURPLE before the 17th century?

The modern day orange carrot wasn’t cultivated until Dutch growers in the late 16th century took mutant strains of the purple carrot, including yellow and white carrots, and gradually developed them into the sweet, plump orange variety we have today!

Before this, pretty much all carrots were purple with mutated versions popping up including the aforementioned yellow and white carrots, among others. Purple carrots, however, were rarely cultivated due to being thin and not very good tasting!

Since the Dutch worked so hard 400 years ago and carrots are wonderful, you should pay homage and eat some today…with ranch dressing…mmm. Did you know you could make your own ranch dressing? And did youknow it was super easy to do? Well you can. And it is. Just look:

Ranch Dressing by Joy the Baker

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing by Joy the Baker

Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of salt onto the garlic. With a fork, mash the garlic and salt into a thick paste.

In a bowl combine all of the ingredients except for the buttermilk. Stir.

Add buttermilk until you’ve reach the desired consistency. Taste and season as necessary. Chill for a couple hours before serving. Thin with milk when it comes out of the fridge, if needed.


1 cup of real mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream


1 clove of garlic

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped

salt to taste

healthy pinch of ground black pepper

dash of Tabasco

The Real Cost of Cheap Food

The Dollar Menu

According to a recent USDA study, Americans spend less of their household income on food than any country in the world and, as the the USDA data shows, American’s today have the most affordable food in the history of the U.S. But at what price?

Food today is certainly very different than the food we ate growing up. It is even more different than the food our parents  and grandparents ate. Just wander through today’s modern supermarket; you can still recognize most of the fresh fruits and vegetables as being foods that came out of the field—albeit cleansed and waxed and trimmed and packaged—they are still food. Same thing in the meat department, it’s pretty easy to know that the beef came from cows, the chicken from chicken, pork from pigs, and so on. Now wander deeper into the store and pick up anything that’s packaged and look at the ingredient label. Chances are you might need a chemistry degree to understand what’s in the box.

Some of the things you might recognize (often corn or soy in some distillate form) and a bunch of other things like preservatives. This food is not natural; it comes from a lab where food specialists literally assemble new food products. Yet, it’s cheap. It’s often cheaper to buy a bag of potato chips than it is a salad. Or go to McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurant and check out the dollar menu—you can eat cheap. But is it really…?

Aqua-Vita, incredible aquaponic farming.

Inspired by a story in the Wall Street Journal about sustainably growing Yellow Perch in an old Milwaukee grain factory, Mark Doherty was looking for a way to develop such a plan of his own. As a chef, graduated from Paul Smith’s college, Mark had a notably strong background in food and has always been committed to focusing on local and sustainable growing.  His plans for Aquaponic Farming started taking shape about a year ago, save a few key components.

Heather Hawkins and the Aqua-Vita team

Mark’s fortuitous meeting with Scott, his former room mate at Paul Smith College, provided just the right connection and expertise. As an Environmental Engineer and Ornamental Fish Specialist, Scott brought some essential talents into the mix, bringing Mark’s dream of establishing a creative, sustainable aquaponic produce-seafood farm closer to reality. Prior to reconnecting, Scott was running a successful ornamental fish business out of his home, housing fish in 80 tanks, for a total of 1500 gallons.  Originally coming on as a consultant, Scott officially took the job as Aquaculture Director last May, combining his talents with Autumn’s as Aqua-Vita’s Horticulture Director, for a wholly integrated system.

Everything about Aqua-Vita has been focused on sustainable growth, beginning with their location. Housed in the former Oneida Silver plant’s polishing factory warehouse, Mark and his crew opted for the arduous task of cleaning years of built up silver polish from the walls and floors before even beginning to lay the foundation for the fledgling business. While certainly more challenging than building something new, they felt the local factory reclamation project was not only worthy for the community, it was more consistent with their business values. Aqua-Vita’s fish tanks, soon to be filled with Blue Gill fry (babies), are also designed resourcefully as they are made from sections of old silos. Immediate plans include adding a drop ceiling for better energy conservation which will help provide proper warmth and lighting for the project.

Aqua-Vita Farms (under construction)

Heightened environmental concerns about phosphorous and nitrogen run off causing a yellow mid-summer algae bloom in Oneida Lake, reinforced their decision to reuse everything in their efficient ecosystem.  Aqua-Vita’s aquaponic/seafood production methods are designed so there’s no waste or run-off of any sort – absolutely nothing enters into the water table because everything is recycled in an ecosystem that mimics nature.  Other more traditional aquaponic systems may still contribute fertilizer waste by-products into the environment since artificial fertilizers often contain petro-chemicals. Aqua-Vita’s system is completely free of petro-chemicals, fossil fuels and they even source electricity from NYPA clean hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls.  In every way, Aqua-Vita has been conscientiously built to have a very efficient self-sustaining system and minimal carbon footprint.

Filtering water

Generally the aquaponic-seafood system is designed to be relatively simple; two tanks feeding into one system filtering waste water from the fish tanks. Waste water flows through pipes to filters which remove solids, then to a series of aerated biological filters. In the process, the ammonia laced waste water (effluent) from the fish tanks is transformed by natural bacteria which feed on the ammonia, transforming it into a nitrate-rich “nutrified,” water which the hydroponic plants thrive on.
Designed to be the heart of the aquaponic food system, large frameworks (100 feet long and 4 feet wide) traverse the warehouse providing 400 square feet of hydroponic growing space. Primarily focused on lettuce varieties, herbs and eventually tomatoes, Mark has additional space available to handle anticipated growth.
Nurtured from seed in a special germination chamber, Autumn’s 10-11 day old seedlings will be placed into the system. Gradually and gently floating towards the end packing station in nutrified water on specially designed rafts over a period of 28 days, the seedlings develop along the way into fully ORGANIC natural, healthy, mature plants which are free of any contaminants, bacteria or unnatural chemicals.

Wooden beds

Once the mature plants reach the end pre-processing room they are harvested and can be on our lunch and dinner tables in less than 24 hours-surprisingly quicker than most bagged lettuces shipped from the West Coast which typically are 2 weeks old before they even hit the grocery store shelves.  Furthermore, to eliminate pathogens it’s a common practice to wash pre-packed bagged lettuces in a chlorine solution prior to packing and shipping-something that will never happen at Aqua-Vita!

One taste of these fresh, tender chlorine-free hydroponic lettuces which benefit our LOCAL economy will not only help to transform our food system, but also our tastebuds!

Hopefully, if all goes according to their plans, Green Hills will be among the first to have Aqua-Vita produce available mid-summer and seafood within 7-9 months. Learn more about this innovative new supplier and watch their growth by friending them on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aquavitafarms
On a side note, both Mark and Scott have roots in our area. Mark’s grandparents had a place on South Salina in the City until sometime around WW II when they moved to Nedrow, settling on Weymouth Road, and Scott makes the trip to the Sherrill, NY farm from his home in Jamesville.

What, exactly, is a scape?

Garlic Scapes

What exactly is a scape? The shoot that pokes its way through garlic and up through the ground. When you have slightly old garlic and you see a green shoot beginning to grow – that is the beginning of a garlic scape.

Now that we know what it is, what do we do with it? Cut off the top, flower bud-like part, and enjoy scapes in the same ways that scallions can be – grilled, cut thinly and added to salads, sauted and added to a stir fry. But really, the best way to prepare scapes is into a pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste


Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

It’s about community.

So our article in our ad flyer of May 29th about the Valley Plaza developer and Tops Markets receiving significant tax breaks to encourage Tops to locate a supermarket in the plaza generated quite a bit of interest. Enough interest for the Syracuse Post Standard to post an article online at Syracuse.com, generating even more comments, and then printing the article in the June 1st Post Standard and again in the June 8th New Times.

While some will say this is about Green Hills not wanting a competitor nearby, they are missing the more important point. This is not so much about Green Hills and Tops, this is about presenting another view, another way to look at what is being done with our hard-earned tax dollars. While local governments extend lucrative tax breaks and subsidies to large companies seeking to lure them to a particular market or location, the same governments tend to overlook the many local businesses who collectively employ thousands—tens of thousands—of local people, pay their taxes, and pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

Successful communities around the country seek to nurture their local community; businesses, organizations, and neighborhoods. It is local organizations, both profit and non-profit, along with communities and neighborhoods that provide an area’s uniqueness. A community populated by big box, national chain stores is just not unique.

Green Hills is proud to be a founding member of Syracuse First, a local organization devoted to encouraging Syracuse area residents to think local, buy local and be local by supporting independent businesses in our community. Their research has shown that by shopping locally, $30 more of every $100 spent stays in our community.

Is Green Hills all local? Of course not. Could you do all of your shopping locally? The answer to that is probably no, too (try to find Syracuse-made Cheerios.) But we’re working extremely hard to do everything we can to better Syracuse and CNY—and to be true to our principles. And we have been 77 years. For all of you that are a part of that, thank you, thank you!