Tag Archives: peppers

Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce

April 26, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mary Current and her son, Anderson Current, started making hot sauce three years ago. She never planned on being a commercial food producer despite working the front and back of the house at restaurants, studying culinary arts, and being married to a retired food and beverage director. “It just kind of happened,” she says of Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce’s origins. One day this foodie and home gardener decided to make hot sauce from her bumper pepper crop. She had made pico de gallo and salsa, but never liquid hot sauce. Friends and family loved that first spicy concoction and wanted more.

Her four main sauces became habanero, jalapeño, datil, and chipotle, each with notes of poblano, anaheim, vinegar, citrus, garlic, and onion. Specialty sauces have followed. She only arrives at a recipe after much research and experimentation. Finding the right complementary combinations, she says, “is what I really like doing,” adding, “That’s what I get a kick out of. It’s like a gift.”

The initial strong reception got mother and son thinking, especially after the savory micro batches proved popular with Anderson’s friends in Colorado, where he lived with his wife, Constance. The couple worked for Whole Foods. When they moved to Omaha, Anderson helped his mom turn her food hobby into a business. Constance designed the logo with a Medusa-like head sprouting chili peppers. The two shopped the sauces around to trendy eateries like Block 16, and found that chefs and patrons also enjoyed the homemade spicy condiments.

Crazy Gringa has come a long way since Mary cooked and bottled the sauces at home and sold them out of the trunk of her car. Her condiments are now made in a commercial kitchen and are staples at the Omaha Farmers Market, select Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Hy-Vee stores, and some restaurants. She plans on keeping things small.

Working together allows the family more quality time, which is the main reason why Mary likes keeping it all in the family.

“When we make hot sauce, that’s our bonding time together,” Mary says of her and Anderson. Her husband, Doug, helps with receiving.

Mary also likes maintaining a small operation because it allows her to pour as much of her heart and soul into the operation as possible.

“It really is a labor of love. I’m never going to be rich, but I love to see the joy on people’s faces when we’re back at the Farmers Market and they say, ‘I can’t live without this hot sauce.’”

Just as Crazy Gringa showed up on store shelves, City Sprouts board president Albert Varas sought an area food manufacturer with whom he could partner. He realized these simple sauces with complex flavors have, as their base, items interns can grow and cultivate at the City Sprouts South garden at 20th and N streets. He contacted the Currents and found they shared a passion for building the local food culture.

The Crazy Gringa Hot Sauce maven partners with Omaha City Sprouts on a social entrepreneurship project that may spur more collaboration between for-profits like hers and the nonprofit urban agriculture organization.

City Sprouts South grows various peppers for Crazy Gringa’s signature hot sauces. The boutique company, in return, donates a percentage of sales over four summer weekends to support City Sprouts programs. Meanwhile, Crazy Gringa works with other local growers to supply the peppers City Sprouts can’t.

“We just hit if off,” Varas says. “They are all about community service, engagement, and sourcing hyper-local food with a mission behind it. It was always my dream we would partner on bringing a value-added product to market. It’s a great way to engage our interns.

“The relationship adds revenue and relevance to what we’re doing.”

Having the hand-grown peppers picked and processed in Omaha fits Crazy Gringa’s emphasis on fresh, local, and artisanal. Current also creates limited-run small batches for City Sprouts and other nonprofits to give away as gifts or prizes.

 

Anderson helped build the raised beds for the peppers at the site that community activists turned from a dumping ground to a garden.

Mary loves that her product helps a community-based ecosystem.

“So many kids don’t know where their produce comes from and City Sprouts helps educate them about how things grow,” she says. “Those interns learn how to garden, so they learn how to sustain themselves and their families. We’re happy to support good things in the community like this.”

Interns gain a sense of ownership in Crazy Gringa’s success.

Varas says, “The interns need something to do and something to believe in. One intern, Rafeal Quintanilla, is a mentee of mine and he really digs the idea that he has a stake in the finished product because he waters and cares for the peppers and harvests them. He has pride in being a part in creating this delicious hot sauce.”

The partnership with Crazy Gringa “has far exceeded my expectations,” Varas says, adding, “It’s not just transactional—it’s been an incredible reciprocal experience.”

Mary Current concurs, vowing the relationship will continue as long as she’s in business. “It’s an amazing concept. They’re wonderful people to work with. I can’t think of a better place to give back your money.”

More collaborations like this one may be in the offing.

”I think this is a model that could and should be replicated,” Varas says. “My hope is that we will be able to recreate this next growing season with Crazy Gringa and possibly other food businesses.”

Visit crazygringahotsauce.com

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Monster Stuffed Peppers

Photography by @Baldwin Publishing, Inc.

A simple spaghetti and marinara sauce gets a new look in these fun Monster Stuffed Peppers. Make the sauce the night before so it’s ready for dinner before the kids head out for some treats.

Find more great recipes at HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness. 

Ingredients

8 large bell peppers (assorted colors)

2 tsp olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

10 oz multigrain spaghetti
or other pasta

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and reserve. Carefully scoop out the seeds and ribs of the bell peppers.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the bell peppers and their tops and boil them for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just softened. Remove the peppers and tops with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice water.

Remove the peppers and tops from the ice water and let them dry. With a paring knife, cut out 2 triangles for the eyes and a jagged mouth on each pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is softened.

Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add parsley and simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender. In a colander, drain pasta and return to pot.

Add 1/4 cup tomato sauce to pasta and toss to coat.

Transfer pasta to bell peppers, with some sticking out of the “head.” Top with some of the remaining sauce, cheese, and additional parsley, if desired. Top with the bell pepper top.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1 Stuffed Bell Pepper; Calories: 348; Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 0; Cholesterol: 2mg; Sodium: 381mg; Carbohydrates: 69g; Fiber: 10g; Protein: 19g
Yield: 8 servings

MonsterPeppers

Earth Children

June 24, 2015 by

Article originally published in June 2015 Her Family.

With summer vacation and a welcome reprieve from the classroom under way, spring is a great time to teach kids lessons in greener pastures. Spending time in the garden with mom and dad not only helps get kids outside, but can also unearth some hidden interests.

Scott Evans, the Horticulture Program Coordinator for UNL’s Extension office in Douglas and Sarpy counties, got his start in plants as a kid, and his passion never faded. He grew up around nurseries with garden-loving parents, and despite a childhood obsession with dinosaurs, springtime visits to greenhouses in Council Bluffs made him into a plant guy.

“The smell of earth and that dampness is still something that, to this day when I walk into a gardening center, just brings back very fond memories,” says Evans.

Even if your kids aren’t crazy about plants, Evans believes that working hands-on with flowers, vegetables, and shrubs can teach kids important lessons about sustainability, especially if they’re not around plants all that much in the first place.

“When kids grow up in urban settings, they don’t realize where their food comes from. They’re missing that connection from where food actually comes from,” says Evans.

To make the experience more fun for parents and children alike, be sure to tailor your gardening routine to whatever your kid is interested in. Parents can get their creativity budding by browsing Pinterest or other websites for gardening project ideas.

Have a child who has a craving for homemade pizza? Grow the necessary ingredients together—tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc. If your kids love fairy tales, plant vegetables and flowers with whimsical names—there’s the Snow White carrot and the Purple Dragon carrot, for starters. Or try planting flowers with a variety of fun colors, smells, and textures for those still exploring their interests, like Gardenias or Woolly Lamb’s Ear.

For children who are too young to start taking care of plants on their own, pulling weeds and watering plants alongside adults are good tasks. Many gardening stores even have smaller, easy-to-carry watering cans or trowels designed just for the budding young gardeners. While adult supervision is key, Evans says to not be afraid of letting kids get their hands dirty. The more involved they are in the project, the more likely they are to stay interested.

Evans also recommends teaching kids simple biology principles that will help them understand how plants grow. Explain to them how plants aren’t like animals in that they make their own food, and thus need to have a proper amount of sunlight and water to flourish.

Finally, remember to start small. Remind children that even with tender loving care, not every plant will bloom, and don’t try to grow an entire greenhouse overnight. Even just starting with a few pots or another container garden can teach kids valuable horticulture lessons, and help their creativity bloom.

“It’s like when we go to dinner—our eyes are bigger than our plate,” says Evans. “Just starting small allows for a greater success, and then when you have that success, you can continue to build upon it.”

LessonsLearned