The Bronx has a weight problem, and part of that stems from parents who simply don’t know how to cook. Chef and educator Tania Lopez knows about that situation firsthand. She grew up in the South Bronx and in Puerto Rico, and says that her parents rarely cooked for her as a child.
“They were constantly working all the time and they didn’t have time to cook for me,” Lopez explained. “So I didn’t have a chance to really taste food from all over the world. And I always felt like I was left out of something.” She was determined to change that after she had children and moved back to Puerto Rico. Step one: Lopez turned to the community of women around her and started asking questions.
“I was very lucky to have moms that love to cook for their children and share their ideas,” she said. Having discovered the passion for home cooking and healthy eating, Lopez started Coqui the Chef, an initiative based in the South Bronx that promotes healthier alternatives to traditional Latino food. A big part of the organization’s mission is to introduce kids to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lopez says that there’s one fruit that is often big hit with the kids she teaches: avocados. (Photo: Tania Lopez/Courtesy of Tania Lopez)
“It’s amazing—many of them haven’t tasted avocados,” Lopez said, adding that the fruit grows in abundance in Puerto Rico. “So we decided to add some tomato, cilantro, a little bit of onions, and some whole wheat chips, and they were like ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ They loved it... They love mashing. Who doesn’t doesn’t love mashing?”
More to the point: Who doesn’t love guacamole?
A crucial part of making delicious guacamole is picking out perfectly ripe avocadoes. Lopez first makes sure the fruit isn’t too bruised and soft. Then she examines the area where the avocado was cut from the tree.
“The stem, I flip it off. If I see that it’s... light greenish, then I said this right,” she explained. “But I’m kind of picky with it so I wait for it [to be] light green almost brown. But when it’s very green, I still think it needs half a day.”
One way to get the fruit to ripen faster is to put it in a paper bag and store it in a turned-off oven. A day later, she said, the avocado will be ripe.
While there are more than 30 different variety of avocados — including the smooth-skinned, light green variety known as “West Indian avocados" — Lopez recommend using the rough-skinned, dark green Hass variety for guacamole. Her kid-friendly recipe is below.
Recipe for Kid-Friendly Guacamole
- 2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
- juice of ¼ of lime
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced (optional)
- ¼ cup diced red onion (optional)
- ¼ cup diced jalapeno (optional)
Combine all ingredients in pilon (mortar and pestle) and mash until desired consistency is achieved. Serve immediately or chilled if preferred.
Avocado benefits: Avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K, folate, and B6. Half an avocado has 160 calories, 15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat. One globe contains more than one-third daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day’s requirements of vitamin K.