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Gangstas to Growers Knows How to Change the World, One Ridiculously Tasty Bottle of Hot Sauce at a Time | Healthyish

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It started, as many great things do, with a hint of desperation. Abiodun Henderson had agreed to make sauce for a dinner benefiting her Atlanta-based social enterprise, The Come Up Project, and the day of the dinner had arrived, sauce-less.

“It was last minute,” Henderson recalls, laughing. “I went to Dekalb Farmers Market and just picked up a whole bunch of random seasonings: lavender, turmeric, muscovado sugar. I had never even heard of muscovado sugar.”

Though she’d worked in restaurants for well over a decade, Henderson’s jobs had always been front of house, not in the kitchen. But she did some internet research and worked off a few recipes she found on YouTube. Riffing with the more unexpected ingredients, she added plenty of habanero and cayenne peppers for heat, rounded it all out with a reliable base of onions, garlic, and apple cider vinegar. The result? A fragrant, fiery blend the color of Georgia clay that somehow tastes great on everything.

“It’s a super blast of tropical, pungent heat, but it finishes very clean and a touch sweet,” says our highly discerning (read: very picky) senior food editor, Chris Morocco, noting how subtle hints of lavender back up the intense heat of the habanero. “Honestly, you could just literally spoon it into your mouth.”

healthyish sweet soul silo

Photo by Emma Fishman

Gangstas to Growers’ Sweet Sol hot sauce.

A few weeks after the charity dinner, Henderson and her team were brainstorming ways to help fund the Come Up Project’s core program, Gangstas to Growers, which seeks to reduce recidivism in formerly incarcerated youth (statistically, more than 50 percent of young people end up back in the system within three years of release) by teaching them an array of important life skills. The program’s approach is holistic, but much of the work revolves around agriculture and food—Henderson partners with SWAG Co-op, a Southwest Atlanta farmers’ organization dedicated to sustainable urban food systems, along with other food businesses and restaurants around the city. After graduating, classes of six to ten trainees, ranging in age from 18 to 24, are placed into jobs and externships around the city.

“The original idea was for the young people to come up with a product we could sell,” Henderson says. “We were deciding between tomato sauce or hot sauce. Then Beyoncé came out with her song, you know, ‘hot sauce in my bag, swag,’ and that was it. Beyoncé decided for us.”

Gangstas to Growers trainees came up with the sauce’s name, Sweet Sol, during a marketing workshop, and they gather weekly at a church kitchen in Atlanta’s West End to make it. Henderson and her team started off peddling the sauce at local events and farmers markets, but it now ships nationwide through the Come Up Project’s website.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Henderson experienced the fruits of activism early, and the struggles, too. Her mom—a Liberian-born social worker, educator, and entrepreneur who started both a school and an employment agency for immigrant women—died of AIDS-related complications when Henderson was 14. Her dad, a “rank and file Black Panther member,” passed when she was 29, eight days before the start of the Occupy movement.

Henderson was working as a waitress at an Atlanta airport restaurant when her father died, and the news sparked something in her. She took the money she’d inherited and joined the thousands that had gathered on D.C.’s National Mall for Occupy Congress. There she met Malik Rhasaan of the offshoot group Occupy the Hood, which seeks to centralize the strife of underserved black communities. “I looked at all the signs, like, who am I supposed to be?” Henderson says. “I’m supposed to be doing this work.”

Henderson returned to Atlanta and honed in on her own neighborhood, Westview, where rapid development had begun to displace predominantly black residents en masse. She enrolled in a training program with an urban agriculture center called Truly Living Well and upon graduating took over a defunct community garden, where she started teaching basic growing skills to local kids. In 2016 she turned her attention to the older set, and piloted Gangstas to Growers. “I found my organizer family within the farmers,” she says. “In my experience, the folks in local food movements are the most grounded, the most void of ego, the most thoughtful about how we can really be liberated and what this work should look like.”

Today, Henderson is halfway through her second class of trainees and focused on securing investment for a hot sauce production facility and creating partnerships with local food businesses in Atlanta so they can one day employ Gangstas to Growers graduates. Her ultimate goal is to build a local food cooperative that can train and employ everyone who wants to get involved. “Coming from Occupy the Hood, that’s what we’re about: one hood at a time, block by block,” she says. “Black folks got the answers, we just need the resources.”

Buy SweetSol Hot Sauce, $12

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Santé Et Nutrition

The Only Pasta I Make For My Best Friend Has 8 Cloves of Garlic

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Most friends give friends who just moved into a new home a nice bottle of wine, maybe some paper towels if they’re practical. Me? For my best friend? I brought her a whole head of garlic, a bag of wide-leg pappardelle, a tub of olive oil, and fist-size portions of basil and parsley. Then I made lunch.

Specifically, Andy Baraghani’s extremely simple but extremely satisfying pasta riddled with bronzed flecks of garlic, bracing Castelvetrano olives, and all those leafy herbs. It was an elegant and complex meal—“bright, herby, and a little briny,” as Andy described it over Slack—and it couldn’t be easier to pull off.

Even while totally distracted by our conversation about the very dark but very fascinating Dr. Death podcast, I could still absentmindedly boil the pasta water and smash eight—yes, eight—garlic cloves in olive oil until they look like little golden nuggets. While my friend and I batted around theories about how this neurosurgeon could have kept going after committing 33 botched surgeries (insane hubris? Actual ignorance?), I tossed those nuggets with red pepper flakes, pitted Castelvetranos, and chopped parsley. “It’s a way to mellow out the grassy parsley flavor,” Andy Slacked me. (We only communicate via Slack, like true millennial coworkers.)

Once the pasta was just under al dente, I should have paused the conversation to gently move the noodles from the hot water to the garlic-parsley-olive sauce. But hindsight is 20/20, and instead I burned my forearms with hot splashes. However, I was undeterred because here came the best part: butter. I threw in a few tablespoons of butter and a splash of pasta water to give the sauce the kind of dewy gloss promised by Korean face masks. We finished the dish with sweet, fat basil leaves, a little lemon zest, and a couple teaspoons of lemon juice, and rushed the pot to the table. Then, silence. All conversation ceased as we slurped each butter-drenched strand straight from the Dutch oven. No Dr. Death theory could pry us away from Andy’s pitch-perfect pasta.

This is a pasta that celebrates the glory of garlic: how it makes everything taste better, stinks a little, and always seems to linger on. It’s a little bit like a friendship that’s weathered years in an AC-less bedroom, break-ups, maid of honor speeches, new jobs, and very adult accomplishments. And that’s why it’s the perfect thing to make your best friend.

Get the recipe:

herby-pasta-with-garlic-and-green-olives.jpg



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Cranberry-Fig Sauce Recipe | Bon Appetit

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Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallot and rosemary, stirring often, until shallot is starting to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add cranberries, figs, brown sugar, vinegar, ½ tsp. salt, and red pepper flakes and increase heat to medium-high.

cranberry fig sauce process 4

Photo by Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, prop styling by Kalen Kaminski



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This Lemon-Ginger Brew Will Save You from the Clutches of Cold Season

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Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.

Flu season hit the BA office this week in a tidal wave of tissues, Emergen-C packets, and out-of-office messages. Which is why, after scheduling my annual flu shot and dousing everything on my desk with hand sanitizer, I headed home to make a double batch of lemon-ginger brew.

Forget green juice. Forget echinacea tea. When it comes to restorative liquids, this lemon-ginger brew is the real MVP. It’s a high-octane concoction from food director Carla Lalli Music, who has two kids and knows a thing or two about soothing sore throats.

How to Make Soothing Lemon Ginger Brew

The three-ingredient recipe is minimal, which is good, because no sick person wants to do a lot of chopping and stirring anyway. All you need to do to get things going is toss some peeled ginger knobs (about a half pound) in a food processor and pulse them into a coarse paste. (If you don’t have a food processor, use the larger holes of a box grater or give those knobs a fine chop. It’s a bit more work, but the chopped up ginger will do just fine.)

Add the ginger to a medium saucepan with 6 cups of water, bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30–40 minutes. Use this time for a steamy shower, or even a power nap. (Just don’t forget to set an alarm!) Strain the ginger chunks out with a fine mesh sieve, then squeeze two or three lemons worth of juice into the pot and add agave syrup (or honey, or pure maple syrup) to taste. Just like that, the brew is done.

Once made, this brew can hang out in the fridge for up to two weeks—plenty of time to soothe a sore throat while your white blood cells do their healing work. I prefer to heat it up before serving, so the fiery ginger is extra pungent. It’s the kind of burn that makes you really feel like something is working, and I need that. Plus: It’s delicious.

This is the time where I should probably acknowledge that, no, this drink isn’t magical. It won’t cure you of whatever ails you, and you should definitely still get a flu shot. Still, there’s something about the holy trinity of honey, ginger, and lemon that soothes your body and your soul. And it pairs excellently with non-sick days too, making rainy mornings and quiet nights at home feel infinitely cozier with minimal effort. So make ginger, lemons, and honey part of your pantry (and fridge) staples, and you’ll never be far from a mug of this cozy and restorative brew. Think of it as insurance against the next time flu season hits .

It’s time to brew:

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