Coming from a coastal town in an area defined as “Tropical Desert Forest” my first visit to Constanza in my early teens came as a real shock.
Geographically and climate-wise you would have a hard time finding two places so different and still located on the same small island. To my 13 (or 12?, can’t remember) year-old self the “newness” of it all was as vivid as any experience I’ve had since of visiting other countries far removed from my own. Constanza is truly a marvel of geographical oddities.
Located in one of the highest valleys of the Central Mountain Range, Constanza is one of the coldest points in the Caribbean (the coldest spots are the mountains surrounding it) and the coldest city in the Caribbean. Go for a visit in the depths of winter and your senses will fool you into thinking you are in a faraway place: Pine trees, cold winds, morning frost and crisp, thin air. And seasons! In the Caribbean!
Let’s borrow a paragraph from Wiki:
Constanza is located at a height of 1220 meters (4000 ft) in the middle of the Cordillera Central (Central Range). Average temperatures during the year range between 41 °F (5 °C) and 68 °F (20 °C). The valley is 8 km long and 4 km wide.
Now, if you are, say, a Minnesotan, or a Norwegian, you won’t be impressed with these “winters”, but remember, we are smack in the middle of the Caribbean sea, where most people do not expect near-freezing temperatures. At least not outside of a beer freezer.
Due to this climate, and a very fertile soil, Constanza is one of the country’s breadbaskets. More importantly, it supplies the country with crops that are not normally grown in the tropics, but survive perfectly well there. From Constanza we get berries, potatoes, apples, peaches and many varieties of flowers, which greatly reduces the need for importation.
The strawberry season is upon us. Time to make the most of it, and with my never-ending search for healthier alternatives to mass-produced foods, especially when it comes to feeding my child, I’ve concocted these I-Can’t-Believe-They-Didn’t-Come-from-the-Store-Popsicles. Healthy, organic, natural yogurt, local strawberries and my newest favorite product: Shuga!
Well, the brand is Hey Shuga!, which sounds fun and rolls off the tongue, and it’s also an awesome USDA certified organic product. This sugar cane syrup packs the flavor of the sugar cane without all the chemicals that it is subjected to to obtain refined sugars. Want to know what’s in the list of ingredients? Sugar cane and water: Pure sweetness.
Hey Shuga! is the brain child of a group of young people (including two Dominicans) who decided that it didn’t need to be “fake” to be sweet. I’ve just become a convert, and trust me, I pick the products I work with with the idea that if it’s good enough for my family then I can recommend them to my readers.
And did I tell you I love the name? It has become my newest nickname for my daughter. “Hey Shuga!” beats the previous one (Fluffles).
Cooling, healthy and a sure hit with grownups and children alike, these Strawberry and Yogurt Popsicles and Ice Cream beat anything you can get from a store.
- 2 doz. strawberries, washed
- ½ cup of Hey Shuga!
- 1 pint of natural, unsweetened Greek yogurt
- 1 vanilla pod or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- Remove the stems from the strawberries. Cut the strawberries into quarters.
- Place in a deep-bottom pot. Using a potato masher crush the strawberries.
- Add Hey Shuga! and vanilla extract of vanilla seeds.
- Cook over very low heat until it has the consistency of jam. Stir frequently to avoid burning.
- Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Chill.
- Mix the strawberry jam with the yogurt.
- Place in your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instruction.
- Pour into molds with a spoon, shake a bit for the bubbles to rise and the mixture to settle. Freeze hard.