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Member Highlight: Lygia Waters | Spicy Okra Recipe

July 11, 2011

Try everything in your bin! Even if you have disliked something in the past, try cooking it another way.  I think our taste buds are ever-changing, so don’t cheat yourself out of a whole new flavor world.  – Lygia Waters

Lygia Waters | Dafni Photography

It’s time to get to know some of your fellow Urban Acres members!  (see how to become a member here)

Today, we’d like to introduce you to Lygia Waters, a new member who also has a blog called Hilldale House, which she started when she and her husband moved into their new house on Hilldale Drive.  The blog is a way for Lygia to talk about the things she enjoys, including DIY projects, cooking, crafting, home design, and of course, eating!

Lygia, tell us what inspired you to become a part of Urban Acres. 
I was recently flipping through the TV channels and ran across a news piece that featured a produce co-op in a neighboring city.  I simply Googled “co-ops in Dallas,” and voila!  There was Urban Acres!  I was so excited and pleasantly surprised at the good reviews.  They also had a great website, and it was very easy to join.

I’ve also had a garden for past 3 years.  We grew okra, cantaloupe, several tomato varieties, orange flesh watermelon, squash and herbs.  However, we moved into a new house this year and have not had time to set up my garden yet.  Urban Acres is providing us with produce that has the seal of freshness on it – dirt :).

When and why did you decide to start eating real, wholesome food?
I guess I have been eating wholesome food longer than I can remember. My parents immigrated from Romania in the late 70’s and as soon as they owned a home, they planted a garden which my grandfather tended. I had 8 siblings growing up, so having a garden was the most economical way to feed a large family.

Also, as a young adult, I struggled with my weight. A large part of battling the bulge included eating mostly vegetables, fruit and homemade meals. Eating and cooking with wholesome foods made it easier to track exactly what was in my meals, and I could monitor how much fat went into my food. It also made me feel better, lighter and more energetic.

More importantly, as a wife and mother, I want to give my favorite boys only the best!

What is your favorite part about the “co-op style” produce?
The element of surprise and the ever-changing variety of produce.  I love not knowing what will be in my bin!  I am an overly-enthusiastic fan of “food competition” shows, especially those that feature chefs opening a mystery basket and having to create a meal only from the ingredients included.  I like to imagine myself as a participant in such shows as I open my veggie bin.

Lygia and her husband Deric goofing off next to their first crop of corn

What is your favorite fruit?  Favorite veggie?  Why?
If I must choose, my favorite fruit would be the apple.  They are sweet, crunchy and portable!  You could take an apple almost anywhere for a quick, yummy and healthy snack.  Apples dipped in almond butter, apple pie, applesauce for baking, apple brownies! Yum!

And my favorite veggie?  Peas!  They are cute, tender, sweet and good for you.  I like them blanched with just a little salt.  But they are also good creamed, pureed, on top of a salad or in a soup. Confessions of a pea junkie: I eat them out of a can too.  I will get them any way I can!

Do you have any produce tips for our other members?
Try everything! Even if you have disliked something in the past, try cooking it another way.  I think our taste buds are ever-changing, so don’t cheat yourself out of a whole new flavor world.  I find that roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness, even in brussel sprouts!  Just toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and roast at 400F for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the veggies.  My favorite thing to roast – cauliflower!

Also, if you’re unsure of what to do with something, just look it up online!  You will get more results than you can ever use, but sort them by the best reviews.

I also subscribe to Vegetarian Times (although I’m not a vegetarian) and Eating Well magazines. is also a wonderful resource for a large range of recipes that use seasonal produce.

Please share your current favorite “real food recipe” with us.
I found this recipe on  This recipe packs a lot of punch and uses one of my favorites, okra!  Don’t be intimidated by the spices, you can pick them up at any Indian grocery store in the metroplex.  Follow the ** for my modifications.

Photo: Lygia Waters |

Bhindi Masala – Spicy Okra

Serves 2 to 3

1/2 lb okra (“bhindi”)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
Pinch of asafetida **I didn’t have this, I looked online for substitutions, and used some garlic and onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon mango powder  **Also didn’t have this, I sprinkled some lemon juice instead

Wash the okra and pat dry. Make sure to completely dry the okra as wet okra will be sticky when cutting.  Cut off the both ends of the okra, and slice lengthwise in halves. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if seed cracks right away, oil is ready.
Add the cumin seeds, garlic powder and onion powder. When the cumin seeds crack, add the okra.  Stir for a minute and reduce the heat to medium.  Cover the okra for two to three minutes.

Remove the cover and add the coriander powder, red cayenne pepper and turmeric.  Continue to stir-fry until the okra is tender. Add the salt, mango powder and bell peppers, and cook for another minute. Salt is added last to avoid the okra becoming lacy.

Adding colorful bell peppers is a great garnish for the okra and adds flavor to the dish.
You can substitute the bell pepper with sliced tomatoes as a garnish.
You can also slice the okra in 1/4 inch pieces and follow the same method above.

Contact us if you’d like to be featured in a future “Member Highlight”!


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