Glowing, radiant health is the new black. Our Green Table is serving it up, for the whole body! Healthy recipes and tips, the latest on eco-friendly food and "skin food"products and a head's up on ingredient safety are all woven into family-centered stories and discoveries. Bring informed, aware and empowered looks good on everyone!

Abrazos! xox Penny

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Above the fruited plain...

I have our country on my mind a lot and America the Beautiful is one of my favorite patriotic songs. The words are so moving...spacious skies, shining sea, amber waves of grain, brotherhood. "Above the fruited plain" played through my head today.

I really like fruit but don't seem to write about it much. I just eat it. I love apples, melons, all kinds of berries, tropical fruits, summer name 'em. I have a lot of memories that involve fruit, too: my one and only, self-made "fort"...a treehouse in an apple tree; learning to drive (the first time) winding my way through the hills of Pittsburgh to Soergel's Apple Farm; in Cleveland, with babies in tow, picking 30-40 pounds of all kinds of berries and freezing them for the winter; my dad's rhubarb over Friday Night ice cream; pineapples in Hawaii and the giggles over The Pineapple Princess; special outings with my grandparents to Wickham's Fruit Farm. And, you may have noticed, I can hardly cook a thing without adding lemon to it. But, honestly, fruit is mostly an "aside", something I think of after all the veggies.

A couple of interesting emails about fruit have popped into my mailbox. One, from the Divine Ms. M, about eating fruit on an empty stomach. That makes total sense. Fruit is a natural detoxifier and can't do its job sitting on top of a meal it is supposed to be helping detoxify. Better to eat it first and have the arsenal of detoxifiers ready and waiting. The article she sent me has some other tips about fruit and disease prevention, and so let me know if you would like the link and I will send it to you.

The other email was about the pectin in fruits and its ability to help burn fat and flatten tummies (I got this email after the Skinning Dipping post!). Now, that is cool, too, and the pectin in apples and berries especially work well to prevent your body from absorbing too much fat. This gives a new twist to the "apple a day". I am adding both these tidbits into my detox regimen.

Instead of desserts, palate cleansers, sideline snacks or whatever the second tier in my food world is, fruits need to hop right on up there front and center and this summer is a great time to do it. I still like them eaten simply, though...just sweet and juicy as is.

But given the detoxifying, fat-burning capacity of berries, I thought I should share this recipe with you. Why, it looks like it will practically digest itself, burning up fat along the way...hence, no worries! And, it makes a really pretty dessert for the Fourth. And, true to my word, I will put it front and center tomorrow instead of at the end of this long post!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christina and the Cowgirls

This is the first The Red, White and Food entry and I am so excited to share Christina McGehee and her wonderful store, Boulevard Bread with you...although to most of you, they are already well-known friends. Christina and her team embrace and embody everything good, no...great about food. From the scrumptious breads, coffee and sweets to start your morning to the evening dinner to go, everything is made from scratch with an eye on both the palate and the environment and a commitment to support local farmers and food producers. As sweet people usually do, Christina led me to some other folks I was so eager to meet.

While every day is a great day at Boulevard, Tuesday is really "grate"'s "Cheese Day". Check out the pix above; look at the treasures just waiting for you....all with a Cheese Day special discount, too! The case is gorgeous! In the magazine Culture, an ad for a certain cheese caught my eye. I had seen some wheels of it in shops in New York, but given my glitch-loaded trip home last time, I am really glad I didn't try to stuff some in my suitcase. The brand is Cowgirl Creamery and hands down and cheese aside, they have the cutest homepage ever! Makes me want to saddle up and trot on over there to meet them and see all they have done to create their fabulous cheese. But, I don't have to because right before my eyes, in Boulevard's case, was the cheese I wanted to try...


From the Cowgirls themselves, here is their description of Red Hawk....

Cowgirl Creamery captures the essence of West Marin with its Red Hawk, a triple-cream, washed-rind, fully-flavored cheese made from organic cow milk from the Straus Family Dairy. Aged four weeks and washed with a brine solution that tints the rind a sunset red-orange, Red Hawk won Best-In-Show at the American Cheese Society's Annual Conference in 2003 and a Gold Ribbon and 2nd Best-in-Show in 2009.

Here's my description: Yum!
There is nothing more fitting for The Red, White and Food than a delicious store done the right way and this wonderful, made-with-love cheese available in it. I can't wait to dig into that cheese case again! The entire store is a treasure. Thanks Christina, Boulevard Bread and the Cowgirls for all you do to keep our food good, clean and fun.
Visit Boulevard Bread on Facebook by clicking here!/pages/Little-Rock-AR/Boulevard-Bread-Company/198073534355?v=info&ref=ts&ajaxpipe=1&__a=31

and if you can't get to Boulevard, visit the Cowgirl Creamery at No matter where you live, they can lasso up your favorites and ship 'em to you.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Amber Waves of Grain

Sunday is a "catch-up" day for me and yesterday, of all things, I caught up with myself and realized I am having a food challenge. Those amber waves of whole grains don't wave enough around here. I have to get more on my plate. Protein, veggies, fruits, fats? No problem, got 'em done. Grains? A big "oops!" I am not very "check-listy" about what I eat but whole grains are noticeably scarce, actually, almost off the radar. I am not a big bread or pasta eater and not so into rice either, although I do love both brown and wild rice. I do faithfully have a handful of Natural State Granola every afternoon which helps a lot.

There are some fabulous whole grain crackers I love and nibble on, too, but one serving is 13 crackers. Come on! 13? That's almost half the box! By the time I am cooking dinner, the time for cooking grains seems long gone, except for quinoa and couscous. I have bags of untouched grainy goods just begging for attention. OK...phew...I am through venting.

Solution time!! Here is what I plan to day (or night) a week, while doing other stuff in the kitchen, I am going to cook up a bunch of different grains. They are simple to cook...I just have to plan and do it. Then, I will have some for the whole week to add to salads, soups, serve on their own. What I don't use up in a couple of days, I am going to freeze and see how they do. (Rice freezes pretty well.) Instant stockpile. Sounds great!!  It's a brilliant plan!! 

My bag of brown/wild rice was already open and so here is what I am going to make up for dinner tonight. I have had this recipe for years and it is still one of my summer favorites. While the rice is cooking, I have some another golden beauty on the stove...millet that I toasted in a pan. In many cultures, this sweet grain is the grain of choice, loaded with iron and more popular than rice. In our culture, it's bird seed. Until tonight that is...

Summer Rice (and Grainy Friends) Salad

3 cups cooked brown rice (or combo brown/ wild and millet. I love Lundberg rice.)
3-4 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup dill pickle, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh black pepper to taste
1/4 cup French dressing (your choice here..I play)
1/3 cup mayo
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Combine everything except the last three ingredients. Blend together French dressing, mayo and Dijon. Add to rice mixture and mix thoroughly. Chill and serve on a bed of baby greens. Serves 4. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"The very tigers and lions of our era...."

The cover story in The New York Times Magazine today is about the "fate of the bluefin tuna, the oceans and us", written by Paul Greenberg. Here is the link

As a kid, I went with my family several times to the docks at Montauk to see the fishing fleets come in at dusk with their day's catch. The waters off that part of Long Island are (were) prime fishing grounds for all kinds of fish, including the bluefin tuna. I remember seeing those gorgeous fish hanging from big hooks. One time my dad and I saw a man walk up to a tuna, scoop out some flesh and eat it. Next thing we knew, the fish came down off the hook and was gone. He did that with several that day. I asked my dad what was going on and up until that point, I had no idea what sushi was. Nor did I undertand the impact of what I was seeing.

There were several other stunning articles about whales, fish and the oceans in the paper last week. Here are two more...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flag this!

A couple of you have asked about the flag fan (swag) I have above my front door. I looked high and low for a 100% "Made in the U.S.A" flag and went to too many places until I found this one. It is made by Valley Forge Flag Co., and you still may have time to order one for the Fourth, although I found mine in an Ace Hardware store while I was in New York. I went to VFF's website and typed in my zipcode here at home and these flags are available locally, too. I refuse to buy and fly a flag made anywhere but the USA.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Here is some Egg-cellent news!

Summer and hard-cooked eggs go together in so many ways...deviled eggs, potato salad, bean salad and so on. They are so easy to make that I often forget to pay attention to what I am doing and overcook them. Yuck...that "five o'clock shadow" around the yolk ruins how beautiful a hard-cooked egg should look.

And so, every once in awhile, actually more often than that, I have to go back to the basics.

Here is the sure-fire way I have learned (and re-learned!) to hard cook eggs and avoid that very unappetizing gray ring around the yolk. It also makes for a nicely cooked white, never rubber-yI follow this method and set a timer...key strategy...and they turn out pretty as can be every time!!

Always Pretty Hard-Cooked Eggs

Place eggs in a pan of cold water. Bring to a soft, rolling boil (blurry pix) and turn off heat. Cover and let sit 15 minutes. Plunge eggs into a bowl of ice water and let cool down for several minutes. Use immediately or put in 'fridge.

Note #1: I use the leftover boiling water to blanch some veggies. It's already hot, so why not!

Note #2: In case I forget which eggs are hard-cooked and which aren't, I give them the "spin test." Spin an egg. The hard-cooked one will spin like a top. The raw one will wobble around.

Note #3: My experience is that week-old eggs peel better and so I save out a couple of eggs from each trip to the farmers' market and let them sit few days before cooking them. The ice bath helps, too.

Under Featured Recipes. "eggs", there is a great deviled egg recipe from a post last year. Happy Weekend!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot stuff... just in!

I got this testimonial from a friend about the mascara I talked about (check under Dressing Table Beauty Bites) and she said it was OK to share it with you. I for one have no idea how to "post" a comment on this blog and so thanks for emailing me! Here it is...

"It came. I love it!! First I just wore it around the house to see. Just applying it was nice, because it doesn't clump and glop like that mineral stuff I was using. Next test: wear it to Pup's agility class in the heat and sweat. Good again! Then, I wore it to my opthamologist appt. yesterday. Always lots of different eyedrops and pain. Just one tiny smudge and no added pain! Folks, we have a winner! Thank you, Penny, for all this research you are doing and then writing about!"  

and she also wrote this..."I'm also really, really glad you follow up on any changes in your skin."

This is so important for everyone to do...sunbathing with baby oil and iodine, what was I thinking? Sooooo 60's. Oh well, at least the music I blistered to was tops!

xoxoxo to my special friend for her thoughts!!

A few of my favorite things...and one that isn't

I love skirts, especially long swishy ones or ones that are a little bit "funky", fun necklaces (which I will have more of at First Thursday!), belts and this blue toenail polish I have been wearing. When I first put it on, it was "Oh my...this has got to go!" But, now I love it. 

Anyway, I was looking at my feet this morning and saw something that is not my fav...yet another funny-looking red spot. Beyond enjoying long shirts and finding them much cooler for my body than pants, there is another practical reason I love them...keeps more of my skin hidden. I have had quite a battle with skin cancer, fortunately, none as serious as a melanoma, but I am pretty scarred up from surgeries and the "freezing" blow torch my dermo uses. In addition to the Yes to Carrots shower gel I bought, I also got this body lotion with sunblock for my feet. So far, I like it; it has a nice consistency. Most sunblocks leave me feeling a little suffocated and/or sticky. This one is worth another picture (original post on Yes to Carrots was a couple of days ago...see Dressing Table Beauty Bites under "Featured Recipes")...don't forget to protect your tootsies and reapply often!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Skinny Dipping

Actually, I don't remember ever doing that. And further, going up one level of attire, my bikini days are long gone, too. What isn't gone, though, is trying to maintain a somewhat flat stomach and recognizable ankles. Last week, leading up to the Bloody Mary contest, I had to sip and sample a lot as I went along tweaking the recipe. Truth be told, I don't drink much tomato juice because of the added sodium in it. I swell like a toad. And so, I was a little concerned I would "wear" the after effects of our prize-winning recipe for about a week.

One day, between sips, I saw an article on veggies that are diuretic and lo and behold, there prominently featured was the humble celery. Interesting. I haven't given celery much thought actually, but I did chew on a bunch last week and it worked! I bought organic celery to serve as a dip and palate cleanser for the contest. I am very new to the mixed drink scene but maybe that is why celery is the traditional garnish of choice for the Bloody Mary...makes you more comfortable asking for another!

Here are some other natural diuretics that I am a lot more familiar with: green tea, cranberry juice, watermelon, parsley, watercress, cucumbers, asparagus, cantaloupe and beets. And tomatoes are in that group as well, as long as they are "au natural" and not coated with salt.

I had a bunch of these clever veggies ready in the 'fridge and whipped up this summer soup favorite, Gazpacho. Try to get all the veggies you can fresh from a local farmer.

Skinny Gazpacho

4 ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and deveined
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and deveined
1 onion, cut into quarters
1 large cucumber or 4 mini's (I like the seedless)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
1/3 balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley (I like the flat leaf)
Tabasco to taste

Cut up tomatoes, peppers and onions into chunks your food processor can manage and in batches, pulse until blended but still a little chunky. I like to err on the side of chunky for this soup. Add in lemon juice, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Stir in cilantro and parsley. Taste and add in Tabasco to spiciness level you like. Put in a glass jar or dish and refrigerate overnight. To serve, if desired, garnish with avocado slices and a lemon or lime wedge or just serve as is with a lemon wedge and extra Tabasco. Dip your spoon in and chill out. Serves 6.

Note: This recipe very "fresh" and does not have any olive oil or garlic in it. Feel free to play! Because it is so "skinny", if you choose not to do the avocado garnish, you will need to eat some fat along with it to get the full punch from the veggies. I like to serve it with a nice Spanish cheese or olive tapenade.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

P.S.from Paul

P.S. from Paul...Today is "senior day" at my grocery store and so up I went to get my discount. An elderly man in the produce section caught my eye and then captured my attention when I saw him start to collapse. I ran over to him so he wouldn't fall and the store manager, another shopper and I stayed with him until the ambulance came.

He was clearly not doing well, and if he was unable to himself, he wanted me to tell the ambulance driver two things: he was 29 and not pregnant! Then he said, "Penny, you've got to spread the happy!"  And so, I am. At 90 years old, that sense of humor and all those fruits and veggies in his cart have done him wonders. Hope you are feeling better this afternoon, Paul!

Got veggies? Grab your rubber duck!

This cartoon in Sunday's paper caught my eye. Then, it tickled my curiosity for "oil spills" beyond the grocery store trip pictured...that and the fact that I was out of my regular bath and shower gel and also out of the wonderful coconut soap I used on my last trip. Further, due to the 100 temperature, taking an evening shower was not optional and so I headed out on a short foraging adventure to see what I could find.

Not wanting to drive a great distance, I decided to see what the corner drug store had to offer. I wasn't sure that anything in that store was petroleum-free and I was really curious. Imagine my delight when from the shelves I heard a little voice... "Hey, look at us".

There on the shelves was a perky display of veggie skin, body and hair care products that are petroleum-free and paraben-free, called Yes to Carrots. There are three main veggies involved: carrots (normal to dry skin types), tomatoes (combination skin types) and cucumbers (sensitive skin types).

Now, because of the fact that some of the lathering ingredients are the usual suspects, I am somewhat cautious, but nonetheless, really excited about this find. They do use a lot of certified organic essential oils, do not use animal testing, encourage recycling and almost best of all, besides the ban on petroleum in their products, they have created The Yes To Carrots™ Seed Fund , a non-profit organization that provides grants to schools and communities to help them build gardens and promote access to healthier nutrition.  Eureka!!! I think this company "gets it" and is helping give back in a way that will create even cleaner products. Go see what you think by visiting your local Walgreen's, CVS or Target and check out their website, While not perfect, it is a healthy, happy giant step for mass-merchandise. *

And, I realized that I only have one recipe starring carrots on this blog, but it's an all-star. If you want to celebrate, it is still the best carrot cake recipe ever. You will find it in "Featured Recipes".

* Note: It is August 10th, please read this update and August 10th blog post:

Yes to Carrots:
Non-compliant: This company has signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics but is not in compliance, because they have failed to provide the Campaign with required product and ingredient information.

Monday, June 21, 2010

O, how I love orange...let me count the ways!

Way number 103 garden gave me this summer bouquet today! Beautiful, beautiful tiger lilies and canna!

A cheesy moment

Actually, I could use "baked and fried" to describe how I feel on this first "official" day of summer. Just opening the kitchen door takes my breath away. It is hot out there and supposed to reach 108 heat index again today. Summers where I grew up called for a little sweater in the evening. One of my friends here informed me that it was still 94 degrees at 1 a.m. and definitely not sweater weather! Oh well, despite the heat...Happy Summer!

I have made a fun veggie discovery...zucchini fries that are baked and they are a perfectly delicious addition to a Meatless Monday meal. But, before sharing that recipe, here is what caught my eye on a grocery store run this weekend...a sign prominently displayed among wheels of cheese that read "Lactose-Free Cheese". Stopped me in my tracks. There are a lot of people who cheese it up on Meatless Monday and a lot of people who have problems with cheese who can't. So, what's the scoop?

Lactose is the carbohydrate sugar found in all dairy milk, cow's, sheep's and goat's, and it is usually the culprit. Many people are lactose intolerant. And so, the "lactose-free" sign is a tricky enticement. Eater, be smart!! All milks have roughly the same amount of lactose, but goat's and sheep's milks are naturally homogenized and therefore, the curd is softer and easier to digest, making the remaining lactose easier to handle.

Interestingly enough, a good portion of the lactose is in the whey which is discarded in almost all cheeses except the softer ones like ricotta and cream cheese. And so, for the most part, most cheese is very low in lactose. About 90% plus gets tossed with the whey. The moister, fresher and younger cheeses have the highest percentage of remaining lactose.The longer a cheese ages and ripens, the harder, less moist it becomes and the fewer traces of lactose remain. In really hard, mature cheeses like Parmesan, the leftover lactose is negligible. It seems that a lot people actually can tolerate cheese, especially harder ones, in small amounts. This is really interesting to me and I am going to slice through some more cheese and keep going with this on a later post!

Until then, here is a cheesy recipe everyone should be able to enjoy!! These are fabulous with a spoonful of Tropical Sals-up from last week.

Zucchini "Fries"

2/3 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs seasoned with Italian herbs like basil and oregano (I make my own with 1 slice whole grain bread and a handful of Kettle Brand potato chips...I like those and will do a post on them later, too)  
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 medium zucchini (about 1-1 1/2 pounds)

Preheat oven to 425 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash zucchini and slice into strips. Beat egg until blended and add milk. Combine cheese and breadcrumbs. 

Dip zucchini strips into egg-milk mix, let the excess drip off and then roll in cheese-breadcrumb mix. This does get messy and I had to "pat" some of the breadcrumbs on. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes or until golden. Turn once. Serves 4-6. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bloody good fun, Part 2, and thoughts turn to brunch

Last night was so much fun at Eggshells!!! They had a crowd of eager Bloody Mary sippers and seven teams mixing up their best with showmanship to match. Suzi Parker, the bartender extraordinaire and author of 1000 Best Bartender's Recipes, was the celebrity judge and guess what???? Our playful recipe was her pick for the best Bloody Mary!!!! Such a hoot. Check out Suzi's book at Eggshells. Thanks, Suzi! Thanks, Eggshells!

Now, all that sipping on Bloody Mary's got a few of us thinking about brunch and lo and behold, this recipe floated into my inbox this morning. It would also make a wonderful light dinner, too. Using fresh local eggs and produce will make it sublime. Have a wonderful Father's Day weekend, everyone! And because my dad loved both eggs and sunsets, I have renamed this dish. Here's a kiss for you, Dad xoxoxox

Sunset Eggs

 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
 1 cup thinly sliced roasted green peppers (about 2 peppers; see note)
 1 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers (about 2 peppers; see note)
 3/4 teaspoon paprika (try smoked paprika here)
 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
 1 small bay leaf
 1 cup whole canned tomatoes, with juice (or from a glass jar or fresh if you can get them. Use Eden Organic canned worries about BPA)
 sea salt and freshly ground pepper
 4 large eggs, local if possible
 Crusty bread, for serving

In a large, ovenproof skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add the paprika, sugar and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes longer.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Add the tomatoes and their juice to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.

Bring the sauce back to a simmer. Crack the eggs over the sauce so that they are evenly distributed across the surface. Transfer to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft and runny, about 7 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.

Note: To roast the peppers, place the peppers on a hot grill or hold them over a gas flame on the stove until black and blistered on all sides. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel, seed and stem the peppers. Set aside until ready to use.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bloody good fun!

Fun! I have been invited to shake up my Bloody Mary in a contest tonight at Eggshells! Mixed drinks...who knew? My guess is it's the vegetable connection! This will be a first and win or lose, it will be a blast! Here is what I've got so far...and it is not as innocent as it looks. This little gal has quite a kick!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eye Candy for real

Like my lipstick issues, I also have mascara woes...until recently. I found a new mascara that I really like and that likes me back. After wearing it for three plus weeks now, it doesn't bother my eyes or end up in smudges on my cheeks. Interestingly enough, it is sugar-based, true "eye candy" and makes those butterfly kisses extra sweet. The line is made by a Canadian organic cosmetics company, They have an easy website to navigate, complete with a YouTube video, but I did buy mine in a store. As a redhead, I love the fact that their "brown" is more auburn. Go check 'em out. There is also a listing of U.S. stores on their website as well as many other products which look great, too.

On another "eye" note, please, please, please make sure you go to get your eyes examined every year. I was a little late this year for my annual check-up and my concerns were confirmed. My eyes have really changed. When the doctor asked me to read which letters I could distinguish on the chart, my answer for one eye was "What letters?" Seriously, I could not make out a one, even on the top line. The other eye was somewhat better. And while it is a great excuse for the occasional typo, I am mulling over corrective options more effective than my current dollar store readers. My days of threading the needle from across the room are over. And so, sweet friends, take care of your blues, browns or greens out there!  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dusting off the 'Barbe for Burgers and Tropical "Catsup"

So, when I left on this last trip, it was 46 degrees and still spring. I was spoon-deep in warming soups. Now, it is 90 plus with a heat index already over 100 and although we are a little short of the Summer Solstice, it is summer in my book. And how. Phew. Hot stuff out there. Anyway, it is high barbecue season. Last summer, I was a meat eater and in my glory at the 'barbe. This summer, I am a vegetarian and still plan to be the mistress of the coals.

While I am still experimenting with the ultimate veg burger recipe (one with no soy!), I dropped by our Whole Foods this weekend for my favorite. Ray and Ches are the resident grill-masters there and they never miss a chance to greet me and say, "Got your veggie burgers today!" and do they ever. The best in town! Their veggie burgers are a combo of lentils and barley sassied up with fresh ginger and other wonderful ingredients. Yum. Below is a pix of the guys working their magic and the picture above is the magnificent creation I actually got to eat!!

I looked on the Whole Foods website, and they have the recipe for a burger that is really close to my new favorite. Thanks to Whole Foods for the recipe and Ray and Ches for the fabulous burgers they flip, the friendly way they do it and the pix! My add-ins to the recipe are in italics.

Lentil Walnut Burgers with Grilled Toppings

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms ( I prefer Baby Bellas here)
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (I toast mine)
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional, but necessary!)
2 cups cooked brown rice, divided 
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, or 1 (15-ounce) can lentils, rinsed and drained 
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons high heat sunflower oil or expeller-pressed canola oil, divided
Burger buns and sauces of choice

*Note: I would also add a sprinkle of smoked paprika to this recipe. Love cooking with it.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

In a food processor, purée 1 cup rice, lentils and egg until smooth. Transfer to bowl with vegetables, add remaining 1 cup rice and stir to combine. Form lentil mixture into 10 to 12 patties, using about 1/4 cup of the mixture to make each one.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Arrange half of the patties in skillet and cook, flipping once, until golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat process with remaining sunflower oil and patties. Serve hot.

While the coals are still hot, throw on some sweet onion slices, rounds of fresh pineapple, pepper strips, slices of summer squash ...whatever veggies look delicious to you. Grill 'til done, season to taste and then load 'em up on your burger! Hmmmm.

Once I have tweaked the burger recipe to taste, I will slather on this fruity "catsup". It is very similar in taste to a catsup I had in Hawaii years ago and definitely not the Heinz 57 variety. Actually, it is like a sals-up...half salsa, half catsup. The more you blend it, the creamier it becomes. I leave mine a little chunky.

Tropical Sals-up

2-3 tomatoes, seeded (I only had 2 yellow tomatoes when I made this up)
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes that have been soaked for 20 minutes,
   then drained well
1 fresh mango, peeled and chopped, or about 2 cups of frozen mango, thawed and drained of any juice
1/2 small red or Vidalia onion
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy or the consistency you like. Store in fridge. It will keep about 2 weeks. Use on burgers, of course, but also other sandwiches, grilled tofu and as a topping for a baked sweet potato! It is great even as a dip with chips, over a nice cheese or as bruschetta. need to wait for those burgers, I am just going to grab a spoon!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Touch of Calming Lavender

I was a little discouraged by the shape of my tomatoes when I got home. They look dreadful...not enough water but, with all the rain the past two days, here's hoping. I have a fabulous homemade fruity catsup I am chomping at the bit to make, but these are all I have so far to work with...

What did look great were my herbs, especially the rosemary and lavender and a robust dwarf lemon basil, delicious on scrambled eggs this morning.

Years ago I found a fabulous organic vinaigrette with lavender and drained the bottle for every last drop. This weekend, I am going to make my own. I have been adding sprigs of rosemary to my basic vinaigrette and love it and I am really excited about this lavender version. Plus, with the news so horrible this week, I could use some of the calming effects from the lavender. My heart goes out to the Gulf, the campers in Arkansas, our troops and so many others this week. And, I am anxiously waiting for my daughter to wake up and call and sound much better. She was sooooo sick all day yesterday and last night.

Here is how I make vinaigrette. Classic vinaigrettes are a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar or citrus juice, but I play around with this some. The real secret is in the delicate flavor added by the shallots. Wonderful. Also, I like to play with the vinegar, using balsamic, sherry or fruit vinegars and the oils, using walnut occasionally.

Basic Vinaigrette with Lavender

Peel and mince a shallot and put in a glass jar with 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Let stand 15 minutes. This will make the flavors in the shallot mellow and sweet. Then, add in 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, some fresh black pepper and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard. Shake it all up in the jar, then taste. Add more salt if you wish and a good teaspoon or more of lavender blossoms and several sprigs of fresh lavender leaves. Taste again, this time with a fresh lettuce leaf so you know how the flavors will be in salad. Marjoram and savory would be nice additions here as well. Let sit awhile at room temperature to let the flavors infuse and taste again before serving, adding in whatever else you wish. Store in 'fridge.

I am really fond of all citrus flavors and so I always use at least half fresh citrus juice for the acid. When using lemon, lime or orange juice, I always add in the zest. It is so flavorful and I love the texture it adds, too. Think I'll go toss up a salad and calm myself down a bit.