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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Bridging the Wait

I wonder, in this season of wonder, how many zillion emotions and feelings play out waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the Times Square ball to drop, waiting for the New Year to ring in, waiting for new life to arrive?

I am experiencing more than several of those zillion...patience, hope, excitement, and most of all, an interesting calmness.

There was an absolutely gorgeous crescent moon hanging over the Williamsburg Bridge the other night...such a luminous sliver in a crisp, clear, cold winter's night sky. Just a beautiful little start of a moon...hanging around, calm and cool as could be, right in the middle of one of the busiest bridges in one of the busiest cities ever and in a sky that was just packed with stars and planets.

That beautiful little moon gave me this thought for the New resolute, be bold, be ready to grow wherever you are, no matter what, even if it is in the middle of what seems to be chaos. Calmly let your light shine. Put it out there. Shine it on bridges, on connections, and light up the way to new ones. Be luminous. You are have a special place in the universe, a bright place and are in the right place, at the right time.

And while waiting and waiting, a little munching is in order, wouldn't you agree?

Crescent Moon Bridge Mix (adapted from Mark Bittman)

butter or neutral oil (like grapeseed)
2 cups sugar
2 cups toasted or roasted nuts
pinch sea salt
White chocolate

Grease large baking pan with butter. Put sugar and 1/3 cup sugar in a small deep pan over low heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar dissolves and starts to color. Keep cooking until the sugar turns caramel colored...golden but not dark brown. This will take between 5 and 10 minutes. Put nuts in a big heatproof bowl.

Drizzle the hot sugar syrup (BE CARFEUL!) over the nuts, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Work quickly because it will harden quickly! While warm, spread and let cool. Once cool, drizzle melted chocolate (white would be nice and moon-like, especially if you are using cashews.) Break into pieces to eat!

You may also want to google See's candy..they are supposed to have de-lish Bridge Mix,

Wash down with a glass of bubbly!

And, no need to wait any longer for this wish...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Faith that Knitting One, Pearls Forever

Last week, I learned that McDonald's serves 50 million “meals” or transactions a day. That is one transaction for every 5-6 of us! Daily! Next, I overheard a young gal say she spent over $1000 a month on restaurant meals…breakfast, lunch and dinner…and doesn’t go to the grocery store more than twice a year. Yes, year. Yes, twice. Then, I read in the paper that “bake sales” now-a-days are “bake resales”…people reselling purchased goodies as their own.

And so, all that “industrial” news leads me to this thought for this holiday weekend. Give something personal, something hand-made. Best yet…made by your hands or Mother Nature’s.

I am really excited about the gifts I am giving this year…almost all are hand-made, many locally or through fair-trade, are vintage, repurposed, living or gifts of time.

Gifts can be as simple as a small gesture and have a grand effect. Here is what I “got” yesterday. Ranks up there with one of the best gifts ever.

I went to pick up my knit sweaters from Sue (see last week) and had only a debit card, not cash. Sue doesn’t take cards. Here is what happened…

“Mommy (she calls me this), you no have cash? No problem. Here are your sweaters. We will see each other again. I know that. You pay me then, OK, Mommy? Happy Christmas!”

Now remember, I hardly know Sue. I am a stranger here. And yet, along with my knitted sweaters, she gave me a pearl...the gift of Faith. Faith in the connection of people. Faith in the goodness of people. Faith in the future.

Wherever you are this Holiday Season and whatever you are celebrating, I wish for you “Sue”…someone who sees such hope, such trust, such peace in the world that she passes her faith on to you. Don’t hold back. Take it gratefully and share.

Peace, love and faith to you all! xoxoxo

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Table Toast

I remember a novelty from a long time ago…recipe cards!!! Do you?? Here at the little cafĂ© where I use the internet, it is a marriage of memories…recipe cards and decoupage...right there on table tops!! Sweet! How retro!!! How “in the day”.

I remember these cards as being Campbell’s Soup promos…tons of variations on “add 1 can of xxx Campbell’s Soup”, and then, of course, a good shake of MSG-rich Accent to boot. And maybe top off with shredded American cheese or a dollop of Velveeta. Pop the Pyrex casserole it in the oven and presto! Dinner. One thing for sure, I would love some of that “vintage” Pyrex now!

Here is one of those recipes, beaming up from the tabletop, that could be great for this holiday week. It sure reminds me of Christmas Eve at Poppa and Gonnie's and her gorgeous cranberry glass punch bowl...

Picture and recipe from Betty keep the retro theme going, of course! I do love the little lemon and lime stars in the ice cubes.

Tangy Cranberry Punch 

2 cans pineapple juice (12 ounces each)
3 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar (hmm...I would omit this! Maybe add a splash of vanilla?)
3 cups ginger ale (might be fun to try ginger beer here...yummy or a naturally ginger-infused beverage?)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, thinly sliced

Stir together fruit juices, water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Just before serving, pour over ice in punch bowl. Add ginger ale and garnish with fruit slices. Serves 10 people and reindeer.
Cheers! Happy Hanukkah. Happy Winter (almost!)!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Peace by Peace

Wednesday was an affirming day…that peaceful, lovely people do come with the territory. Everywhere I go, I seem to meet lovely people. A young gal, Jaysa, that I met on the street with her dog, Oscar Wilde, I saw later just by window gazing into a shop. Unbeknownst to me…the shop was hers! Then, there was the gal on the subway who said, “Sweetie, this is where you get off. Turn right at the top of the stairs and walk six blocks.” Next, the young man in a coffee shop, who I had seen earlier in the vet’s, helped me with some pet questions. He was quickly followed up by Leticia, who comes from Puebla, Mexico, and got so excited when I told her Mole Poblano is one of the most delicious creations ever. She promises to bring me some…”lo mas fresco y hecho a mano”.

I would also love the pot, spoon and hearth!!!

And, then, there is Sue. Sue owns a dry cleaners where I dropped off a rug. I went back yesterday to drop off some sweaters. She looked at me and said, “Momma, you look very tired. (Swell…that’s the comment I needed! Oh well.) You no getting any sleep, Momma?” Then, a few hours later, she calls me on the phone! “Momma, I take good care of your sweaters. You get rest, OK, Momma?" Lovely. Sue’s got my back and the clothes off it!

In Wednesday’s New York Times, in the "Dining" section, I saw a familiar face, Caterina Schenardi, who makes her pasta at her son’s restaurant, Gradisca. I ate there a couple of years ago when she was there and watched her make her famous “Venus’ Navel” tortellini. Really amazing story and really amazing pasta. Check it out here.

This is the last weekend before Christmas and Hanukkah. Many wish for peace on earth. I believe you create it, one person, one gesture at a time. To all those who have given me the peace of welcome, big hugs.

Here is a recipe I would fix if you could all come to dinner…warm and peaceful, comforting and welcoming! Happy Weekend!

Mushroom Risotto (adapted from Eat, Drink, Live)

4 cups veggie broth
2 ounces dried mushrooms (chanterelle, morel, shiitake or porcini*)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
1 onion, minced
1 ½ cups risotto rice
1/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 3 ounces extra, shaved or grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put stock and dried mushrooms in a saucepan and let soak 10 minutes. Heat stock to simmer. Strain the mushrooms and return stock to saucepan to keep hot.

Melt the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onion and cook over medium heat until softened but not browned. Add rice and stir until grains are coated with butter and oil.

Add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and mix well. When rice has absorbed the liquid, add another ladle of stock and stir well. Repeat with the remaining stock, cooking the risotto for 15-20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Meanwhile, chop mushrooms into smaller pieces.

Add the soaked mushrooms, white wine or vermouth, the remaining butter and the grated Parmesan to the risotto. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper and gently reheat for 2 minutes. Serve with extra shaved Parmesan over top. Serves 4 peacefully.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back atcha!

Here is a pix of my new home away from home… a “brickstone” rowhouse that will soon be known as “Support Central”.

It is on a quiet-ish street in a predominately Polish neighborhood. A couple of blocks away is a major thoroughfare with every storefront imaginable and it is fun walking there after dark. There are TONS of lights…my goodness, every holiday decoration ever made ever is displayed and the streets are swathed in lights, too. Beautiful swags going all the way across. Really reminds me of the hometown Main Street where I grew up in Ohio. Sweet. Really sweet.

I did manage to find a store with some beautiful Christmas ornaments and pottery from Poland. I love the pottery, seen at right in pix. The patterns are fun, playful and all handmade. There are scads of Polish restaurants, too and I am dying for a pierogi. Wonder which place to go to?? I will have to do a little asking around. There is so much creativity here. One restaurant makes not only all its food from scratch (totally farm to table) but also makes its own hand-thrown dishes!

Only drawback is that it is somewhat far from the two places I go every day. A little farther that I expected, hence Project Posture is an absolute must. Here is the exercise I do…and I swear, doing it and loads more water got rid of a minor backache and major headache, too. Sweet!

Back Bliss Exercise

Stand straight with hands clasped behind back and feet planted about 2 feet apart. Roll shoulders down and back, straighten neck and squeeze shoulder blades together for 2-3 minutes. Breathe slowly and at end, release shoulders. Repeat 2-3 more times or do once a hour if in a "back stressed" situation. (You can also sit in a chair and drape your arms over back of chair, clasp hands together, squeeze, etc.)

Really helped me...felt the pain melting as I squeezed! Yay! Happy Women and Wednesdays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Energizing the Projects!

Yea, that’s what I am talking about. Even the buildings are shouting a welcome!! Isn’t that great?! And, notice, too, the green light…awesome! That graffiti is a keeper.

Another keeper was this “sandwich” I had…oh my. I did not want it to end. So yummy…fresh and flavorful. And, I am not even crazy about sandwiches, but this one I am going to have to take on as a project and reconstruct.

Speaking of projects and construction, over the weekend, I assessed my “energy” and how to build it up. I am doing a LOT more walking than ever before. I mean, a LOT. And, as you sensed from Friday’s post, some of it is in the wrong direction. Surely, I have broken a weekly record in just one day!

What I have broken in is my back. It’s a little “ouchy”. I am using a backpack for the first time ever instead of a purse and it is a smidge weird feeling, a little odd. Last time I had something on my back, it was my beloved children…in their little papoose packs. That’ll date me.

And so, what has come to my attention now is my posture. Posture is huge. And, I am amazed that when I project my body, especially my shoulders and neck, in the proper position…bingo…no backache! I have to be very intentional about standing up straight and that includes holding up my head. I am a little tall for a gal and hadn’t realized how I had begun to slouch and throw my head and long neck forward. That is until Mile #12 when my back started hurting. Project Posture…added to the list! I will share an exercise I have been doing in Wednesday’s post.

‘Til then, here is an energizing little beverage that I have sipped on to start off my days. After 5 .pm., I suppose you can add a dash of “spirits”. I suspect, with or without spirits, this brew will also come in handy for the occasional “ouchy” winter throat as well.

Lemon and Ginger Morning Brew (adapted from Eat, Drink, Live)

Zest and juice of 3 lemons
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
A bunch of mint leaves (I know…weird timing on the mint, but it is so good in all kinds of beverages! Love it in my shakes.)

Put lemon zest and juice, ginger and mint in heatproof pitcher. Pour in 3 cups boiling water and let steep 6 minutes. Serve warm or iced with extra slices of lemon and ginger. Sweeten (if you must) with honey or agave nectar. Serves 2-3

Friday, December 9, 2011

'Round the corner

The sun is back out after a storm that got my attention. Phew...rattled the cages for sure. I don't think I have ever been in wind like that!

I am settling in and finding "goods in the hood" so to speak. People have been so nice...helping me find my way or my way back...ha! God knows I have no sense of direction!!! For real. "Go north. Go south"...forgetaboutit. Hard for me to remember which way is right or left even! But, despite my directional challenges, I am getting better and finding some landmarks.

Getting a little lost has had its advantages. I have discovered nearby bodegas, fun little shops...a little different magic behind every door. Every corner also tells a story and last night I was on the four corners that officially started the game of baseball in 1846.

I have found other delightful corners with coffee, fresh juices and the best kale salad on the planet. Several more delight my senses with fragrant greens, gorgeous "deli" flowers and smells and languages of every kind. Love it. 

Also love the 4:30 veil of darkness. Settles the day down. Cocooning. Because it is getting a little nippy, I have soup on my mind and found this yummy sounding that it came complete with "green" serving suggestions!!! The addition of warming spices, too, like cumin, curry and black pepper is nice. With long winter nights and major chilliness right 'round the corner, this soup makes a toasty, comforting meal. Now, I just have to remember which corner winter's coming 'round... Happy Weekend!

Curried Lentil Soup (recipe from Dr. Neal Barnard)

Serve this soup with braised collards, kale, cabbage, or a green salad and whole-grain bread or chapattis.

1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
1 onion, chopped
2 organic celery stalks, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry couscous
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Combine lentils, onion, celery, garlic, cumin, and water or broth in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, then cover loosely and cook until lentils are tender, about 50 minutes. Stir in couscous, tomatoes, curry powder, and black pepper. Continue cooking until couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serves 8.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Green and Gorgeous Gifts

Over the last two years, I have discovered quite a treasure trove of beautiful, safe and healthy resources. Many others may be available to you locally, too. However, if your wishlist takes you online, join me now as it's time to turn those resources into...

Green and Gorgeous Gifts

For the Home
Give beautiful, natural candlelight like this...

and add some lovely linen dish towels, napkins and placemats, snuggly linen wraps and more by checking out this link...

For the Healthier Cooking
Wrap up cast iron, porcelain enamel, glass or stainless steel cookware. Check out your local hardware store!

Anyone have a fabulous cookbook on the list? Oh, I have got a whole list of favorites...just email me!

For Little Ones
While browsing at The Brook Farm General Store, look at what's in stock there for all the little ones on your list. There are all sorts of soft, organic cotton toys and for olders kiddoes, great playing cards, fun real wood pencils and other simple delights.

Pthalate-free bath buddies, painted with toxin-free paints! Sweet!

And, for safe and snuggly Winter Babies, go here organic cotton onesies

For Bathtime for any body, newborn to 100, male or female
Make it relaxing, rejuvenating and healthy, go to non-toxic bath and body delights here. The new Lemon Sugar Scrub is divine!

Still not done? Check out this link and let your gift give double the joy A portion of all purchase proceeds will go to The Environmental Working Group and help it continue its safety monitoring of the toxins in our food, water and personal care...truly green and clean!

Remember, too, that the gift of giving your time to others is priceless and lasts forever, truly green and gold. xoxoxo

Monday, December 5, 2011

For Starters...

It doesn't feel quite like I would imagine jumping off a cliff does, but comes pretty close.

I am on an adventure that started with a leap of faith, Craigslist and a simple hope to rent a furnished apartment. I got two replies from the totally weird. "Yes, we have the perfect place! Wire funds here...we don't have a U.S. bank account! You will love our place!" I am sure that apartment has an ocean view, right?! 

Number Two said to call her and "chat"...which I did. Bingo. Home run. I moved in three days ago and so the adventure (much more on the specifics coming soon!!!) has begun. The first night it did feel a little strange walking around, showering, sleeping in someone else's space until I saw the bookcase....nothing in it but cookbooks!!! Seriously, a goldmine.

I learned from our conversations that my "landlady" had attended a dreamy cooking I would drool to go to and her apartment (at least the bookcase and gas range...phew!) reflects her love of great food and healthy cooking. I read cookbooks like novels and so this will be deliciously fun! And, with no television, if I run out, there is a library near. Card me up!

For starters, here is an adventurous snack from one cookbook I have devoured. I will be sharing lots of new recipes with you...all fun, healthy and green...just the way I like 'em!

Zucchini Cheddar Toast (adapted form Eat, Drink, Live

2 zucchini, grated
1/1/2 cups freshly grated Cheddar (no dye!) or Monterey Jack cheese
1 shallot, finely diced
1 small egg
dash of Worcestershire sauce
4 slices whole grain bread, toasted
sea salt and fresh black pepper

Put the grated zucchini in a dry dish cloth and twist tightly, squeezing out excess liquid. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the cheese, shallot, egg, Worcestershire sauce, sea salt and black pepper. Stir thoroughly. Put toasted bread on a baking tray, pile on zucchini-cheese mixture and cook under preheated broiler until golden brown. Serve hot. Yummy treat for snacking.

Oh, and another special treat for today...I took a commuter ferry to "work"!  Loved it...leaving in the luscious sunlight and coming home at night with all the gorgeous lights. Just maginificent.

And coming Wednesday, a "green gift" guide, just in case your Santa needs some fresh ideas .