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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Play time!

There are days, when I have more time, that I really like to play with my food. This weekend, I had some leisurely moments and had a great time playing with colors, textures and shapes...just for a little fun. Here are the pictures made from produce I got at the weekend markets and at the end of the post, a little more color fun! Happy Monday!

Friday's Market Salad with a little help from 'fridge leftovers!

Sauteed Bok Choy, Broccoli and Shiitake Mushrooms

Sunday's Market Salad...decidedly tropical

and two pals for Friday's L'il Miss Carrot Top

 Miss Egg 'Em On

Mr. Rad Ish

I also went to a class on juicing and when I got home, got some great news about my niece's company. She works for Sherwin-Williams and one of their green colors was chosen as a "Favorite Green" by a senior decorator at Ballard Designs. The color is "Overt Green" and is just a sparkling, fresh, full-of-life green. My sister-in-law chose an equally smashing color, an orange, for her front door called "Adventure Orange". Here are the paint doesn't do them justice.

After playing with all three things, juice class and two paint colors, what did I come up with? Fresh carrot juice with a sprig of mint. Delish!!

Ginger Orange Carrot Juice

In a heavy duty blender, put 3-4 ice cubes, 3 medium carrots (washed but not peeled, cut into chunks), good slice of fresh ginger, 1 whole orange (without skin) and 1/2 whole lemon (without skin). Blend away until smooth, adding purified water as necessary. It will have the texture of juice "with pulp". I guess you could strain it but gosh, there goes all the fiber. Serve chilled with a sprig of mint.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Keepin' the Dream Alive...

I think I have already shared with you that most of my cookware is ancient. Goodies I inherited from my mom, grandmothers and aunt. The only "pot" I can remember buying is the bean pot in Monday's post.

All of them are well worn, mostly Revere stainless steel with copper bottoms and an assortment of enamel over cast iron pieces. I love them and put them all to good use. Modern benefit for ancient wares? They are all made from very safe materials and are really energy efficient. There is one pot that has remained sidelined...just too far gone and missing a lid. I wax poetic over it because it is an honest to goodness Le Creuset in, the original color and my favorite. I bet it is close to my age, too. Sigh.

Anyway, I called Le Creuset yesterday on a fluke and asked if, by chance, they had a lid and had any suggestions on how to restore this pot to its former beauty and function. Bad That size was discontinued ages ago. Good news...would I like a new one in the current size? Oh my...are you kidding? I had to pay a small replacement fee but trust me, it was a pittance.

On their website, it clearly states that Le Creuset offers a lifetime guarantee. I explained that I was not the original owner and also that I had inherited it, not gotten it at a garage sale. No problem. "Lifetime" can be enjoyed by many cooks apparently and really means "eternal". Just amazing. I am pretty ecstatic and packing up the old gal as I write this. Looks like Le Creuset not only cooks like a dream but also is a company that wants to keep the dream alive.


To celebrate, I am making this dish from their website using spring's all stars...asparagus and eggs! See some pix below the recipe for a look at some other "stars of the season"!

Grilled and glorious

Dunbar "Divas" best!

Roasted Asparagus topped with Eggs

From Le Creuset's website: "It’s fun to cook with versatile cookware because you have so many options. Here we do the unexpected: roast asparagus, and in the same pan, fry the eggs and top each serving. The pan’s size lets you roast the vegetables and turn them halfway through the cooking. Use this as a different first or appetizer course."

1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, medium thickness (36 to 42 spears)
3 tablespoons good olive oil, preferably Spanish, divided (I love Spanish, too!)
1 1/2 teaspoons Spanish sherry vinegar
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 large eggs (preferably from local farmer)
Strips of jarred piquillo peppers for garnish
1/4 cup grated manchego or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.

Bend each asparagus spear and snap off the tough fibrous end. Rinse the spears and pat dry. Arrange them on the pan and drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Use your hands for this. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and toss again.

Place the oval skillet in the oven and roast the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Slide out the rack and use two wooden spoons to turn the spears over. Continue roasting another 4 or 6 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender.

Remove the skillet from the oven and place on the stovetop. Divide the asparagus between 6 plates (6 or 7 spears per plate) and drizzle a bit of sherry vinegar over each portion. (The asparagus may be served at room temperature.)

Set the pan on the stovetop and turn to medium-high heat. Add another tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. When it is heated, quickly saute the ham strips. When the ham pieces are crisp, move the skillet off the burner. Remove the ham to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Return the pan to the heat and fry the eggs until the whites are set and the yolks are almost set but still a bit runny. Using a thin spatula, carefully lift each egg and place each atop the asparagus. Dust each egg with salt and pepper. Top each egg with equal amounts of the ham and strips of pepper. Sprinkle the optional cheese and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Have a great weekend! I have some "cheese-y" news to share Monday!

L'il Miss Carrot Top says "Keep dreaming! Have fun! Be well!"

Ha! I love taking pictures of food almost as much as I love cooking and eating! Here are some pictures from a brief visit to get my eggs this morning...

New kids on the block!

Carrots, radishes, some wild radish pods, two kinds of bok choy, kale and a few eggs

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sunny lessons...

This is a really unusual look for me...about as unusual as some of my Halloween garb. And, not just because I am holding the camera about 6 inches from my face! Although this moment in the sun lasted for just a few minutes, I felt perfectly happy and safe facing forward into the sunlight.

Mugging it up on Bootlegger's Alley

Here's why...I wear the best sunscreen in the planet...loaded with protection and as an extra benefit, made by women using some fair-traded ingredients! Life sustaining for everyone. And, the formula I use is free from harmful chemicals...really an accomplishment for sunscreens. 

When I returned home, it was spring in full bloom with sun power to match. As a skin cancer fighter who learned (and paid for!) my solar lessons a little too late, I now wear a sunscreen 365 days a year and used to get a little nervous as the sun warmed. Not any more. Before you turn your smiling face, or more, to the sun any season, sunscreen it!  Don't forget your feet, hands and ears! And your babies...please, let's raise a generation who asks, "What's skin cancer?" and gets an answer of "Ancient history, something your grandparents had!"

On this Women and Wednesdays, get sunkissed safely! Need a great sunscreen? Email me.

Then, follow this link for a short interview with Gladys Knight after her elimination from Dancing with the StarsLove it!! Listen to what her professional partner Tristan has to say about this radiant, sunny woman...a wonderful tribute to solar energy!!! No sunscreen allowed...absorb every ray from her! See link below.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Potluck-y Beans

Here is a new beauty in my kitchen...two actually. I cook a lot of beans and have wanted a great bean pot for some time. I lucked into this one at local kitchen shop. Then, I stumbled upon this fabulous spoon at the farmers' market. Perfect pairing! I was so excited to finally cook beans in an honest-to-goodness clay bean pot. And yes, I made sure the pot was certified lead-free.

If that dish doesn't run away with that spoon, I am going to!

Next, all I needed were some fabulous heirloom beans. Luckily, I have lovely stash of them!

Here is how to get them looking like this...simply yummy! And, you don't need much luck at all. Only this simple recipe and any big pot or Dutch oven will do just fine.

Potluck-y Beans

Wash one pound of beans thoroughly, pick out any rocks (!), and place in a deep glass bowl with fresh filtered water to cover beans by about 2 inches. Let soak about 4-6 hours.

Meanwhile, make a melange of seasoning veggies. I used fresh carrots (some lovely purple and yellow heirloom varieties) onion, fresh garlic, celery and sauteed them in olive oil 'til soft.

Look at those gorgeous carrots!!

Add veggies to the beans and water. Do not drain off soaking water! Add extra water to cover beans by about 1-2 inches. I also tossed in a little cinnamon, cumin and a few red pepper flakes. Bring to a hard boil and let boil 5 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer 1-3 hours depending on the bean. Only when the beans are soft, add in salt or some acid and go to town with your own seasonings. If you add in either salt or acids like tomatoes at the beginning, you will have a pot o' pellets.

I served my beans over wild rice (love it) and added a berry gorgeous market salad. Happy day to you!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

It is officially Earth Day on Sunday, and to end this week back where we started on Monday, this was an important article for me to read and thought you might like to as well. The first 4 paragraphs are illuminating. Here is the article.

This weekend is a perfect time to reflect on the products you're putting on your skin every day, twice a day, day after day. And on the foods you eat and the people you hold hands with or listen to. This weekend, commit to taking charge of your own well-being which will also effect the well-being of Mother Earth and all her loved ones. Read labels, ask questions and spread the word! Let's turn those CDC statistics on their ear. Shorter, sicker lives for our children and their children? NO! Not on my watch. How about yours? Email me. I have tons of resources. 

A lovely menu for this weekend from my fave Dr. Barnard is here: Earth Day Menu

Share our commitment to make this weekend's celebrations a lifestyle! For "dinner and a movie" go see Bully (teachers, community and church leaders: please read yesterday's post for a special toolkit available) now showing in my hometown, too, or rent Food, Inc., Flow, Ken Burns:The National Parks orThe March of the Penquins. 

If your weekend is so full of Earth day activities and you only have time for snacking and a video clip, make our Green Shake (we hear it has taken over Vanderbilt by a green storm!) and watch this. CBS celebrated Walter Cronkite this week. Here is his broadcast to introduce the first Earth Day 1970.

We are the environment. Let's create a great one! xoxox

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Little Movie That Could...

Start a conversation and create a new language!

You may think I am repeating myself due to age but I am not. I saw this yesterday from the director of the movie Bully and although I usually don't post on Thursday, wanted to share it immediately. I have spoken about this movie lots. As my son and his band partner wrote part of the soundtrack for it and the subject matter is dear to my heart, I am more attuned to this movie than most other films.

LOOK AT WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!! Now in 200 plus theaters nationwide, rated PG-13 and now also available to every teacher in the USA to use this movie to open up a dialogue with students and their families everywhere!

Picture from Bully website...Fill that theater!

Aren't people grand? Overall, I think so. As a kiddo, I had my share of insecurities: I stuttered terribly, was overweight, had years and years of acne and had circumstances where I felt it necessary to put up a smoke screen or two. Fortunately, I had a teacher at school who helped me and I was not among the 3 million children who are afraid to go to school every day, although some days, as a teen, when my face was really awful, I did stay home. As an adult, I also felt what it was like to not "belong" and at times, to have trouble standing up for myself. Luckily enough, I am resilient and always bounce back.

What about those who aren't and can't? Who are so beaten down they feel cornered, punched and bloodied against the ropes and who suffer such unfathomable physical and emotional pain? Their spirits so pulverized they believe more in what others say about them and do to them than in themselves. And, also, what about the bullies and other toxic people? How did they get that way and what can we do to help?

This movie has such a ripple effect of goodness...let it flow and create a tidal wave!!!  Check this link out 

Who do you know who is a teacher to share this with? As Earth Day approaches and Bully seems to me to be the perfect movie to debut in this spring of new life, I believe we are each other's most precious resource on the planet and are the "environment" both most at risk and most capable of saving. And so, yes, I am labelling this post under "environmental impact".

Think action. Think compassion. Make it a kind day. Day after day after day...

You go it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Party Toes

According to Blogger, this is my 500th post. Goodness. Perfect post to kick off another 500 using our freshly polished "Party Toes" to boot!

Today is Women and Wednesdays, traditionally girlie...and it is also a warm day here. Some of you may be bringing your toes out from under those tights and winter woolies and into sandals and sunshine. I will talk about sunscreen next week...really important for your exposed feet, too!

But "Party Toes" and polish first. There was an article in the news last week about California's investigation of the environmental hazards of nail salons and the toxic reality of some brands claiming to be "non-toxic". Please read this article here: toxic nails and for the sake of your health and the health of your nail tech, be proactive and BYOP...bring your own polishes.

Here are some brands I like (so far so good) and use and the links for shopping:
Priti Polish
Zoya (also available at Whole Foods)
Scotch Naturals

    (If you have little ones, please read Monday's post for a lip to toe commitment to non-toxic.)  And...ugh, please be sure you go to a clean nail salon with a good reputation! 'Nuf said there!

Party on!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sustained by Foraging

My dad always told me I was part to go foraging! Last week was an explosion of opportunity. While this is a longer than usual post, lots more than usual happened. On Thursday I went to both a presentation on environmental toxins and to the Little Rock Sustainability Summit, the latter held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. I loved being there. The meal was incredible and I wondered what influence Bill Clinton's vegan lifestyle has had on the Clinton Library's restaurant, Forty Two. The lunch was amazing and full of fabulous veggies.

Grilled portabello with rice pilaf, corn and sweet potato "hash", grilled zucchini and spring greens salad with grilled baby patty pan squash, radishes and goat cheese!

There are a great many wonderful green changes happening here and it was exciting to learn them. The summit's keynote speaker was from L'Oreal and sadly I was not so amazed. Came home really unsettled and feeling it was even more important than ever to keep learning and sharing with those willing and eager to lead a cleaner, greener life.

I felt like the Center for Disease Control's report here (the 2009 report was updated in Feb. 2012 with the addition of 34 new chemicals) and real risk that children now being born will not lead as long and as healthy a life as we have, in part because of all the chemicals sabotaging their well-being, were more subject to economic review than to the more precious (my opinion) human and environmental costs. (In all fairness, this was not a summit specifically on human risk, either consumer or workplace, but on the economics of sustainability. I was impressed by all the intra-company efforts towards sustainability, though, but my interests rest primarily with the Natural Environment and Healthy Communities in this model below).

I am trying to write logically here and not get riled. Calm and steady. Calm and steady. I very diplomatically (I thought at least) asked a very simple and fair question about L'Oreal's plan to examine and reduce any harmful chemicals that may exist in their 23 brands (they use several mentioned in the CDC report) because there has been so much consumer interest in this critical topic, especially given that 34 new chemicals were just added in February to this report.

I was genuinely curious and instead of listening to heresay, I thought it was a great opportunity to ask a direct question from a sustainability expert of one of the largest cosmetic companies in the world. Perhaps they had a 5 year plan to move all their products into truly greener, "non-toxic" formulas avoiding some of the chemicals popping up on the news, listed in reports, found in breast cancer cells, spilling into waterways, etc? I also asked about a highlighted bullet point in her presentation...something called "eco-label".

Here is the answer I got: all products were safe. No answer on the "eco-label".

The speaker even commented on the lead in lipstick issue and said they were not very concerned about their products' contribution (Note:L'Oreal brand had 5 of the top 10 highest lead-containing lipsticks tested) because lead was "ubiquitous" and was in the glassware on the table, water I was drinking and, then incredibly, in my opinion, she added that "we  may get some on our napkins, but we really don't ingest lip products". Really? We don't? I know I do every time I lick my lips. And, how about planting a kiss with lead-based lipstick or lip balm? What about the toddler or pup who gets into mom's makeup bag and eats a tube of  lip color? After all, isn't it about bio-accumulation day after day, exposure after exposure? I think Mother Earth can answer that one for us!

I am sticking to my mission.that "cleaner and greener"  food whether eaten through my mouth or body's pores means better health for me, my family, my community and Mother Earth and lots less to worry about. Boiled down to the basics, I am what I eat and what's eating me and I would like to remove some of the 219 chemicals the CDC says I am exposed to every day because I have the choice to do so.

On that note, Saturday I hit the streets with my pals and went to lots of local farmers' markets. Such delicious, foraging fun and I will have much more on my finds! Here is a pix of some of the goodies...

Delicious strawberries, Swiss chard, flat leaf parsley, Portuguese cookies, eggs, fresh garlic, amazing ice pops, lemon vinegar and absolutely sinful toffee

Here is a real quick recipe...thanks to The Divine Miss M and Mark Bittman!  In the interest of space, I will give the link here: yummy soup. The Divine Miss M, a fabulous cook herself, uses veggie broth instead of water and adds in more beans. Speaking of which...I have something great to show you Friday!! xox

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's time for some champagne!

Champagne mangoes are in the house!!! Oh...yum! They are about a dollar a piece and so do run out and grab one of these delicious golden wonders.

One of the favorite stops on my walks through Brooklyn was a shop called Radish. Just precious inside, all full of local goods, lovely people, great vintage kitchen pieces and some of the best prepared food ever. I loved their salads especially and was lucky enough to meet the chef a couple of times. She even gave me two of her recipes! xoxox

Dinner for the plane! Yum!

The "market salad" was my favorite item...just chock full of greens, nuts, local cheeses and fruits and veggies du jour. I bought one to eat on the plane and then made it again here at home for our street's Easter Potluck. I LOVE community dinners!! Champagne mangoes ruled the salad and each bite brought back juicy sweet memories...of time spent in Colombia, Mexico, Hawaii, India, Brooklyn and the gorgeous mango-colored sari I wore to my son's wedding.

Neighbors' Easter Potlucky!

Copycat Market Salad under construction

Building above and beyond with local berries

All dressed up!

Easter Potluck Salad (loosely a "Market Salad"copycat! Look at what is available in your markets and start creating!)

Fresh mint, one bunch worth of leaves
Spring green onions, white part and some of the green thinly sliced
Spring sugar snap peas, lightly blanched
Champagne mangoes, cut into cubes
Spring strawberries, hulled and sliced
Spring radishes, thinly sliced
Walnuts, halves or pieces
Beet pickled egg, chopped for garnish
Lemon or Tangerine Vinaigrette

Wash and prepare all fruits and veggies. I blanched the sugar snap peas for about a minute and then iced them down and let chill for about 30 minutes. Toss all together and dress with a citrus-y vinaigrette. (Substitute lemon or tangerine juice for the vinegar in any basic vinaigrette recipe...I have posted several previously). Garnish with chopped beet pickled egg (Monday, April 9th post) or crumbled goat cheese.

My veggie-full potluck plate. I told you I am a big eater!!

Have a great weekend...our Farmers Market spring to life this weekend and I am going to all! What are you doing this weekend? I can't wait to share what I did yesterday!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

On the green edge

It was great to see all the neighbors at our annual Easter Potluck and to catch up. It was especially fun to chat with an expectant dad and mom and to learn that they also are members of Our Green Table's Green Shakers Club...kale shake aficionados!! They are drinking them in Nashville, in fun!!  One of the guys went on to say how great is was to be able to start the day off with "a salad" and give his hungry body the best food first!  And, how great those shakes made him feel. Yay! Bottom's up!

This makes today's post easier to write. Last week there was an announcement in a major medical magazine that yes, cruciferous veggies really do help prevent cancer and if you already have cancer, can help recovery. Make the body more alkaline and wow...great things happen!  Check the article out here eat broccoli, help beat cancer.

That same day, I got a recipe for a shake made with an add-in of frozen broccoli florets...hold on, keep with me here. At first, I was a little put off, seemed a bit on the edge for green shakes, but because it came from a woman whose work I admire, I decided to do it, to add in some frozen broccoli to my morning shake.  What a was lovely...a nice addition of great nutrition and with very little broccoli flavor. Frozen veggies are not my favorite, especially carrots, green beans and yes, broccoli, but they are really powerhouses. I will keep doing this! Loved it!

And so, on this Women and Wednesdays*, try adding a handful of frozen broccoli to Our Green Table's basic kale shake or use Kathy's recipe. Your day and your body will be better for it. What are you doing today to make your day and body better?

Kathy Freston's Green Smoothie

a few ice cubes
1 scoop protein powder made from soy, rice, hemp and/or pea (I use 2 scoops)
1 cup blueberries
5 frozen broccoli florets ( I added a small handful)
2 tsp. agave nectar (or honey or real maple syrup)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately. Make 1 smoothie.

My note: I also add in a good bit of cinnamon, turmeric and raw ginger and of course, kale! Vary the fruit by using 1/2 an orange, frozen banana or apple. I rarely add in the sweetener, although I do love buckwheat honey. The cinnamon and ginger give a natural sweetness that is enough for me. Recently, I have also been using a big splash, about 1/2 cup, of almond coconut milk...just fab!

*Note: Before you get that spring pedicure, be sure to read next week's post on nail polishes!!! I just got some helpful new information today to share.

Monday, April 9, 2012

In a pickle?

Here is a peek at the lovely eggs I have locally...just beauties!! They are from our Dunbar Community Garden Project (check them out on Facebook here. What a terrific-ly delicious project!) Soooo much nicer and kinder to have these fresh eggs on hand than grocery store eggs or the "floating wonders" I had left in my 'fridge!

Eggselent addition to Our Green Table!

Some of the "gals"

Great idea!!

I didn't dye eggs this year and missed it. I do love using onion skins, berries and beets to swirl up pretty, naturally colored eggs. Next year...

In Wednesday's NYT food section, there was an article about how many families (rural and especially, urban) are now keeping hens and some great recipes on how to enjoy fresh eggs.  Made me miss our sweet hens Johnnie and Georgie. I recognized a name in the article...Ian Knauer and remembered a lovely multi page feature on him and his Pennsylvania farm family's heritage of great food in Gourmet magazine. I grew up with a lot of that wonderful food...shoofly pie, scrabble, sauerkraut. Fortunately, I had saved the issue.

Lovely photo spread...look at eggs on right page

In it is the perfect answer to my wanting to dye up some eggs and maybe, if you did dye a bunch, also the answer of what to do with all the extra hard-boiled eggs you may have hanging around today! In true Pennsylvania Dutch fashion...pickle 'em.

Pennsylvania Beet-Pickled Eggs (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

3 cups water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 small beet, peeled and sliced*
1 small shallot, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
12 hard-boiled large eggs, peeled

Bring water, vinegar, beet, shallot, sugar, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan, then simmer, covered, until beet is tender, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, uncovered. Put beet mixture in a container with eggs and marinate, chilled, gently stirring once or twice, at least 2 hours.

Ian's note:
•Eggs can be marinated, chilled, in an airtight container up to 3 days.

*My Note: I used 2 beets, scooped them out of the brine and then ate them for dinner!! 'Natch, right?  Also, the brine will firm up the egg whites and so to prevent tough, rubber-y eggs, I suggest brining them for no more than a day.  Or, undercook them slightly to begin with. If you choose to devil the yolks, mix a little of the brine into your mayo. Think how gorgeous yellow beets would be here, too! Pretty!

What are some of your ideas for using leftover hard-cooked eggs?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Have a hoppy day!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Snap happy

I have only had my new phone a little over a month and already have nearly a thousand pictures on it...300 plus of food. No telling how many pictures I took over the past 4 months if I add in the other two cameras I have! I love taking pictures!! People, food, babies, buildings, more babies, seashore...Snap, snap! So fun!

I am also thinking...wouldn't it be fun to try to bring to the table some of the beautiful food I have taken pix of?

Our Green Table's New York Twin...the glorious "Market Table" at ABC Kitchen

When I got home, after a couple of days of "Where am I?", I began where I usually do after being out the 'fridge. Oh me. I am here to tell you that yes, old eggs really do float. I had quite a bobbling fleet. Checking things out and throwing things out wiled away the afternoon and pretty soon it was nearly dinner time.  Double Oh me.

And so, to save the day, I looked at a couple of pictures on my phone and then looked at what I had on hand to cook up. I remembered a luscious lentil soup that I had recently and copied it and then tossed together a spring salad copied from my fave "take out". Perfect time to toast up the fabulous bread I gleefully got through security, too.

Oh my...this bread is worth the trip to New York!

No secret that thick soups, salads and grain-y dishes are my favorite dishes to cook and eat. All copycats turned out pretty well...not picture perfect but close. Here is the soup. I am making the salad again this weekend. Whatever you are celebrating this weekend, make it happy!

Aurora's Amazing version

My copycat before Parmesan

Copycat Lentil "Minestrone" (That is what the restaurant called it, although a non-traditional, pasta-less version)

2 cups lentils
7 cups water or veggie broth
Herbs of choice...lots of them (I used Herbes de Provence and extra rosemary)
6 garlic cloves or what the heck, the whole head
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worchestershire (get vegetarian kind)
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Veggies: onion, zucchini, carrots, spinach, escarole, frozen corn and peas (unless you can get fresh spring peas!)

Simmer washed and picked over lentils in herb-garlic-water until tender. Depending on the lentil used, this make take up to 45 minutes, more or less. Start checking for tenderness at about 30 minutes. Then, add olive oil sauteed sliced mushrooms, diced onion, zucchini strips and carrot strips, if desired. Caramelize them for extra flavor. Toss in some frozen peas and corn. Let cook for about 15 minutes. Last 5 minutes, toss in cherry tomatoes, spinach and escarole (I didn't have this) and warm through. Season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil (a soup was really well seasoned with lovely olive oil) and lots of fresh Parmesan. Serves 4-6.

Anything you cooked up that turned out "picture almost perfect"? Anything you put in your lentil soup to make it amazing? I added a little Dijon to the leftovers and loved that taste variation...nice and snappy!