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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Markets and The Abundance of Fabulous Produce

I get pretty spoiled in the summer because I am the "market master" for a farmer's market twice a week. I have an early preview of beautiful produce that comes in every Tuesday and Sunday. This is my fourth summer of hosting a market, and it is loads of fun putting together, but frankly, even harder to sustain.

The young child in me can't wait for the market day to arrive and I am impatient as I await each growers' arrival. I've learned a lot about farming and even more about farmers, more than I ever thought I would know. They are a passionate group, whether they be the college-aged blueberry farmer who brings organically raised blueberries, (she picks them at 8:00 AM, and by 10:00 AM, they are on a table at my market), or the cheese producers from faraway in Chester County. The market unfolds like a fan, and once it is opened, my heart is happy and content. Not just because my store becomes a community resource for shoppers, but because I get to buy beautiful, fresh, and clean produce. It is so beautiful, it appears that diamonds are shining in the collected dew on each kale leaf. Really.

I whipped this up tonight and thought it turned out nicely, so I thought I would share it with you. Quick and easy would be its claim to fame.

Summer Vegetable Saute

One large summer squash, diced nicely into 1/2 inch cubes
Two shallots, finely minced
One clove of garlic, finely minced
Two cups of kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces (I use scissors to cut it up)
One can of organic artichokes (rinsed and dried, then smashed)
One can of organic pinto beans (rinsed and dried)
One cup of 365 Organic Pasta Sauce (fat free)
One cup of cooked, brown organic rice
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more, if you are so inclined)

"Saute" onion and garlic in about a 1/4 cup of water, on a low flame. When the shallots are clear, add the summer squash, and saute them until the squash starts to brown.

Add kale and "saute."

Add canned items, sauce, and rice.

Add spices, and simmer on a low flame (covered)for about 10-12 minutes.

Serves four, generously.

I like it best over a bed of fresh Romaine, of course from the farmers' market.

It's good that we get to see all of the good stuff that grows locally. And that going to a farmers' market allows you to see the "face behind the product."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eureka Salad Dressing

I like my counter top appliances to know that they are multifunctional. For example, I use my trusty waffle iron to "grill" tofu, make a whole wheat "panini," and cook a veggie burger. It also make wonderful grilled asparagus, one of my favorite veggies. Foods come out nice and crispy, and they stay their shape very well. They are cooked very securely, because they are guided as they sizzle. The waffle iron also affords me the time to "do other things," as foods cook.

So, today, as I was "cooking" one of my homemade veggie burgers, I was dabbling with a salad and what veggies I might want to use. I have a well stocked vegetable crisper, thanks to the availability of local markets. I thought...salad...dressing...no oil...no salt.

Here's what I did, and I was thrilled and surprised beyond belief!

Have you ever used a small appliance for something else other than its marketed purpose?

Eureka Dressing

One medium sized tomato cut into eighths
One small white onion (about the size of a small apricot)
One clove of garlic
2 Tablespoons of Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar*
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup of spring water

I am a spoiled kitchen brat and I make this in my Vita-Mix. It creates a smooth and delicious texture that boosts the flavor and appearance of whatever I make.
This dressing really took me by surprise.Bold

Add all of the ingredients to the Vita-Mix container. Let it rip! You will a very smooth pink-red dressing. Pour it over your salad or veggies.
It yields about 3/4 cup of dressing. I put the remainder in an old squeeze bottle and I was good to go.

The tomato will be happy to be reunited with lettuce and friends. Really.

If you make this, let me know how you liked it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pass the Beans, Please...

I love beans, all kinds. Fava beans are my absolute most favorite, I think because they are the beans I knew as a child. My grandmother would cook them with fresh greens and loads of garlic and serve them over a bed of linguine. See, I was plant strong a long time ago, but took some type of detour along the way.

Maybe you already know this about me, but I do everything fast. I walk quickly, speak quickly, and always feel as though I am catching a bus. In the day when I would make Jell-o, I would even make it with ice cubes to hasten up the process. I need a microwave that works in double time, because sometimes, those two minutes for a veggie burger to get crispy seem like forty five minutes. In the time that my husband comes home from work, changes his clothes, and walks our two dogs...I can have a complete dinner made...it's about twenty minutes, really.

We needed a side dish to tonight's dinner. Plans to make my famous three-bean, slow-baked masterpiece evaporated with the day. But, I still wanted to have beans. So, with a flick of the wrist and my fabulous "Vidalia Chopping Wizard," some shallots, balsamic vinegar, and a few other things, I made this bean dish that was really good. You can serve this cold or hot. Your choice.

Pass the Beans

Can of Garbanzo Beans
Can of Black Beans
Can of Pinto Beans

One finely diced shallot

One finely minced garlic clove

1/4 cup of good quality Balsamic Vinegar*

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (I like the grainy one)

Open, drain, and really rinse all the beans in a colander. Wash them well.

Add finely minced shallot, vinegar, and mustard.

Mix well. You can either heat these up on the stove, or try them cold on a bed of lettuce. If you heat them slowly, the vinegar will carmelize. But, they're good uncooked, too!

Store them in a good, air-tight container.

* I used Rao's Balsamic Vinegar, costs $25 a bottle, and tastes wonderful! Love the flavor, warm or cold.

Hope you enjoy them.

Tip of the Day...

This is for anyone who might be struggling with trying to pull people onto the "Plant Strong Life Raft." The reality is that you only need to worry about yourself, your food choices, your exercise plan...and so it goes. I have found in this last year, that one's sincere zeal is often received with mixed reviews and many questions. If we continue to lead by example, our actions will speak for themselves.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Freedom from "Weight Loss" Ads

Those late night TV infomercials can really tug at you. Whether it be a fancy-smancy floor cleaner, an under garment that makes you look 20 pounds thinner, or, my former favorite, the "guaranteed" weight loss product. Last night, I was watching an infomercial that promised a huge weight loss, all while eating "your favorite foods." As I was watching, I felt a sense of relief, because for the first time ever, it was not summoning my name. Happy to be plant strong, thanks.

But, I thought about the countless victims who were drawn in to this commercial and the fact that their life's problems might just be ended by sprinkling a powder on their animal based foods. I was free. I am a plant strong sixty year old, my shield of legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains is broad and protects me.

I can't help but to reflect on September 23rd 2009 when I was where I wasn't supposed to be. I was slated to attend a meeting in Philly, but instead, found myself in Rockville, Maryland, headquarters for the Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods Markets. And, that's the day our regional president told us about being plant strong. I think that day is the most pivotal day of my life. That day, though, ties with March 14th 2010, the day I landed at the Engine Two Immersion in Austin, Texas. Whole Foods Market has given me the tools to practice a healthier lifestyle. And, I am not going back. Thank you, Whole Foods Market.

Breakfast is the most fun meal of the day for me. Here's something quick, easy, versatile, and delish. Originally inspired by Ann Crile Esselstyn, I have tested this many times, and I believe this is the best recipe for a PLANT STRONG OATMEAL WAFFLE. Let me know what you think.


3/4 cup of "Old-Fashioned" Oatmeal
1/2 banana, mashed well (or, 5 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce)
1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon (or to taste, I give the jar ten taps!)
1/8 cup of warm water

Plug in waffle iron on HIGH

Mix uncooked oatmeal with mashed banana. Put it in a glass jar. Add the cinnamon, stir well. Add water. Place cover on jar, and shake about ten times (like you are Tom Cruise).

Now, put the mixture on the waffle iron, gently spread. Close cover. Cooks in about 6-8 minutes. DO NOT LIFT COVER until you get to first time of six minutes.

To remove, get a chopstick. And score along each right angle of the waffle iron. It will then POP OUT! You can use maple syrup, if needed, but I prefer a sprinkle of fresh fruit.

These are SO good!!! Make a batch and keep them in the freezer. I have also used them to make "ice cream sandwiches," using pureed, frozen fruit.

The next time you see an infomercial that touts super weight loss, count your blessings that you are plant strong, happy, and centered.