My Name Is Peter

Some Thoughts on Some Things


July 25th, 2012

Different kinds of salt I like to use

Salt. Technically, it’s known as Sodium Chloride. It is dissolved in that seawater that comprises around 97% of the water on earth. We sweat salty water. We cry “salt tears.” Yes, salt is around us everywhere – outside of us, in the earth beneath us, inside of our bodies, in our food, and in many of the beverages we drink. We use it to season and enhance the flavors of our food. It sits in jars and other containers beside our stoves and on tables in dining rooms and restaurants.

Given that it is so available, would it surprise you to learn that there is a whole kind-of-once-but-now-not-so-underground community of salt connoisseurs? It’s true! They behave just like wine connoisseurs. There are restaurants around the world built into salt mines. Some restaurants (and home cooks, too) serve food on salt planks and bricks.

It is actually quite amazing when you begin to explore just how many varieties of salt exist in our world. We have simple iodized table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, Hawaiian black lava salt, French Fleur de Sel, smoked salt… The list goes on and on.

As you might suspect from the picture above of the salt varieties I like to use, I don’t like iodized table salt. The iodine is added artificially in processing, and some believe it actually to be toxic. Aside from potential toxicity, for me and many of my friends, iodized salt has this weird metallic flavor. Yuck. I use mainly kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, and of course sea salt. Lately, I’ve been favoring the pink Himalayan salt for most of my cooking. I like sea salt on salads.  Typically, I use kosher salt to season the water I use to cook to pastas or grains. But all three are great choices for whatever cooking you are doing.

I find that the Himalayan salt and the sea salt have a softer, milder flavor and are generally less harsh than the kosher salt. Maldon is also a lovely treat!

Having gotten my start in TV working for Martha Stewart, I learned quite a bit about quick kitchen tricks to enhance flavors. One of the most curious and cool is that salt can bring out and amplify the delicate sweet flavor of fruit and ice cream. Martha would often sprinkle just a touch of salt on melon, sliced peaches, pineapple, ice creams, sorbets, stewed fruit, and more, right before serving. Just a small sprinkling of salt would add that little pop of flavor that could make all the difference.

So the next time you are in the market, check out the various varieties of salt that are available. Try a few out, and use the one that lights your tastes buds on fire.

PS- Remember, a little salt goes a long way, so please use it sparingly!!!


Many of my friends view me as a sort of vegan guinea pig. Now, about two years after I chose to go totally vegan, they are still waiting to see how it turns out for me before testing the waters themselves. But believe it or not, when friends ask me about how to go about adopting a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet, I encourage them to simply try to eat vegan or vegetarian meals once or twice a week, rather than just dumping the meat altogether right away. If you are curious yourself, maybe you’ll start by cooking something adventurous at home. Maybe you’ll try having lunch or dinner at that new “hippy dippy” vegan place that looks both intriguing and terrifying at the same time. Or maybe you’ll try the recipe that I am about to share…

If you are into a super yummy, healthy, protein-rich, and low in fat situation that happens to be cheap as well, and you love Trader Joe’s like I do, here is a perfect recipe for you that takes a total of 30 minutes MAX to prepare. In fact, this meal packs more protein per calorie than a steak. Lentils are also high in iron, and broccoli falls into that “super food” category for, among other things, its high calcium content, which is quite a bit more bio-available than calcium in dairy products. I share this “pour and stir” recipe all the time with vegan-curious friends and kitchen novices to rave reviews. I usually serve it along with an organic greens salad (also sold bagged and pre-washed at Trader Joe’s).

First, here is what the finished product looks like:

Finished Dish

And to de-mystify the shopping experience, here are what the prepackaged ingredients look like at the store:

Easy – lentils are precooked and ready to go

Mirepoix – all the chopping is all done for you!

Sliced Crimini Mushrooms – cleaned and ready to go

Organic Broccoli – already cleaned and chopped

Organic Brown Rice – precooked and ready to heat up

Easy Trader Joe’s Lentil Stew

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 17.6 ounce package Trader Joe’s steamed lentils
1 14.5 ounce container Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (French term for chopped up carrots, celery, onion)
1 tablespoon low sodium tamari or soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced*
1 10 ounce bag Trader Joe’s Sliced Crimini Mushrooms
1/2 bag Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Florets, sold in 12 ounce bags
2 cups Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Stock, sold in quart size boxes (1 quart = 4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric**
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin**
2 bags Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice (frozen, comes with 3 bags per box)
2 tablespoons Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, minced (optional)

*If mincing fresh garlic is too much, just use 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt). Garlic powder is in the spice aisle.

**They sell these spices everywhere – even at Target! But if you don’t have them or can’t be bothered, just add another 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and call it a day.

Serves 4

Before we begin, here’s a quick kitchen tip. It is so helpful (and reduces time and stress) to lay out and measure all your ingredients before starting to cook. And by doing that you can pretend you’re the star of your own cooking show like I do. Don’t judge me.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or pot over MEDIUM heat. Open the mirepoix container and dump in the whole thing. Stir around the mixture, letting it sizzle and saute for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion turns translucent, and the carrots are softer but still a little crunchy.

Mirepoix sauteing in pot

Open the bag of mushrooms, and dump them all into the pan. Stir them around to distribute them evenly. Then, let them cook for about 3 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent sticking and burning. Add the tamari or soy sauce. Stir quickly, using the liquid to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

What the minced garlic should look like

Then, add the garlic, and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 1 more minute.

Add the turmeric, curry powder, cumin and sea salt. Stir to coat everything with the spices and cook for another 2 minutes so that the spices are no longer raw.

Add in the lentils, being sure to break them up as you put them into the pan so that they are not just one big brick. Gently stir the mixture to make sure the lentils are well mixed with the other veggies and are coated in the spices.

Lentils added and stirred to incorporate and coat with spices

Slowly pour in the vegetable broth, again scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits that may be sticking. You may choose to add more broth if you want more of a soup-like consistency. There are no rules! Make it your way.

Adding the vegetable broth…

Turn the heat up to high so that the vegetable broth starts to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low, cover the pot or pan, and allow the stew to simmer for 10-12 minutes. This simmering step allows all the veggies and spices to meld together a little bit so that there is maximum flavor in every bite. Watch it carefully to make sure the stew doesn’t boil too vigorously. Add a little more broth or water every so often, if you need to, to maintain your desired consistency.

While the stew is simmering away, microwave the 2 rice bags separately for 3 minutes each. (Don’t get all weird with me for suggesting the microwave – I’m just being real with you about a quick short cut!) Cut the bags open, being careful of the hot steam, and dump the rice into a medium-sized serving bowl. If you want, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the parsley (if using). Set aside.

Mincing parsley

Minced parsley stirred into rice

After the 12 minutes of simmering, add the broccoli into the stew. Stir to combine. Cover once again, and let the broccoli cook in the stew for another 3 minutes or so, until bright green and tender-crisp. I hate mushy broccoli, but if you like it, you can cook it a bit longer. No worries.

Ready to serve!

When the broccoli is done, you are ready to serve! I usually spoon some of the rice into a nice bowl and then ladle the lentil stew on top. If you want to be super fancy gourmet, sprinkle some of that fresh chopped parsley on top for a garnish.

And there you go – vegan dinner with (almost) no chopping on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Over the years, as I’ve studied the vegan diet and learned the impact of certain chemicals and additives on our bodies and on the environment, I have traded more mainstream body products in for products that are earth and body friendly.  My friends are always asking me what I use, and so I wanted to share two body care products that I love and that have made a noticeable difference for my skin.

Here’s the thing. When you rub crap all over the outside of your body, that crap sinks into your body through your skin via tiny holes modern science has decided to call “pores.” So, while you may look good for a little while, after a while you will start to feel like crap on the inside, and then you will start to look like crap on the outside because your outsides reflect your insides. Trust me. I’ve learned my lesson!

Kai Body Polish has been around for quite a while, and I am certainly not the first person to sing its praises! Kai is all-natural as well as paraben, sulfate, phthalate and phosphate free. I happen to love the Kai signature fragrance, and while it is admittedly more of a feminine scent, when I use the body polish, I am left with just a hint of the fragrance, which I think is lovely.

I use Kai Body Polish every other day, give or take, all over my body. Because it leaves behind a bit of a moisturizing residue, I rinse off first with water, then use the Kai, and then follow with a very, very mild natural bar soap we order from Italy (more on that later). The result is exfoliated and perfectly moisturized skin along with a very faint hint of that signature Kai fragrance. Experiment yourself and see what works for you, and please let me know!

On days when I don’t use the Kai – or if I find I need a little more moisturizing – I use Griffin Remedy Omega 3 Grapefruit Lotion. I know “Omega 3″ has become a big concept as of late, and while Omega 3’s are certainly believed to be crucial to our health, I have no idea if the lotion contains active Omega 3’s. Even it really does, I have no idea if they can truly benefit the skin through a lotion delivery system. What I can tell you is that this lotion is fantastic! It smells great, feels great, is paraben-free and is made with simple all natural ingredients and nothing “artificial.” Best of all, it is really affordable, and it does a great job.

Kai products are available all over the country in department and cosmetics stores. Click here to order online or find out where to get them in your area.

Griffin Remedy products are available at Whole Foods, and you can order them online from the company website.

Remember, you only get one skin. It is your largest vital organ, and if you take good care of it, it will take good care of you and always be beautiful.