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.

Taken Care Of

April 20th, 2011

On Monday, I went over to the FedEx Office store on Sunset, just east of Fairfax, to ship a package. As I walked in, I was directed over to the shipping counter, where I met Tammy. Scanning Tammy’s appearance for markers of credibility, my eyes landed squarely on her name tag, which informed that she had been a “Team Member since 2007.”

“Okay,” I thought as I exhaled. “I’m in good hands.”

Tammy quickly handed me a FedEx envelope and effortlessly gave just enough information to complete the task of filling out the AirBill (yup, FedEx lingo). It seemed that she had a true respect for both her own words and my personal space, which made me feel safe, secure, and taken care of.

When I handed her back the sealed FedEx envelope, she smiled and informed me, with total excitement and pride, how the FedEx store was offering 55% off of all banners. Instead of cutting her off by explaining that I had no need for a banner, I stood and listened, smiling as she pointed around the room at the different banner options. I noticed that all the while, she was carefully processing my shipping order, double checking to make sure it would get there without a hiccup.

And, in the midst of our conversation, she managed to genuinely greet each customer who walked past her, welcoming them, wishing them a good day, and offering guidance when necessary. I was struck that most of the customers were totally oblivious to Tammy’s gentle nature and her pride in her work and her store, and I realized how often I was that same oblivious customer.

I walked out thinking about how great Tammy had made me feel. It seemed her entire day was not about her at all, but about making people feel good and taken care of. Most striking was that she didn’t seem to take anyone’s impatience or abruptness personally. No matter what came back at her, she remained steadfast in her grace and kindness.

Thank you, Tammy, for teaching me an unexpected lesson in how one person can make a big difference in the world just by being herself.

The Magic of Mutt Mitts

December 23rd, 2010

Well, I am back to the blog after a long hiatus. And I am back with a whole new direction – the video blog! Here is my very first – just in time for the holidays… A perfect stocking stuffer for the pet lover in your family.

Take a look and let me know what you think!

Happy Holidays, JPC

This is Rad

August 24th, 2010

In fact, I think it may even be better than the original!  This guy is incredibly talented.  His name is Mike Tompkins.  Enjoy, y’all :)

From the first note of Adhara, I felt my mood change.  I first listened to it in my car in the midst of Los Angeles traffic.  Suddenly, I felt a soothing peace amidst an environment of grating tension.  Nirinjan Kaur’s voice is unique – both soft and powerful – with an intensely calming presence.

I practice Kundalini Yoga at Golden Bridge here in Los Angeles, and it was interesting to hear that so many of the chants played during a variety of different classes with different teachers are all right here on Adhara.  There is not one track on this CD that I did not like.  Not only is Nirinjan’s voice a pleasure to listen to, but each track is so well produced with such wonderful instrumentation that you can’t help but feel immersed in another world.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Triple Mantra,” which is a rare find on any Kundalini chant compilation.  Her version is perfect for an early morning Kundalini Yoga practice.  Its quick pace gets your blood flowing and helps to support breath of fire or any kriya where you build up to a fast pace, like spinal twist or cat-cow.

“Kaval Nain,” the last track on the album, is another favorite, uplifting and restorative.  It is great to chant along with while practicing yoga.  It keeps you going and inspires you.  And it’s also lovely to play at the end of a set during deep relaxation.

Whether you are new to Kundalini Yoga or a practiced master, or you are simply looking for a great, soothing album to listen to after a long day, Adhara is a fantastic addition to any music collection.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Sat Nam!

P.S. Adhara is available at Spirit Voyage as well as on iTunes.

“It’s late afternoon…time for a moment to relax. The small table holds a bouquet of spring flowers and jasmine tea is steeping in a pot. The fragrances intermingle and send an unusual message into the air…relax and relish the day!”

So read the message inside the very first Timothy Jay Candle I ever had the pleasure of burning. Its fragrance was called “High Tea.” I loved it so much that it began a love affair with Timothy Jay candles that has lasted for many years.

Timothy Jay Candles is a wonderful boutique here in West Hollywood, opened by my dear friend Tim Sullivan. Not only does he sell his own line of the very best fragrance candles in the world, but his private label clientele reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, New York, and beyond. Diana Ross, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Seacrest, The Beverly Hills Hotel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany, Ritz Carlton Hotels and many, many more all love and use his candles. Many of them have asked him to design unique boxes and even fragrances for them to give away and/or sell.

Why are Tim’s candles so popular? Simple. They are the best! Tim uses a proprietary blend of waxes along with the very best fragrances that have been painstakingly designed by him. Each candles is poured by hand, cleaned by hand, and carefully packaged by hand by Tim and an expert team of artisans.  Believe it or not, Tim and his team turn out tens of thousands of candles every year.

Timothy Jay has become not only an institution, but a true example of a successful small business that will always give back to the community in which it thrives. Even through the toughest of times, Tim has always been there to give jobs to those who have needed them. Because of his kind spirit, his shop has become a community center of sorts, bringing all kinds of people together – from established celebrities to young people eager to make their mark on the world. People meet there everyday to hang out, to talk, to have a cup of coffee, and to get busy tying ribbons on candle boxes.

Tim recently rolled out the e-commerce section of his website, enabling people from around the world to buy his candles online. Please take a look, and buy a couple of candles for you and your loved ones. They are amazing, and I guarantee you will order again and again.

My personal favorites: Pacific Grapefruit, Wildflowers, Perfect Gardenia, and of course, High Tea.

Meet Tim below and see how his candles are poured!

Last week, my dog Oliver and I were treated to a session with a dog trainer by the name of Julie Strauss. She was amazing! No other word to describe her, really.

Here’s a little background on Oliver the dog. He’s a purebred cocker spaniel I adopted in January. He is the sweetest guy in the world. There are really only three things he wants to do: cuddle, slobber, and play fetch. But in order to let guests and other innocent bystanders know that he wants to do those things, he jumps on them. Incessantly. When it’s just he and I, he’s a dream, but throw someone else into the mix, and Oliver must tell his new buddy how happy he is to make his or her acquaintance.

And so, I finally relented and agreed to have Julie come over to my place to give Oliver a lesson. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting much. I mean, if I as a filmmaker and TV producer couldn’t teach a dog to sit, how was a professional dog trainer going to do any better? Yes, these are, in fact, the thoughts that go through my mind daily. But I digress.

Anyway, Julie walked into my apartment, observed Oliver, and then went to work. She looked down at him as he ran around jumping up and down on her and the furniture, tail flying back and forth like a humming bird wing, and slobber flying everywhere. Finally, she stood upright, held her hand out like a crossing guard and said calmly and firmly, “Oliver.”

He stopped, sat down immediately, and looked at her, like, “Yes, Miss Julie!” It was as if she had an instant psychic connection with him. His eyes did not waver from hers, and he listened to every word she said with the fixed attention of a tween at a Jonas Brothers concert. It was uncanny.

She worked with Oliver and I, and in less than two hours, she had us both trained!  Him not to jump on people, not to jump on the furniture unless invited, and, my personal favorite, to sit and stay in the same position until told to “release.”  And me to be the leader of our pack of two.

Today, he is a different dog. All the same sweetness and enthusiasm without the crazy kamikaze attacks! Thank you, Julie :)

I’ve become a huge fan of VeggieGrill on Sunset here in LA. It’s become a problem. Kind of like when I first discovered sushi in high school, and I would eat it everyday, sometimes twice a day. I could probably enter a V-Burger eating contest – similar to one of those grotesque hot dog eating contests they have at state fairs and the Los Angeles MTV offices – and bring home the gold.

But I digress.

Anyway, VeggieGril, for those who don’t know, is a restaurant here in LA that serves only vegan food, but much of their vegan food resembles traditional American fare like hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and carrot cake. Usually, I am not of fan of vegetarian or vegan foods made to look like meat, but in this case, I could be president of their fan club. I mean, their food is SO good. Orgasmically good.

They even offer a nifty service called “Curbside Pickup,” where, you order ahead, and as you are pulling into the parking garage, you call them, and they come down and meet your car in a pre-designated area.

But here’s where the situation got a little sticky last night…

I’d ordered dinner for me and a friend, and at the last minute, my friend asked me to change his side of steamed kale to a side salad. I called them, and as usual, they were very accommodating. By the time I was ready to hang up the phone (I was on a hands-free device, don’t get all freaked out), I was about to pull into the parking garage. “Hey, I’m just pulling into the garage, so just come down when it’s ready.”

“Okay see you in a few,” said the friendly voice on the other end of my bluetooth.

And so I entered the parking garage and started to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, about 15 minutes later, I started to wonder what was going on. I took the elevator up to VeggieGrill, walked in, and sure enough, there was my food waiting for me like a kindergartner waiting for his Mom, who was clearly late to the pick up.

“I’ve been waiting down in the garage since we hung up,” I announced.

“Oh no! I’m so sorry,” said the man at the register. “I missed that you were already here when you called. My bad.”

And here is when VeggieGrill went from super yummy restaurant to epic pinnacle of all things in my world. The man at the register looked at the manager, who came forward and said, “Your meal is on us tonight, and for your trouble, here is a $25 gift card. Thank you for being a loyal customer.”

Amazing. Who does things like that anymore!?

I guess the old adage is still true: The best things come to those who wait.