Lessons Learned at the Olympics & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & Feta

Olympics_2016_02Every four years we find ourselves indoors and glued to the television. It doesn’t matter that it is a brilliant summer evening. The Olympics are on and we can’t help ourselves. The next day’s highlights are not enough. We have to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat live, as it happens.

On the track, on the mats, on the beach, on and even in the water, these star athletes seem to fly without wings. So how do they do it?

Preparation matters. As innately talented and gifted as these world class athletes are, they couldn’t do it without years of training. Not just any training, their entire lives revolve around the practice of their sport. Preparing for the Olympics is not just hard physical work. It takes brains as well as brawn to reach the top.

Since the Olympics come only once every four years, strategy and timing are critical. Peak too early and the medal you’ve dreamed of may go to someone else. Even worse, an injury can thwart a lifetime of preparation and sacrifice. Whether you are training for a Labor Day fun run or looking for your next promotion, preparation matters for us mere mortals too.

Perseverance matters. Unlike many weekend warriors, Olympic athletes are committed. They don’t take the winter off because it’s too cold to train outdoors. They don’t skip a day or two when a heat wave turns the gym into a sauna. They don’t bail in the middle of race because they have no chance of winning.

Perseverance is about both the big and little things an athlete does every day. Same goes for us and the goals we pursue. Whether you’re fighting for the little league trophy or a science fair medal, a last ditch, Herculean effort is rarely enough. If you’re smart and fast, you might be able to wing it once, even twice. However, day-in and day-out discipline is more likely to take you to and keep you at the top.

Patience matters. The road to Rio was long and winding. These premiere athletes had a dream of what could be. They are stars because they have the courage to make it happen. These exceptional competitors have the confidence to believe in themselves and developed the strength and the stamina to make their goals a reality. You can too.

No matter what path we choose, few of us will have it straight and smooth from start to end. Patience, a willingness to rethink and try again and again, can make all the difference. Olympic athletes fight through pain, make choices and countless sacrifices. It’s unlikely that our picture will end up on a cereal box but we too make choices. To win, you must define your goals and determine the sacrifices you are willing to make.

Sportsmanship matters. Olympic athletes are committed to excellence in their sport. As spectators, we want even more from them. We want to see that decency and kindness has helped shape and define that commitment and excellence. Perhaps this summer, more than ever, for ourselves and for our children, we want our sports heroes to be shining examples of character and grace under pressure. Then, it is our turn to do the same.

Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Cucumber & FetaTomatoes_Grilled_Corn_Cuke_Feta_07
This recipe borrows a little of this and that from a traditional Greek Salad and then takes it south of the border. Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 ears corn, husks removed
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 4 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2-3 small pickling cucumbers, peeled and finely chopped
1-2 scallions thinly sliced
Spicy Vinaigrette (recipes follows)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
About 4 ounces feta cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high. Lightly coat the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the corn on the grill and cook on high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and, when the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob.

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter or individual plates, top with the corn kernels, cucumbers and scallion and drizzle with Spicy Vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs, garnish with feta and serve.

Spicy Vinaigrette
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon or to taste minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Tiny pinch smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and jalapeno in a bowl, season with cumin, paprika , salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the olive oil and whisk until smooth. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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One Year Ago – Bluebree Grunt
Two Years Ago – Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache
Three Years Ago – Watermelon-Limeade
Four Years Ago – Filet de Sole Meunière
Five Years Ago – Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp
Six Years Ago – Spicy Grilled Chicken
Seven Years Ago – Corn & Tomato Salad
Eight Years Ago – Summer Rolls

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What lessons have you learned from this summer’s Olympics games? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

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Olympic Fun Facts & Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde

rio-2016-logoHeld every four years in Olympia to honor Zeus, the ancient Olympics games had a pretty good run. For twelve centuries, athletes ran, jumped, threw javelins and raced chariots. The games went a bit haywire after the Romans conquered Greece. Nero, who is most famous for fiddling while Rome burned, cheated in the 67 AD games. In spite of falling off his chariot mid-race, he declared himself winner. It was downhill from there and the games met their demise at the end of the 4th century AD.

Happily for athletes and sports fans, the games were revived in 1896 with the first modern Olympics. Although there were forty-three different events at the 1896 games, there were no chariot races. The nine-day competition was packed with a multitude of track and field, cycling, fencing, shooting, tennis, weightlifting, wrestling and gymnastics events. Fourteen nations sent athletes to Athens for the games. More than 200 men competed but not a single woman. That omission was rectified at the second modern Olympiad in Paris in 1900.

A lot has changed since the first few Olympics. Here are a few fun facts about the Rio Games:

Rio 2016 is an Olympic first! Rio de Janeiro beat Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to become the first South American city to host the games.

Part cat, part monkey and bird, Rio’s Olympic mascot has musical roots. He is named for Vinicius de Moraesis, one of the authors of the bossa nova jazz classic “The Girl From Ipanema.” Unlike some of the more bizarre and even downright frightening mascots of the past, Vinicius is cute in a colorful, cartoonish sort of way.

More than 11,000 athletes from 206 countries are expected to participate in Rio. Five hundred and fifty-four of those athletes make up the US Team.

For the first time men and women without a country will compete at the Olympics. A team of ten refugees will compete under the Olympic flag. The team includes runners from South Sudan, swimmers from Syria, judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a marathon runner from Ethiopia.

Gymnastics, track and field, swimming, tennis, wrestling, boxing and weightlifting are just the start. The list of events may seem endless but there are actually 306. From the sands of Copacabana beach to the legendary Maracanã Stadium, the games will be held at thirty-two different venues.

By the way, rugby returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1924 and the US is the defending champion. Golf has waited even longer. It’s returning after more than a century. The last time golf was played at the Olympics was in 1904 in Saint Louis.

Of course, our hopes are high for US victories. Although geopolitics and shifting national boundaries have had an impact, the US is at the top of the charts with an all-time count of 2,681 medals.

A whole lot of cookin’ wi1l be goin’ on in Rio. Tens of thousands of meals will be prepared in the Olympic village every day. Athletes will discover Brazilian staples like black beans and rice and some of the best grillin’ they’ll ever eat!

Enjoy the games! Bon appétit!

Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Get out the bossa nova records and whip up a flavorful salsa for a jazzy new take on the backyard cookout. Enjoy!  Grilled_Filets_Mignons_w_Salsa_Verde_06
Serves 8

8 (4-6 ounce) filets mignons or your favorite cut of steak
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salsa Verde (recipe follows)

Brush the filets with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (In hot weather, reduce the sitting time.) Preheat a charcoal grill to medium-hot or a gas grill to high.

Place the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, turn and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes more for medium-rare. Reduce the cooking time for rare and increase for medium. Transfer the filets to a platter or individual plates, top each with a generous spoonful of Salsa Verde and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with more Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde
Serves 8

2-3 tablespoons or to taste sherry vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons or to taste minced jalapeno or serrano chili
1 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup or to taste extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 scallions, thinly sliced
About 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
About 1 cup cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

Put the vinegar and lime juice in the bowl of a small food processor, add garlic and jalapeno, season with the cumin, salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the lime zest, scallions and herbs and pulse to chop and combine. Let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving

Can be made ahead, covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Corncakes
Two Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Three Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Four Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Five Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Six Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Eight Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite summer Olympic events? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Winter Olympic Fun Facts & Savory Blinis

olympics_chamonix_1924For the winter-weary, there are a few sure signs that we’ve hit midpoint. The Super Bowl, America’s version of the gladiator games, has been won and lost. Punxsutawney Phil has popped out of his burrow. People in Pennsylvania may swear by Phil but his comings and goings are hardly relevant in northern New England. Whether he sees his shadow or not, my neighborhood will see at least eight more weeks of winter. Probably more. Only the most freakishly short New Hampshire winter is over by mid-March.

If you think you’ve already had more than enough snow and ice, don’t despair. The winter Olympics are back. What better way to survive another two months (or more) of winter than watching our champions skate, ski, bob and board? Well, maybe a little skiing, sledding or ice dancing of your own.

To get you in the mood, here are a few Winter Olympic fun facts:

By now the athletes are unpacked and settling in at Sochi. While I’ve never been to Sochi, the first Winter Olympic Games were held ninety years ago at one of my favorite ski resorts, Chamonix, France. Sixteen nations came together to compete in sixteen events at the first Games. For the 2014 games, athletes from eighty-five countries will compete in ninety-eight events across a multitude of sports, including Biathlon, Bobsleigh, Curling, Ice Hockey, Luge, Ice Skating, Skiing and Snowboarding. Twelve new events will debut in Sochi, including women’s ski jumping!

The opening ceremony at Chamonix was little more than a few speeches, a parade of athletes and an impromptu skating party on the rink. Except for the parade of nations, the ceremonies at Sochi will have little in common with Chamonix. A grand spectacle will be televised around the world. There were 5,000 on-lookers for the opening day fun at Chamonix and, all told, 10,000 people paid to watch the various athletic contests. The potential television audience for Sochi is close to three billion, yes, billion.

Norway is the longtime winter Olympic medals champ. They led the 1924 Olympics with seventeen medals and enter the twenty-second Games with a grand total of 313. The United States is second with 274. However, the population of the United States is well over 300 million while Norway has just over 5 million hardy souls!

Norwegian cross-country skier, Bjorn Daehlie has the highest individual tally of Winter Games’ medals – eight gold and four silver. Speed skater Apolo Ohno holds the American medal record with two gold, two silver and four bronze.

Hurdler Lolo Jones missed her chance at medals in Beijing and London. She’s now trying her luck at the bobsled. Only four athletes, American Eddie Eagan among them, have won medals at both the Winter and Summer games. Eagan alone has won gold in both, for boxing and the bobsled.

So, for the next few weeks, take a trip to Russia from the comfort of your living room sofa. Put the vodka on ice, whip up a batch of blinis and enjoy the games!

Bon appétit!

Savory Blinis
blinis_06With the Olympics in Russia, what could be better than blinis with caviar or smoked salmon and tiny glasses of icy vodka while you watch the opening ceremonies? Enjoy!
Makes about 24 small pancakes

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
About 4 tablespoons butter
Garnish: smoked salmon, caviar, sour cream, lemon slices, capers and/or chives

Put the flours, zest of 1/2 lemon, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter, put it in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons sour cream and the egg and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk and whisk to combine.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and whisk to combine.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the skillet and cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until golden and cooked through, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Repeat until all the batter has been used up.

Garnish the blinis with smoked salmon, caviar, sour cream, capers, lemon slices and/or chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Lettuce Cups with Shrimp & Noodles
Two Years Ago – Caribbean Black Beans
Three Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower & Bacon
Four Years Ago – Chocolate Mousse
Five Years Ago – Shrimp & Feta
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What is your favorite winter Olympic sport? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Fun and Snow Games & Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms

It’s been a crazy winter. A winter when up is down and down is up. El Niño has brought snow to the south with flakes flying from the nation’s capital to Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. And in New England, where we expect snow, we’ve had drought followed by rain followed by drought. On top of the dearth of snow, the winter winds have been fiercer than ever. Of course, it could be my imagination but it seems to me that we’ve suffered more than our fair share of windy days. I swear I’ve come this close to being blown off course more times than I care to count. Somehow I’ve managed to avoid lift-off and an inadvertent trip to Kansas or Oz.

Way out to the west, California is drowning in rain. And up to the north in British Columbia, it may be February but Vancouver and the neighboring mountains are in the middle of a spring thaw. Not great news for the Olympics. In spite of the rain, fog and grey skies the Olympic spirit is soaring over the Canadian Rockies.

Maybe it is because I grew up on skates and skis but the winter games are always a special treat. When we were kids we spent all day Saturday on the slopes. When we were too tuckered to take even one more run, we headed home to watch the professionals. With a mug of hot chocolate and a bowl of popcorn, we sprawled in front of the television and watched the joys of victory and the agonies of defeat. It was a weekly ritual.

Now I either need to subscribe to a whole lot more channels or I need to do a better job at ferreting out the skiers, bobsledders and speed skating on the channels I have. Except during the Olympics. Once every four years I can get my fill of winter sports. I can tune into the artistry of the figure skaters one night and the terrifying speed of the bob and luge the next. The ski jumpers, downhill skiers and the speed skaters are amazing with their power and control at high speeds. And then there is the pure joy and whimsy of the snowboarders.

Yes, I know they are serious athletes. Yes, I know that they train hard throughout the year and have been at it for most of their lives. I even know that there is big money involved with sponsorships and endorsement contracts. But in spite of all that, there is something about the spirit of snowboarding that reminds me of being a kid on the mountain.

It doesn’t take all that much imagination to picture your favorite snowboarders at nine or ten. They were the kids with hats askew over unruly curls, unzipped jackets flapping in the breeze and arms flailing. And most of all, theirs were the smiles so big and broad they could light up the greyest day. Or maybe I’m just remembering my own fun-filled childhood on the slopes.

I’m a skier and always have been. Even though I’ve never tried snowboarding, I was pretty raggle-taggle as a kid and maybe I still am. But there’s at least one thing I knew then and still know; there’s nothing like fresh snow on the mountain to bring out a smile and inspire joy.

Enjoy the Olympics. May it be filled with lots of joyful victories and not too many agonizing defeats. Bon appétit!

 Pork with Mushrooms and White Wine Sauce

Bring friends and family together for an Olympics party. Pork tenderloin with mushrooms and white wine sauce is a sure winner; quick, easy and delicious. Enjoy!

Serves 6

Olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1-2 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons Cognac (optional)

Heat a little olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more.  Remove the mushrooms from the pan and reserve.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add a little more olive oil to the skillet and raise the heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until nicely browned. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 10 minutes or until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 140-145 degrees. Remove the pork from the pan and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Transfer the skillet to the stovetop – be careful the handle will be hot. Add the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the mustard and herbs. Return the mushrooms to the skillet, toss to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in the cognac and butter. Whisk to combine.

Cut the pork into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately with the mushroom sauce.

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One Year Ago – Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole

Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website at www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

The Olympics & Summer Rolls

The Olympics is such a wonderful event. It starts with a bit of pomp and lots of pageantry and maybe just a touch of patriotism with the opening ceremonies. Smiling athletes, wave flags and march through the arena filled with high spirits and higher hopes. Throughout the games we will learn about different sports and the dedicated athletes that play them. For two and a half weeks we will be held spellbound by the world’s best of the best. We will be captivated by the both the games and the players, awestruck by breathtaking displays of athletic prowess and achievement.

Each Olympics has its own special stories, tales that makes each event special and unique. From Los Angeles to Seoul to Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens challenges have been met, dreams have been fulfilled and legends have been created. This summer promises to be no different. From the tiniest gymnast to the gargantuan weight lifter, Olympians will capture our hearts and our imaginations. This year Team USA has a swimmer who proves that life most certainly doesn’t end at forty and another is poised to break decades old records. There are gymnasts ready to astound, basketball players ready rebound and a whole host of runners and jumpers ready to shatter personal and world records. One thing is certain that throughout the seventeen days, we will witness both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Many years ago my sister Brenda threw a little Olympic event of her own. It must have been the summer before she went off to college. She was a lifeguard at our beach. There was a mob of seven to ten year olds, on the beach that year, including our own little brother. After several weeks of swimming lessons Brenda decided that this merry band of little boys and girls needed a reward of sorts to celebrate their stellar achievements. She orchestrated a field day with swimming, running, a bit of jumping and even a sand castle contest.

Her goal was to make sure that there were enough events and enough variety to ensure that every child on the beach would go home with at least one ribbon. Of course she made the ribbons. There really wasn’t any place close by to buy trophies or medals and it didn’t really matter because she didn’t have a budget for her Olympic extravaganza. She cut out what seemed like hundreds of white felt polka dots and labeled each with a big 1, 2 or 3. She then attached blue, red and white ribbons and safety pins onto the dots. She stayed up half the night working on this labor of love.

The day was filled with countless races and contests. The event was topped off with an awards ceremony and ice cream. The little ribbons were worn proudly and then saved. I can still picture my skinny little brother with a couple of his skinny little friends, proud as could be, showing off their ribbons. Even years later looking for swim googles or ski socks, it was possible to come across one of those old ribbons, tossed in the back of a drawer or cupboard, mixed in with the old sunglasses, ski passes and mate-less mitts.

My sister still makes prizes for little boys and girls; she runs a preschool. As for the boys and girls who swam and ran and jumped at that first Pleasant Lake Olympiad, they now have children of their own. A few weeks ago I watched the latest crop of young athletes run, jump, swim and collect their prizes. No one stayed up all night sewing little ribbons but the competitive spirit was still strong and thrill that comes from victory was still there.

Bon appétit!

Summer Rolls
With the Olympics in China, Summer Rolls are the perfect treat for your Olympics celebrations. They are light and refreshing, a great warm weather appetizer. Enjoy!
Makes about 16 pieces

48-64 small cooked, salad shrimp
3 ounces rice vermicelli
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
16 round 8-inch rice-paper wrappers
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ribbons with a peeler
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut in julien
16 Chinese pea pods, trimmed and blanched
8 pencil-thin asparagus, trimmed, blanched and cut in half
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4cup packed fresh cilantro leaves

1. In a medium bowl, cover rice vermicelli with hot water; let soak for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain well. Set aside.

2. Whisk together canola oil, vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin, and sesame oil; add rice vermicelli and toss; season with salt and pepper to taste. Roughly chop the mint and cilantro; add to the vermicelli and toss to combine.

3. Fill a shallow dish with warm water. Working with 1 rice-paper wrapper at a time, soak in water for 1 minute; remove and lay flat on a paper towel on your work surface. Place 3 or 4 shrimp on bottom third of the rice paper, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of vermicelli, a pea pod, asparagus and a little carrot and cucumber. Fold bottom of wrapper over fillings; roll over once, tuck in sides, and finish rolling.

4. Place finished roll on a plate; cover with a damp towel. Repeat process with remaining ingredients. Serve with dipping sauce

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce

1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.

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Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010