Green Sharlene

Sweet Basil

Basil is my favorite GREEN, Here’s why…

BASIL…It’s beauty, fragrance and simplicity is a big part of why I love basil so much. My life goal is to simplify and savor real beauty in life. With basil the truth is; the less it cooks, the better it is in flavor and in it’s nutrient value. Basil can help boost antioxidants in your meals, as it contains one of the highest levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. All of these antioxidants, called carotenoids, help to fight off oxidative stress in our bodies and may protect against chronic disease. This all sounds great to me, but the biggest perk is that basil is simply delicious, and here at the DTC we have all sorts of dishes we incorporate fresh basil into for your dining enjoyment.

I can’t wait to grow basil every summer, which is why it is one of the first and most abundant herbs we are planting in the DTCulinary Garden. It is easy to maintain and we go through a lot of basil here at the Dancing Tomato Caffé. Here are a few of our favorites:

Pesto is great on just about everything in my opinion. We also love our basil limonata cocktail or the virgin version. Soon our caprese/tomato mozzarella will be bursting with summer flavors, and our Pasta Pomodoro takes on a whole California Summer FRESH spin. Fresh basil on top of pizza is amazing too.

At home we chop basil into our salads, soups, on top of fresh watermelon, peaches, strawberries. It is so refreshing and easy to add a whole new level to your recipes.

So plant a bit of basil in your garden, window sill, or planter. Enjoy one of the simplest pleasures of summer on your plate and feel the refreshing flavors of doing good for your health.

Eat well, be well.


Green Sharlene 

Give Yourself the Gift of Slowing Down

This holiday season we are working on creating more gifts that are less material and more experiential. Family-time together is priceless, so we are working to carve out the time and do more things together. It sometimes takes a life scare or a diagnosis to put this into perspective. It is so easy to otherwise get “too busy”.

Simple things like making “cuddle time” on the couch together while enjoying a family movie or a favorite show. Gathering at the table for meals at home or at your favorite family restaurant, the Dancing Tomato Caffé, is always a favorite and the connections through table conversation is wonderful. Slowing down is a gift you can give yourself and your family. But it does take practice, and like anything else, breaking busy habits and making changes takes time. Amidst holiday gift-giving, don’t forget to give the gift of patience to yourself and those around you.

One way I have really enjoyed slowing down is simply by taking time to connect and visit with friends. Whether it’s a phone call, a one-on-one visit, or a girlfriend-gathering for dinner. Carving out time with friends and family is a wonderful use of time. The messy house and laundry can wait!

Taking time for myself has been a tough gift to learn to give myself. I am a server at heart, I love to care for and serve others. But, after surviving a stroke six months ago, I am easily reminded of how fleeting and precious our time here on earth is. I may not be so lucky next time, so I am making time to take care of me, with every hope to continue being here for my family. I am “green” at this practice of slowing down and I am learning to be more patient with myself in order to accomplish some necessary changes. This chronic medical diagnosis has made it mandatory. But, I think that slowing down and practicing this simpler way of life can benefit so many. I am a perfect example of what appears to be healthy on the outside, but the reality is I am more fragile than I care to admit. I used to pride myself in being high energy and physically strong; a rock, not an egg.

Now, I am looking for strength in other ways. Still learning, still “green”. Accepting the things I cannot change is not how I was built, but it is where this green girl is growing. There is strength in discipline.

Be well.


Green Sharlene

Balancing "Back to School Busy" with Family Time

Back to school is upon us and that means getting back into routines. Juggling work, school, and fall sports can take some time getting into a groove. Busy schedules can cut out free time to prepare meals and that’s where we can help. Our restaurant, the Dancing Tomato Caffé in Yuba City, California now offers Family Pack Meals on our Large Party To Go Menu and most of our in-house dining menu is available to go, as well. If you aren’t in our area, there are many good food choices prepared and ready to eat that are better choices than fast food.

Mealtime is a great time to catch up with our kids. With the start of the new school year, connecting and communicating with our kids sets the family up for success as we all settle into new routines. Setting the table and enjoying a good meal together is very valuable family-time where you can get to know what is going on with each other. We talk about our day and plan the next days ahead.  

Clearing the table and doing the dishes together is something we, as a family, have fun with. We turn on Three Dog Night’s Jeremiah was a Bullfrog and turn up the volume. We all put on mopping slippers, drip water on the floor, dance in our kitchen as we clean up the dishes, and laugh a lot!

Take time to sit down, eat well, and talk to each other. Get up to dance and laugh together. Be silly and find joy. It’s good for everyone in the room.


Green Sharlene

Eat to Beat the Heat

If the dog days of summer have you looking for ways to keep your cool besides spending all day at the movies, look no further than your plate. What we choose to eat affects our bodies in many ways, including regulating our internal thermostat. Paying attention to what your body naturally craves during the warmest months can help you feel your best as the mercury climbs. Our bodies reflect what’s going on outside, so choosing cooling foods is one of the best defenses against getting over-heated.

Salty, spicy foods tend to heat the body, while dark greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, arugula, and foods with high water content, like cucumber, celery, and watermelon—a family favorite—are cooling. My family and I are currently on a mission to find the best local watermelon, and I must say, we’re enjoying the hunt. The kids like to make popsicles and use cookie cutters to create fun shapes, and watermelon slices are the ultimate hassle-free dessert. Grandma has been known to enjoy a watermelon martini, so we’re all getting creative and enjoying a summer favorite.

As we move through the warmest part of the year, remember to hydrate. It is so important to drink lots of water. Start your days with a big glass of water with a great breakfast then continue to hydrate between meals. We tend to eat lighter when it’s hot outside and that gives your body a break so it doesn’t have to work as hard to digest your meal.

During triple-digit days, I like to avoid using the oven and stovetop completely, so I’m always thinking about new ideas…what can make with no heat in the house? The kids love making smoothies, a perfect quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, and I like to experiment, adding herbs for extra flavor and nutritional kick. Fortunately, living in the middle of an incredibly rich and diverse agricultural region, gives us plenty to work with. When we do cook in the heat of summer, it happens outdoors, which means we’ll roast a whole chicken & cook a batch of rice in the outdoors for the week, and we grill vegetables and fruit. We’ll cook a batch of beans on the porch in the slow cooker. Everything cooks outside. Our current go-to favorite salad is fresh peaches with whole-leaf basil and walnuts, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a dash of cinnamon. No cooking at all with this treat.

Having a garden is one of the best ways to eat seasonally, and take advantage of fresh, ripe, cooling foods. It’s also an easy way to involve children in meal planning and preparation. My kids are getting more involved with planting, harvesting and cooking, and I love watching their appreciation for real food bloom. Our garden is currently bursting at the seams with zucchini—hello, zoodles—and fresh tomatoes and herbs, and I’m making good use of our the walnuts from last fall’s harvest. With peaches, plums and apricots for dessert, we have healthy, nutritious options right in our own backyard.

It’s pretty easy to eat healthy, not to mention local, during the summer. As appetites generally shift with the seasons, I want to make sure we’re offering our restaurant guests an enticing selection, which is why we created the Green Sharlene options that offers lighter choices, such as the Green Sharlene monthly salad and the Green Sharlene omelette. We’re featuring spaghetti squash, and zoodles on occasion in place of pasta. Let us know what you think of these healthier options. Listening to your body and thinking fresh and local will not only help you stay cool, and feeling great. 


Green Sharlene

Have a Happy—and Healthy—4th of July

The official beginning of summer and the July 4th holiday bring to mind picnics in the park, parades, and sparklers. Not to mention, backyard parties, burgers on the grill and ice cream. We’re all tempted to over-indulge at times and it’s easy to abandon a healthy diet when faced with giant bags of chips, hamburgers and hot dogs with everything, and tempting desserts. But it is possible to create a healthy (and even locally-sourced) summer feast that will satisfy every appetite. That’s not to say you have to deprive yourself or never have a treat, but creating a foundation of healthy eating will give your body a head start should you find yourself dealing with anything from a cold to a serious illness. The healthier you are, the faster your body will heal.

Planning a healthy feast is something the whole family can help with. If you involve your children in everything from selecting the ingredients to preparing the dishes, they’ll have a new appreciation for the meal, and understand how to make healthy choices. I love having my kids in the kitchen, watching them experiment, and seeing how much they enjoy their creations. Now that they’re home for the summer, they’re going to the pool or Millennium Family Center, and hanging out with their friends of course, but they still have time to join me in the kitchen.

While thinking about what to do with my family this year, I can’t help but remember my own childhood July 4th celebrations. My family enjoyed the local fireworks, we kids ran around with sparklers, and my neighborhood always had a big gathering with plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs and of course, lots of ice cream.

So what am I going to make this year? I haven’t decided yet, but I do have some go-to dishes for the 4th. Cobbler with local blackberries, which are high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C, is a family favorite. My kids love homemade peach ice cream, and I love knowing that they’re getting the health benefits of peaches, which include Vitamins C and A and potassium, which works with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance—something vitally important in the summer. Blueberry, watermelon and feta salad is not only red, white and blue, it’s very cooling and a perfect treat on a sweltering summer day. Blueberries are full of fiber, antioxidants, and Vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting and is essential to strong bones. Watermelon contains Vitamins C, A, and B6, which supports the cardiovascular, muscular and immune systems. It also helps the body make melatonin, which helps regulate your internal clock.

Speaking of fun in the kitchen, I recently bought a spiralizer, and am making zoodles, and experimenting with spiralized carrots and beets, for wraps and salads. You can really use just about any vegetable. Pair a fresh salad or a helping of zoodles with burgers made with grass-fed Certified Angus beef or free-range chicken, and you’ll have a healthy and satisfying dinner.

A note about picnics: Since I’m Green Sharlene, I need to tell you how easy it is to have a green, zero-waste picnic. Forego the disposable plates, cups, flatware, and paper napkins and pack your picnic basket with reusable, eco-friendly items. You’ll be doing your part for the environment, and I bet your al fresco feast will taste even better.

However you choose to celebrate the 4th, have fun, be safe, and take some time to savor the flavors of summer.




Green Sharlene