Farm Fresh Sweet Tomato Sauce


When a co-worker, who’s also a farmer, offers you a great deal on a 15 pound box of tomatoes from their farm…you don’t say no. So this past weekend I cooked up some serious tomato sauce.

It was about a month ago when I posted a pasta recipe including some homemade tomato sauce I made. Well this time I changed a few things, and think it turned out ten times better. Check it out below!

farm-fresh-tomato-sauce2farm-fresh-tomato-sauce6farm-fresh-tomato-sauce7farm-fresh-tomato-sauce11farm-fresh-tomato-sauce8farm-fresh-tomato-sauce14Farm Fresh Sweet Tomato Sauce

Yield: 4 quarts sauce, 8 cups juice


  • 15 pounds very ripe tomatoes
  • 1 small fresh bunch basil, chopped
  • 2 tbl fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tbl fresh thyme, chopped

What to do: 

  • Get your tomato preparation station ready! Bring a large pot of water to a boil, while you set out a large glass bowl with cold water.  Next to the bowl, set out another large bowl, or large plate, for collecting the tomato skins.
  • Once the pot of water is boiling, add in as many tomatoes as will fit, while still covered with water. Blanch the tomatoes, cooking for about 1-2 minutes until the skins begin to split.
  • Quickly transfer the tomatoes into the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
  • Once the tomatoes have cooled, peel them setting the skins aside and the remainder of the tomato in a separate large pot.
  • Repeat this until all your tomatoes are blanched and peeled.
  • Crush the tomatoes slightly to break the larger ones apart. Crush them completely if you don’t want your tomato sauce somewhat chunky. At this point I ladled out several cups of thin tomato juice to help my sauce become thicker. I used the tomato juice as the broth in a lentil soup later on.
  • Bring the crushed tomatoes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about an hour and a half. During this time much of the liquid will evaporate, concentrating the flavors.
  • When the sauce is nearly the consistency you want, add in the chopped herbs. Cook for a few more minutes, then remove the pot from the heat, and allow the sauce to cool. Once cool, portion into four quart size mason jars. I left about 10% space in my jars, as I’ll be freezing them (liquid expands when frozen).

You may think that an hour and a half is a long time to cook the sauce, however I guarantee you’ll be amazed by the sweet tomato flavor. And plus, the extended cooking time makes the lycopene in the tomatoes more available for your body to absorb.🙂



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Corralitos Open Farm Tour

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This self-guided tour is in it’s third year, however this was my first time attending. The tour highlighted ten family farms in the Pajaro Valley, all implementing organic farming practices. Each farming operation was unique in it’s own way. I’ve outlined the highlights of each below.

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Prevedelli Farms

Tasty tasty apples! This farm provided a short tour around the main barn, home to an apple processing line which was designed by a second generation farmer in a high school class. The farm is now run by third and fourth generation farmers, initially started in the 1940’s! This family of Italian farmers is lucky to have purchased land with some infrastructure already there (barn, house, cold storage – pictured below). The farmer giving the tour noted how cost prohibitive cold storage is today, and how most farmers outsource this service.

Each bin in the photo above can hold 900 pounds of apples. Whoa! The farmer mentioned how the drought impacted their apple harvest last year. The cold storage room was practically empty. This year it’s been much better (as you can see from the picture).

Inside the barn there were apples, pears, kabocha squash, apple butter, and jams to taste. I took home a kabocha squash to roast.🙂

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Lonely Mountain Farm

The land of goats. More specifically Nigerian Dwarf goats. This farmer sells goats’ milk soap and makes goat cheese for personal consumption. The farm had three donkeys and fields of veggies as well.

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Live Earth Farm

So I didn’t actually go to this farm. I’ve been there numerous times (even camped out there). But I will say it’s well worth visiting if you have the chance. Not only is the farm itself beautiful, but they have a great demonstration garden and nutrition classroom where school children come to learn. The woman who runs the program is an amazing lady.🙂

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Terra Sole Nursery

This nursery overlooked some beautiful parts of the Pajaro Valley. There was a succulent demo for kids and loads of them for sale (some pictured above). The variety of colors and shapes never ceases to amaze me. I love them all!

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New Natives Farm

Walking into this sprout operation’s main greenhouse, I initially thought it was a field of grass. But on further inspection I realized it was a diverse field of edible sprouts. Some varieties growing were broccoli, arugula, sunflower, and wheatgrass. The farm prepared some vegan pesto using the sprouts for sampling, in addition to putting out fresh sprouts for munching.

Perhaps the best part was when I commented to a friend how I loved the random goats walking around outside, and the man standing next to me (participating in the tour) responded, “Oh that’s my goat out there with my daughter”. The goat was out for the day with the family, as the family pet!


Lakeside Organics

The nine acre farm is one of many Lakeside Organic farms throughout the region. They are Certified Organic and gave out fresh spinach and cauliflower to all visitors.🙂

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Blossoms Farm

This new farm (only a few months old!) grows medicinal herbs. The farmer creates tinctures and other natural health remedies. Her partner discussed the issue of affordable land in the area. Right now they are only able to lease the land for use.

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Thomas Farm

Veggies and art! I think the squash above speak for themselves (look at that crazy colored one!), but what isn’t shown is the on-site art studio. There were rooms of oil color paintings for sale, capturing the beauty of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and so many other local natural landmarks.

Live Earth Farm5.jpgDos Aguilas Farm

Olives! This is the first U-pick olive farm I’ve ever been to. I will definitely be going back to pick, as the olives and olive oil I tasted were both delicious.

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Whiskey Hill Farm

This farm wins the most innovative award. Home to more greenhouses then the USDA has for research, this operation is doing some pretty interesting stuff. They grow mostly tropical plants, such as turmeric (pictured above), ginger, and sugar cane. The soil is heated, instead of the air – making plant growth much more energy efficient. These plants thrive in the greenhouses without any offsite energy source being pumping in. How? Well the farm also does alcohol biofuel production (using other crops grown onsite). CO2 and heat are byproducts of ethanol distillation, and used to heat the soil. Pretty neat stuff.

NASA is working with the farm to study the science and practicality of implementing their systems in other environments (there was talk of mars!).

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Nourishing Rosewater Toner



What is it?

Rosewater sounds lovely, and it is. It’s essentially rose petal tea, that is rose petals steeped in hot water creating a fragrant liquid. This has been done since ancient Egyptian times.


Rosewater has been used cosmetically throughout history. Applied to the skin, it acts as a moisturizer with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antioxidant properties.

  • Anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation caused by a number of things.
  • Anti-bacterial: good for acne-prone people by killing face bacteria that causes acne.
  • Antioxidant: repairs the skin from some of that summer sun damage

Rosewater is gentle enough for use on sensitive skin, and really all skin types says Dr. Tabasum Mir in this very informative Huffington Post article. I pulled a bit of info from this article, and would recommend checking it out if you’re interested in learning more.



  • There are many culinary uses particularly in Middle Eastern cuisine, specifically in desserts. There are also numerous religion uses, including wedding ceremonies.

Beauty Products

  • Perfume
  • Face masks
  • Moisturizer
  • Makeup remover
  • & so much more! 

DIY uses (ways to use rosewater at home)

  • Nourishing rosewater toner listed below!
  • Mixed with your shampoo to help heal hair
  • Applied under eyes to reduce inflammation
  • Added to bath water with salts and essential oils


Nourishing Rosewater Toner

I can attest to the moisturizing properties of Rosewater. I’ve been applying the mix below to my face in the morning after showering, or at night before bed every few days for the past week or so. It feels like I’ve applied a moisturizer, or just peeled off a face mask. I’ve noticed the cotton ball I use getting faintly dirty too, so it seems to also work as a face wash.

In addition to all the rosewater benefits listed above, adding lavender and peppermint essential oils take this toner to the next level. Both oils provide similar benefits as rosewater, plus some more.


  • 1 oz glass spray bottle
  • about 1/2 oz rosewater (enough to fill half your spray bottle)
  • about 1/2 oz purified (filtered) water (enough to fill the other half of your spray bottle)
  • few drops lavender essential oil
  • few drops peppermint essential oil

What to do:

  • Add all ingredients to a glass spray bottle, and shake to mix. I generally shake the bottle before each use.
  • To use, spray a few sprits of toner on a cotton ball. Gently rub the cotton ball on your face.

Congrats! You’ve just done something great for your face.🙂


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Carrot & Apple Flax Muffins with Cashew Cream Frosting

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While putting my flaxseed meal into mason jars for storage, I noticed a muffin recipe on the back of the flax bag. Well clearly I had to try it!

Since the recipe wasn’t vegan, I changed a few ingredients around and was happily surprised by the result. They were quite a hit at my Friday Night painting party.🙂

Carrot & Apple Flax Muffins with Cashew Cream Frosting

Recipe adapted from Bob’s Red Mill’s Bran Flax Muffin Recipe

1. Muffins


  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 cup oat bran
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 medium apples, shredded (I did not peel them)
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 2 tbl chia seed
  • 6 tbl water
  • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (soy, almond, rice, etc.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

What to do: 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, flax, bran, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir to incorporate everything.
  • In a food processor shred the carrots and apples. Add them and the chopped almonds to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine.
  • In a small bowl combine the chia seeds and water to create a chia “egg”. This is your eggs replacer. Allow this to sit for about 5 minutes, for the seeds to absorb the water.
  • Add the chia “egg”, milk, and vanilla extract to a medium bowl, and stir. Now you can add the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry.
  • Give the batter a final stir, and start filling some muffin tins!
  • Cook the muffins in the oven for around 20 minutes. While the muffins are baking, prep the frosting recipe as follows.

2. Frosting:


  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
  • 1 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbl coconut oil (room temperature or melted)
  • 1/3 cup liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, or honey (though not vegan))
  • splash of water

What to do:

  • Place all ingredients in a high powdered blender (I use a Vitamix), and blend until smooth. I stuck the frosting in the refrigerator while the muffins finished cooking to let the frosting thicken a bit.


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Protein-Packed Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Slow Food Santa Cruz: Annual Edible Gardens Tour

This past weekend was the annual Slow Food Santa Cruz Edible Gardens Tour. The tour which normally focuses on private gardens, highlighted school gardens this year. We stopped at three different schools to see what they called “gardens”, but were more like small farms! One of the sites had about 30 varieties of apple trees.  Students are out in the gardens learning both during and after school, as the curriculum is highly tied to the gardens. The dedicated staff teaches gardening, nutrition, and cooking utilizing garden ingredients.

The Fitness 4 Life program introduces additional components of health such as biking, dance, and other forms of exercise. The kids made fruit packed bike-powered smoothies at the event, using one of their Rock the Bike bicycles. It was amazing to see the kids pedaling as fast as they could to blend the fruit.

Just to give you an idea of what was in the gardens: figs, avocado, kiwi, apples, rose hips, grapes, persimmons, kale, sunflowers, corn, tomatoes, 5 or so varieties of peppers, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, stevia, mint, verbena,  and I could go on….

To learn more about the Santa Cruz chapter of Slow Food visit our website.




Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

If you’re ever driving along the One, and passing the Pescadero area (a little south of San Francisco), stop to hike along the ocean and marsh. There’s some good bird-watching to do, and spots to stop for thoughtful contemplation. I sat on a bench and read for nearly an hour, becoming so absorbed in the book that I forgot where I was.




Pie Ranch

Another jem near Pescadero along the One, is Pie Ranch. As the name implies, they have pie for sale, however the ranch is so much more. While I’d been inside the Pie Ranch shop before, I’d never seen the actual farm. Lucky for me, they offer a self-guided tour of the farm, which is exactly what I did.

I was greeted by goats and a puppy,  fields of greens, fruit trees, and veggies galor.

Learn about their Food Education program here, and their Farm Apprenticeships here.



And back in Santa Cruz…for anyone that wonders why I love running so much at the crack of dawn…this picture should explain it.


And now for the food!



Blanching  loads of organic tomatoes I harvested at Live Earth Farm. Tomato sauce recipe is below!

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Protein-Packed Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce


  • 1.5 cups dry brown lentils
  • 1 box of pasta  (I used a brown rice and quinoa blend)
  • 1 tbl avocado oil
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (see recipe below)
  • Few handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped (oregano, rosemary, basil)

What to do: 

  • Rinse the lentils, add to a medium pot with 4 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender (around 20 minutes).
  • While the lentils are cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • In a skillet heat the avocado oil, and add the kale. Cook over medium heat for around 5 minutes.
  • Once the lentils and pasta are cooked, drain them both and add them together in one pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and kale.
  • Plate the pasta, top with some herbs, and enjoy!

Homemade Tomato Sauce


  • 12-15 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbl oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbl olive oil

What to do:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully add the tomatoes and cook for one minute until the skin begins to split. Transfer the tomatoes into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cooled slightly, peel the tomatoes completely.
  • Add the tomatoes and other ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth
  • You can add the blended sauce back to a large saucepan over medium-low heat, cooking for around 15 minutes. Add some olive oil before adding the tomato sauce to prevent sticking! Stir frequently and allow some of the liquid to evaporate (concentrating the flavors). This extra cooking time also makes the lycopene in the tomatoes more available for your body to absorb.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, let the sauce cool, and divide evenly into glass mason jars. Leave a bit of room at the top of the jars if you plan on freezing them (the liquid will expand as it freezes). You could also can the sauce, however I’m not (yet) familiar with the process.


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Sun-Dried Tomato & Almond Cheese Spinach Sandwich

Sun-dried Tomato & Spinach Sandwich_logo

Michigan Adventures

Michigan in August is a magical place. Pair the crystal clear water of the lakes with good friends, dancing, and fried avocado tacos from a taco truck, and you’ve got a recipe for a memorable weekend. Oh yes, and an impromptu proposal.😉

Liz & Hywel Get Hitched23

Unlike the lake I grew up on in New Jersey, Lake Charlevoix in Michigan was unbelievably clear. No seaweed to be found! You could see straight to the rocky bottom, though admittedly not as comfortable on the feet. I found a little slice of heaven in a nearby hammock, while the boys got lost in a Wes Anderson adventure on the water.

Lake Charlevoix4

The following two photos don’t do the grand scale of Lake Michigan justice. It’s huge! Rex Beach could easily be mistaken for a beach along the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest. As soon as you enter the water, you quickly realize you are most certainly NOT in the Northwest, as the water is noticeably warmer. My Pacific Ocean adventures in Santa Cruz have consisted of me running in, and promptly out, of the frigid water. There’s a reason why all the surfers are in full body wetsuits!

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Mmmm…sandwiches. This sandwich combines some of my favorite things all in one. Sun-dried tomatoes provide a little sweetness, the almond cheese a savory aspect, and spinach is always a good idea.

Health of the ingredients

Aside from being insanely tasty, the sandwich is also equally healthy. Isn’t it great when that happens?

  1. Almond Cheese – Protein, healthy fat, fiber, and vitamin E from the almonds. More healthy fat from the olive oil.
  2. Spinach – Iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and so much more.
  3. Sun-Dried Tomatoes -Also lots of iron, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Since they’re dried they have higher concentrations of nutrients then fresh tomatoes. Lots more antioxidant lycopene! Fighting cancer one tomato at a time.
  4. Sprouted Bread – Lots of different whole grains in here provide protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Look for a bread variety with several types of grains (like Ezekiel brand), to get the widest variety of amino acids and vitamins/minerals.

Okay let’s eat!

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Sun-Dried Tomato & Almond Cheese Spinach Sandwich

Yield – one sandwich


  • 2 slices sprouted bread
  • 2 tbl sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tbl tbl almond cheese (storebought or using the recipe below)
  • 2 big handfuls spinach
  • 1 tsp avocado oil (a good high heat oil)

What to do: 

  • Bring a skillet to medium heat on the stove. Once the pan is warm, add the avocado oil and swirl around to ensure full coverage.
  • Spread the almond cheese on the bread, layer on the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and place your sandwich in the pan.
  • Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook your sandwich for about 4 minutes on each side. Check the sandwich periodically to make sure your bread isn’t burning! Keeping the heat lower will allow the inside of the sandwich to warm through, without burning the bread.

Almond Cheese Recipe

Yield – about 2 cups


  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight (about 8 hours, longer is fine too)
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

What to do: 

  • Soak the almonds in water overnight. Use a container about twice the size, since the almonds will expand as they soak and absorb the water.
  • Drain the almonds after soaking, and place them in a high-power blender. Blend until smooth, then add the oil and salt. Done!

How simple was that?! Yes it takes a little forethought and planning ahead to soak the almonds, but once you’ve got them soaking there’s not much else to do.🙂

Sun-dried tomato & spinach sandwich

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Turmeric Ginger Salad

Turmeric Ginger Salad_logoOne of my friends had her birthday party on a catamaran this past weekend. The views from the water were breathtaking. Plus the fog didn’t roll in, so we actually had a beautiful sunset too!

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On a quest to introduce more anti-inflammatory foods into my diet, I made this delicious turmeric packed salad dressing to toss in my daily salads this week. Not only was the dressing tasty, but the salad ended up having so many vibrant colors as well. Green, yellow, red, pink, white, and so many shades in between.🙂

The recipe below will make a really big bowl of salad, which I have for lunch throughout the week. It would work really well as a dinner dish to share with your friends and family too.

Turmeric Ginger Salad



  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbl lemon juice
  • 2 tbl agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 inch chunk fresh ginger


  • 2 large heads lettuce (green, romaine, red, etc)
  • 2 barlett pears, chopped
  • 6 deglet dates, finely chopped
  • 5 small beets, thinnly sliced (I used a setting on my food processor to get them really thin)
  • 3 lemon cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped

What to do: 

  • Blend all the dressing ingredients together in a blender until smooth (I use a Vitamix).
  • Combine the salad ingredients together in a big bowl.
  • Drizzle the dressing on top, and toss to ensure everything is nicely coated.

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Snack Attack: Cacao nib bites

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It was a weekend with some incredible nighttime views…

The harbor was spectacularly stunning with sailboats passing by, the lighthouse in the near distance, and setting sun painting the sky a myriad of colors. To top it all off, there was live music and the most refreshing libations.



The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary hosted an informative First Friday event at the Sanctuary Exploration Center, staying open until 8pm for visitors to peruse displays of wildlife living just across the street in the Monterey Bay. There just wasn’t enough time to see all the center has to offer. Another trip is most certainly in my future.

Most of the time at the event was spent talking to the Whale Entanglement Team (WET), who had a table at the event. It was fascinating to hear about team members going out into the water to rescue whales caught in nets. I learned that the underside of a whale’s tail (the fluke) acts as a critical identifier unique to each whale (much like a human fingerprint).


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Cacao Nib Bites

This recipe was adapted from Scott Jurek’s Eat & Run “Xocolatl Energy Balls”. I swapped out some ingredients I didn’t have, for ones that I did. Personally I think they taste absolutely delicious, with a pleasant crunch from the cacao nibs. These are great for an afternoon snack, dessert, and for hiking (no mess!).
Yield about 10 bites


  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 10 small dates, pitted
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp coconut oil, softened or melted

What to do: 

  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor (except coconut oil) until consistency is fine and will stick together.
  • Add the coconut oil and blend again.
  • Roll the mixture into about 10 balls, and refrigerate. Once chilled for about an hour, enjoy!

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Big Dreaming in California

While coming back from an afternoon run along West Cliff yesterday, I came upon a scene that I still don’t know what to make of. Two firetrucks and several police cars blocked the road, while lifeguards sprang into action toward the ocean.

What was going on here, you may be wondering. My best guess is that someone got a little too close to the edge of the cliffs and fell down into the water, unable to get back out. Why am I writing about this on a food & travel blog? Well I thought it was about time I write about my new life in California. To take a moment and share the observations I’ve made in the environment that now surrounds me.

California is amazing, in every sense of the word and I don’t know if I’ll ever leave. That being said, it isn’t perfect, as no place is. I believe it’s the imperfections and therefore possibilities for improvement which make it so alluring (and of course all the natural beauty🙂 ).

The people I’ve met, in Santa Cruz particularly, have a true passion for creating positive change. There’s a lot going on here to get involved with, no matter what you’re passionate about. The community is as environmentally conscious as they come, with a large bike commuting scene, farmers markets in numerous locations throughout the week, and even a compost collection service via. bike. Whoa.

It seems that the community is all on the same page. We need to protect the environment, start reversing climate change, and build healthier communities. Now. I can’t say I’ve ever lived somewhere like this. There are always the naysayers on the other side pushing against change, progress, the good people are trying to do. Perhaps it’s because the community seems so in sync that projects are actually completed in a timely manner. Imagine that!

I think that’s the really inspirational part. Not only can one see the possibility for change, but your community supports you in making that change. It’s realistic to dream big in California. Wilder Ranch Tours17.jpg

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Sunflower Date Energy Balls

Sunflower Date Energy Balls_logo

Big Basin Redwood State Park has some amazing microclimates, from open forest with sandstone paths, to dense heavy forest shaded by redwood trees hundreds of feet high. This trip included hiking eleven miles around trip to Berry Creek Falls. The falls are actually three falls (lower, silver, and gold). We stopped for a picnic lunch at the last fall.

Along the way to the falls, our docent pointed out numerous edible plants including California Violet, huckleberry, and more sorrel than you could imagine.

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And a (brief) visit to Castle Rock State Park. If you want to go hiking here…go early! What was planned to be a day of hiking in the park, turned into a short although still pretty 45 minute walk. Due to some serious lack of parking anywhere near the main park entrance, we ended up hopping on another trail a few miles down the road. The Skyline Trail had some nice intermittent views of the south bay, and a nearby overlook gave us a glimpse of the distant ocean.

Castle Rock State Park1

Castle Rock State Park2

Back at home I spent some much needed time in my kitchen, creating some delicious meals and snacks for the week. These no-bake sunflower date balls come together in about 5 minutes. It doesn’t get much easier to create such a tasty snack. I will add that these would be perfect for taking on a hike as well!

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Sunflower Date Energy Balls


  • 1 cup oats
  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

What to do:

  • Blend ingredients in a food processor until the mixture sticks together. Form the dough into about 10-12 tablespoon size balls.

Sunflower Date Energy Balls4

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