Banana Date Caramel Smoothie + Weekend Recap

Hi friends!

Hope you all had a great weekend. I’m off from my PR job today for Columbus Day, so YAY for 3-day weekends! I’ll be spending my extra day off doing blogging and health coaching work instead, running some errands, cleaning, going for a hike at our nearby favorite park, and taking my Batpuppy to the vet (just for an annual thing)…

We got into the holiday spirit with some autumn decor yesterday!

We got into the holiday spirit with some autumn decor yesterday!

Backing it up to the beginning of the weekend, I kicked off my post-work Friday with a trip to the Del Mar dog beach on another 90 degree day:

Del Mar Dog Beach-Oct '15

I love it at the dog beach, it’s so beautiful and such a happy place!

Dog Beach view

We hadn’t been to the dog beach since the beginning of the summer because during peak beach months, dogs are only allowed on one section of the beach on their leashes. My dog is a maniac and doesn’t like to be constrained by a leash on the beach, so we don’t even bother going during the summer (which kind of stinks), but I’m happy to have the option to take her there from now until June! dogs playing at dog beach

As you can see, there were some happy swimming pups there on Friday!

That night, A and I went out for a glass of wine and some eats before he had Marine Corps work all weekend. I had this salad with goat cheese croquettes that was so yummy…goat cheese salad

Note to self: Make goat cheese croquettes soon! 

Saturday morning I went to my 90-minute rock ‘n roll yoga class for the first time in awhile, and it was awesome! I left very sweaty with a happy heart.
side crow-left side

Saturday night I went out for drinks to celebrate my friend Leanne’s birthday. I enjoyed a few Moscow Mules, which I have developed a newfound love for this year. Anyone else love those copper mugs?!

moscow mule

As any good friend would, I brought the birthday girl a sweet treat from a local pie place: a Magic Bar.

Magic Bar

I couldn’t help nabbing myself an apple bar to try as well, and mmm, it was delicious! It was like apple pie in brownie form.

Apple Pie Bar

Other good food finds of the weekend included basil infused olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar, which I nabbed after discovering a local place called North County Olive Oils next to the pie shop. I absolutely love flavored oils to dress up salads and dishes!

North County Olive Oil copy

I also found a tub of everything bagel mix at a nearby bagel store, which I got excited about. Have you guys ever seen it before?!

everything bagel mix

I think I might start putting it on meals on a daily basis, but I started off by trying it with Ashley’s Everything Spinach Chickpea Dip. So good!

Everything Chickpea Spinach Dip

In other random weekend news, check out my pepper plant! I’ve watched this pepper grow from a tiny little guy, and now I have several other little peppers budding. Having an herb & veggie garden is so much fun for a foodie!  pepper plant

Other weekend eats included these strawberry & Nutella banana protein pancakes (chocolate hazelnut craving satisfied!)…  nutella strawberry pancakes

…and this smoothie deliciousness:
banana date smoothie

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A Trip to Lundberg Family Farms During their Rice Harvest


Supporting companies that make it their main priority to create their products in a way that is responsible and with their customers’ best interest at heart is important to me. I love getting to know more about companies, whose running them, and what’s going on behind the scenes. This is one of the big reasons why I love buying food at local farmers’ markets, nabbing produce from the farm stand down the street from me, and attending events where I get to learn firsthand about how food is made with love.

Lundberg Farms Collage

That’s why when Lundberg Family Farms recently contacted me inviting me to visit their farm in Northern California during their rice harvest, I jumped at the chance. Lundberg is an organic, non-GMO certified maker of all kinds of rice products, and I was excited to know more about what they do.

Last Thursday I flew from Los Angeles to Sacramento, then traveled to an area known as Chico for the blogger event that Lundberg was hosting. That night, the event was kicked of with a dinner at the Red Tavern. Five other food bloggers were in attendance, and we were joined by Bryce and Jill Lundberg, one of their sons and his fiancee, and Lundberg’s PR and marketing team for some yummy eats and wine.

rice croquettes

My favorite dish of the night was the above pictured stuffed mozzarella arancini with sweet pepper tomato sauce. I’m a sucker for a flavorful, crispy rice ball!

Red Tavern dessert

A dessert custom made for the occasion by Red Tavern incorporating Lundberg’s rice cakes

Bryce Lundberg is one of about 35 owners of the family run farm, and quite a character might I add. It was so nice getting to chat with him and his wife, who you could immediately tell were such sweet, down to earth people. Bryce seemed so passionate about the company, and was excited to answer questions and share some of the history behind Lundberg Farms. I found his infectious spirit to be a trend throughout the Lundberg family members that we met with.

Lundberg Farms sign

The next morning, we headed off to Lundberg Farms itself for a full day of farm fun. First up, the company’s CEO, Grant Lundberg, took us on a walking tour of the tiny town where the farm is located, called Richvale.

Rice Avenue

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Mexican Potato Pancakes

Hi there!

First thing’s first: The winner of my non-GMO goodie bag giveaway is Mariah. Congrats, Mariah! I’ve emailed you for your address.

Here’s a fun little fact: October is Non-GMO month!


Speaking of October, can you guys believe that we’re already a week into it?! As a food blogger, I’ve been having a bit of a tough time getting into an autumn recipe groove since it’s been so hot and summery in the San Diego area. I’ve been seeing soup recipes and pumpkin everything all over the place, and I just couldn’t get into it all of last month as I cannonballed into my pool every chance I got to try to keep cool.

Fortunately, we finally got some rain early this week (!!) and temperatures have been in the 70s. It has been glorious! It’s apparently going to be 90 this weekend, but the break in heat has felt so nice… and now I’m finally feeling excited for pumpkin recipes! Today’s recipe actually doesn’t have anything to do with pumpkin, so I digress… but what it does have to do with is potatoes:
Mexican Potato Pancakes

Potatoes are grown year-round here in the states, but they always remind me of fall and wintertime. I just read the other day that the fall crop of potatoes comprises about 90 percent of potato production, so if you’re eating anything potato in America, chances are pretty high that it was harvested during this time of the year.

Mexican Potatoes-5

Potatoes tend to be people pleasers. Anytime I make traditional potato pancakes or these rosti potatoes, they’re a hit with everyone. For this recipe, I had the idea of putting a fun southwestern flair on potato pancakes.

potato pancake veggies

To give it that flair, I used some produce and flavors common in Mexican dishes, including jalapeño pepper, avocado, red bell pepper, salsa, cilantro, corn and cayenne pepper. I used corn straight off the cob, but you can sub 3/4 cup of frozen corn kernels if you don’t have fresh available.

potato pancakes-1

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Anniversary Celebration in Temecula Wine Country

Hey friends!

Lundberg Farms sushi rice field

Lundberg Farms sushi rice field

Long time no talk – I’ve had a crazy last few weeks, with short, super busy work weeks and blogger event travel two weeks in a row! Lundberg Farms invited me to a wonderful blogger event in Northern California last week – much more about my trip to come later on this week! – and after I flew back from Sacremento to Los Angeles, then drove back home to San Diego, it was time for more fun: anniversary celebrations!

A pic from our anniversary trip last year

A pic from our anniversary trip last year

October 2nd marked 6 blissful years of marriage to A. My how time flies when you’re married to your best friend whose an awesome partner in life! :) You may remember that last year to celebrate the occasion, we went on the craziest endurance challenge of my life thus far hiking and camping around Catalina Island (You can check out a recap of that shenanigans here!). We hiked 23 miles one of the days during that trip, and while it was a very memorable adventure, this year we decided to celebrate our anniversary with something a little more low-key: relaxing in wine country!

Sunday morning we headed off to Temecula for a day of wine tasting. While we’ve visited the small Southern California wine region a handful of times, we hadn’t been to Temecula since moving back to the area last year.

Temecula car selfie

We started off our day at Wiens Family Cellars – the self-proclaimed “Home of Big Reds” in Temecula. After tasting a lot of the wines on their tasting menu, I understood the winery’s tagline. Its bold reds offered something for a variety of palates, with everything from a number of cabernet sauvignons to try to their “Crowded” blend consisting of 7 or 8 varietals coming together for an oaky, smooth wine. I loved a few of their Reserve reds, but unfortunately they were a little too pricey for us (I just can’t justify spending $95 on a bottle!).

Wiens Winery

The Wiens employee that helped us was really informative and friendly. She definitely knew her stuff about Wiens and wine in general, which I always really appreciate since I like to really find out a lot about the wine I’m tasting. Overall we had a great winery experience there, and it was our favorite visit of the day.

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ShiftCon Recap: GMO Talk + Giveaway of Goodies!

“Every time you buy, you’re voting for the world you want or the world you don’t want.”  – Gary Hirshberg, Chairman of Stonyfield and Founder of Just Label It & Only Organic

I found this to be the most powerful sentence I heard at last week’s ShiftCon event. It’s such a simple and somewhat obvious statement, but it brings to light the fact that when you purchase something, you’re supporting a product – and not only the product itself, but also how it was made.

ShiftCon Marriott view

The view from the Marriott in Manhattan Beach, where ShiftCon took place

ShiftCon took place last week in the pretty town of Manhattan Beach, and was an event geared towards health, wellness and green living. I randomly won a ticket to the event through my ambassadorship with FitFluential, and was excited to check out what the event had to offer. My cousin lives in the neighboring town of Long Beach, which was great because I got to crash at her place for a few days and spend some time with her.

The conference had an exhibit hall full of brands that I love, including Barbara’s

Puffins at ShiftCon

(Can’t wait to try their new pumpkin cereal! Sadly they didn’t have any actually at the show.)

Annie’s was there with their yummy snacks and pastas…

Annies ShiftCon

…and organic yogurt company Stonyfield had a big presence there. Their gingered pear Oh My Yog! was delicious.  Stonyfield Oh My Yog!

ShiftCon also had sponsored lounges, including one with Naturepedic that allowed you to zen out on their comfy organic mattresses while charging your iPhone.

Naturepedic lounge

(This was me entering their giveaway for a new mattress by tweeting a picture. I didn’t win, but winning a ticket to ShiftCon AND a mattress would have been just too crazy!)

During a conference focused on food and the environment, it was no surprise that THE major topic of the event was GMOs. With states bringing labeling laws to elections and the House recently passing what its opponents refer to as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which if passed, would preempt states from requiring labeling of GMO food, we are a really pivotal time when it comes to GMOs. I’m disheartened to know that many Americans don’t have any idea what GMOs even are, and since I learned a lot of facts at ShiftCon about them, I thought I’d share some GMO stats with you all today:

Honey Nut Concealios

Big food companies like General Mills are pouring millions of dollars into getting the DARK Act passed

  • So exactly what are GMOs? They are organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.
  • What crops are GMO? They’re primarily in soy, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola oil. This may not sound like many foods, but it translates to GMOs in 75% of conventional food in the U.S.!
  • With the increase of GMO crops, herbicide applications have also dramatically increased. The primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, was just deemed to be a probable carcinogen, meaning cancer causing, in the state of California.

Nutiva Real Food Manifesto

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7 Healthy Snacks & Desserts I’ve Been Eating Lately

Hi friends!

I hope that you had a wonderful weekend! I had a great 3 days out of town for ShiftCon, and then I came home to spend time with my little family. Highlights on Sunday were a relaxing few hours at the mostly empty beach…

Carlsbad Beach-Sept '15

…and making vegan s’mores via our fire pit under the Blood Moon:


I’ve been wanting to make s’mores for months since finding these vegan marshmallows at my natural foods store, and even included it on my Before 30 Bucket List. Mmm, now I can check that one off the list!

S'mores Collage

I’m going to share some highlights about ShiftCon – a conference that puts the topics of wellness, health, and the environment front and center – in my next post, but today I want to chat with you guys about new snacks that I’ve tried lately. As of late I’ve been obsessed with both popcorn and cereal, so here are my recent favorites of those, plus a few other yummy snacks I’ve been noshing on! 
ICONIC Vanilla Bean

ICONIC Protein Drinks. Recently ICONIC sent me their Cafe au Lait, Vanilla Bean & Chocolate Truffle flavored protein drinks to try. While I typically don’t go for milk or milk-based protein drinks, I was intrigued in trying ICONIC because their products come from grass-fed and hormone free cows and include organic fair-trade blue agave.

Naturally, I liked the chocolate flavor the best. It reminded me of these Special K protein shakes I used to drink as a teenager – only with a much healthier ingredient list, less calories and more protein. Each bottle contains 20 g of protein and 130 calories, making it an ideal easy snack post-workout when I want to fuel my recovering muscles with a nice dose of protein.

479 popcorn

479 Degrees Sea Salt Caramel Artisan Popcorn. [gluten free] Ooh baby baby, sweet and salty popcorn! I love the short and sweet ingredient list on this popcorn and the fact that it’s made with organic ingredients and rBST and antibiotic-free butter. At 100 calories a cup, this popcorn is a perfect sweet & salty snack.

Vans GF cereals

Van’s Cocoa Sensations & Blissful Berry Cereals. [gluten free, vegan] Recently Van’s sent me these boxes of their new gluten free cereal line flavors to try, and I’ve been snacking on them often. The cocoa cereal is obviously my favorite given my love for anything chocolate. I’ve been eating some with protein powder, blueberries/sliced banana and almond milk for breakfast, and noshing on it when I’m starving waiting for dinner to cook or just want a little something sweet at night.

Made with a blend of oat brown rice, millet, quinoa, and amaranth flours and sweetened with cane sugar, these cereals are a great alternative to the artificially dyed and corn syrup-filled cereals that you (and your kids) might normally eat.

Dried Bananas

Made in Nature Dried Bananas. [gluten free, vegan] Made in Nature, one of the vendors at ShiftCon, sent me a cute package with some of their products prior to the show, and their dried banana slices were definitely my favorite! Containing just organic banana and lemon juice, they make for a perfect healthy grab-and-go snack, and I have been adding a couple of them to my smoothie bowls.

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Roasted Tomato & Spinach Ricotta Pesto Stuffed Shells

Happy Hump Day friends!

I’m excited because tomorrow I head up to Manhattan Beach for ShiftCon – a social media conference focusing on wellness, health, and the environment. There are so many sessions that seem so interesting and fun that I’m looking forward to, and it’s always great to connect with other bloggers and people in the healthy food industry! I’m sure I’ll be recapping all of the fun for you next week, but today, let’s talk about this deliciousness:

Roasted Tomato & Spinach Ricotta Pesto Shells

The idea for roasted tomato & ricotta pesto stuffed shells first came to mind when I bought a bag of locally grown beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes. There’s just something about those vibrant colors that makes me want to get all creative with the meal I use the tomatoes for.

heirloom cherry tomatoes

I roasted them with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed the shells with spoonfuls of glorious soft mini tomatoes. Now for the other part of the shell filling…

pesto ingredients

I’ve been wanting to do a fun take on pesto for awhile now. The idea was born out of the fact that many times when I order a dish with pesto at a restaurant, it’s too much. Too garlicky, too oily, too thick…. and not easy on my belly! This pesto, on the other hand, is more mild – not as pungent as typical pesto.pesto-before


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Weekend Escape to Big Bear Lake

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny space you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

With my hubby and I both home last weekend with nothing on the agenda, we decided to  take a road trip to a place we’d never visited before: Big Bear Lake. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains about 2 1/2 hours away from our house in San Diego’s North County, Big Bear Lake is a popular destination known for its winter ski slopes as well as summertime water sports.  
Big Bear-4

My hubby had brought up the idea of camping in the area mid-last week. However, all of the campsites at the lakeside campground I wanted to stay at were already reserved. Plus fires aren’t currently allowed there because of the extremely dry conditions and high fire danger, and that’s kind of my favorite part of camping, so we decided to leave the pup home and go for a long day trip to Big Bear instead. We headed out bright and early on Saturday morning, with breakfast on-the-go:

Big Bear snacks-1

Road trip breakfast: Siggi’s yogurt, Van’s cocoa cereal, blueberries, Blue Diamond almonds and dried bananas

Like much of California, the trip to Big Bear was a gorgeous ride. The town is named after the Grizzly bears that inhabit the area, which I was kind of hoping to spot while we were there (within a safe distance), but no such luck!
Big Bear grizzly bear

Once we got into the area, we popped into the Big Bear Discovery Center to obtain a parking pass and get further info about the trail we wanted to hike: Cougar Crest – Bertha Peak. After researching the trails in the Big Bear area, this one seemed to be the best half-day hike for us. The hike is about 7 miles from the trailhead, and pretty soon after you start hiking, the views are beautiful: lots of trees and green, and a nice view of Big Bear Lake and surrounding mountains!  Big Bear-2The hike had a nice steady incline a lot of the time. We were happy that it wasn’t too steep because both A and I felt a little short of breath from the elevation, which we aren’t used to! Big Bear Lake sits at around 7,000 feet in elevation.Big Bear-1

The Cougar Crest Trail ends at the juncture of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail, known as the PCT. This was kind of cool for us because we watched the movie Wild recently, the non-fiction movie starring Reese Witherspoon about a woman who hikes 1,100 miles of the PCT in hopes of finding herself and getting a fresh start. The movie itself was just okay, but being a hiker, I was intrigued at the movie’s concept. The PCT runs all the way down from Mexico up to Canada!

PCT sign

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PB & J Oatmeal Crumble Bars

Happy Friday friends!

So, when a new recipe idea doesn’t turn out exactly how I want it to, there are two conclusions I come to: 1.) I just fuhgeddaboudit, or 2.) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Today’s recipe is a case of something working out the second time around. PB&J Oatmeal BarsSome of you may remember that a few months ago, I included the below photo in a weekend recap: pb and jelly bar recipe fail

This was the first run of testing out my idea for PB & J bars, and while they tasted great, they just weren’t holding together well at all. Since the ingredients seemed to work well together and it was just a texture issue, I gave it a second go a few weeks ago. This time I adjusted a few ingredients, and chilled the bars for a few hours before cutting them into squares, and BOOM! The recipe was a winner. 
PB & J Oatmeal Bars

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Creamy Mango Melon Smoothie

It’s mid-September, which means that a lot of you are starting to experience some cooler temperatures and the start of autumn. You’re stashing your flip-flops away in exchange for ballet flats, throwing on pants instead of shorts, and starting to make pumpkin everything. If this is you, this recipe is not being shared with you in mind… because this post is dedicated for all of the Californians who have been experiencing a heat wave with me (and anyone else whose sweating somewhere in the world)! 😉

mango melon smoothie-3

The last couple of weeks here have been hot. I’m not complaining, especially because I live in a place that has awesome weather year-round, but not having air conditioning makes temperatures in the 90s with a crazy high UV index feel kind of brutal. Okay, maybe I’m complaining a little – I know, such a first world problem – but as I mentioned in my last post, my only relief is constantly eating refreshing foods. And jumping in my pool every chance I get, as I hate being hot and sweaty unless I’m working out!

My poor pup has been making me nervous panting so heavy at night, and like the overprotective pawrent that I am, I’ve constantly been feeding her ice cubes to cool her off a bit. My hubby and I have also forced my water-hating dingo to take a dip in the pool a few times.

mango melon smoothie-4

Luckily, yesterday San Diego got some much needed rain, which brought about a bit of cool air and some relief. The temperature today is supposed to be 75, so get your parkas out local Californians! But then we’ll be back in the high-80s in a few days, so yeah, let’s talk about smoothies… this smoothie recipe in particular.

mango melon smoothie-2

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