Restaurant Review: Baja Cantina + Grill in Carmel Valley, CA

I’ve been here 4x and every time it’s great – Mexican isn’t always a sure bet in the healthy food categroy, but Baja get’s it done. The guac rocks, the mole sauce on my chicken tamale was very fresh, and meals come with SALAD (actual greens, not just iceberg with shredded cheese). Thank you Baja for finding that balance of good Mexican eats and healthy food. PS: portions are big but not ridiculous, you may have leftovers especially if you eat some chips, which are also specially seasoned.

Much Ado About Something

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For those who have ever wondered if the hype about Ashland, OR is true, I’m here to tell you that yes, in fact, it is! 

After a long stretch of cleaning, packing, scrubbing walls, and saying tearful good-byes in Salem, my mom and I packed the car, loaded the cat into her trusty carrier, and headed south of the border….

…with an overnight stop in Ashland for a little R&R.

Cleaning can make a girl hungry, so our first goal was to find some good eats, and boy did we.

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Pasta Piatti in Ashland is a MUST try for those who love really good Italian.  Off-white eaters listen up!  Pasta Piatti can make most of their dishes with Spelt Pasta and all their bread are homemade – YUM and YAY!!!

I scored with a seared Ahi tuna salad with white beans and fresh greens – a great, naturally low carb colorful dish and mom took the proverbial cake with one of their signature dishes: butternut squash raviolis with a butter/brown sugar/gorgonzola cheese sauce.  Was it a meal?  Was it dessert?  I’m still not sure but it WAS tasty…..and very much like the dishes we’d tried in our recent trip to the motherland Italia back in October.

Yes, certainly Ashland won our hearts from the get-go!

We tooled around town, walking, shopping and chatting and enjoying the ambience.  Ashland provides a mix of young travellers, vacationers, and artisans.  Its clean, hip, hippy, and quaint all at once, and there is no shortage of places to nosh.

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Still full from lunch, but wanting a treat to accompany me to the evening’s highlight (we saw Don Quixote  and it was spectacular), I meandered into the Enchanated Florist after being seduced by the words “CHOCOLATE BAR”.

I am now a huge fan of Alma chocolates, out of Portland.  Organic, creative and made with Agave nectar…….all things enchanting in my book!  PS: the Enchanted Florist website is complete with groovy, chocolate and flower enticing, music, like what you hear right here.

I will personally never  forget the evening of sitting under the stars in the Elizabethan theatre with mom at my side, watching the players, and savoring the unique flavors  of Alma chocolate (Dark chocolate lavendar and Sea salt + cocoa/chili/coconut).  Could a girl ask for more?  You bet I was sending thanks to the Universe that night for all the good fortune of my day and of my life!

A restful sleep gave use the energy to rise and shine, and get in a power walk before hitting the Saturday marketplace on our way out of town.  I love Saturday markets.  These are the heart of a community – artisans, growers, purveyors who all have a passion for keeping foods and goods the way we originally intended them to be: made with love.

On this day, we equated love with Tasty, as there was no shortage of tasty delights despite the rather small size of the market.  Each vendor smiled, chatted and shared his or her story about the food.  Mom bought ‘Cowboy Buns” from Cowboy bakery for my nephew and Strawberry syrup for dad and his Sunday pancake ritual.  Me, still full from the day before, simply feasted my eyes and took a few shots.

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In Short, I can now see what all the ‘ado’ is about Ashland!!

BTW: there is also a Market of Choice in Ashland, which makes a nice mid-way stop between Davis and Salem or anybody driving hte I-5 route.  It’s an oasis of healthy food amist a long stretch of nothing but fast food and gas stations.

Viva Italia Part II


Back by popular demand – more accounts of my trip to Italy.  Believe me,  I don’t need an excuse to blab about the exquisite trip that has left me longing for the mediterranean lifestyle.

See that picture of all the amazing gelatos – this is what is so  great: I had yogurt and chocolate gelato and they tasted just like tart yogurt and 70% dark chocolate.  No wonder a 1/2 cup (at 2.50 Euro, or $4) satisfied.  The flavors were amazing.

Italy reminded me of one of my life’s dreams: to lose about 20 lbs, and then travel the world eating the BEST food and gaining it all back.  Gelato would certainly contribute, though the fat content was much lower than ice cream and  they really weren’t all that sweet (these two flavors anyway) all the time. 


This is a photo from the walls inside the vatican museum.  the art was amazing…and all that oogling made us hungry, so immediately after our 3 hr visit, mom headed to the pastry shop across the street, and bought this:


It was also coupled with a cannoli, but she devoured that so fast, I couldn’t get my camera out in time!


Funny thing about this picture.  When Matt first moved into his home in Davis, his landlord (and art guy) had this EXACT same photo in the bathroom.  I recall contemplating it and wondering what it was.  When I visited Matt post Italy, I lit up, because I knew what it was: The Pantheon – a domed temple that continues to be the model of all models for creating Rotundas (Even our own Washington DC dome was modeled after this).  PS: there is now a McDonalds 100 feet away from the Pantheon.  Do you think the ancients foresaw that modern wonder standing along side their creation??


Who wouldn’t want to eat apples and pears from this adorable street-side store?  Shops like this were sprinkled all over Italy.  Mom and I enjoyed trying to communicate with the ‘limited English’ stern-faced old ladies who ran the show.  They may not have spoken to us much, but they certainly knew how to slice and wrap fresh deli meats.  It was heavenly to stop in daily to such a shop, buy some snacks and just listen to them chat on about the day.  The grocery seemed like an Italian version of a knitting circle.


This is a town in the Cinque terre.  The hike yielded amazing views but was not for the feign at heart.  One town alone boasted a 382 stair climb (after over 1 hour of hiking) to get to the top of the town.  i don’t even remember what I ate here, but I’m pretty sure  that I devoured it and had some gelato to accompany whatever lunchtime treat I discovered.


Until next time, I’ll bid you ‘bona sera’ (Good night), and we’ll hop on the Italian memory train again soon!  Next time, I’ll share some of my videos (they just take a long time to upload)


Stress and sugar, Part III: HOW TO GET OFF SUGAR

Ever wish you were the kid picked to visit the chocolate factory in the Willy Wonka stories?  Ever make up ridiculous fantasies in your mind about larger-than-life candylands?  Yeah…me neither…. 😉  But if you did, or still do, this post is for you.  First, a video titled “I want candy”

So, basically, this post is the summation of my whole blogging purpose. GET OFF SUGAR. Do it now! Don’t wait until you have diabetes, arthritis, obesity, depression. Of course, if it were easy, I wouldn’t have a blog, a job, or half of the life experiences I have been blessed with. I suppose being human means that some things are not easy.

I’ll be honest. I am not 100% off white, but I am about 90% off white sugar, 100% off white flour (90% off wheat altogether) and 100% off milk, cheese and yogurt. I feel a lot better, have less sugar craving, and I poop regularly. Seriously, being chronically constipated and ‘full’ all the time was a MAJOR side effect of eating too much sugar and dairy.

So, if you want to get off sugar, here’s what I suggest:

1. Find your willingness. Before you do anything with your diet or lifestyle, you have to find that strong desire for something different. What are you willing to change about your diet? Are you willing to stop drinking soda altogether? Are you willing to have fruits or pass altogether on dessert? Are you willing to spend 3-4x as much for unrefined grains/flours/sweeteners so that you can feel better.

No question is more important than the question of your willingness. On a 1-10 scale, how willing are you to do what it takes to get off sugar. Don’t be upset if its not a 10. Rarely is a sugar addict stoked about this process. But, look for what you ARE an 10 on. For instance, I was a “10” in a willingness scale to give up all candy on Feb 28, 2004 (first day of lent – I quit candy and never looked back), but about a 3-4 to give up hot chocolate. So, now I just make healthier hot chocolate and that helps. You have to start where you are and continue checking in with that willingness.

Let’s say you’re willing and ready. Next steps;

  • Give yourself a 3-7 day detox period. If you want to do a colon cleanse, that can go on for longer, but clean up your diet for a few days. For me, this means none of the following: wheat, corn, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, fake fats, artificial sweeteners. You will be instead eating TONS of veggies, fruits, lean meats, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, whole grains like brown rice, etc.
  • After your detox phase you might crave sugar a lot less already. This is good. Start drinking lots of water. Flush out all the “junk” and cell “memory” of wanting sugar. Your body remembers what you’ve always done and its used to it. If you drank a lot of sugar in soda or beverages, replace the habit with water. Just do your best. Get support if you need it (or start a blog to blab about it, like I do!)
  • Eat protein at every meal. Vegetarians won’t like me much because I advocate more meat consumption for those kicking sugar than some people might be comfortable with. The reason is that lean protein, esp animal protein, helps stabalize blood sugar, which is KEY in kicking sugar. Also, if you use high quality meats, then you are getting B vitamins, healthy fats, iron, as well as protein. You can certainly eat things like beans, tofu, lentils and nuts, but I find carb-based proteins to “confusing” for my body at first.
  • Balance that carnage with a boatload of green veggies. You just can’t have too many. Eat 1-3 cups of green veggies/day, cooked or uncooked. Suggestions are: mixed green salads, adding spinach to omelets, steamed asparagus, soups with zucchini, leeks, bell peppers, collards/kale, snap peas, etc.
  • Express your feelings. So much of our desire for sugar is to taste the “sweetness” of life. What are you really craving? Write about it, talk about it, go for a walk or jog to blow off steam. Whatever you do, get your voice and your ideas heard.
  • Get rid of all the white stuff in the house. Its a conflict to your mind when you are saying “no” and you still have white sugar/flour. Maybe for a while you keep none in the house. If you must bake or cook with sugar/flour, use sucanat, agave nectar, molasses or stevia. Use whole wheat flour (less ideal, but okay), spelt flour, oat flour, or get to know gluten-free flours. check out if you want some good gluten-free baking recipes.
  • Cleanse your liver. Start a practice of hot water with lemon in the morning. This will help “lube the tube” as well as detox the liver. If you have a long history of processed foods, your liver needs a break. Other liver cleansers include: stinging nettle tea, green culinary herbs, asparagus and milk thistle. Bitter veggies also cleanse the liver.
  • Educate yourself about reading labels and finding healthier alternatives to the foods you used to eat. Some things can be modified to have less sugar, such as baked goods and cereals. Other things, like marshmallows or store-bought cookies, are pretty much not and option if you want kick sugar. You might have to pick and choose what its important to you and then let the rest go.
  • Find out if you have any food allergies. My sugar obsession was made worse by my dairy/soy allergy. I had no idea until I was tested. I think I mentioned this before, but check out Diagnostech if you want to do some testing.
  • Take it day by day. Progress, not perfection will help you move toward freedom from the white stuff. You can do it. I believe in you. I don’t even know you, and I believe in you because I was the toughest sugar junkie ever and I’ve made it to the other side…..or at least to where sugar is the exception and not the rule in my life anymore.

Observations from a palapa

Yesterday I had many opportunities to observe a thing or two about human nature while sunning myself under a palapa……yes, I know, a hard life 🙂

Now keep in mind, the focus of this blog is about sutainable nutrition, so my obervations are going to be focused in that direction. If you would like to learn more about the social habits of the Americans in general, I suggest you visit the blog “Stuff White People Like”, it is HILARIOUS (bring your sense of humor, please).

One thing I seem to notice is the social permission we give each other to overconsume simply because we are on vacation. Last night I found myself dipping into the chips and salsa for the umteenth time simply becuase “I’m on vacation”. No wonder we come back 5-10 lbs heavier after a vacation. The dialogue in my head went something like this:

“Okay, the food is coming, so I don’t really need chips. I’ve eaten them every day and frankly, I don’t like how I feel afterward”


“Well, maybe just 1 or two. This salsa mexicana is awesome”


“Now, I should really stop. I’m starting to fill up and the food isn’t here. Darn that waiter, why is the food taking so long”


“Okay, no more. I’m done!”


“Almost done……”


“Okay, tomorrow – NO CHIPS”


“Hey Hon (to my husband), do you think I’ve gained weight on this trip? I mean, I feel like we are always eating”. CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH. “I know we are very active, but I just think we are eating too much. We should stop”. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH

STOP THE INSANITY! Luckily, I walked away feeling okay about my meal. I did stop eating when full, but I did sacrifice eating some of the local flavor for a bunch of chips and salsa – what a cheap thrill!

I’m not suggesting we deny ourselves local flavors when traveling. To me, that is the essence of travel, it is part of getting away to a new place. What I’m suggesting is that we check our motivations for consuming. Do we really taste that extra 3 pieces of whatever, after we are already full? Why is it culturally acceptable to gorge on a meal, keep eating just because it is in front of us and then complain our travel partners that we are unhappy with our weight and wish we would not have eaten so much? And yet we expect the food to be plentiful when we arrive. We are such odd creatures!

Some of my travel conversations with my compadres, as well as looking around at the habits of my fellow tourists brought me to belive that many of us are a real paradox when it comes to travel and food. We go beyond the point of enjoyment and then spend precious energy complaining about our choices, yet the very next day we are first in line at the buffet for breakfast. Hmm……

I’ve even had serveral people tease me about not eating enough or being “too healthy” because I won’t partake in over-indulgence. I know what is behind that feeling – we don’t want to over-indulge alone. It makes us feel bad. I know, I’ve been there. Sometimes I feel the need to eat just because others around me are doing the same. Like when I’m sunning myself and suddenly I see the table next to me order a second round of nachos and guacalmole….suddenly I feel hungry.

I’d love to know what others think or experience when they travel. I don’t always feel this way. Truthfully, it is just when I spend a lot of time with my fellow American travelers in an American-style resort where food rules. I know we expect it to be this way, but why? Why is it all about the food?

Now, I must get going. They’re serving free guacamole and chips…I’ve got to get in line to be first 🙂 (Just kidding…)