Best Places to Pitch a Tent Near San Diego



  1. Cibbets Flat Kitchen Creek Cleveland National Forest

Off the 8 east after Alpine, is a valley known as Kitchen Creek. As the edge of Cleveland National Forrest before you hit Anza Borrego, this is one of the lusher areas around San Diego. The campsite is dramatically situated on a creek between mountains. Not only is the location gorgeous, but the campsite is also relatively unknown, meaning it’s not usually overcrowded.

Facilities: Cibbets flat offers paved roads, running water, and even bathrooms, making for a softer camping experience.



  1. Bow Willow Anza Borrego State Park

Bow Willow is both gorgeous and difficult to find, as there are no signs. This means you have to stare at the mile markers and make the turnoff onto a rather sketchy looking sand road. Located at the southern end of Anza Borrego in the shadow of the mountains this camp site makes for a great starting point for exploring the beauty of the desert.

Facilities: Toilets but no running water, Dirt road doesn’t require a jeep (Note: many roads in Anza Borrego require four-wheel drive or at least all-wheel drive)


  1. Palomar Mountain

Palomar Mountain is the most well known of the campsites I’ve listed and because of that I would suggest making reservations ahead of time, as it’s often completely booked. Its popularity however is well-deserved as it is extremely beautiful. It’s said that this is the only part of San Diego that resembles the Sierras.

Facilities: The works. This site is super family-friendly.


  1. San Elijo State beach, Cardiff, CA

Located right on the PCH, Cardiff is your best bet for beach camping. Pack your surfboards and prepare for some pretty sick waves that are less crowded than most of San Diego’s other surf spots. Also be prepared for epic campfire parties and a rowdy crowd. You may need to book in advance, as this site is so popular and easily accessible.

Facilities: Bathrooms, easy beach access

10 Best Foods to take camping

Tent Glamping

Tent Glamping

Glamping: glam-camping.  Camping with gourmet food and accommodations to match.

No more boxed mac n’ cheese and stove top brownies, not that that doesn’t sound appealing.  These ten foods will take your glamping experience to the next level.IMG_4281

1. Wine: Takes your glamping experience to the next level.  Just make sure to match your intake with water, so you’ll be ready to scale mountains in the morning sans-headache.

2. Cheese:  No glamping experience is complete without cheese.  Cheese is glam.

3. Gnocchi:  I like to prepare gnocchi with pesto and veggies as the dinner entre.  It’s a simple one pot creation on the camping stove and it never fails to impress.  Buy it vacuum packed from the store or prepare your own ahead of time with my sweet potato gnocchi recipe.


IMG_29874. Avocados:  If you are from California you understand why these are essential.  They make every dish spectacular.

5. Carrots and Hummus:  Great for the road trip out, pre- gourmet dinner snacks, post-hike snacks, second breakfast…

6. Banana’s:  Stave off cramping mid hike with a burst of potassium for breakfast.

7. Oatmeal: Fibrous, filling, fancy?  Oatmeal is a great camping breakfast as it’s quick, hearty and can be dressed with a whole lot of fancy things.  Try throwing in dark chocolate (left over from smores), peanut butter (for that morning protein), and chopped banana.

8. Peanut butter:  Put in your oatmeal, on your bananas, on your apple…  Great for quick energy and to add balance to your meals

9. Almond milk:  Better than soy, and keeps better than milk.  Buy it in a box and open it in the morning.  Add it to your oatmeal or coffee.  The best part, is there’s no need to refrigerate!

10. Whole grain bread: A basic that keeps well and can be used at any meal.  Sandwiches, french toast, hot dog buns…  Plus it helps  soak up the wine

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms



Sometimes I find myself in the produce aisle blown away by the mushroom choices.  There are thousands of alien varieties(Enoke, Maitake…) and then there are the less foreign, less strange looking ones, like portobellos.

Although I am a fan of the more alien forms of mushrooms, portobellos are the most versatile because their large solid shape and their sweet simple taste.  I originally bought these because I was craving portobello burgers, but by the time dinner rolled around I was craving pizza, a common problem when your constantly surrounded by kids.  Lack of cheese and an abundance of rice, turned them into stuffed portobello mushrooms.


Stuffed Portobello MushroomsIMG_4376


Portobello mushrooms thoroughly washed

Cooked brown rice

cooked quinoa

tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes

fresh basil



Preheat oven to 400.  Place your mushrooms upside down on a pan.  fill with a mixture of brown rice and quinoa.  Drizzle with tomato sauce and top with kale and fresh basil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.





Chocolate Not So Sinful Sin Bars


Once upon a time on a wintery day in college, I entered the cafeteria to a be greeted by the wafting fumes of chocolate and peanut butter.  If you’ve been reading  my blog, you’ll know that the combination is irresistible to me.  Drawn to this intoxicating scent, I discovered that these creations were aptly named chocolate sin bars.  Was I sinful enough to try one?  As a stressed college freshman the temptation was too much.  I had three.  They quickly became my favorite dreaded dessert.  They were just too addicting, and one was simply not enough.  Hello freshman fifteen!


Well, five years later, and I still dream of these.  However, thinking of the butter and powdered sugar turns these dreams into nightmares.  The other night I sent out on a mission to “healthify”  these bars.

Chocolate Not so Sinful Sin BarsIMG_4379


1 cup peanut butter

3 Tbsp Coconut oil

1 cup almond meal

1/2 cup oat flour/ ground oats

1 cup dark chocolate


Mix peanut butter and coconut oil until smooth.  You may need to melt both slightly depending on room temperature.

Stir in almond meal and oat flour until smooth.  Press mixture into square pan covered with foil or parchment paper.


Melt Chocolate in a double boiler.  Wait till cools slightly and pour over packed peanut butter layer.  Cool for at least 30 minutes in freezer.

Breakfast or Break Fast later?

The never-ending breakfast debate continues.  I’ve had this debate with friends with family and it always comes down to the question, are you better off eating in the morning or waiting till lunch?  The anti-breakfasters claim that skipping breakfast keeps them from getting as hungry throughout the day, cuts their daily calorie intake by about 300 calories, and leaves them overall happier because they get a few extra minutes of shut-eye.  Well, to all you breakfast haters, here are 5 reasons to eat breakfast

A Camping breakfast

A Camping breakfast

1. Those who eat breakfast are generally healthier.

I would like to examine the link between health and eating breakfast.  Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are generally healthier and coincidentally weigh less than people that skip breakfast.  It is not clear from the studies, however, if breakfast eaters are

more inclined to eat healthy food or if it is really the fact that they eat breakfast that makes them healthier.  All that has been proven is that there is a link between eating breakfast and healthy weight management and lower cholesterol.

2. Eating breakfast increases concentration

Brain food is a real concept, and eating breakfast might help increase concentration.  According to a study published in, “Physiology and Behavior,” students given a breakfast with a low glycemic index were able to sustain longer attention.  Another study from the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that students who eat breakfast have an easier time tackling complicated math problems.  Basically, eating in the morning not only fuels your body but also your mind.

Fig Date Bars...  Breakfast on the go

Fig Date Bars… Breakfast on the go

3. People who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to be obese.

The theory behind this is that by skipping breakfast you are setting yourself up to make bad choices later based on desperate hunger.  Eating a good breakfast theoretically prevents this.  I think this depends on the person, because personally eating breakfast doesn’t always keep me satisfied, and I sometimes turn to second and third breakfast, where as I generally don’t get as hungry if I don’t eat first thing.  Strangely I probably ingest the same amount of calories in both situations.

4. Eating Breakfast allows you to increase your nutrient intake.

Unless you are eating doughnuts for breakfast, most breakfasts will provide your body with not only fuel but nutrients and vitamins vital for maintaining healthy functioning.  Breakfast food tends to be high in lean protein, calcium, and fiber, so it makes sense that according to a study in 2011 published in “Nutrition Research and Practice,” breakfast-eaters consume more nutritents than those that don’t eat breakfast.

Things you should NOT eat for breakfast

Things you should NOT eat for breakfast

5. Breakfast food is the best food

Eggs, banana pancakes, french toast, breakfast burritos…  Am I making you salivate yet?

Not all Kilocalories are Created Equal

Nutritional information is a misleading term.  In practice, posting nutritional information is posting the amount of calories in particular food.  Nutrition, however, is not solely based on the amount of calories in a certain food.  There are two essential modern approaches to nutrition: the caloric approach and the micronutrient approach.  Increasingly, the micronutrient approach, which takes into account the nutrients in a particular food, is coming into the forefront of the field of nutrition in the United States.  From the micronutrient perspective, listing the calories is no longer an adequate measure of health.


For a word that’s thrown around so profusely, very few actually consider what a calorie  is.  Simply, a calorie is a unit of heat content or energy.  One calorie is the amount of heat required to raise 1 gram of water 1°C.  When speaking about calories in food we actually use Kilocalories (1000 small calories).  Note that the EU often uses kilojoules along with kilocalories.  Now, this is probably all information you learned in your high school science class, but maybe your teacher didn’t draw the connection with food.  The number of calories in a particular food refers to how much potential energy they contain.  Although our bodies need energy to run properly, there is no standard base amount.  Metabolism refers to the chemical reactions that breakdown molecules for energy and the synthesis of compounds required by cells.

Because the amount of calories only tells us the amount of potential energy, taking into account solely the calories may not necessarily aide in making healthy choices.  One may say that energy is energy, but it’s more complicated than that.  It’s important to consider the nutrient per calorie ratio.  As the field of nutrition evolves, studies are showing that there are high calorie foods that aide in disease prevention and extending life.  One such food is nuts.  For many years, nuts were labeled a “bad guy” because of their high fat content.  Coincidentally, many of these fats are good fats, poly-unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids that can actually aide in lowering bad cholesterol and even weight-loss.


Foods such as nuts and avocados, which are nutrient rich and calorically heavy, can greatly impact the calorie content of a dish.  This is why many salads contain more calories than a burger.  The salads however are still the more healthy choice.  In the typical burger, you are ingesting about 250 calories of saturated fat from the red meat, protein, simple carbohydrates from the bun, and possibly cornstarch from the ketchup.  Other than the protein, none of this is particularly beneficial to the healthy functioning of your body, let alone disease prevention.  In fact, most of the calories in a hamburger would be referred to as “empty calories” or calories that posses little to no fiber, antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, vitamins… etc.  Although it can be used as fuel, a typical salad of the same caloric content gives you B vitamins, iron, healthy filling fats, and fiber.  For the same amount of calories you are receiving many more benefits.  So, next time you notice that the burger has less calories than the salad, really think about what your getting from each kilocalorie, and note that sometimes the hamburger can be just as nutritious as the salad.

Even though displaying calories may not always aide in healthy choices, it is important that people understand what is in their food and where it comes from.  Part of making healthy choices is understanding what you are eating, only when informed, can you make healthy decisions.  I would therefore encourage listing ingredients and ingredient sources on menus.  Know that not all meat is created equal.  People have the right to be educated about where their food is coming from.  Only then can they make judgments on health.

As an ever-evolving field, what we know about nutrition seems to change every few years.  All the nonsense diets and cleanses leave many people even more uneducated about what is good for them.  I can’t help but believe, that the healthiest approach to nutrition is the most natural, nutrient-rich diet possible, that leaves you the least stressed.  I am a proponent of clean eating and whatever measures you can take to keep yourself as chemical/pesticide- free as is humanly possibly.  This doesn’t mean I’ll miss out on a burrito with friends every once in a while, but I always aim to understand what I choose to put in my body.

Chia Seed Vanilla Cannoli Cream


Sicily is not just “special”, but possibly the most beautiful place on Earth.  If you’ve been there you’d probably agree.  If you haven’t now’s the time to book your ticket.

At a recent Christmas party in Rancho Santa Fe, I had just this conversation with a couple of other italophiles.  Friends’ family Christmas parties are sometimes difficult to maneuver.  It’s their families and friends of their family.  A good host or hostess will usually introduce you and with a line that goes something like this: “This is my friend Jo, he went to school with me or he works in consulting…”  For some reason a lot of people like to introduce me with, “ This is my friend Julie, she just moved back from Italy.”  It’s actually a great way to be introduced as most Americans love Italy and/or have some family connections with the country, meaning great conversation commences.

At this particular Holiday party I had four separate conversations about my Italian life.  After all this dredging up Italian memories, it makes sense that I would be feeling a tad nostalgic for the great boot.

In my nostalgia I purchased ricotta from Whole Foods with no plans of what to do with it.  Shopping with out plans as most of you know is a terrible idea, and for the most part should not be done, however it does sometimes make our meals more interesting.

Anyways, after seeing it every time I opened my fridge, I decided it was time I do something with it.  Post-dinner my sweet tooth took over and I went for the ricotta.

Everyone knows that the best Sicilian sweet is the cannoli, and the best part of the cannoli is the sweet fluffy ricotta filling.  In fact when I lived in Sicily sometimes that would be the only part of the cannoli I would eat.

The health problem I have with cannoli filling is that it is all sugar and fat and none of those good sugars or good fats, so when I reached for the ricotta it wasn’t to make real cannoli cream, but rather a ricotta chia seed pudding.  With the consistency of rice pudding,the tang of the ricotta, and the omega-3s courtesy of the chia seeds, the dessert certainly satisfied my sweet tooth.

Here’s my recipe:IMG_4164

1 cup ricotta (I use whole milk)

1/4 cup cashew or real milk

1/2 cup chia seeds

3 tbsp. maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla or cinnamon or both

Mix all ingredients until smooth in a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Serve topped with berries or fruit of your choice.