recipes and tips for better living

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gettin' Campy: Venturing Ventura..So Many Great Finds

From restaurants to thrift stores and farmers markets to raw foods, Ventura is the lesser explored gem near Santa Barbara.

This past weekend we packed up the Vanagon and camped two nights: one nite at McGrath state park in nite in El Capitan about 25 miles north of Santa Barbara. This was only my second time to visit Ventura, but surely not my last, as i've absolutely fallen head over heals for this cute beach city.

Last time we camped Ventura we packed food in advance, prepared to grill up some shish-ka-bobs (red onion, red pepper, mushrooms in a little olive oil and balsamic) and had a delicious spinach salad (simple as can be - spinach, red onion, avo, oil and balsamic) at our campsite...along with some red wine, brie, and crackers that we shared with an amazingly talented fellow camper we met, Steve Cepello. Check out his artwork here:

This time, in honor of my upcoming birthday (which is an ongoing great excuse to take time off and enjoy the finer things in life this month), we hit Mary's Secret Garden, a humble however incredible vegan restaurant in Ventura.

Don't be fooled by the small dining space or lack of ambience...the food is top notch. They serve up the most delicious vegetarian, vegan, and raw foods. Andy and I both got a house salad (which i didn't get a pic of) - Delicious! I ordered the raw tostada which came with a little cilantro salad and he got an appetizer spring roll plate.

While both plates were divine, it was agreed that my plate was the one to get. HOLY GUACAMOLE this was amazing! Pumpkin seed tortilla packed with avo, cilantro, purple cabbage, mexican seasonings, and some creamy deliciousness that must be Mary's Secret Recipe. Andy (whose not raw nor vegetarian, but open to trying my ongoing raw creations) was blown away at the quality, freshness, and flavor of the food. I walked away full but not stuffed and felt great about what i put in my belly. This restaurant is a MUST stop, even for the non raw non vegans out there.

We spent the afternoon in Ventura - Venturing the thrifts and hitting the little farmers market where we got our goods for that evening's dinner. I sampled cherries and cherimoyas, and walked away spending about $10 for a huge bag of spinach, a bunch of kale, a red onion, 2 avos, 3 lemons, and an 8 0z bag of a sprout medly (all for our dinner salad), plus 2 cherimoya fruits, that didn't make it into the eve (num num...saved my seeds...let's see if i can grow one!). I picked up some great tiny wine glasses at one of the thrifts (2 for a buck), 3 brand spanking new mason jars for 90 cents, and andy found a beautiful teak salad bowl for a buck-fiddy. not bad.

2 for a buck wine glasses - love these thrifty finds!

Off to El Capitan for our next camping adventure.

El Cap is beautiful. We hiked through nasturtium fields, bouldered the rocky part of the beach in search of shells, drift wood, and fossilized rock, and watched the surf.

Back at the campsite i prepared our salad from our farmer's market purchases. While i didn't take a picture, it was quite tasty and filling, so i'll list the ingredients and directions below. To complete our camping meal, andy cooked himself some meat and we heated a can of bush's baked beans. There's something about baked beans and camping that just feels right. We shared a little of our dinner with a Scrub Jay and a skunk, we affectionately named Clever and Frizzle, who accompanied us throughout the eve.

Breakfast was just as great. Waking up, I heated a little coconut water i brought to make hot cocoas. I used this concoction i put together before we left:

1 tbsp raw cocao powder
1 tsp mesquite powder

2 scoops Chocolate GreenSuperFood Powder (by Amazing Grass,

directions: crack a thai coconut and dump the water in a pot or vitamix if at home. Add a dash of vanilla and heat to desired temp. Add in above ingredients and mix well with a frother, or if at home put all in a vita mix and allow to run for a few minutes to heat the coco water.

We also had ripe bananas and cantaloupe at brekkie, and Andy (the coffee-pheen) found single serving instant coffees from starbucks that i'd recommend for camping if you need your morning joe fix before you hit the road.

All in all...Great trip..good times..fab foods. If you're getting campy this summer, I would highly encourage a camp trip to Ventura. It's the perfect mix of small shops, friendly folks, and connection with nature.

Here's the salad recipe/directions:

1 bunch kale- clean, remove thick stem, chiffonade (stack leaves, roll, then slice small)

Bag of baby spinach - cleaned and chopped. (we got ours fresh from farmers market, but you can buy at store)

Red Onion - about 4 tbsps chopped

1, plus 1/2 avocado

2-3 lemons juiced
1 package of a spout salad medley
1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Put chopped greens in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt. Massage leaves well with hands so they wilt down well. Remove pit from and skin from avo. Add the flesh to the salad and massage well again with hands. Toss in the onion and chop the remaining 1/2 avo to toss in along with the sprout salad. Toss all together well and season with salt and pepper. Wha-lah. Enjoy.


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