Noursih · Vegan

No Bake, BLUE RIBBON Quinoa Pop Bars


These bars are SPECIAL, so special that they received 1st place in the Bars and Brownies category (subcategory Special Diet (sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan)) of the 2017 OC Fair’s culinary competition(just two weeks ago) . Last year I won second place in the same category, so this year I was out to win it! There are some detractors (mainly my sister who has won just about every color ribbon in every category but this one) who say this has to be the easiest category to win, but in this locale (where everyone is so self-conscious about what they eat), I think it has to be the toughest. Anyway, these bars are easy to make–no bake, healthy,  and tasty. The popped quinoa is a little hard to find (I buy mine on Amazon) and a little pricey , but don’t worry about it because they are SO good!


Quinoa Pop Bars

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: (Super) Easy
  • Print



  • 1 1/2 cup popped quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, chopped
  • 2 tbl goji berries, chopped
  • 2 tbl hemp seeds
  • 2 tbl raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 5 tbl coconut oil
  • 3 tbl raw almond butter
  • 2 tbl maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbl vegan chocolate chips


  1. Prepare pan for bars. I like to line a loaf pan with parchment paper, which makes for smooth bars and easy cleanup.
  2. Place popped quinoa, dates, goji berries, hemp seeds, and pepitas in bowl to combine.
  3. In small pan over low heat, combine coconut oil, almond butter, and maple syrup. Heat up and stir until ingredients come together and it becomes slightly bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  4. Add the liquid from the pan to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Add chocolate chips; stir.
  5. Place mixture in pan and smooth down with your hands, firmly pressing the mixture into the pan.
  6. Place in freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Cut into 6 individual bars and keep in refrigerator.

Afar · Wander

Bare Boating in the Virgin Islands


This trip has been on my bucket list since I was in elementary school when my parents would leave my sister and I at home (with a sitter, of course), as they took off bare boating with their friends in the Virgin Islands. I’ve had been baiting my parents into this trip for the past twenty years and just recently they bit (with a whole lot of cajoling that they were still young; it would be an adventure; and how could they deny me this God-given right to follow in their vacationing footsteps.)

We flew into St. Thomas, arrived and boarded our boat, Metis, and bought provisions.

Our departure was postponed one day due to severe winds and weather, but by the second day, we set sail to Caneel Bay on St. John’s. Once there, we snorkeled, relaxed, and had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. By the way, the hotel’s gift shop was the best shop on the entire trip–it’s not to be missed.

Next stop was to Soaper’s Hole to check in with the BVI’s customs. Here we had lunch, shopped, and bought more provisions.

We ended up in Nanny Cay, a marina with the BEST bathrooms and showers (and this is not in my own humble opinion; the marina was voted best bathrooms internationally in 2016 and I’d have to agree).

Next stop, Norman Island’s Bight Bay–the setting for Treasure Island. We went snorkeling in caves, had a great dinner at the only restaurant on the beach, and swung by, but did not stop in at Willy T’s–an old ship turned drinking hole.

The next morning found us at Cinnamon Bay, a beautiful mooring just off the coast of the national park. You can spend the night here in what looked like cabins and yurts.

We headed back and spent the last couple of nights exploring St. John’s and enjoying the perfect weather.



Local · Wander

A Hike in Joshua Tree


It’s a shame I’ve never made it out to Joshua Tree before, because it’s a beautiful place full of great hikes. Granted, it’s a hike just to get out there–about a two and a half hour drive, but the scenery is not to be missed, especially when the desert is blooming

We checked in at the Visitor Center, picked up a map, and had the ranger point out a few options for us. We chose an easy 8 mile hike, which was perfect.


Local · Wander

The Salton Sea: A Grief Documentary’s Fantasy

P1010042The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake. It covers 350 square miles in the tester southeast of Palm Springs. In the 1950’s it was THE place to be until it was all but abandoned due to the increasing salinity and pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources (Get the Salton Sea’s full history here.).


After looking at pictures online of surrounding towns, I wanted to get a closer look at the place, hoping there would be some redeeming quality to it. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t. In fact, it’s sadder in person than it is looking at pictures. I felt strangely voyeuristic and cruel looking through what I thought were empty and abandoned homes, only to find them currently occupied. This is a foreboding place–a place that reminds you of your good fortune.

Local · Wander

Salvation Mountain & Slab City


Just down the road from the Salton Sea, in the town of Niland, there stands a monolithic testament of folk art glory. Salvation Mountain has been featured in numerous documentaries, PBS, BBC, and in the film, “Into the Wild.” It’s an incredible feat of devotion, artistic ambition, and perseverance.



Just beyond the Salvation Mountain’s shadow, lies Slab City–a road that leads to what appears to be the end of the Earth (and not the end you want to be in). Whereas Salvation Mountain represents ambition and vision, Slab City stands in stark opposition, as a haven for people looking to escape life, responsibility, reality.  I read about Slab City being a thriving artistic community, a sort of mecca for artists looking for inspiration and lack of artistic constraints, but while driving through, I felt a sense of sorrow and isolation. Here’s a link to Slab City Stories, an assemblage of videos and anecdotes of a few of its residents, that does a much better job of describing the residents and their reasons for living here.