Santa Barbara and Goleta are amazing places to find local produce.


so from where i sit (literally and figuratively), sourcing local produce is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your community.


local produce:

  • is better for your body.
  • tastes better.
  • helps your local economy.
  • may be slightly more expensive
    • but it is cheaper than eating out
    • and ultimately just plain better for you.


To name a few Santa Barbara and Goleta locations:


Gladden and Sons is my current obsession:

  • they have wider selection of produce than the farmers market
  • they have the best of each item instead of 4 different options
  • most of the produce lasts longer than a day
  • the labels say where everything is from
  • the produce is the main focus of the store and cared for as such
  • the nuts, drinks, deli and meat are nice additions
    • and their daily soups are fantastically amazing
  • Jared is very friendly and loves to talk about food
    • only my favorite topic







having lived in Goleta my whole life, i have not felt a sense of the small town community very often. probably because i don’t like crowds so i tend to avoid town events- so it’s me, not the town


but this unassuming storefront harbours such a strong, breathtaking sense of community within it’s walls.


its basically a produce hug.


the location is great because its basically the center of town there on hollister near patterson. close to UCSB too.


cooking as Art

sometimes i go to gladden’s before meal planning– so i can see what’s fresh before i pigeon hole myself into certain recipes. and then after i meal plan with my treasure, i go to trader joes for any other ingredients i might need.


i cannot fully describe just how much it means to me to be able to walk into an establishment and be able to smell the produce-


and then bring home 2 pounds of peaches and have the smell fill the kitchen before i even cut them open.


they have bell peppers that are grown in a hot house in carpinteria. i sniff them. well i buy them, take them home and then just press my nostrils against the pepper and inhale. and i make Joe do it too. there is an undeniable freshness and real produce scent that comes from local produce.



you guys, listen:


if you’re still reading this then i guess i’m doing something right. the bottom line is that local produce isn’t just a marketing slogan or a hipsterly concept. local produce is the way it should be.


i have had this epiphany and want to help trigger the same in anyone who will listen:


produce from a grocery story is fine if you have to or don’t have time to make 2 stops.

i get it.

life happens.

but if you can spare the extra bit of cash and time then gladden and sons produce should be your next and regular stop.



not in Santa Barbara?

if you’re not in this area, try exploring your local produce options. let me know what you find. we could start a list of different locations and their produce options.


Santa Barbarians:

if you are in the Goleta/Santa Barbara area, check out Gladden & Sons. Then tell your friends, family and co-workers about it.


And next time you go to gladden and/or use gladden produce when cooking, share your photos with me using







(this is not an affiliate post. i share this voluntarily and without any predetermined association with the cause other than as a supporter.)




if you follow me on social media (see over there —–>) then you may have noticed last week that i signed Jamie Oliver’s petition fighting for food education.


this is the first time i’ve been on a soapbox on this site and really it’s THE soapbox for this site. it is because of Jamie’s 2010 TED talk (here on youtube) that i am here today writing any of this.




i share my kitchen adventures to show as many people as possible that home cooking doesn’t have to be scary or complicated or even always uber healthy (today’s recipe as one example).



i pull back the curtain to demystify the kitchen and lead by example of imperfection


FRD logo strap



to paraphrase Jamie: food education at all ages is a basic human right. obesity is a preventable global epidemic.



i’m not a doctor nor am i an expert on either food related illness or the food industry.



what i am is one person with a passion for

  • home cooking.
  • using local and sustainable foods when possible.
  • feeding my loved ones with weeknight meals.
  • experimenting with new flavors and techniques in the kitchen.
  • learning lessons in the kitchen that apply to all parts of life.



ultimately i am a girl with a passion for food (that i hope is more contagious than annoying) and a corner of the internet to share it with.


thanks for being here, by the way. otherwise i’m just shouting from my kitchen into an empty void.



please take a minute or 2 to consider Jamie’s campaign, sign the petition and share with others






Oil Your Wood…

Cookware. [and giveaway announcement below!]


let’s talk about wood kitchen utensils and the benefits of giving them a nice oiled massage.



you heard me.


over time, wood cooking utensils can become dry, dull, cracked- and overall just sad.


this is from continual contact with food, water, and heat.


but wood is still my favorite type of utensil to use in the kitchen:

  • more “au natural” than plastic
    • I have silicone tongs and spatulas but most everything else in my utensil drawers is wood.
  • doesn’t melt in a pan on the stove
    • I have thrown away more disfigured plastic cooking utensils than I’d care to admit
  • works with any cooking surface
    • non-stick, cast-iron, stainless steel etc
  • wood cutting boards are less harmful to knives
    • I only use a plastic cutting board for raw meat because the plastic is less porous and won’t soak up the gross meat juice.


so I am here to tell you that you should be using a food safe mineral oil to keep these bad boys in shape:




the oil acts like a non-stick coating of sorts: the wood is easier to clean and doesn’t capture food smells or stains in it’s pores as easily.


this means that it will stay pretty and last longer- similar to a facial or massage for your own bod.


Wood Cookware Massage instructions:

  1. Take your clean and air-dried wood cookware and place it on an old towel. I do this on my countertop but the kitchen table or any surface is fine.
  2. drizzle oil, a little at a time onto each piece and massage/rub it in with your (clean) fingertips
  3. You’re done when the wood is slightly slippery and totally shiny. If it’s the first time or it’s been a while, the oil might soak in immediately and require a second dose.
  4. I prop the cutting boards up against the wall so that the least amount of wood is touching the towel- I like to think this is for maximum oil absorption into the wood instead of the towel but who knows if it works.
  5. Leave cookware on the towel for at least a couple of hours or overnight- until they don’t feel oily anymore. I don’t rinse or wash the cookware before putting it away.






think of it as a spa day for some of the peeps in your kitchen- leaving the cookware in a state of bliss and relaxation so they are ready to get back to work.


I do this every couple of months but I’m sure they would appreciate it every other month; before they’re absolutely gasping.


it’s a pore-replenishing experience that protects the wood from the harsh kitchen environment.


…that sounds like a beauty ad for kitchen utensils.



announcement time:




mid-April marks one year of this blog’s existence.


time flies! I have had so much fun learning the art of food-blogging so far.


AND I am so grateful for the growing Juniper community!



so here’s the deal:


let’s double the Juniper community between now and April 19. This means at least:



when each list reaches it’s goal, 2 names from that list will be randomly selected to receive either a set of wood utensils or a bottle of food-safe oil.



so tell your friends and family and help this community grow!







if you don’t already follow me on instagram or facebook, you may not have heard the exciting news: has been sharing my recipes with their community!


-be sure to check them out.




ok, now I’m done. get outta here- I dare you to tell your friends that you were reading online about oiling your wood





happy cooking! #getinthekitchen


Weekly Meal Planning

when you work full time, making dinner on weeknights can feel impossible.






I developed my meal planning method when Joe and I moved in together. I decided that I would try to cook more often for us- trying to find a balance on the spectrum between eating out and my weakness of cooking for the army that doesn’t exist.



[and when I do cook a load of food, I have learned to either feed my housemates and/or we have lovely leftovers for workday lunches. I also will freeze portions and share with my family in town]



The secret is that a little effort in advance can help a ton. My focus: mostly home cooked, mostly healthy and mostly quick meals on work nights.



chez juniper meal planning:


I try to meal plan on Saturdays then food shop on Sundays. I plan for 4 or 5 meals for the 6 nights: Sunday-Friday. This helps me to not over-buy food and allows for eating out or leftover nights.





details and an example:



1. list of ingredients in the house to use


perishables are a priority- things that won’t last through the week.


I add pantry staples just as a reminder


  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • pork loin/freezer
  • caramelized onions
  • shrimp/freezer
  • chicken/freezer
  • bell pepper
  • pasta


2. list of menu items based on recipes and weekly schedule


I take list #1, a stack of cookbooks and my binder of printed-out recipes to the couch and start browsing.


I also use pinterest directly- it’s great to search for “sweet potato and pork recipe” or more broadly “shrimp” or “bell pepper recipe”.


this can be an engaging if not fun and exciting task


it can get overwhelming to see awesome recipes that may not apply to your upcoming week or current skill level- and that’s what post-its and pinning are for. Now you have a recipe to try on a weekend or on a future weeknight.



  • crock pot pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw [leftovers portioned for another dinner or lunches]
  • baked chicken with roasted carrots and rice
  • [leftover baked] chicken+ pasta+ quick sauce: sauteed bell pepper with caramelized onion and fresh parmesan
  • sausage+veggie+[leftover] rice bowls
  • oven ranch shrimp and biscuits


I don’t plan specifically what meal for what night- I tried but that was too regimented for me.


Within a completed meal plan there can be perishable items that need to be used first or a meal that I know should be earlier in the week either because I’ll be less tired or it will make a lot of food and have leftovers for lunches.



3. list of grocery items


with each meal added to list #2, I add any ingredients to the grocery list that are beyond what’s in the house.


  • coleslaw
  • root beer
  • buns
  • zucchini
  • sausage
  • bisquick


4. bing bang boom you’re done and ready to go food shopping


there are weeks I spend $40 on groceries and others when I spend $100-$150. It just depends on what is already in the house, what kitchen staples need to be replenished [like bisquick] and what types of ingredients I am working with.


When I was on a salmon kick, our grocery bills were more expensive. but we also buy [boneless skinless] chicken breast and ground turkey in bulk at costco and store it in the freezer.


Anything that needs to be defrosted for that week’s meals I pull from the freezer on Sunday and defrost in the fridge.





5. it’s an art


[read as: constant balancing act] to blend recipes that I haven’t tried before with ones that are tried and true.



Here are some recipes I’ve used more than once in my work-night meal planning:




6. pep talk for those who are dubious that they can cook on work nights:


  • it gets easier.
    • cooking doesn’t always workout the way we want and that’s ok- but that’s usually because of the human element [too tired or too busy]
    • habits take time and patience to change.
  • this meal planning sounds more complicated than it is.
    • it can be annoying sometimes or not happen the way you think its going to.
    • but the effort in advance each week can and will help any household’s weeknight meal routine.



7. personal anecdote:


my recurring struggle is getting bored with recipes that I’ve made before. so I experiment either with a new recipe or creating my own dish.


and on those nights when a recipe falls apart or I use garlic salt like it’s garlic powder (blegh!!) I [try to] calmly just salvage what I can and pull the trash can up to the counter for the rest


-and ask Joe to order pizza.



tomorrow’s another day for another adventure in the kitchen.



but my experiences/experimenting in the kitchen is a collection of stories for another day.



Lettuce Celebrate


This website/blog starts as a place to share recipes that I have tried in my own kitchen.


The plan is to post new material once a week. We’ll see how that goes…


Journal posts will pop up too about overarching kitchen/food themes. Eventually, I hope to add restaurant reviews and posts about personal styling and my arts/crafts.


I am currently using my iPhone 4 (soon to be 5c) and goPro. I am using the goPro for action shots while I cook- because I want to cook, not compose a pretty picture.


Click on my face in the side column on all pages to learn more about me. AND subscribe so you get an email alert for every new post.


Now on with the show!

use it. love it.

it’s more than just breakfast or smoothie filler.


I don’t like mayo (except on rare occasions/caltaco burgers). I don’t buy it and Puppy hasn’t complained yet.


So when a dressing or other recipe asks for mayo, I use greek yogurt. I also replace sour cream and sometimes milk with greek yogurt. I happen to thoroughly enjoy sour cream but it’s not really the best for you and it goes bad in the fridge so quickly for me. We buy greek yogurt at Costco so it’s a giant tub that actually lasts a while when I leave the foil flappy thing on it under the plastic lid.


An added bonus is the added protein to the dish. So it’s less calories, tastier and provides more protein. Did I mention I’m obsessed?


Admittedly, I did get a little tired of it at one point- I couldn’t believe it! So I just didn’t plan any meals that required that kind of creaminess for a couple of weeks.


Overall it just adds creaminess and a slight twang to a dish.


I didn’t have enough coleslaw dressing recently so I just added a heap of greek yogurt, whisked them together and tossed the pre-shredded veggies in.

[Side Note: Actually it was broccoli-slaw from Trader Joes, way tastier in my opinion. AND salad tip: use a bowl with an air-tight lid  -cough tupperware cough- to shake/toss your salad and dressing together. One of my least favorite kitchen tasks- between cleaning and garlic peeling- is tossing a salad. But I digress…]


Then there’s recipes like the greek yogurt spinach mac n cheese that requires it and is SO easy and divine. recipe to come.

The greek yogurt possibilities are endless- especially if you add the ranch dressing dry mix. It’s the running joke with housemate #1- everything I cook has greek yogurt. It’s funny because it’s (mostly) true.

I also mentioned in my taco seasoning post: Creamy taco spread- taco seasoning and greek yogurt with a little chipotle mustard.


So friends, the moral of the story: if you’re able to eat greek yogurt, try replacing the mayo or sour cream in a dish. I bet it will either taste the same or better than before.