Green Sharlene

Spring Inspiration

I'm always happy when spring arrives; it’s like a promise of renewal after a long winter. It’s also the beginning of colors—in the garden, in the produce aisle, and at the local farmers markets. Everything is lighter, brighter, and popping with new flavors this time of year.

We’re so fortunate to live in an area where we’re literally surrounded by farmland. It makes it easy to eat seasonally and plan menus based on what local farmers have to offer. I get great joy from buying direct, seasonal, locally-grown foods because it’s tasty, healthy and it’s good for our local economy.  I like the relationship with our local growers and our food. Farmers make choices on how they can grow more sustainably, and this provides us with healthier foods and a healthier planet when they grow without harmful and very expensive chemicals. People are growing more and more interested in how and where our foods are coming from, and that is a good thing for our health and knowledge of our bodies.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables, picked at the peak of freshness, offer higher nutritional content an out of season, unripe foods. While it’s true that you can often find just about anything you’re looking for at a large grocery store, regardless of the time of year, that isn’t always a good thing. There’s a reason out-of-season produce looks and tastes so bland. It’s been picked early and shipped very long distances. 

Did you know that eating seasonally also helps to support our bodies’ natural cleansing and healing abilities? Leafy greens and vegetables like dandelion greens, spring onions, and spring garlic are great healing foods which detoxify the liver and cleanse the blood. By making conscious healthy eating habits, I have personally improved on my own health and well being, weaned myself off of BP medication (while consulting with my doctor), and I feel so good.

I look forward to all changes of the seasons and the flavors of each season’s harvest. After enjoying a winter of hearty slow-cooked soups and stews full of the earth tones of root vegetables, it is now time to spring into an explosion of color and crunch with sweet and fragrant ingredients. Some favorites are asparagus, spring onions and garlic, peas, lemons and cherries. Just like the weather, everything gets lighter and brighter. We all love quick and easy dishes, and with a few things from the garden and a bottle of your favorite olive oil you can toss together your favorite vegetables and herbs with pasta, local rice or beans for a perfect, healthy weeknight dinner.  Toast some fresh bread, and try a spread of mashed peas with butter, lemon and fresh herbs.

I was lucky to be brought up to think about the importance of eating fresh, local and in-season. My mother planted those seeds in me. She always cooked and we didn’t eat out, we ate at the dinner table. Dining out wasn’t in our family budget, and Mom didn’t believe that fast food was good for us. (she’s a smart cookie) Though I didn’t think it was cool at the time, I am so grateful now, that she fed and taught us well. I’m striving to teach my own children how important it is, to make good food choices, and make time together growing, preparing and enjoying real food. After all, the gift of health and enjoying each other are some of the greatest things we can give our children, and spring is the perfect time to begin the lesson.

The importance of eating with the seasons really can’t be overstated. Flavor and freshness are paramount, and living in California allows us to keep things close to home, whether it’s your favorite farmers market or your own backyard. In fact, roaming the aisles at the farmers market, or even scouting the produce section at your local grocery store can inspire you to get creative when you try things you’ve never cooked with before. For instance, I have no idea what I’d do with the stinging nettle I saw recently at the Yuba City Midweek Farmers Market, grown by farmer friend Lacie, of Robertson Family Farm. I’m going to search for recipes, experiment and find out. After all, I am Green Sharlene, as in always green with learning and getting out of my comfort zone to try something new. Why not challenge yourself to try one new ingredient every week and see what you come up with?


Green Sharlene

The Promise of Spring

Spring is upon us and some exciting things are about to bloom at Dancing Tomato Caffé. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, because…well, like everyone else, life gets in the way and I have a jam-packed schedule. But I feel very fortunate to be doing what we love and serving our guests fresh food and products sourced from local farms.  

One of the most exciting things on the horizon is our plan for the DTCulinary Garden. That’s right, we’re going to have our own garden right on the grounds of the Dancing Tomato Caffé! Living so close to America’s Farm to Fork capital—we’re only 40 miles from Sacramento—and being inspired by restaurants that have their own gardens, like The French Laundry and locally-operated Pasquini’s, I thought we should give it a go. The time is right to dig in and do a bit of culinary re-landscaping. It will be wonderful to source our own herbs and other ingredients fresh from our garden.

The idea of having our own culinary garden came about when we lived in Davis. My wonderful friend and mentor, the late Dorothy Peterson, started a Garden in the Classroom project that eventually became Davis Farm to School. Kevin and I played a part in developing composting at the schools and it’s been my dream to bring the Davis Farm to School model and healthy eating and composting to the Yuba-Sutter schools now that we live here. Our DTCulinary Garden will serve as a field trip destination where we hope to host second graders to start with, doing a tomato curriculum and harvesting garden goodies to build their own pizzas during the experience.

Over the years, I’ve cultivated relationships with local farmers and found that they’re eager to share their knowledge and what they’ve learned. They are happy to work with us and get their products in our entrees. This area is truly where so much of our food comes from, and it’s so exciting to see people catch on to the importance of eating fresh and local. I’m the first to admit I’m a complete beginner when it comes to farming, but I really can’t wait to get my hands dirty. I’m eager to learn the whole process and see how it all fits together, from the ground onto our plates.

We’ve sketched out the initial plan for the DTCulinary Garden, starting with herbs—and tomatoes of course. I can’t wait to break ground and turn the vision into a reality. We plan to make it beautiful and utilitarian and we’ll put a bench in the garden so it can be a little Zen space for our hardworking crew to take their breaks. It feels like the time is right to launch the next phase of the Dancing Tomato Caffé and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day.

Green Sharlene

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year

As I am setting my intentions for the year 2015, I plan to take more time to make new friends in our new community.  2014 was a year of big change, and a big move for our family. 

Where did the time go?

We are still settling in, and learning where our favorite places and services are in the Yuba Sutter area. I know a lot of folks through the business, but we haven’t made time yet to get to know folks outside of work much, and I hope that we find time to make that happen this year.

We are so grateful to be celebrating at the Dancing Tomato Caffé, “10 Years & Cooking”. It is an honor to cook for and to serve our wonderful guests, and we thank you for this opportunity.

I guess I really hope that time is on our side, and the years don’t keep flying by so quickly. A big part of our move was to slow things down a bit if we could, and simply enjoy and get to know each other.  Have a cup of coffee and chat.

Cheers to time, to enjoy being happy & healthy!

Green Sharlene

Tips for a GREENER Holiday Season

Add Organic and Local Foods to Your Holiday Feast

Dine locally at Caffé Italia and the Dancing Tomato Caffé while doing your holiday shopping. We can prepare some incredible side dishes for you to go with your holiday meal. Let us do the cooking, plan on our famous Tortellini Amalfi or a Classic Caffé Lasagna for Christmas Eve, complete with garlic bread & salad. Make life easy and pre-order something to pick up for the holidays. Pre-orders due by Monday December 19th. Dine LOCAL, EAT WELL!
Caffé Italia and Dancing Tomato Caffé gift cards are very green and they fit everyone on your list!

Support Local Family Farmers

Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does it taste better, you'll be doing your part for the planet too. Looking for a local or organic turkey or ham for Christmas dinner?  We are surrounded by local farmers.

Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

Most mass-produced wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Instead, here's a great chance to get creative! Wrap presents with old maps, the comics section of a newspaper, or children's artwork. Or use a scarf, attractive dish towel, bandana, or some other useful cloth item. If every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Buy Energy-Saving Holiday Lights

Now you can decorate your house with LED lights that use 90 percent less energy than conventional holiday lights, and can save your family up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season! LED lights are available at many major retailers, including Target, Costco, and Ace Hardware to name a few.

Happy Holidays to ALL!



Less is More

Well, I am loving the “less is more trend” that today’s economy is teaching all of us. I’m learning that when times were better, they really weren’t in terms of the amount of things we’d buy…we had too much stuff. Getting back to basics is not a new concept, but it is one I am teaching myself and our kids. Too much becomes unnecessary clutter, and that can be stressful.

I find myself cleaning out closets, and enjoying the sense of accomplishment while earning extra cash by consigning things that I’m clearing out. We have some great consignment stores in town. I also think more about purchases of small things that add up, monetarily and in the closets. I ask myself if things will last, and how soon will I be clearing it out of my way. I love to spruce up our gently used kids equipment, organize clothes that will never fit again and come to the sweet terms that I’ll never be that size I was twenty years ago. Some one else will look great in my “other” clothes and shoes that were a size smaller. Those other clothes were from another time, when my family was also smaller. I love my new size, this is where “less is more” does not apply.

I haven’t mastered the “less is more”, yet. I still have piles of laundry on the bed, and I claim I just don’t have room to put it all away. That’s not true, I’m still sorting & parting with things, donating some to good causes, and making a little extra money on the side. This makes getting organized a lot more manageable, it’s the staying organized that is a challenge… forever I think. I am shopping less, but when I do, I try very hard to SHOP LOCAL, because some retail therapy is good for me, and our local economy.

With the holidays around the corner I’ll stay focused on green gifts, with creative wrapping that can be reused. Which brings to question, what’s really wrong with re-gifting?  I say why not?  I love hand me downs with thought put into them. Some of my best purses and shoes are hand me downs. If you know someone who will love or use something you have, more than you do, by all means, give it away as a gift with a nice note telling them so.