Category Archives: Sustainable Foods

Share the Love

Tip of the Month – February 2017

By Cynthia Ruzzi

Can’t say I’m much for Valentine’s Day; at least not since the days of making hand-made cards in school for mom and dad – and the boy across the aisle. However, in a winter that has been ‘this-trying’, stressing us in so many ways; it’s time to share a little love. Now, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from a heart-shaped cardboard box – I’m talking serious, thoughtful effort for those you love and for those that need your love. I encourage you to embrace ideals from movements like “Pass it Forward”, “Random Act of Kindness”, “One Warm Coat” and the “Free Hugs Project”.

Locally, I am inspired by individuals like Amelia and Heidi Abramson and their small band of volunteers that run The Bounty Garden teaching others in Hap Magee Park to grow organic vegetables that are donated to local food banks or Anna Chan aka “The Lemon Lady” who walking her toddler saw lemons going to waste on a neighbor’s tree and started a foundation to collect such fruit for those in need and of course, Siamack Sioshansi, Founder of The Urban Farmers who has helped neighbors, schools and spiritual groups coordinate fruit harvests from here to Solano welcoming everyone through their online calendar.

Got too many things going on to commit to a coordinated effort? Try something spontaneous and delicious. How ‘bout random deliveries of packaged goodies delivered to a few in your neighborhood? Here’s a simple recipe for homemade granola bars that may find their way to your doorstep on February 14th.

Dark Chocolate – Coconut Granola Bars

Ingredients – Makes about 20 2 inch squares (Choose Organic if you can)

  • 2 Cups Rolled Oats
  •  ½ Cup Raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ Cup Coconut Oil
  • ¾ Cup Smashed Pecans or Almonds
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 Cup Coconut Flakes
  • 1/3 Cup Agave
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted dark chocolate


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread oats on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 20 mins. Remove the oats and turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Carefully transfer to a bowl and toss with the coconut oil. Add the coconut flakes, raisins, nuts, cinnamon, salt vanilla and agave and give it a good mixing.

Return the mixture to the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Spread to about ¼ inch thick using the back of a tablespoon to press down a little as you go. Don’t worry about it being exact. Bake at 300 degrees until golden brown – about 18 minutes in my convection oven. Remove pan and let cool completely. Melt chocolate in microwave or over double boiler (set one pot over another that has a cup of simmering boiled water) and use a tablespoon to slowly drizzle chocolate over the top of the bars.

Once completely cooled and hardened, cut the bars into 2 inch pieces and store in containers or bags for your delivery. Keep the crumbles for your own yogurt topping.  Decorate the bags with hearts and lace for a nostalgic trip back to elementary school or make it a project for your little ones. To protect those with allergies please include a copy of the ingredients or recipe so they will know what has been included. Along with this consider including a handwritten note telling the recipient what you love or admire about them. Make it fun and sign it with your version of ‘secret admirer’ …perhaps ‘love and peace, your neighbor’.  Now you’re ready to share the love with your yummy doorstep bundles.


The Secrets of Growing Great Tomatoes

By Carol Rossi, The Bounty Garden’s Seedling Instructor

The best thing about home-grown tomatoes (besides their delicious flavor of sweet sunshine) is that they can be grown pretty much anywhere you have a patch of reliable sunlight. You just need to know the attributes and requirements for your particular growing situation.

If all you have is a couple large pots on a balcony you are still set to produce some beautiful tomatoes. Just ensure the pots are located so they receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight – this is one growth requirement where tomatoes will not compromise. Next, replace the soil in the pots every growing season with a fresh batch of potting soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Tomatoes are nutrient gluttons so you can use a mix that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and without worrying about over-feeding them. Now select the proper variety for your pots. Look for dwarf (or patio) size, or small-fruited “determinates” such as cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes. Determinates grow to a certain size and then stop so they are perfect for small spaces and also don’t require much support. The small, cone-shaped tomato cages should suffice but instead, I recommend the heavy-duty kind instead of the spindly wire type. Train determinates to support their stems on the cage but don’t prune them. They will reward you by covering themselves with wonderful, tasty tomatoes.

If you are a lucky gardener with lots of room you definitely have more options!  Tomatoes come in early, mid-season, and long (or main) season varieties, so for an extended harvest period all you have to do is mix up the varieties. Choose early cultivars for half your plants, one intermediate, and the remainder long season. Because the early varieties put a lot of energy into quick production, the fruit tends to be smaller and less flavorful than the long season types that luxuriate long summer days on the vine. But put in some Early Girls and you can be eating tomatoes in late June or early July while looking forward to the August arrival of Big Boys, Mortgage Lifters, and Brandywines. You can also choose “paste” varieties, such as Black Plum and San Marzano, which make great sauces, but are less juicy and tangy than the “table” or “slicing” types. Just be aware that while small and intermediate size tomatoes can be grown in 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day the standard and big sizes require a minimum of 12 to 14 hours daily.

With all that room you may select indeterminate cultivars which, theoretically, can grow as large as conditions allow. They will require a strong trellis where vines can be tied, or a heavy-duty cage 5 to 6 feet high and 2 feet around. Google “tomato cages” and get some inspiration, but don’t skimp on support because broken vines result in far fewer tomatoes. Pruning an indeterminate will also reduce the amount of the crop, although some gardeners still trim them back to increase the size of individual tomatoes and keep the vines manageable. The choice is dependent on your philosophy!

Tomatoes like their space. You can plant dwarfs and cherry tomatoes 18” apart but all the others need at least 24” between plants. Don’t crowd them because they are heavy feeders and compete for soil nutrients. They are also sun lovers and sun blockers so you must ensure each plant gets the sunlight it needs.   They will produce well if grown in a single row (never in a block) where they each get an equal share of sunlight and nourishment.

Care and cultivation are the same for potted or in-ground tomato plants.  Tomatoes don’t need (and don’t like) a lot of water. Water them well at planting and you should not have to water them more than once weekly. One weekly deep watering is MUCH better than regular shallow watering. Uneven watering will also promote a condition known as blossom-end rot—consistency is key. Don’t get water on their leaves because this promotes disease.

Tomatoes are also the nutrient gluttons of the vegetable world, so you will need to supplement their feeding throughout the long growing season. Spray plants with compost tea, seaweed extract, or a similar fertilizer two weeks after transplant. Spray them again at flowering, after first fruit is set, and then weekly when plants start producing. You can use a foliar feed or a soil-soak to keep them happy. The mid to late season varieties should produce until the first rains of fall start in October. Then you can clip any remaining vines with green tomatoes and hang them in your garage to ripen.

Tomatoes define the summer!  There are no excuses not to get growing! Learn more about The Bounty Garden at  and Sustainable Danville Area at


Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:





Growing Community…and caring for our place on Earth

Tip of the Month – April 2015

giant ball


I can’t believe it was just five years ago, I was searching for local recommendations for sustainable living for my family.  It was then talking with friends Darlene Gayler and Tracy Bauer that we were inspired to start Sustainable Danville Area ( to encourage sustainable practices by facilitating eco-educational programs in the Danville Area.  We have expanded–and contracted–with treasured volunteers and brilliant interns joining us along the way. Most importantly, we have made cherished life-long friends like Cindy Egan, San Ramon Valley High School’s Environmental Science Teacher. We are not the ‘Green Police’; instead we’re a local group interested in exploring and learning how to live and work sustainably in our community. We balance what matters most to us (our families) with our responsibility to care for the future of this beautiful place that we call home. We definitely don’t have all the answers, but along the way we have found great resources, made wonderful connections and learned from our mistakes – hopefully making it easier for our neighbors who want to jump aboard.
We are fulfilled by the community of people (students, teachers, parents, business owners, civic leaders and you) that have demonstrated their interest in supporting our efforts by making Every Choice Count!  We are buoyed by the growth of consciousness that has sprung up amongst us – people who understand the importance of freeing their bodies, their homes and their yards from chemicals and pesticides. While I wouldn’t call our ‘job’ done – since I always prefer a friend’s recommendation over something on the Internet – we are excited that there is a wealth of reliable information for those that are curious about learning more.
We are grateful for civic leaders that have voted to ban single-use plastic bags in our community, offer residents the ability to recycle all their kitchen food scraps in their curbside waste bins, added bicycle parking facilities in popular downtown locations, installed a centralized climate controlled irrigation system and even rely on solar panels to fuel the work they do every day to protect our community for the future.  Most importantly, we are happy to call ourselves residents of Alamo, Danville, Diablo and Blackhawk. Every time we receive an email ( or comment on Facebook ( sharing a green practice that you or your family has adopted it fills our hearts with hope.
This April, we celebrate our fifth ‘birthday’ and Earth Day 2015. The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area will present the 5th Annual Earth Day Event on Sunday, April 19th 11am – 2pm on the Town Green in front of the Danville Library. Rain will be an additional blessing as we have activities planned for the library and community center as well. The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative affair for residents and visitors of all ages interested in green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power and home energy efficient products, waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more! Fun for everyone in the family has been scheduled at this zero-waste event which includes live music featuring Rio James, American Idol Tyler Stimpson and Zakir Siddiqui. Kids activities include a petting zoo, ‘Peanuts…Naturally! An Ecofestival’, a giant Earth ball and much, much more.
 San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club (E2) will be manning the bike valet to make it easy for you and your family to ride your bicycles to the event.  Yes, this works just like a coat check. You check in your bikes for free, enjoy the event and pick up your bikes by 2pm. We can always use environmentally enthusiastic volunteers 16 years and up for the Earth Day event. Please visit if you haven’t volunteered with the Town before.  For more information email or call 925-314-3478. It will not be a party without you, so mark your calendars for April 19th  and please come celebrate with us.






The Four Most Important Resolutions You Can Make for 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

As I write this, we are in the midst of the wettest December in the Bay Area in history and the California drought has been downgraded from ‘exceptional’ to ‘severe’. Admiring the green hills that surround our homes, it’s hard to believe that all this water hasn’t replenished our resources for the year and beyond. The choice of descriptor says it all – we are still in a severe drought meaning we’re in grave, harsh, dreadful, terrible, seriously bad shape.  But the New Year is all about making resolutions, so I encourage you to make 2015 the year you value water for what it is – with only 1% drinkable water world-wide, its liquid gold.  So the number one most important resolution for 2015 – use water wisely.  Last month, we provided a list of ways to be less water wasteful inside and outside the home, but here’s one more way.

Central San is offering free recycled water for residential customers. While it’s not safe for drinking and shouldn’t run off into our storm drains, it can be used to water lawn, landscaping and gardens to save our precious drinking water. Recycled water has been used for years in our area to water parks, school ball fields and golf courses and now, like the Dublin San Ramon Services District, we can use free, recycled water to keep our gardens green.  For more information about the residential recycled water filling station, please call 800-646-1431.

It wouldn’t be a resolution list, if I didn’t include an item about health.  The second most important resolution for 2015 – eat organic, local whole food. US residents spent on average $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA).  That is less than any of the 83 other countries for which the USDA tracks data.  Considering this statistic, isn’t it time to invest just a little more to protect your family’s health from harmful pesticides and questionable chemicals in the food you serve them – not to mention avoiding genetically modified food (GMOs) which have been banned in over 60 countries worldwide.  And choosing organic, local whole food, not only saves transportation dollars, protects you from pesticides, but allows you to capture maximum nutrition – since fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value as they age or are processed.

With respect to the continuing hunger problem in the US – and Contra Costa County – visit and learn how you can help get organic, local, whole food to those in need. The Bounty Garden is a 100% non-profit program committed to providing a source of fresh vegetables to the local Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.  The program brings together community volunteers in a fun and friendly environment to grow for this purpose and is a great activity for the entire family.

The third most important resolution for 2015 – lose the plastic. Here’s a New Year’s challenge. Pick an average day for you and your family and see if you can get through it without touching anything made of plastic. Can you do it?  Most of us have heard about the importance of being ‘BPA-free’ (referring to the chemical identified as a disruptor to growth development in infants, children and even adults), but do we really know what other chemicals used in plastics are doing to us? Relying more on organic, local, whole food will reduce packing materials – especially if you bring your own re-usable bags, but I bet you can do more.  Look for alternatives like glass and steel for food storage and please, lose the drinking straw. Take the challenge and you’ll see there is a myriad of opportunity to replace the plastics in your life.

As we enter the fifth year of Sustainable Danville Area, our 100% non-profit invites you to participate in our activities.  In fact, please hold the date for the Town of Danville Earth Day Festival 2015 on Sunday, April 19th from 11am – 2pm.   Join us as a volunteer, you don’t have to be an environmental expert – most of us aren’t. You simply have to care about people and the planet- and maintaining an Earth that will not only sustain us today, but many generations beyond.  Learn more at or visit us at

Oh and the fourth most import resolution for 2015 – make every choice count.




Buy Organic – Why Should I?

Tip of the Month, March 2014

By Angela Stanford, MBA, RD Vital Nutrition & Wellness, Danville Area Sustainable Business


Photo by Angela Stanford – Seasonal, organic, veggies grown locally and home delivered.

So what is the buzz about buying organic foods?  What does that “USDA Organic” label mean?  Why does organic food cost more?

In my practice, I’m constantly educating patients about how to nourish their bodies with food that is “clean and nutrient dense.”  Eating organic is big step towards eating to improve health not only for your body, but also for our planet and the bodies of future generations.

Definition of Organic

Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed.  Organic food production is a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.  Organic foods do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain integrity of the food.  When it comes to animals, certified organic meat and poultry are free from antibiotics, and growth hormones.  However, organic standards have yet to be uniformly agreed upon in the U.S. for fish and seafood.

A food item is “certified organic” if it has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by a third party like the Organic Trade Association (OTA) or the USDA National Organic Program.  This ‘farm to table’ certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting standards.

Buy Organic for Your Body

In study after study, research consistently shows organically grown food is higher in nutrients than conventionally grown. Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C (12-20%), antioxidants (up to 40%), and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.

Organic milk is also more nutrient dense.  According to a study at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, organic milk contains more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids than milk from conventionally raised cows simply because they eat more grass than corn, like Mother Nature intended.  This helps restore a healthier balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in our diet which helps reduce inflammation.

Along with boosting nutrition, eating organic reduces exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.  These can cause a whole host of issues like hormone imbalances, skin rashes, and inability to lose weight.

Eating organic may also reduce your cancer risk.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 % of insecticides potentially cancer-causing. It is therefore reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

Buy Organic for the Earth

Evidence supports eating organic lowers environmental impact. Organic farming methods support greater biodiversity. Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Wildlife is allowed to thrive in their natural habitats with fewer obstacles that put them at risk for poor health and extinction.  And let’s not forget that genetically modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture that destroys biodiversity.  Organic food is tried and tested. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Purchasing organic foods helps you avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.

The bottom line is better soil quality, and cleaner air and water for wildlife to thrive and  plants to grow healthy and nutritiously will nourish generations to come.

Does Eating Organic Really Cost More?

The answer to this question is an article in itself.  Basically organic growers don’t use the large amounts of harmful pesticides and herbicides on their crops and have to look for other, often manual methods of controlling pests and diseases. These methods keep pesticides out of people and the environment, but they cost more. There is also ongoing education for organic growers, the certification process, paperwork, inspections, planning and more factored into growing, processing and handling foods organically.

That said, many health experts believe that when you pay extra for organics at the grocery store and famers market is much less than what you will pay in healthcare costs from eating conventionally grown foods laden with toxins and reduced nutritional value.

So the next time you are shopping at the grocery store or farmer’s market, choose organic foods for better health for you and your family, a cleaner earth, and a planet nourished well to feed generations to come.

Sustainable Danville Area and the Danville Library present “ORGANICS” on Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00pm at the Danville Library, Mt. Diablo Room, 400 Front Street.  Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Nutritionist alongside Cynthia Ruzzi, President and Co-Founder, Sustainable Danville Area will walk you through the basics on how to buy, eat and grow more organics.  For more information, visit Follow us at

Reprinted with permission 


It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

For Love of ….Chickens

Tip of the Month – February 2013 By Cynthia Ruzzi

To everything there is a season, even food. Incorporating seasonal, local, whole foods into your daily diet provides a healthy balance for you and the environment.  Eating vegetables and fruits soon after harvest maximizes the nutrients in the food.  Besides being better for the environment, seasonal, local food is usually more cost effective and generally tastes much better.  My husband and I certainly think so.

We love trying new, local foods and so, we were delighted when Jake, our 11 year old neighbor and self-professed Chicken Farmer invited me to learn more about ‘growing’ fresh, local eggs.  Jake has wanted to raise a brood of hens since 2nd grade when he hatched chicks as a classroom project.   Roadie, J.J., Chevy, Hazel and Fluffy make up Jake’s clucking crew.  He started off with six chicks, but Scrambles was retired to a rural farm when one morning, the family heard crowing.  Apparently, crowing is the first identifier that a chick is a rooster and not a hen.  Danville keeps the peace by banning roosters within city limits.

photo (25)Jake’s brood started laying eggs when they were just under 5 months old and will continue to offer eggs for about 2 years.  It takes a chicken 24 hours to produce an egg, and production is dependent on having at least 13 hours of daylight – so maximum production is 35 eggs per week. Jake basically knows which chicken has laid which egg because he has different breeds that lay different colored eggs; including a Rhode Island Red, two Brahmas and Hazel and Fluffy his Americana chickens.  These girls lay green eggs!  Yes, there really are green eggs – just like in the Dr. Suess book, Green Eggs and Ham.  The family picked these breeds because they can handle both our hot summers and cold, wet winters with aplomb. 

photo (26)

Jake spends between 10 – 30 minutes a day caring for his brood.  The chickens greet him when he opens the screen door to give them their feed or a special treat of cantaloupe (in season of course).  The girls mostly ignore the family when they sit out in the backyard.  Jake says the chickens have a great relationship with his cat, Nutmeg – especially since the chicks have grown larger than the cat.  Jake recommends adopting chickens all at one time to limit competition (pecking order) between the hens. 

jakeJake’s chickens have plenty of room to ‘eat local’ roaming around a large part of the backyard eating bugs.  Thanks to Jake’s dad, Chris, these hens have a chicken palace to rival anything offered in the William Sonoma catalog.  Chris admits he didn’t save much money ‘DYI’ – though he used reclaimed wood for all the construction.  Chris said one of the most important architectural elements for the coop is to include lots of ventilation in the design and to secure on all sides, including underneath the coop, to protect from raccoons and other predators.

As a ‘parting gift’ – or perhaps in exchange for the chocolate chip cookies I brought with me, Jake gave me eggs that were laid that day.  Excited, I picked some spinach from my garden and cooked up a simple omelet that very night.  Can you get more seasonal or local than that?

At EMBRACING THE SEASON FOR A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET, Sustainable Danville Area’s forum – February 20th forum 6:30pm – 8:00pm  Veterans Memorial Building  400 Hartz Avenue – you’ll learn how to savor local flavors from our guest speakers as they talk about the inspiration they gain by embracing the seasons.  Sebastian Miller, Executive Chef of Piatti’s Danville, is known for bringing contemporary flavors to the plate using seasonal, local ingredients prepared in a simple, unpretentious manner.  Sebastian reveals how he creates the ever changing ‘market menu’ at Piatti’s and how you can do the same at home.  Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Food & Nutrition Advisor, Vital Nutrition & Wellness, holistic approach to eating combines 20 years of working in the food and health industries with roots on her family farm and love for cooking and organic gardening. For more information, visit and join us on Facebook (

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

Want to learn how to raise your own chickens?  Check out Papa John’s Chicken-Raising Workshops in Lafayette.

Chicken-Raising Workshops with Papa John
3d calendarFebruary & March

Raising chickens has never been easier. The popular workshops with Papa John Keifer are the best way to get started. Close to 300 people have attended in the past three years. Classes are on Sundays from 1-3:30 (2/10, 2/17, 3/2).  Free, but registration is required.See more information on our Chicken Workshop flyer or email Papa John at

Food For Thought

Tip of the Month – January 2013   By Cynthia Ruzzi

Food For Thought   Having just concluded the ‘Thanks-ukah-mas-year’ eating fest, many of us are facing the first week of our New Years’ resolution to stop eating convenience foods filled with empty calories, fats and chemicals. Perhaps our indulgence – or hard work – during the holiday makes us shy away from the thought of more family meals, but it is now more important than ever to eat together.

Eating as a family weaves the fabric of the relationship.   With everyone in the family heading in different directions during the day, family meals at home are a perfect time to work together to enjoy simple pleasures and connect on a regular basis. Family meals provide more than enhanced nutrition.  A shared family meal provides nourishment, comfort and support for those we love. Our children learn about the world every day from many sources and the dinner table is a perfect opportunity to provide a routine time to share within a family space.  Celebrate your family and come together at your table to explore family culture, food, teach your children dining and conversational social skills and get in touch.

Eating as a family is less expensive, more efficient and healthier.  Avoiding convenience foods and cooking at home is often more economical, healthy and tasty. Serving organic, fresh foods that are minimally processed and locally sourced guarantee improved nutrition and because they have more natural flavor, whole food can be prepared simply – saving time in the kitchen.  Incorporating herbs, vegetables and fruit from your garden or the farmers’ market enables a child to learn about where our food comes from.  You’d be surprised how much broccoli a kid will eat when the child has tended and picked it themselves.

Eating as a family teaches children food sustainability.  As part of the evenings’ blessing and discussion take time to recognize where the food on our table comes from to encourage understanding and appreciation of the bounty.  Few of us know where bananas come from or have traveled the distance one has to take to come to our table.  Exploring the origin of foods as part of the evening meal provides an opportunity to discuss everything from farming, to manufacturing, packaging and even disposal – or hopefully, composting.

Eating as a family takes practice.  With every new practice, there are sure to be some difficulties and adjustments.  Professionals say that the less time a family spends eating together at home, the more awkward those first few experiences will be, so first, try setting a goal for two times a week. Here’s two suggestions critical for success:

  • Turn off the mobile/texting devices.  View the family meal as a time to ‘plug into each other’ and avoid the distraction of phone calls and text messages that remind everyone of the world beyond the family.
  • Get the whole family involved in the planning, shopping and preparation.  Learning to plan, shop and cook a meal are invaluable skills for children when they leave home.  You’d be surprised how impressed girls will be when your son cooks a meal instead of going to a restaurant for a date.  Engaging everyone in the shopping helps each member appreciate what food costs.  Even young children can be helpful in the kitchen given a little direction. You’d be surprised how quickly the time flies when all hands are engaged making a family dinner.

FOOD FOR THOUGHTSustainable Danville Area feels so passionately about food that along with The Danville Library we present a three-part speaker series FOOD FOR THOUGHT to nourish our spirit, our mind, our body and the environment.  Our January talk Get Your Family Back to the Table – with Real Food – January 23rd 6:30pm at Veterans Memorial Building 400 Hartz Ave. brings you two speakers: Heather Clapp, Co-owner of Jules Organic Thin Crust Pizza who understands there’s time when you need to eat outside the home without forgoing nutrition. Heather, dedicated to educating her three active boys on where real food comes from, will provide inspiration to create organic vegetarian meals that will sustain and nourish your entire family and Lisa Evaristo, Co-owner of Back to the Table Cooking & Baking School, also a parent of three children, teaches families that spending time cooking together, then sitting down and sharing a great meal is where the magic happens.

Apple GYGSFood is also the topic of our first 2013 Green Your School SummitJoin us January 15th 4pm at SRVHS, special guest, Town of Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich kicks off the afternoon with speakers, Cindy Gershen, Founder of Wellness City Challenge and Dominic Machi, Director of Food Services, SRUVSD.  Cindy will share the importance of nourishing our children with whole, healthy food and Dom will update us on “What’s Cooking in the Lunchroom”.  For more information, visit events on or join us on Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News



Is it Scrumdidilyumptious?

Tip of the month – october 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

I still remember seeing the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory as a childThe magical world with a river of chocolate, a drink that made Charlie and his Grandpa float in the air and ‘the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world’ containing a three-course dinner captured my heart!

But would we chance such biotechnological confections if they were available to us?  Would you risk turning your child blue and blowing up like a blueberry, similar to the nit-wit character Violet in the movie, just to save time in the kitchen?  Dinner in a piece of gum would surely be the end to family meals and aren’t our teachers already dealing with ‘floating students’ on five hour energy drinks?

In my effort to eat healthier, I’ve been shopping the outside aisles of the grocery stores for the past few years.  The perimeter is normally where you find the ‘real food’ or at least where you find produce, the meat and fish counter, dairy products and breads.  Processed foods like sugared cereal, bottled juices and sodas loaded with corn syrup, packaged cookies, chips and even power bars dominate the middle aisles of most stores. Entering this dominion I need to arm myself with reading glasses to check labels for sugar and fat content and use a ‘chemical-speak’ dictionary to understand the rest of the packaged ingredients.  But recently, Prop 37, the GMO Food Labeling Initiative has me wondering whether my shopping technique is the best defense for purchasing the healthiest foods.

GMOs or ‘genetically modified organisms’ is the term for plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.  Biotechnology, also known as generic engineering combines DNA from different species, mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Nearly 80% of processed foods available in the US contain GMOs.  These include products that contain ingredients with corn, soy, canola, flax, rice – even sugar beets, papaya, zucchini and yellow summer squash. However, it’s not always obvious since ingredients listed in ‘chemical-speak’ may be derived from these crops like (but are not limited to) Xanthan Gum, Sucrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrins, Citric Acid and of course High-Fructose Corn Syrup.  Even milk, meat, eggs and honey can contain GMOs because of feed for animals and other inputs.

Most GMOs are designed to produce their own insecticide to fight bugs or survive the farmer spraying herbicide to kill competing weeds. GMOs promise drought tolerance and increased yields to make food more plentiful.  Opponents connect GMOs with environmental damage and site cases of large seed companies going after farmers for growing crops that have been hybridized by wind and/or birds.  I’d love a solution to end world hunger, but I’m worried about the unknown, long-term impacts of GMOs on people and the environment.  If nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union have restrictions or bans on the production and sale of GMOs, then why do US manufacturers’ consider GMOs safe for us to eat?

I depend on my food producer to be transparent about their ingredients. We ask the farmer how they fertilize and combat pests, the butcher if antibiotics or hormones were used raising the meat, if the fish is sustainable and we definitely check labels on packages carefully before purchase. If a manufacturer can list sugar, fat and ‘new and improved’ then certainly they can list GMO-derived and allow me the choice to decide if the product is right for my family.  Currently, the Non-GMO project offers the only third party verification for US products. Their website,  and their nifty i-phone app offers a complete list of Non-GMO verified foods which I use to decide what trade-offs to make when shopping.

Interested in learning more about GMOs & food? Join SRVHS Environmental Club and Sustainable Danville Area for a filming of the documentary, Future of Food on Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30pm in the San Ramon Valley High School Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd.  Suggested donation $5.


Help Breath of Hope Chiropractic and Sustainable Danville Area fight local hunger. Now there are two places in Danville to donate fresh vegetables and fruits to our local food pantries:

Wednesdays 7:30am – 3:00pm 822 Hartz Way (Inside lobby of the office building behind Burger King)

Saturdays 9:00am – 1:00pm Loaves and fishes at Danville’s Farmers Market, Prospect and Railroad Ave.
Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News




By Cynthia Ruzzi, President

Do you eat those mealy, tasteless slices of tomato tucked into your sandwich or like me, open and remove immediately?  I can’t eat the anemic looking fruit that graces the side plate with bits of lettuce from the deli and I definitely will not buy artificially ripened supermarket tomatoes.

While the tomatoes in our supermarkets are seasonally grown in California, they are picked when considered “mature green”, just starting to turn color but still firm. Discovery News recently did a story reporting that the modern tomato has been cultivated to ripen evenly to uniform the harvest and it is this gene mutation that is to blame for tasteless tomatoes. I’m sure it doesn’t help that these green, firm tomatoes are packed into ethylene (a flammable gas derived from petroleum) storage for 3 days to change the starch of the tomato to sugar forcing it to turn red. While visually appealing, this process does nothing to enhance the taste.  The blandness is further cemented by shipping tomatoes in cold storage putting an immediate end to further ripening.

How do you get a tomato that tastes like a tomato?  One solution is to shop the local farmer’s market for organic produce.  Look for tomatoes grown sustainably since farmers that use these practices haven’t depleted the soil with chemical products.  These tomatoes are sure to be rich in magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc – trace minerals that help maintain our good health and give our fruits and vegetable their flavor.  When selecting tomatoes, sniff the blossom end, not the stem end, for a rich aroma.  Store fresh, ripe tomatoes stem-side down in a cool, dark place and use within a few days.  Please don’t put them in the refrigerator.

With so many varieties of tomatoes, you can grow your own tomatoes in any 5 gallon container with lots of sunshine.   However, with our wacky weather this summer, I am still tomato-less waiting for ‘real’ pasta sauce while my San Marzano beauties vine ripen.

Considering the journey out-of-season tomatoes from Arizona and Mexico take to get to our grocery stores and my uneasiness with BPA in most aluminum cans, I’m going to can my summer bounty for the winter season.  Now where to get the tomatoes….

Inspired by our summer days picking unwanted Danville and Alamo backyard fruit for the local food pantries, we longed for more time ‘on the farm’ before the seriousness of autumn.  So, we decided to take a road trip and we’re inviting you to join us “On The Road” as we tour Wild Boar Farms on Sunday, September 9th 11am – 2pm.


BRING: Hat, Flat shoes, Camera, Re-usable bag for tomatoes and an Appetite

Wild Boar Farms is not just any farm – it’s a tomato breeding ground for 12,000 certified, organic tomato plants located in ‘tomato terroir’ Suisun Valley.   They are growing a rare, exotic gourmet collection of heirloom and future heirloom tomatoes.  Our special day will include an exclusive tomato tour and talk by Farmer Brad Gates, tomato and wine tasting, lunch provided by Fume Bistro & Bar, Napa and 1 lb. of tomatoes as a parting gift to you.  Come and enjoy an informative and fun day at the farm with your friends and family.  The event is accessible for all ages and benefits The Urban Farmers Fruit Gleaning Program (  Please visit the Sustainable Danville Area Events page for more details and a link to purchase tickets.  Adults $25 / Children $10

There will also be time to pick & purchase enough tomatoes to preserve for the winter season.  If preserving tomatoes is what you have in mind, but you don’t know where to start, join us on Saturday, September 8th 9am-noon at The Garden at Heather Farm for a class on canning & preserving your seasons’ bounty.  Patrice Hanlon, Garden Director, who has been canning her favorite vegetables for over 25 years, will introduce us to different methods of preserving, with a particular focus on water bath canning.  It’s a hands-on class with each participant making a jar of dill and a jar of sweet & sour pickles to take home. $35/$10 materials. Register at or call (925) 947-1678.


Central Conta Costa Solid Waste Authority and the Town of Danville are hosting a public workshop at the Danville Town Hall, September 19th 6:30 – 8:30pm to gather feedback on current and future services.

Did you know that as of July 1, 2012, California businesses are required to recycle, including multi-family homes? (AB 341)  Did you know that as a Danville or Alamo resident our separated yard clippings is used as daily alternative cover in the landfill and not composted?  Do you know that neighboring communities from Lafayette to San Ramon keep food scraps out of the landfill by putting them directly into their green waste bins, but we can’t?

Help us improve waste and recycling services for businesses and residents in Danville, Diablo, Blackhawk and Alamo.   If you cannot attend, please take a moment to answer the simple survey (nine questions) online by October 1, 2012.

 Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News