Sun soaked: Southern California’s secret beach spots

You’ve probably walked Venice Beach, played volleyball on Manhattan Beach and spent a lazy day in Malibu, but have you scoped out SoCal’s secret beach spots? Of the many things California is known for, its beaches are always at the top of lists. Here a few of the best kept secrets along California’s coast:

Coronado, California: Savvy sun-soakers pay to park at the Hotel Del Coronado, then dine and sunbathe on premise in between ogling the Navy SEALS jogging the beach. This flat, mica diamond-studded beach has low tides so you won’t be surfing the waves anytime soon, but you will enjoy the R&R while watching stingrays and napping in the sand. When you’re done with the beach, stop in for a boutique beer at Coronado Brewing or catch some p.m. blues and brews at McP’s.

South Mission Beach, California: This is the ultimate partyspot in San Diego, and parking is a premium. Come early, stay late and throw your bike or roller-blades and a party frock in the car for beach bar bumming when the sun goes down. You can kayak the bayside on this isthmus, or surf and body slam on the Pacific side – both within walking distance. At night, the Pennant and Beachcomber rock, especially during the summer and Over The Line in July. The old-fashioned roller coaster, video arcades and Wavehouse occupy the mini-pints and the sunset is best of show.

Del Mar, California: In addition to Torrey Pines State Park and Dog Beach, the artsy village of Del Mar serves up two beach hang-outs not to miss, Powerhouse and Seagrove Park near the Fifteenth Street surf break. Surfing can be gnarly here, and the view of the Pacific as you wind off I-5 and around the lagoon stops your heart–as do Del Mar’s coastal cuisine–Roberto’s tacos, Il Fornaio’s wood-fired pizzas and enoteca, Pacifica Del Mar’s seafood specialties and Del Mar Plaza’s whimsical terrazza shops and breakfast nooks. South of the Del Mar Racetrack, the beach south of the Brigantine on PCH1 is hard to park at, but worth walking into. Better yet, bike on over.

San Onofre, California: Real surfers know that this hangs better than Malibu and it’s the quintessential California campground where for a small fee at the gate, you can pretend you are in Hawaii. Play volleyball, loll in a grass hut with your cooler of cocktails and snacks, compare long-boards and tales of catching a South swell at the three main breaks: the Point, Old Man’s and Dogpatch. It gets crowded on weekends, so arrive early with the blenders and pick up a few of Pedro’s fish tacos in North San Clemente for the ultimate alfresco breakfast.

Catalina Island, California: Here, the sand is your boat. Moor in Avalon or sail around to beautiful Emerald Bay, offering 99 moorings and anchorage for 5-10 boats, a perfect day trip. Catalina Express runs daily boats over to Avalon from San Pedro or Long Beach, and a Key West bacchanal is the catch of the day every weekend during summer. In addition to swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling, Catalina offers kayaking, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, hiking, biking and even a Zipline. Explore the Avalon beaches by golf cart, or just sun from your boat.

The above was contributed by Nanette Wiser, a writer.

Sun soaked: The best beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast

It’s not all tar balls in Florida. Along Florida’s Gulf Coast you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in the south, and some so private you’d think you were on your own private island. Where are these pristine paradises? Read on, and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Indian Rocks Beach (12th Street), Florida: Grab breakfast at Crabby Bills followed by a day at this beach, where egrets strut behind the fisherman and dolphins minuet between the markers. Outdoor showers dot each public beach access and ample parking across the street means anyone can enjoy this beach. When you’re done with floating around on your noodle, dine at IRB Sushi, Guppy’s or Villa Gallaci, or catch the bands at J.D.’s and My Place.

Caladesi Island, Florida: This unspoiled sanctuary was raked America’s #1 Beach 2008. Nature trails and a family-oriented nature center grace the area, and that’s about all –well, except for the beach, of course. Caladesi Island Ferry departs from Honeymoon Island State Park to Caladesi, where you can surf, fish, shell, kayak, dock your boat at the marina and cruise the snack and gift shop.

Anna Marie Island, Florida: North of Bradenton and Sarasota, locals know to head over to the talcum powder sands outside the SandBar. By noon, yachts are moored, boat drinks are hoisted and mahi and burgers are served on the patio. Anna Marie Cottages is a stone’s throw from the pristine Gulf beaches, where savvy vacations know to book a room for the night. Head to dinner at the Waterfront or Rotten Ralphs, or down Longboat Key to the top Zagat’s pick, Euphemia Hayes. No lifeguards on duty, so these benign beaches are best for adults.

Turtle Beach, Florida
: Siesta Key is a barhopper’s haven, especially Daiquiri Deck, but this haven on Turtle Beach is for locals only. No lifeguard in sight, but free parking, picnic tables, playground, shower and restrooms, plus a nearby boat launch make it a handy weekend retreat for those who prefer reading under a beach umbrella with a cooler full of sandwiches and chips.

Nanette Wiser is a contributer.

Road trip: Healthy snacks that satisfy your kids’ cravings

Taking a family road trip is one of the great experiences each summer, but when hunger sits in the car quickly turns from family fun to ravished scavengers looking for a feed. Thankfully, with a little pre-planning and preparation, you can avoid the fast-food rest stops and offer everyone in your car a fun and healthy snack to keep them satisfied on the road.

We gathered our writers and asked them to submit their favorite road-trip snacks. Next time you head out on the road, consider one of these yummy treats that travel well, taste good and are a healthy alternative to greasy french fries and milkshakes (just don’t tell the kids).

Peppy Popcorn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
cooking spray

Mix salt and chili powder in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Not Quite Kettle Corn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
cooking spray

Mix salt and powdered sugar in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Contributed by Mary Berg

Apricot Bars

1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked quick oats
2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
15 dried apricot halves (diced)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 Coat an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spary
Mix dry ingredients (wheat flour, brown sugar, quick oats, sunflower seeds)
Whisk in butter and eggs
Mix in diced apricot halves to batter
Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top
Bake 20 minutes or until bars are firm
Cool and cut into bar size of your choice

Contributed by Melissa Johnson

Peanut Butter Banana Tortillas

This easy to make recipe is both filling and nutritious. As an added bonus, you don’t have to refrigerate this snack since there are no ingredients that will spoil. Whether you’re planning a road trip for adults or your entire family, everyone can enjoy this fun snack.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Flour tortillas
Peanut butter
Crushed walnuts

1. Spread peanut butter on one side of a flour tortilla.
2. Chop a banana into thin slices and place the slices on top of the peanut butter.
3. Sprinkle crush walnuts over the bananas and peanut butter.
4. Roll the tortilla up like you would a burrito and store in a plastic bag.

Contributed by Wendy Rose Gould

Tart Cherries and Chocolate Trail Mix

A well-designed trail mix combines nuts, dried fruit ,and maybe just a taste of chocolate to satisfy the palates of children and adults. Dried cranberries and raisins are common ingredients in many traditional trail mix recipes. In our family favorite mix, we substitute dried tart cherries for the cranberries for a delightful change of pace. The dried cherries are larger and chewier than dried cranberries or raisins.

This is a heart healthy, low-sodium trail-mix packed with protein, healthy fats, and anti-oxidants.

2 cups roasted, unsalted almonds 2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts 1 cup dried tart cherries (Montmorency cherries are great-find them at Trader Joe’s among other places) 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For an extra layer of flavor, substitute 1/2 cup of roasted, unsalted cashews for 1/2 cup of peanuts.

Contributed by Doug Donald

Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

1 tablespoon of reduced-fat cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread
2 medium strawberries, sliced

Combine cream cheese with the orange zest in a bowl. Spread bread with the mixture. Place sliced strawberries on 1 piece of bread, top with the other.

Contributed by Dana Hiles

Road-trip Pizza

2 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat)
2 TBS. pizza sauce or thick marinara sauce, or 1TBS. prepared pesto sauce
1 oz. shredded or crumbled cheese (mozzarella, feta, blue, etc.)

Optional ingredients: mushrooms, olives, peppers, pepperoni, thinly sliced cooked chicken, ham, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts or whatever else strikes your fancy — be creative!


Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium. Spread your choice of sauce on one tortilla and place it in the pan, sauce side up. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and then add optional ingredients. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and cover with the second tortilla. Cook until the bottom tortilla begins to brown and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the pizzadilla over, and cook the other side until lightly brown. Place on a cooling rack and cook the rest of the pizzadillas. When thoroughly cooled, cut the pizzadillas into quarters, place in storage bags or containers, and refrigerate until ready for the cooler.

Contributed by Julie Thompson

Pumpkin Muffins

These pumpkin muffins are a healthy version of a delicious treat that my mom and I developed while doing weight watchers, so they are family friendly and heart healthy.

1 1/2 cups of ground oatmeal (a blender will grind it into a fine powder
1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt Combine these ingredients, sift well and set aside to begin working with the ingredients below.

1 cup of Fat free plain yogurt
1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
3/4 tbsp of splenda (you can use real sugar here, we use splenda because it has no calories)
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup splenda
1 cup canned
100% pure pumpkin (no sugar added)

1. In a large bowl combine yogurt, egg whites, 3/4 tbsp of splenda, and vanilla and beat with whisk until thoroughly blended. 2. Add pumpkin and 1/2 cup of splenda whisk to blend.
3. Stir in oatmeal mixture and mix well. (Note: if the batter is too thick add 1-2 tbsp of water and 1-2 tbsp of yogurt until smooth batter forms.)
4. Spray a mini muffin tin.
5. Cook at 350 degrees for 8-15 minutes depending on the oven. Watch closely. 6. Refrigerate after cooling for 5-10 minutes.

Contributed by
Jessica Meschke

Foraging for Berries

1 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 1/2 cups of strawberries
1 1/2 cups of red raspberries
1 1/2 cups of blackberries
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon

Wash and drain all the berries. Slice the strawberries in half. Place all your berries into a bowl and add the 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon. Mix gently and let stand for 30 minutes.

Place in sandwich bags for individual treats.

Contributed by Patricia Mason

Sesame Coconut Bars

3 cups sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. It will seem dry. Do not add water! Empty onto the prepared baking sheet and press the mixture down evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned. Let cool and cut into bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap, or place in a covered container to take on the road.

Contributed by Sylvie Branch

Ham Scoopers

6 Kaiser Rolls
2 cups of cubed ham
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of chopped black olives
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of mustard


Mix together all ingredients except for bread.
Store in a container and place in the ice cooler.
Cut off the tops of rolls.
Hollow out the rolls, keep bread in plastic bag for freshness.
When ready to eat, scoop the ham mixture into the bread and enjoy.

Contributed by Eve Gandy

Spicy Sugar Nuts

This easy recipe provides the perfect road trip snack. With nuts as the primary ingredient, this on-the-go munchy includes protein, fiber and healthy fat. Bake the entire recipe in one shot and then divvy it all up so passengers have their own serving. Or to put it another way, they don’t have to share. Since the finished product lasts five days, assuming you don’t polish it off before the first toll, you can get a few miles if not states out of it.

1 egg white
1 tsp water
3/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon
1 tbsp of cayenne
4 cups of roasted salted nuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white and water together. Continue until consistency is frothy. Fold nuts into egg white/water mixture. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until nuts are well coated. Pour mixture onto a large sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes. Let cool before using a spatula to release the nuts from the pan. Store in a sealed container to maintain freshness.

Contributed by Paige Levin

Oatmeal Bars (with a twist)

2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup of skim milk banana
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of Splenda
1/2 cup of eggbeaters
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cooking Directions Preheat oven to 325. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with baking spray. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well mixed. Pour the batter in the baking dish and bake for roughly 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely and cut into 8 equal pieces.

Contributed by Benjamin Williams

Apple Sandwiches

I’ve served these apple slice sandwiches to my daughter’s classroom and my ladies’ dance class. Everyone thinks it’s a platter of cookies until they notice they are apples. It’s a tasty, easy, surprise treat that everyone likes. One apple makes about 3 sandwiches. I like to use Braeburns or Granny Smith varieties. If you have peanut allergies or prefer not to use the peanut butter, the apples sliced and dusted with cinnamon are great all by themselves.

To make:

Use an apple corer to remove the center of your apple/s.
Next slice the apple (leave skin on) horizontally into 1/8″ rounds.
Dunk the slices into a mixture of water and lemon juice so they won’t turn brown.
Pat dry and spread a layer of your favorite peanut butter on one slice, add some raisins or dried cranberries if you like.
Top with a second apple slice and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Looks like a cookie, but oh so much healthier! Store in an airtight container.

Contributed by Jane Nichols

Happy Trails Hummus

2 15-oz. cans garbanzo beans
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 to 4 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Drain garbanzo beans, reserving liquid.
2. Combine beans, tahini, lime or lemon juice, curry powder and olive oil.
3. Process in a food processor until smooth.
4. Add enough of the reserved bean liquid to make desired dip consistency.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Contributed by Nanette Wiser

Summer lovin: Top seafood shacks in the U.S.

Lobster rolls, fried clams, fish sandwiches… the tastes of summer comes from the sea at these top seafood shacks in America. Just add lemon or a little drawn butter, and you’re good to go.

Crabby Bill’s, Indian Rocks Beach, Florida: The original real deal in Florida seafood offers four unique dining settings–a sushi bar, a family-style barn, an outdoor tiki area and indoor casual eatery open across from the Gulf of Mexico. Best bets are the Cleveland oysters brimming with garlic and cheese, smoked fish spread, shucked raw oysters, early bird fish dinners (ahi and Southern green beans) and the best fried fish buckets in town (scallops, shrimp and fish and chips) washed down with cheap cocktails and draft beer.

Wahoos, Redington Shores, Florida: Chef/owner Jimmy’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots and Caribbean/Pan Pacific passion flavor the blackboard specials, all cooked up in cast iron on a four-burner stove, no kidding. Seafood comes right off the boats behind the outdoor patio overlooking the bay. Best of show is the seared ahi, blackened grouper, tile fish fingers, finger-licking good spicy white chowder coupled with fried Tater Tots or heavenly onion rings. On tap, Stella and Blueberry Point ale refresh as well as a choice of 50 bottled imports and domestics.

Angry Pepper, Maderia Beach: Stuck behind a Publix on a spit of land overlooking a canal, the smoker is fired up behind the tiki restaurant, dripping in chili lights and surfboard memorabilia. Hot, spicy, Southern and Cajun cuisine are the catch of the day here. The fish spread is part salmon, smooth and delectable. Yes, there’s pulled pork, chipotle chicken and brisket barbecue, but it’s overshadowed by the yummy seafood like the creamy crab cakes, shrimp po’boy dressed with homemade cole slaw and tartar sauce, molten Buffalo shrimp lightly dusted (order the sweet and nasty), pan-seared sashimi and bonzai shrimp with green onions. Sides range from waffle fries, smokey baked beans with bacon, fried green tomatoes and cheesy grits, washed down with dozens of boutique beers on tap and micro-brew bottles.The Wharf, Passe-A-Grille: Dock your boat and step back in time to old St. Pete Beach in this old wooden boathouse updated by misters on the outside deck and a hip jukebox inside. Dine at the wooden booths in the restaurant, or belly up to the wrap-around bar and good-old fashioned fun, from the secret Bloody Mary drinks rimmed in Montreal steak salt or the high-test cocktails and flirty joking flipping through the crowd. Awesome esoteric jukebox sets the stage for crispy lobster bites, oysters Diane topped with crab, platters of peel-n-eat shrimp, Creole gumbo flavored with andouille sausage, crab claws and Tampa Bay Rockefeller topped with provolone. Tuesday fish fry is all you can for $6.95 and the fish Reuben is the best in town.

CaliforniaPoint Loma Seafood, San Diego: Seagulls swarm the leftovers and the sparkling bay view is mesmerizing. Take it home or eat it on the covered deck or patio tables dotting the entryway. This is a San Diego sports-fishing tradition, and if you don’t come home with a catch, you can buy it or smoke it here. Fresh tuna sandwiches, fried shrimp or scallop platters, smoked wahoo, shrimp Louie salads, fish tacos, smoked fish sandwich, picked squid cocktail, succulent ceviche and sushi or sashimi round out the catch of the day. Share crispy onion rings and be sure to take a 1/2 pint of horseradish salsa home to go with your crab cakes and white or red chowder.

Provided by Nanette Wiser, contributor

Cabbage Key, Cabbage Key, Florida. You’ll need to hop a charter boat to reach this kick-back island not far from Sanibel and Captiva islands in Florida. It supposedly (and believably) inspired Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” but we prefer the stone crab claws and Gulf shrimp in the shell. Don’t miss the restaurant’s decor–taped-up dollar bills that flutter from floor to ceiling–then grab a patio seat because ocean views still trump dollars.

Splash Cafe, Pismo Beach, Calif. Buttery, piping hop and fantastic, there’s a reason this surf cafe goes through 15,000 gallons of clam chowder each year. Just as fun is its atmosphere which is flip-flop comfy with surf team photos and napkin art decorating the walls. Shrimp Shack, Oahu, Hawaii This bright yellow lunch wagon on the North Shore has become a longtime favorite with savory pan-fried garlic shrimp served plate-lunch-style with two scoops of rice. Grab a picnic table and dine on site or head just up the Kamehameha Highway to Punalu’U Beach Park.

Gilbert’s Chowder House, Portland, Maine. You’ll know this everything-goes seafood chowder is good before it even hits your mouth. Get a good spoonful, and will be loaded with chunks of lobster, scallops and fish swimming in creamy goodness. You know it’s authentic, too, with photos of fishing crews on the walls, a stuffed marlin on the ceiling and some of the most amazing seafood markets and Casco Harbor about a block away.

Woodmans, Essex, Mass. The creators of fried clams have become an East Coast institution and a Boston favorite. Bring an appetite for steamed fresh lobster and popular platters of deep-fried everything. Just be prepared to wait in line and go through a lot of napkins.

The Shrimp Shack, St. Helena Island, S.C. This rural Low Country restaurant is a great place to join the locals for a cheap lunch of sweet potato fries, red beans and rice, hush puppies, shrimp burgers or fried shrimp fresh from the boat anchored across the road. Order up, grab a seat in the second-story screen porch, and keep cool with iced sweet tea before heading to the beach at Hunting Island State Park.

Provided by Lisa Meyers McClintick, contributor