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July 27, 2018

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Ultramarathon Fundraiser: Helping Hawaii

Mark Agosto and Mike Sullivan

Many of you continue to reach out and share your concern about the people of Hawaii being affected by the Kilauea volcano eruption.  While Pacific Quest is far from danger and unaffected by the volcano, our wonderful community in the Puna District have lost their homes and been displaced (the total number of homes consumed by lava exceeds 600!).  Relief efforts are in full effect, and we want to help!

Alumni and Family Services Director Mike Sullivan, and Co-Executive Director Mark Agosto are racing a 120 mile ultramarathon in August, and have dedicated their training efforts and racing prowess to help the people of Hawaii.  They have created the fundraiser: Helping Hawaii, and can be accessed by clicking the following link: Ultramarathon Fundraiser: Helping Hawaii.

“Racing for a cause” gives meaning to training and racing, and as Mike and Mark have witnessed the devastation happening in Puna, they became passionate about creating a fundraising goal.  Please consider visiting their fundraiser page to read more about their ultramarathon endeavor or to donate.  And be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram from August 14-19, as they will be posting photos and stories from the six day race course (yes, that is six days of running through the Colorado mountains)!

July 25, 2018

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PQ’s Clinical Model Published by CTA Press

Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director and Travis Slagle, Horticultural Therapy Director received notice that their article on Pacific Quest’s clinical model has been published through the ChildTrauma Academy Press. The article, titled, Application of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) in an Integrative Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Program for Adolescents and Young Adults provides a research-based overview of PQ’s clinical model with an emphasis on the neurodevelopmental applications of horticultural therapy.

First, the article reviews the research behind PQ’s clinical model including its foundations in neuroscience, outdoor behavioral health, horticultural therapy and integrative health care.  Next, the article provides an overview of the five components of the Clinical Model. The camp system and horticultural therapy activities are then discussed in the context of neurodevelopment and the four functional domains of NMT: Sensory Integration, Self-Regulation, Relational Functioning, and Cognitive Problem Solving. Finally, research on PQ’s model is presented.

This article is an excellent, accessible resource for parents and professionals interested in learning about Pacific Quest’s clinical model and how it works. The article is published in Proceedings of the Second Annual Neurosequential Model Symposium available on Amazon.

Read the article here!

July 8, 2018

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Pacific Quest Foundation Helps With Disaster Relief in Puna

As we are sure you are all now aware, there are many families who have been displaced by the current lava flow in the Puna district of Hawai’i. While this area of the island is well removed from Pacific Quest programs, PQ and The Foundation are committed to stewarding a healthy island community.

Building project in Puna

At Pacific Quest we teach that the foundation of any healthy community or family system is safe shelter and healthy food.  We recently held a campaign where 100% of donations made to The Pacific Quest Foundation went to disaster relief for the residents affected by the volcanic activity.

Thanks to many generous donations we have been able to donate $11,000 to the continuing efforts to rehouse families and individuals displaced by lava!

These projects include building longer term shelter options that will house families out of tents and out of the rain while the state and federal governments continue to work on relief and long term housing and community development plans.

Additionally, these funds will help reunite evacuees with family members who can house them, where travel costs have been prohibitive.

Now we are working on the project of getting children back to school.

There are many school children and teachers who have been displaced by the lava and in some cases have lost everything. The loss of houses is now over 700.  One school has lost all access to their facilities, while another is looking to address the mental health issues and trauma that is effecting the school population directly and indirectly in the shadow of this event.

Current fundraising will go to rental assistance to ensure the first school is housed for the year, as well as to developing and sustaining additional therapeutic services in the other.

We have already raised over $4000 through a peer to peer campaign and sponsorship for a long distance run our Executive Director and Alumni and Family Service Director will be completing in August.

If you missed our first campaign or would like to make an additional donation to this cause, we thank you!

July 1, 2018

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The Green Will Conservancy Receives Award from Pacific Quest Foundation

Pacific Quest Foundation helps to steward a healthy island community by contributing to existing 501(c)(3) organizations on Hawai’i. Over the years since our founding, Pacific Quest has developed relationships with over 60 local non-profit organizations through donations from our company, employees and clients. The PQ Foundation was created to continue this tradition of stewardship.

The Pacific Quest Foundation has awarded a grant to the Green Will Conservancy that will help to ensure their summer youth trip is a success.

We recently had the opportunity to interview Laura Dvorak, who is an MSW student and the Outreach & Fundraising Coordinator for the Green Will Conservancy to learn more about this incredible program and how they are influencing the Big Island community.

Can you tell me about the Green Will Conservancy’s background founding?

Green Will is the legacy project of four Hawaii island based social workers and was first envisioned 10 years ago.  Frank Capatch, LCSW is the Program Director.

GWC’s Friendship House and Lava Tree Lodge are based upon the Social Work Settlement House traditions.

Friendship House hosts the hands-on Green Will Conservancy Programs for youth and families and meetings to address cross-training, peer review, and “train the trainer” learning community needs.

The Professional Settlement House community has maintained a core of full time residents averaging four to five non-related social work professional members. They share the same community organizational interest along with an ongoing coterie of interns and visiting professionals, small group conference attendees and onsite researchers.

Both Lava Tree Lodge and The Zoar Valley Sanctuary locations have been actively engaged in support of restoration of indigenous peoples rights and culture. We support a wide range of human service/social work activities. We also do work to preserve and enhance the flora and fauna of both locations and implement invasive species management.  Special focus has been on aesthetics and preservation of the physical natural environment in both locations. Architecture and construction has been sensitive to ensure least destructive impact on environment.

Lava Tree Lodge Hawaii retreat consists of approximately ten acres located in the Puna rainforest of rural Hawaii. The retreat preserves both a high degree of native plant and animal life. At least 50% of the property has been sustained in a natural rainforest state. The remaining area of the property is planted with a large diversity of native and non-native plants, tropical fruit trees, shrubs and vines and landscaped with vegetable and meditation gardens.

What are some of the projects and programs the Green Will Conservancy is currently working on?  How many students do you all work with? 

Hui Mana’o is the pre-vocational teen leadership program of The Green Will Conservancy. We meet every Sunday for four hours and have attendance of five to eight teenage students on any given week. The focus is on exercise, gardening, technological skills, expressive arts, culinary skills, cultivation of emotional intelligence, and substance abuse prevention. Youth who qualify are also welcome to support our Saturday keiki program by providing role modeling for the younger children, and gain valuable leadership experience. All programs are supervised by licensed mental health professionals. Teens are offered a nominal stipend to attend the Sunday group and also to support the keiki (children’s) program on Saturdays.

GWC facilitates EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training of mental health professionals, including therapists from private programs and school-based counselors from the Hawaii Department of Education. This program seeks to target individuals and families of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, focuses a special emphasis on those who are at risk of environmental, economic and social marginalization. We will provide international level continuing education for the community professionals who provide health, educational and mental health services to them.

GWC also manages an online professional institute, which supports global awareness of our program models and resources and seeks to inspire replication and innovation. (http://thegreenwill.org/category/inst/).  Our design and implementation reflects a generalizable demonstration program based on onsite/ online learning systems, community organization, ecological system models and neurologically based trauma informed/capable care approaches.

The Green Will Conservancy reflects models for replication and the summer teen program is no exception. Public policy makers will naturally replicate these small-scale models as they demonstrate their utility and as the awareness of the impacts of non-sustainable practices become more evident. Education, mental health and social work systems are adapting new neurologically based, social-ecological treatment models that are addressing the trauma and resiliency needs of the 21st century.

What is the Green Will Conservancy’s 2018 Summer Youth Program and what impact does this program have on the youth?

Our summer program takes up to 5 youth to our summer camp in the Zoar Valley Sanctuary in Western New York state for up to two weeks with program mentors for a rite of passage experience using EMDR and environmental therapy.  Selected youth from Polynesia are matched with youth from the Iroquois Nation, inner city Buffalo NY, and NE Ohio. Under LCSW and Qualified Mentors support, our “Kupuna” elders are selected from all those locations and from Hawaii and offer moral leadership, augment programming and provide direct support.

Future goals of Green Will Conservancy and how can people help?

The Puna region of Hawai’i Island is facing unprecedented ecological, social and economic upheaval as continuous eruptions from one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kīlauea) are forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.

One of the only non-profit mental health agencies in the immediate area is The Green Will Conservancy, Inc. GWC is a 501(c)3 charitable, educational organization based in Nanawale Estates, which is closely neighboring Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens and Kapoho, where to date, several hundred acres of land has been covered by lava (and hundreds more scorched by heat and gases).

The mental health practitioners within GWC specialize in trauma-capable and critical incident care such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  GWC is navigating the innumerable changes their agency faces with many clients (most of whom are Medicaid recipients) now dislocated and uncertain of their futures, immediate or otherwise. Psychotherapists from the agency are currently working in shelters treating evacuees, many of whom have lost everything. The agency held strong in the face of previous years’ events, and is continuing to do so in the face of this current eruption.

If you would like to contribute, your donation will grow the capacity of this generous group of trained therapists and interns, to join the network of those providing counseling and other mental health services to affected residents and first responders in these very trying times. There is a wider community of trained EMDR therapists on the island as well, who are available to step in as local resources are exhausted.

Our goal is to be able to provide short and long term psychotherapy to those who need it, free of charge and regardless of insurance status or proof of it (which can be challenging when living moment to moment in a shelter).

$10,000 will provide over 200 people in shelters with critical incident professional psychotherapy, and allow the Green Will Conservancy to operate their weekly keiki and teen programming.  youcaring.com/mentalhealth4puna

Mahalo (appreciation) for your kōkua (support)!

June 10, 2018

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Crossing a Threshold: A Parent Testimonial

We recently received this testimonial from a parent whose daughter attended Pacific Quest.  Thank you for sharing your story!

“Eight months ago our daughter’s father and I made the most difficult decision we had ever made in our lives ~ we chose to have our daughter transported to Pacific Quest. She had been spinning out of control for almost a year prior to this, the source of her depression, self harming, running away and drug use was not clear to us but after trying to help her ourselves and seeking the help of local therapists we realized we might lose her if we didn’t make this very difficult decision to send her away from home.

Although she did not go willingly it did not take long for her to begin to feel ‘held’ in this new environment. Safe with herself and safe under the care of a compassionate and deeply patient therapist and staff. One of the elements that seemed to both challenge her and give her the support she needed were the highly structured routine of each day with equal parts opportunity for self knowledge and growth as well as opportunities to give to the PQ community. Encouraging her to spend time by herself (never without eyes on her) and become comfortable in her own thoughts and struggles was key in slowing her down in order to see herself in relationship to her lived experience of the previous year. In this unraveling and opening up to her therapist she was finally able to share with us the source of her trauma. This was a huge step but also one that had to be treated with enormous delicacy and patience. The guided weekly phone calls with her therapist were invaluable as were the many hours of self reflection and writing that we were asked to do as we navigated both the old and our new relationship with our daughter. One of the most significant aspects of the PQ therapeutic process in my experience was understanding the patterns in relationships within the family. Without the recognition of our independent roles in our family story, I do not believe that our daughter would have been able to arrive at the deep healing that took place while at PQ.

Another of the enormously powerful and I think unique aspects of PQ is the role of initiation and ritual. These are often student led with the guidance and support of other students, therapists and staff. Early in her stay, our daughter chose to change her name from her birth name to her given middle name. She wanted to begin anew and renaming herself was a part of this new identity, she continues to use this name to this day.

I began to refer to this time of our daughter living away from us as the “betwixt and between” times. We had crossed a threshold, initiating us to another level of consciousness. This has most definitely been a time when we are clearly leaving behind what we believed to be “true”, what held us in our lives and what we move towards becoming ~ what is before us is still unknown, the discomfort of this place of “betwixt and between”. As our daughter used painting as an expressive modality during her stay at PQ, I also began to explore the personal and collective ideas of transformation and initiation in my own work.

As ritualized initiation in our culture is all but lost we sometimes are given the opportunity to “wake up” and re-member our soul’s work through a great loss or a traumatic experience in our lives. This has been one of those experiences for me, not one I would have ever asked for but as our daughter is able to say today, without these experiences she would not have “found” herself. The sum of our experiences have the possibility of transforming us as if there has been a mythic alchemical process, stirring the soul, aiming us towards our lives in a new and profound way. Along with both specific and mythic life challenges, this soul work through initiation and transformation has been at the root of this recent body of work: Dreaming in Red.”

– PQ Alumni Parent

Dreaming In Red

 

May 1, 2018

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Personal Reflection: A Parent’s Testimonial

We always appreciate hearing updates from students and parents about their experience at Pacific Quest.  Here is a testimonial from a parent who shared their story as they reflected back on the decision to bring their son to PQ and how they are doing after his time in Hawaii.  Mahalo for sharing your story!

“Only a month into his freshman year of high school it became clear that our son did not have the tools, or emotional capacity, to deal with his anxiety and he shut down. He refused to go to school and when we did actually get him on campus he would not go to class or worse, escape off campus. A specialist in our town recommended Pacific Quest (PQ) for our son and within a few weeks we were on a plane to Hawaii. The hardest moment of parenting in our lives was dropping off a child who begged not to be left on an island to deal with his issues (it took two hours to get from the hotel room, to the driveway and into the car). That said, we do not have a single regret about the decision because PQ changed our son’s life so dramatically. His therapist was exceptional, the program incredibly thoughtful and effective, the staff so kind and gracious and though our son will say he hated every minute, he does not deny what a gift it ended up being.  He has re-entered high school and excelled academically, become involved in sports and established a nice group of friends.  But most importantly he is far more confident of himself, more self-aware, has a broader vocabulary to express his feelings, and he continues to own the hard work to deal with the anxiety that remains.”

– Parent of PQ alumni student

March 23, 2018

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A Personal Reflection – PQ Alumni Student Testimonial

We always enjoy receiving letters from past students – who share updates on how they are doing, how their experience at Pacific Quest has impacted them and how life post PQ is unfolding.  This is a letter from a student to her therapist – what an inspiring testimonial to the powerful work that takes place here!

“ …I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience at PQ since leaving and just wanted to share some of my major takeaways with you since you were an integral part of my stay. I am so grateful for you and the role you played in my growth at PQ and beyond. Since coming home, things have certainly not been easy but I have learned so much and become such a stronger person in the process and I feel like I am really headed in the right direction at this point. I’m amazed at how much things have changed since I was in Hawaii! Looking back it’s sometimes hard to believe I’m still the same person. I thought when I graduated that I had learned a ton, and I did, but so much of that learning came after I had time to process the whole experience and live it out on my own.

Okay, I’ll warn you now, this is definitely the longest email I’ve ever written in my life, but I’m just so excited about all the realizations I had that I had to share them!

I still at times struggle with recalling treatment as a positive experience, mostly because it was just such a difficult time in my life, but as I was journaling the other day, I concluded the following… PQ taught me a lot of things – like how my happiness, life, and well-being are not dependent on my parents. Even though I love them, they don’t have the solutions or answers to everything and they shouldn’t be my reason for living. I need to live for myself because I am worthy of life and have a lot to hope for in the future. I also worked a lot on quieting my inner critic and developing more self-compassion. Acceptance was huge – accepting my feelings and present reality. For a long time I fought against and stuffed my emotions, but at PQ I learned to feel and express them in healthier ways. Although I remember feeling like all my independence had been taken from me (like how I couldn’t even go to the lua by myself at times), I really did learn a lot about being more independent and functioning and making decisions on my own, based on what I needed, rather than what I thought I “should” do. I also learned about setting boundaries with people. Other’s problems do not have to become mine. And I undid my distortion that adulthood sucks and that I didn’t want to grow up. In reality, both childhood and adulthood have their challenges and high points, but being an adult is really cool!

I learned about pushing through discomfort after taking the time I need to process, I learned about being okay with not being okay and letting my emotions out instead of bottling them. Man, I did a lot of letting out! I didn’t know it was possible to sustain that much emotional upset for that long or cry that many tears, but I think it was just everything I’d been holding in for my whole life finally pushing out. And I proved to myself that I really can make it through anything even when I think I can’t. I realized how much I want authenticity for myself and in my relationships. I learned to deal with and embrace difficult and vastly different types of people and to allow them to have their own beliefs while standing strong in my own. I learned that even when I think I can’t go on, or sustain more pain, or not hurt/kill myself, that I can live and be okay. I learned that sometimes it’s best to push through the pain and stick it out for the long-term goal to be reached. I learned that even when and sometimes especially if people know your weaknesses/struggles/faults/fears/failures, they can still love you.

I learned a lot about gardening and loved it! (Although it’s winter in CO and hard to grow things outside, I have a bunch of potted plants inside that I love caring for). I learned about the importance of balance. I learned how I can use my story to relate to and positively impact others and make a good change in both our lives by being authentic, truthful, and open. I learned that even with all the pain, life is worth living and I will never give up! I learned how many people love and want to support me. I gained empathy for more people and human experiences and suffering. (This whole experience really gave me a lot more empathy for my sister which has and will continue to help mend our relationship).

I learned to express my needs. I was honest and open and vulnerable more so than I’d ever been before with myself and others. I learned about self-reflection and how to ponder and explore what was going on. I learned to feel instead of stuff and it was so liberating! I laughed. I cried. I screamed. I sobbed. I wept. I yelled. I spoke. I found my voice and I was heard! I survived. I learned. I grew. I changed. And now I can thrive! I became more authentically me than ever before. I really did cry a lot and feel a lot of loneliness, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression, grief, and hopelessness – more than I ever imagined possible. And (and I say “and” not “but” because both were equally true) I also felt deep love, empathy, and compassion for myself and the people around me. I felt proud of myself (and I feel so proud of myself right now as I reflect on these things which is really amazing). I felt victorious and accomplished and happy and whole. On my last day, at my appreciation ceremony, eating dinner out by ocean front, my eyes brimmed with tears of joy and gratitude. It was by far one of my happiest moments (and I love thinking back to it – everything about it – the way the sun sparkled on the ocean, the way I was there in community with all those beautiful people I was lucky enough to call my friends and they were there to love and support me).

PQ was so hard, those 81 days, but it was oh so incredibly worth it! It saved and changed my life. I didn’t want to admit it for a really long time, but I needed PQ. I needed to go far away, get out of my comfort zone, be in a new place with new people, to first lose but then find myself, in a group of people who finally, really, truly, understood me and now I am finally starting to understand and love myself on a whole new level I never saw as possible…”

– PQ Alumni Student

February 21, 2018

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Mike McGee Receives Scholarship Award

Pacific Quest is proud to announce that Mike McGee, Family Program Manager, was awarded a National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Hawai`i scholarship!  This scholarship supports social work students in good standing who are making a difference in their communities.  The NASW Student Scholarships were first awarded in 2009 and aim to assist students in their education as they pursue careers in social work.

Mike McGee, Family Program Manager

Mike is currently pursuing his MSW at the University of Hawaii – Manoa, focusing on Mental and Behavioral Health.  The program itself has a focus on indigenous methodologies and populations, which ties in with the Rites of Passage programming that Mike spearheads at Pacific Quest.  Of the award, Mike comments, “ I am truly humbled to be chosen for this scholarship. Social work is such a unique field in its acknowledgement of the strength and capacities of all human beings. Throughout my years of experience at PQ, I see how these strength-based values are essential for the therapeutic process.” Mike will continue to apply his passion for the rich marriage of Rites of Passage and horticulture therapy in his current role of Family Program Manager.  Mike hopes to further utilize his education and experience  in pursuit of becoming a therapist at Pacific Quest.

This is Mike’s second scholarship award.  Last year he received a scholarship from the Zachary Fochtman Foundation to carry on a legacy of a young man who aspired to become a Wilderness Therapist.   The award is given annually to individuals that are currently in the wilderness therapy field.   Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director, comments, “Mike has a solid and unique skill set, which he continues to develop.  He will carry Zachary’s legacy forward with integrity.  We are proud to have him on our team.”

Mike will receive the award on March 16th in Honolulu – Congratulations, Mike!

January 19, 2018

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Sandalwood Restoration Project on the Slopes of Mauna Kea

A  group of Young Adult students recently had the opportunity to assist with a Sandalwood Restoration project on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  After departing Reeds Bay, the group took a scenic drive to meet the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers at the restoration site.  The rangers explained the importance of this project and the need to plant native Sandalwood to regenerate the forest and help maintain the root system of this region.

Students were given instructions and tools and worked alongside the rangers, digging holes and planting “keiki” sandalwood trees.  It was important to find a moist area in the soil, dig a small hole and then plug in the baby plant. Finding a nice, water-fed area was essential to ensure the small plants will grow.

Planting baby Sandalwood trees on slopes of Mauna Kea

A few of the students were a bit apprehensive at first, as this was a new project – but the rangers were patient and compassionate and able to help students to provide extra support to the group.  Before long, students were excited to get their hands dirty and help out!  It was a beautiful day and from the higher elevation, the group had a an incredible view of Haleakala – the volcano on Maui as well as the Kohala mountains and Mauna Loa. At this higher elevation there were a variety of different flowers, including the Hawaiian Rose, which provided insight into how diverse the Big Island landscape is.

Pacific Quest is committed to community stewardship and the ability to “give back”.  We believe empowering young adults to be active participants in community service promotes positive and meaningful engagement in society.  This is an ongoing project and Pacific Quest students will continue to offer support on a monthly basis towards rebuilding this ecosystem.

The Pacific Quest Foundation also provides financial support to the Sandalwood Reforestation project. Grants such as these are made possible by the generous donations of Pacific Quest and Pacific Quest Foundation families, friends and supporters.

January 9, 2018

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What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  – Hippocrates

Whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet

At Pacific Quest, we believe food is medicine.  We provide whole foods, hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory, and blood sugar balancing diet, rich in critical nutrients for optimizing health.  There is a daily focus on healthy foods and nutritionally complete meals, which mainly consist of organic fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains with the additional sources of animal protein, tofu, dairy and eggs. In addition, each meal is composed of complex carbohydrates, protein, and plenty of vegetables or fruits.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

The Pacific Quest diet is an anti-inflammatory diet, but what does that mean?  Simply put, it does not contain inflammatory foods; such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, preservatives or hormones.

Inflammation contributes to the majority of the health issues and uncomfortable symptoms, which your body can experience. This includes depression, type II diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, mental confusion, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, skin diseases, gastrointestinal issues, attention deficit, and the list goes on.   Anti-inflammatory foods include most all fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, organic eggs, whole grains and some herbs.

While at Pacific Quest, students learn that what you put in your body directly affects how you feel and are taught the basics of nutrition and how the body uses food as fuel. Adolescent and young adult students learn how to cook and prepare food using the freshest and most natural ingredients.

Here is a recipe that students prepare:

Thai Basil Eggplant, Snap Peas, & Broccoli

Ingredients:

Eggplant, Snap peas, Broccoli, Onion, Garlic, Basil, Salt, Olive oil

Prepare:

Harvest 3-5 large eggplants and 16 oz basil leaves

Process in kitchen and set aside

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Chop broccoli and eggplant into bite-sized pieces

Hand tear snap pea tips away from snap pea

Pour vegetables into large bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Toss until all vegetables are coated and place on large cooking tray.

Cook for least 40 minutes

Dice 1 onion

Rough chop 1.5 bulbs of garlic

Rough chop basil

Lightly saute onion and garlic, wait…then add basil to lightly saute in – set aside.

Set up blender and combine:

Garlic-onion-basil saute, and 2-3 oz olive oil, and pinch of salt.  Blend until smooth.

Check vegetables and when ready, arrange vegetables on plate and add a small dollop of blended sauce atop vegetables.

Enjoy!