Spinach walnut pesto pasta


I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t love a bowl of pasta. I think the vast majority of us are engineered to love the stuff. In fact, I’m willing to bet that even those who have shunned all pasta, including gluten-free versions, still have fond memories of big bowls of the oh-so comforting food.

I’ve never been a big pasta eater since somehow I’ve always known deep down that it’s not the healthiest option. Or maybe it’s just that my Japanese mother cooked primarily with rice, and I just didn’t get a lot of face time (mouth time) with pasta until I recognized it for what it is. Let’s be honest, it’s a “carrier” food. At least that’s what I tell my kids. There’s nothing redeeming about the pasta itself, but it serves as an excellent carrier for all sorts of sauces. They get that, and that’s why they happily gobble up my spinach walnut pesto pasta.

This dish gives you all the flavor of pesto sauce, but with the added nutritional benefits of spinach and walnuts, and you get to enjoy pasta on top of it. It’s become one of our Meatless Monday favorites. I usually use a gluten-free capellini pasta made from organic brown rice, but rotini pasta holds the sauce really well, and that particular pasta shape is a favorite with most kids. I’m sure it’s not the same as traditional semolina noodles, but we’re so accustomed to it, that we don’t miss the old stuff.



2 large handfuls baby spinach

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (stems removed)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, extra if needed

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Squeeze fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or parm-reggiano blend)

Sea salt to taste

Fresh-ground pepper



Put the first six ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Note: The mixture typically isn’t liquid enough to blend down completely on its own, so I use the plunger tool for my Vitamix to make sure everything gets down into where the blades are spinning. You can add a bit more olive oil if necessary.

Spoon out into a medium bowl. Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

Cook pasta noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain. Top with sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.







Why not publish a post of a dessert fit for Valentine’s Day, the day after Valentine’s Day? That’s exactly how my life has been going as of late. I’ve been so swamped at work, and with raising the children, that I haven’t found time to post. But the great news is, I’m posting this dessert which is absolutely delicious, nearly guilt-free, and super easy to make. You don’t even need to turn on the oven. You just need a few ingredients, a refrigerator and a little time to allow everything to work its magic. And although I think raspberries and chocolate are perfect partners, you could easily use other fruit as a substitute.

If you use raspberry preserves made without refined sugar, this recipe would also qualify as Paleo. However, I like to use Bonne Mamam Raspberry Preserve because the raspberry flavor is really intense and I like a bit more sweetness.

(Recipe modified from Bakerita’s Paleo Vegan Raspberry Chocolate No-bake tart.)


Crust Ingredients

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup pecans, very finely chopped (I use the mini-processor)

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt



3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk

5-6 oz  bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Green & Black’s Organic 70% bar)

¼ cup raspberry spread (use 100% pure fruit if you have it, otherwise use a low-sugar raspberry preserve

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch salt

2 cups fresh raspberries



Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with coconut oil. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the crust and stir together until fully incorporated. Press evenly into the prepared tart pan and set aside.

Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk until it’s just about to boil. Pour the hot coconut milk over the chocolate and let stand 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in raspberry preserves, vanilla extract and salt. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. (The filling mixture should be “runny” enough that it evenly fills the tart shell.)

Place tart in the refrigerator to set for 1 hour.

Garnish the top with raspberries, and return to the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until completely set.

Slice and serve.

Store leftovers–if there are any(!), in an airtight container in the refrigerator.





Pistachio Cranberry Shortbread


I’ve been trying to keep my mother’s tradition of making “Star Cookies” every holiday season. If you didn’t see that post and/or haven’t made those cookies, check it out here.

But this year I wanted to make something different and equally festive, so I started recipe testing pistachio cranberry shortbread cookies. Like with most of my favorite recipes, these are easy to prepare, simple and relatively low-sugar–especially for a dessert!



1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup cane sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest

1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

3 tbsp coarse ground sugar, such as turbinado



In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in the vanilla extract and orange zest. Blend in the flour mixture one-third at a time until fully incorporated. Fold in the chopped cranberries and pistachios. Scrape the dough out onto a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Carefully form it into a roll with flat ends. Note: You can put a little extra flour on the palms of your hands if the dough wants to stick to your hands. Wrap up the paper and place in the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours.


After the dough has chilled sufficiently, preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the roll out of the refrigerator and unwrap. Brush the outside (not ends) of the roll with the egg yolk, and sprinkle generously with the coarse sugar. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/4-1/3-inch slices. Place on the parchment-lined sheet approximately 1/2-inch apart. Bake 15-18 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are starting to golden. Let cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days.




Chicken in lettuce cups

Challenging to photo, but delicious to eat, this easy to prepare dish has become another family favorite (like the Gado Gado salad recipe I posted earlier this week).

Loaded with flavor and fun to eat, it takes about 20 minutes,  to make–start to finish. I also love that it makes a perfect meal as is, but you can easily dress it up and make a more substantial meal by serving it with a complementary side dish. The one I show below is fresh corn with shiitake mushrooms cooked in chicken or vegetable stock.

When I make this dish, I usually split the chicken mixture into two bowls right before serving–one for the kids, and one for the adult into which I mix the red pepper flakes and a squirt of Sriracha.



3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp chicken broth

2 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp sugar

1 lb. ground chicken or turkey

2 tbsp avocado oil

2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

1/3 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1/4 cup green onion, chopped

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

About 15 cup-shaped lettuce leaves (I use Bibb or butter lettuce), washed and dried

Cilantro sprigs for garnish



Whisk together soy sauce (or tamarin), broth, cornstarch, and sugar until smooth. Place ground meat in a medium-size bowl and separate into several lumps. Pour about half the soy mixture over the meat; mix and set aside.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add ginger, garlic, and red bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add seasoned meat, using a wooden spoon to spread into an even layer. Let cook for 1-2 minutes or until the underside has begun to brown. Turn to cook the other side until browned; break into chunks.

Turn off heat. Add remaining soy mixture to skillet or wok. Add red pepper flakes if using, green onion, sesame oil, and cilantro. Mix well. To serve family style, serve the meat mixture in a bowl with cilantro sprigs for garnish with the lettuce leaves on a separate platter.




Gado Gado–Indonesian salad

Do you sometimes get inexplicable cravings? I’m not referring to the sudden craving for a little something sweet or salty in the afternoon. I’m talking about the sudden, strong craving for a specific dish.

Well that happened to me about a month ago. I suddenly started craving Gado Gado, the common Indonesia salad of fresh vegetables, egg and peanut curry sauce. We don’t go to any Indonesian restaurants here in the Bay Area, so it’s not like I simply hadn’t been in a while and was missing a favorite dish. In fact, we typically go to an Indonesian restaurant only once a year, when we’re in Amsterdam visiting my husband’s family during the summer holiday. But we missed going this year–despite having a reservation at Kantjil in Amsterdam, since our flight from France was severely delayed. (Do not get me started on Easy Jet flight horror stories!)

The strong craving I experienced came on suddenly and would not go away. But luckily, I have a great recipe for Gado Gado that’s super easy!

This is a basic recipe (for 4) which you can modify to your liking. For example, you can substitute other vegetables, but I think this combination makes for the best in terms of taste, texture and color. The great thing about this salad is you need very little prep time, and you can often make it with ingredients you already have on hand.



1 tsp salt

1-1/2 cups green beans, trimmed

4 large organic eggs

1-1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts

1-1/2 cups radishes, trimmed and quartered

1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 package 14oz extra-firm tofu

1 tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp red curry or Madras curry powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp avocado oil


Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

3 tbsp hot water

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp Thai red curry paste

1/4 tsp sea salt

2 tsp sambal oelek or Sriracha (optional)



Place tofu on a plate layered with 2-3 paper towels. Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with water and a sprinkle of salt. Bring to a rolling boil; cover, turn off heat and let stand 12 minutes. Remove eggs from pan using a slotted spoon; rinse with cold water; peel and cut in half.

Return pan to boil; add green beans and cook 4-5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Drain; rinse with cold water; pat dry and set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the tofu. Cut the block lengthwise into four 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices on 2-3 layers of paper towels on a plate. Cover with more paper towels and a plate turned upside down. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Cut cross-wise to make 1/2-inch cubes. Combine cornstarch, curry powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Gently toss tofu to coat.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add tofu and cook for 10-12 minutes or until nicely crisp and browned on all sides.

Prepare peanut sauce by whisking all sauce ingredients together. Adjust seasoning to taste. If the sauce is thicker than you want, add a little extra hot water to thin it down. Note: I leave out the samba oelek or Sriracha if it’s a family dinner since my kids don’t like things too spicy–yet.

Cut the green beans into 2-inch pieces; arrange on a platter. Arrange eggs halves, bean sprouts, radishes and cucumbers. Serve with sauce on the side. Store leftover vegetables and sauce separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They make a great lunch the next day!






Minted melon soup


Back from the dead–or so it would seem.

I’m sorry there haven’t been any posts in such a long time. Between work and summer travel, I struggled to find any time–other than a few Instagram pics. My family and I spent two weeks in Europe visiting friends and family and then spent an incredible two weeks in Africa. (Look for a post on that soon.)

You might think that after taking a hiatus from the blog that I would post something really elaborate or spectacular. But in reality, I want to share an unbelievably simple, but delicious recipe as I start back up with my blog.

With all I see happening in the world right now, I’m personally craving comfort, simplicity and nourishment.

Maybe you live in a part of the United States that saw the brutal force of our world’s ever-strengthening storms. Or maybe you live in a country recently targeted by terrorists. I know it’s all relative, but until the last decade, my generation has managed to avoid a lot of large-scale and widespread adversity. Now I look around at what’s happening in many regions of the world and read news reports, and find myself nearly in a state of disbelief that so much division, animosity and chaos exists.

While it may not necessarily be recommended, many of us take comfort in food. And fortunately, food remains one of the main ways in which we experience other cultures, experience camaraderie and strengthen our families and our ties with friends, so I plan to start posting a lot of simple, healthy and comforting recipes. Try this super easy cold soup, which makes a perfect starter to a late summer or early autumn lunch or dinner.



1 ripe melon*, seeds removed, scooped from rind and cut into large chunks

1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped

4 tbsp fresh mint leaves

Juice of one lime

1/2 tsp salt

Mint leaves for garnish

*Canary or Honeydew melons work best for this recipe, but nearly any will do.



Place first five ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend on high for approximately 30 seconds. Adjust seasoning as needed and blend to incorporate. Chill for 1-2 hours.

Stir or lightly reblend, then ladle into bowls and garnish with a swirl of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprig of mint.

Serves 4.







It may be that you already traveled to some sunny, exotic locale during the winter holidays, or for “spring break” if you have kids. So yes, I should probably post my sunscreen picks a bit earlier in the year. But as they say, better late than never!

As I wrote up the post on our April trip to Tulum, Mexico I realized I hadn’t shared my sun protection product recommendations. I’m a big fan of applying suncreen every single day of the year–rain or shine, at least to the face. When you consider that the backs of the hands and decolletage are the first places to show signs of aging, those of us in age denial would be wise to cover those areas with sunblock as well.

I recently tried a mineral powder based product with an SPF 30+. I figured that at my age, it probably looks more youthful to cover any sun damage and have the skin looking flawless and age/sun spot-free. However, I thought the heavy layer of powder, despite being natural, made me feel too made up, which in turn made me feel older. So I switched back to my tinted sunscreens. They’re light, moisturizing and the sheerness makes me feel like I’m not trying to cover up anything (although if I could find a natural way to get rid of my age spots, I’d do it in a heartbeat).

I think Andalou Naturals and Juice Beauty make the best, reasonably-priced, all-natural tinted sunscreens available. Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Color + Correct and Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream continue to be my top picks for everyday sunscreen for my face. They’re both SPF 30+ zinc based–for the broadest spectrum of sun protection available, non nano particle, free of all the nasties (parabens, glycols, butenes, chemical sunblocks, etc.), and they both smell nice–something I’m very partial to seeing as I’m very scent-sensitive. Andalou offers a better price point, but Juice Beauty has a wider range of colors to choose from.

For my kids’ faces and for all of our bodies, I continue to love Burnout Sunscreen. It, too, is zinc-based, non-nano and moisturizing. Burnout offers several different formulations, but I usually get the Kids Physical SPF 35 or the Ocean Tested SPF 30. Burnout products are “reef safe” which is becoming a bigger deal in many parts of the world that still have viable coral reefs and/or reef fish populations. The faint white sheen it has when you first apply it sinks in about 10-20 minutes after application, which is perfect timing given that experts recommend applying mineral sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Another bonus: It doesn’t make you break out! There are no pore-clogging or other irritating ingredients, but if you’re prone to breakouts, always apply your sunscreen (or anything going on your fact) using clean hands. (But Burnout offers a Lightweight Oil-Free version if you’re extra sensitive.)

Of course, the best sun protection is no sun, or a long-sleeve shirt and broad-brimmed hat. (I love this inexpensive one featured above by Hinge at Nordstrom.) I don’t have a photo to share of her, but my 77-year-old aunt who grew up in Hawaii–but has always covered up, has an incredibly smooth, cream colored complexion. It’s too late to reverse some of the sun-worshipping naughtiness of my youth, but at least I make a point of putting on sunscreen everyday–rain or shine.

Happy summer and safe sunning!



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