Scarlet Goodness


If I can give beets a huge hug for being so cute and delicious, I totally would. I love beets – with its uniquely sweet flavor and lovely texture — but I don’t like cooking them much at home. It’s difficult to rise off all the red color that bleeds after cooking these little root vegetables! But I learned recently that I can reduce the mess if I roast them in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil instead of boiling them in hot water (which I used to do), so I’m not as intimidated as I was before.

I picked up three medium-sized beets at a local Asian market the other day and turned them into a quinoa salad, inspired by a lovely scarlet quinoa side dish from M Cafe de Chaya.

Scarlet Quinoa

2-3 medium size beets
1 cups dry quinoa
2 cups water or your favorite broth
Handful of parsley, chopped

For the Dressing:
¼ cup vinegar (more if you like)
¼ cup olive oil (more if you like)
Salt and pepper

Beets:  Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Wash the beats and wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Put the beets in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until they are tender. Take them out of the oven, peel and cut them into medium-size cubes.

Quinoa:  After rinsing the quinoa, toss it in a pot with 2 cups of cold liquid (I usually use water). Bring the liquid and quinoa to a boil in high heat. Once the liquid comes to a boil, cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer, until the liquid is gone (about 15-20 minutes). Turn off the heat, and let the quinoa sit for about 10 minutes, with the lid still on.

Putting it all together:  Add the beets and cooked quinoa in a bowl. Add the parsley and the dressing. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.

Welcome to Pasadena: Tender Greens

I’m delighted to find that so many of my favorite eateries are opening up their second and third (or seventh!) store in the Pasadena area! Musha, a Japanese izakaya, recently opened in Old Town (I no longer need to drive to Santa Monica or Torrance for yummy Japanese tapas); vegan extraordinaire Real Food Daily opened on Del Mar; and famous Urth Caffé is scheduled to open in the Pasadena Playhouse District in 2013.

Another establishment to make Pasadena its new home is Tender Greens, an amazing salad place that serves quality salad, as well as hot food off the grill. I really enjoyed going to the Culver City location, so it’s a treat that this lovely place is now closer to my house.

My last visit was more than two months ago, but I thought I’ll share the photos here!

It’s no surprise that I order the same old Backyard Steak salad. I can’t help it – it’s so delicious!

This is Kevin’s Chipotle Barbeque Chicken salad. I’m going to try to venture out to other offerings next time … if I can stay away from the steak salad. I’m a total creature of habit!

Tender Greens
621 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101


Day 5 of a 15-day cleanse

Breakfast (7:30 a.m.): I started work at 5:00 a.m. to finish up a project that I needed to submit first thing in the morning. I’m not much of a morning person but I feel super productive when every time I get an early start.

I made a juice (kale, celery, carrots, romaine lettuce, apples, ginger root, and lemon) and realized how much a lemon makes a difference in it. This was my first time adding this citrus fruit in a juice and I loved it. It cuts the slight residual bitterness of kale completely and it makes the entire concoction unbelievably refreshing!

Lunch (11:00 a.m.): My body was craving the broccoli salad so much that I had to eat lunch earlier than usual. To make sure that I have sufficient protein intake, I added tofu to the salad. I crumbed it in and it looked and tasted just like cottage cheese. I had some strawberries for dessert.

Snack #1 (2:00 p.m.): Juice time! I think this is very similar to Mean Green, but with carrots. I was able to cut down the apple to just one this time! I can’t get over how much I’m loving the lemon in the drink!

Snack #2 (4:00 p.m.): Carrot sticks (3 medium ones) with hummus, plus a grapefruit.

Dinner (7:00 p.m.): Spinach and arugula salad with red onion, avocado, and mango chunks, dressed in ginger dressing.


  • My hands and feet are no longer freezing; but then again, it’s also warmer outside today so that can be why.
  • My hair feels softer!
  • I’ve been sleeping better at night. I don’t wake up as often and I feel refreshed when I wake up.
  • My skin feels drier the last few days … my arms are a little itchy.
  • My digestive system is working better than ever!
  • I’m in a better mood lately … and I find myself talking and saying hello to vegetables.
  • I’ve lost 3 pounds so far and my face feels softer, around the neck area.

New Year’s Eve Party Favorite: Tomato Salad

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope you had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration, whether it was a Clicquot–filled party with your friends, or a quite night with you and thousands of enthusiastic and rather cold people waiting for the ball to drop on Times Square on television.

My boyfriend, my sister, and I enjoyed the countdown at my place over Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon (which is quickly becoming our yearly ritual), my favorite tomato salad, and many bottles of wine. I got a little carried away and had too much to drink 😳 , but I was glad I was at a comfort of my own home with love ones who will love me regardless of my embarrassing mumbo jumbo craziness that I supposedly displayed that night.

For the first blog post of 2011, I would like to share a recipe for the tomato salad that I made to accompany the French beef stew that night. I love this salad so much for its flexibility (you can put any vegetables you have in the fridge) and its amazing flavors that I make it for myself at least once a week.

Easy and Delicious Tomato and Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 6

5 tomatoes, chopped bite size
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks
1 English cucumber, diced
1 haas avocado, cubed
2 to 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
Handful of Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.  You can use more or less.
1/4 cup white wine vinegar.  Unseasoned rice or red wine vinegars work too, but don’t use balsamic.
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables, except for avocado. You can dice them or chop them up to bite sizes. I like my vegetables pretty chunky for this salad, so I chop them very roughly. Toss them in a bowl.  (Note: Although I usually take those slimy seeds out of tomatoes because I don’t like the texture, I suggest that you keep them in for this salad.  The liquid from the seeds makes all the flavors travel well through all the veggies and it will taste so much better!)

Crumble the goat cheese with hands (I used the herb and garlic flavored kind) and add it to the bowl. Add garlic, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss. Let the mixture sit for at least two hours for all the flavors to come together.

Right before you’re ready to serve, chop the avocado and add it to the bowl. Toss everything one last time and serve. You can make this a day in advance (I actually like it when it prepared in advance)!

Serve with toasted garlic sourdough bread (rub the garlic and olive oil on one side of the bread and toast in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the edges become golden brown).

You can throw in a day-old bread and make it into a panzenella salad like this one, or toss it with your favorite pasta and make it into a delicious pasta salad, perfect for lunch the next day!

Not “Just” Lunch: Easy 10-Minute Salad

My goal, not just this year but for the rest of my life, is to treat myself with care, compassion, and love. I sometime wonder why so many of us, myself included, are overly critical of ourselves. Is it nature or nurture?  Well, I suppose it’s the latter because I don’t believe that we are born with the preconceived notion that we’re not good enough.  But as we go through life, we encounter obstacles that make us falsely believe that we are indeed not worthy of wonderful things in the world, like happiness, love, or in my case, good food.

I noticed that when I’m feeling crappy, I eat crappy food (whoever first said “you are what you eat” is a genius). I think feeding myself with junks like fat- and chemical-laden, artificial “food” has always been my subconscious attempt to convince myself that I’m not worthy of good things, as if depriving myself of healthy nourishment that feed my body and soul is the way of punishment. I am now convinced that junk food consumption is a display of self-hatred, and in order for me to start accepting myself for who I am, I needed to begin the journey with the commitment to eating delicious, nurturing, whole food … and I can definitely do that!

My first step is to eliminate the word, “just,” when describing meals. Instead of saying “oh, it’s just lunch,” and eat sub-par food, I made a commitment to take time to prepare and / or pack a thoughtful meal. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant — simply good, natural, delicious food.

I learned that good food doesn’t have to take much time and effort to prepare. (I’m serious about this.  I used to say I have no time to do anything, but the truth of the matter is that I did have time, and had plenty of it.  I just chose to spend it elsewhere, that’s all.) It’s as easy as chopping vegetables and boiling water. Today for lunch, I prepared a Salad Nicoise-esque dish with all the leftover food I had in the fridge. The salad has string beans sautéed with olive oil and lemon juice, boiled red potatoes, hard-boiled egg, and shrimp (the frozen shrimp is a little pricey but is such a good investment and they last forever in a freezer), dressed in homemade Italian dressing of olive oil, mustard, garlic, rice vinegar, and salt and pepper. It only took about 10 minutes to prepare and the result is one satisfying, delicious lunch.  The plate is big enough to feed two, unless you’re super hungry, like I was today.

And this time, instead of saying that this lunch is just for me, I’m going to boast that is IS for me, and be truly thankful for the wonderful, gastronomic offerings the world has blessed me with today!  I feel really refreshed now and energized to take on the rest of the day!

Happy February, everyone! 🙂

Plate Full of TLC: Tender Greens

tender green front

I love the contradiction steak salad brings to the table. A hunky piece of steak on a bed of delicate greens is as interesting as meeting a manly man who enjoys opera. I guess I can say that steak salad is Ronny Cammareri of the food world – it can appear a bit awkward at first but it can turn out to be incredibly sexy, complex and delicious. (If you have never seen the movie, “Moonstruck,” please watch it … it’s tangy, luscious, and bittersweet all rolled up in one, beautifully made flick … and I have a thing for Nic Cage.)

tender green steak salad

I am a serial dater when it comes to finding the best steak salad in town. I try it at every opportunity I get.  Yes, I get around.  Of all the countless plates I’ve consumed in the last several years, I would have to say that the steak salad I had the other day at Culver City’s Tender Greens ranks as one of my favorites. The steak here is not for the faintest of heart – it is a real deal. The thick grilled flatiron steak is juicy and flavorful, and the combination of the tender steak with sweet red and gold beets on the bed of velvety butter lettuce dressed with horseradish vinaigrette would make anyone want to sing an aria. 🙂

tender green cobb

Check out Tender Greens’ selections of “simple” and “big” salads like the Grilled Chicken Cobb my sister ordered (pictured above), as well as “hot stuff” from the grill. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a nice glass of wine.

Tender Greens
9523 Culver, Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
(Other locations include West Hollywood and San Deigo)

My Favorite Home Cook Next Door: Harumi Kurihara

harumi-2Equally as respectable as classically-trained celebrity chefs (with their new restaurants popping up all over the world like zits on a teenage kid’s face) are some of the emerging “home cooks,” who, despite their lack of formal culinary training, bring a joy of cooking to average food lovers like myself, thanks to a powerful vehicle like Food Network.

I like watching shows with veteran home cooks like Ina Garten and Nigella Lawson (seriously, can she be any hotter?) who unapologetically toss five sticks of butter to make a little entrée for two (you go ladies!). And although I fear that I have accidentally flipped the channel to an inappropriate station whenever I see her joyfully massaging ground beef while sporting a very low-cut shirt, Giada De Laurenttis (my friend Gabriel and I call her the “Baby Nigella” because she’s sexy but not as much as the undisputed Domestic Goddess) is actually pretty fun to watch too. I like the fact that they have somehow remained authentic and true to their culinary roots which makes watching their shows educational, as well as entertaining. (fyi, I can’t stand Ms. E-V-O-O, thank you very much!)

harumiOne home cook who is virtually unknown in the Western market and has gone completely under the food-obsessed American media radar is Harumi Kurihara, Japan’s version of the domestic diva, who has been inspiring millions of Japanese home cooks with Martha Stewart-like vim and vigor (and equally impressive empire with appearances in numerous Japanese television shows, 20-plus cookbooks and her own magazine … all while staying out of jail) for over two decades, introducing them to fresh and creative ways of turning ordinary, everyday ingredients into innovative dishes. My favorite talent of Harumi is her incredible ability to resurrect the often unwanted leftover food into a stunning new dish.

Her menus are delicious but surprising simple, quick and very straightforward — making many wonder why I didn’t come up with the recipe. Her food in an award-winning cookbook Harumi’s Japanese Cooking is perfect for people who are curious and want to dive into Japanese home cooking (like Japanese Somen Noodle Salad, Spaghettini with Fish Roe Dressing, Japanese-Style Green Risotto, and Tofu and Avocado Dressing), and equally appropriate for Japanese cooks who’s looking for some inspiration to add creativity into their everyday meals.

harumi-1Her Carrot and Tuna Salad (she says that this recipe, “has proved to be one of the most popular”) is a perfect representation of what you’ll find in her cookbook. There’s nothing special about this salad, really – just a mixture of julienned carrots with finely chopped onion and garlic, and a canned tuna tossed in mustard dressing – but when you take a bite into it, you will taste something so familiar but new, something so simple but robust, and something so healthy but hearty. I made this salad for the first time for dinner last night, and believe me, I was under her magical spell just after one bite!

A Guilt-Free Cookbook: The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

As much as I love to cook and bake, you’ll be surprised to see how little cookbooks I own. Cookbooks, for me, are serious business and I don’t take them lightly. Before a book can secure a coveted spot on my lovely Ikea bookshelf, it must undergo an extensive selection process. And although the criteria I set are fairly simple and straightforward, it’s surprising to learn how many books actually make the cut.

I know that we’re not suppose to judge a book by its cover but screw it, I do. The book must, above all, capture my attention immediately, or I won’t even open it. If the cover is not attractive, how good can the recipes inside be? Cookbooks are about food, and I savor food and books with my eyes first.

ellie-krieger-001I’m not too critical about the amount of photographs inside though. Believe it or not, some of my all-time favorite cookbooks have absolutely no pictures in them. For me, the written words are as delicious, or even more decadent, than pretty glossies. Well-chosen words tell a beautiful story, recreate a special experience, and paint a colorful flavor in my mind. And that is a real treat.

Last but not least, I need to feel the love. The book must have passion, pride, inspiration, a defined point of view, and yes, love. It must also be something that has a tremendous meaning to the author. I don’t look at cookbooks solely as a source of good recipes but also as a dialogue between two people who love and respect food very much.

My latest cookbook acquisition is Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave, which focuses on recreating food we love and crave, only healthier. My ritual when I first bring home the baby is to sit down with a cup of tea, go through the book from cover to cover and mark all the recipes that I would like to try with little stickies. By the time I finished skimming through the book, I had marked more than 30 recipes! Everything in this book is fabulous, using fresh and healthy ingredients. I cannot wait to try Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs adn Cheese (pictured above), Crab Salad in Crisp Wonton Cups, and Portobello Panini with Gorgonzola and Sun-Dried Tomatoes!  How delicious, healthy and satisfying do these sound?  I really appreciate the fact that Krieger, a registered dietitian, included nutrition information on each dish too.

mushroom-saladWell, speaking of healthy and satisfying, I prepared this huge bowl of salad for dinner tonight (serves 2 as dinner, 4 as appetizers). This did not come from Krieger’s book, but it was inspired by a couple of recipes she created that used some of the same ingredients. This is a combination of savory smoked salmon, tangy goat cheese, meaty sautéed Portobello and Shitake mushrooms, creamy cannelloni beans, red onion slices, capers and a vinaigrette dressing on a bed of baby spinach. I bought each ingredient with an intention of creating couple dishes, but I got lazy so I decided to throw everything in a bowl and call it a salad. Despite the sloppy exterior, the salad was absolutely divine, healthy and complete guilt free.

The Food You Crave

By Ellie Krieger


Her Food Network show, Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger, is pretty darn amazing too!