Almond Butter Kefir Breakfast Smoothie

Almond Butter Kefir Breakfast Smoothie
Almond Butter Kefir Breakfast Smoothie

From pancakes to waffles to power shakes, our weekend always starts with a special breakfast. What’s a special breakfast? Pretty much anything that is not cereal or oatmeal – we are easy to please…

With my kids, the tradition of a special breakfast now spans more than one generation. When I was little, my mom always treated me like a little weekend queen. My Saturday morning would begin with an elaborate omelet, Potatoes with Lox, or a Russian French Toast, called Grenki – my absolute favorite! Unfortunately, because of my son’s severe egg allergies, eggs are not welcome in our house, so I do try to get creative with other tasty alternatives.

Our new special breakfast is Almond Butter Kefir Breakfast Smoothie. This deliciously scrumptious shake, which is low in fat and high in protein and fiber, has become everyone’s favorite very quickly.  It’s fresh, creamy, and sweet.  It will satisfy your hunger for hours without causing you to reach for a snack.  And most of all, it will deliciously trigger all the right taste receptors!

Almond Butter Kefir Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 2 small adults or very hungry children


2 bananas, sliced (fresh or frozen)
1 cup plain Lifeway Kefir (you can use other brands of Kefir or liquid yogurt as well, but I like the tartness of the Lifeway Kefir)
2 scoops Flaxseed Meal
2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
Honey (optional, to taste)


  1. Put all ingredients into your favorite blender. NOTE: If you use a blender frequently, I highly recommend investing in a powerful blender, such as Vita-Mix.  I have had my Vita-Mix for over 11 years and it has been one the most used appliance in my kitchen – I use it to chop vegetables, cook soups (yes, cook, it spins so fast that it boils water in 7 minutes), make almond butter or ice cream, grind grains for fresh flour and even neat dough.
  2. Puree, until smooth and creamy. Add more kefir if needed to achieve the desired consistency. Sweeten to taste with honey.
  3. Pour into the serving glasses and don’t forget the straws. Another NOTE: Don’t let this delicious smoothie sit in a glass for too long; it tends to separate into layers, which is an interesting physical phenomena to observe, but with flax sunk to the bottom, makes the smoothie not so smooth.

Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette

Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette
Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette

This summer salad is a hit at every gathering. It’s one of my most requested recipes.  Slightly tangy vinaigrette truly compliments the sweetness of the caramelized figs.

Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette

Top 5 recipe on FoodBuzz

Adapted from

Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette
Caramelized Roasted Figs with Baby Greens and Honey Vinaigrette


  • 4 small fresh black mission figs, stemmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cups baby mixed greens
  • 1 handful each assorted fresh herbs, finely chopped (my favorites are basil, chives and cilantro)
  • 4 ounces gorgonzola, cut in big chunks (works just as well with goat cheese)



  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut a small “X” in the top of the figs and squeeze it gently to crown it slightly. Put the figs on a sheet pan and drizzle them with olive oil. Bake until the figs are soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes.
  3. Put the mixed greens and chopped herbs in a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper; toss gently with your hands.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the honey, warm water, and lemon juice; whisk with a fork to combine.
  5. To serve, divide the greens between 2 plates, mound the chunks of gorgonzola cheese on the side of each and place 2 roasted figs in the center of the salad. Drizzle the whole thing with the warm honey vinaigrette.

I love everything figs and I use them often in salads. I found many inspirational ideas in a wonderful recipe book – Salad Dressings, by Maren Caruso

Wine pairing:

The classic Gorgonzola match is Riesling, so I like pairing this salad with a crisp fruity wine. Try with an 86-point Riesling

Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes

Simply  Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Topping
Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Topping

Top five glimpses into the character of my 5-year-old son Jacob:

  1. At the dinner table. Jacob: “Mommy, this soup is spicy. Can I have some wine?”
  2. “Lizard of Oz,”said Jacob.
  3. My 7-year-old daughter Mika needed to measure 3 tablespoons of liquid for her science experiment. She asked Jacob for help. He returned with 3 table spoons.
  4. During a service at the synagogue.  Everyone is singing along with the rabbi.
    “Jacob, why aren’t you singing?”  Jacob: “Oh, I need a guitar for this.”
  5. “Jacob, would you like to go see Annie, the musical?” Jacob, “Is it on Blu-Ray?”

Happy Fifth Birthday, honey!

Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes

Simply Vegan Vanilla and Agave Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Makes 12 cupcakes


2/3 cup soy milk (I’ve used rice milk and regular milk as well)
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup organic light agave nectar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Rich Chocolate Vegan Ganache Topping or Cream Cheese Frosting (see both recipes below)


  1. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners and preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Mix the soy milk and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl; allow to sit for a few minutes to curdle.
  3. Beat in agave, oil, vanilla, and almond extract.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until smooth.
  5. Fill the liners two-thirds full. Bake 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Remove cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Then transfer them to a cooling rack to prevent sogginess.
  7. Cool for at least an hour before topping or filling.
  8. Smear liberally with Chocolate Ganache or Cream Cheese Frosting.

Simply Vegan Vanilla and Agave Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Hello, Cupcake!

This makes a lot of  frosting – a whole 3 1/4 cups. If you are planning to mount frosting heavily onto cupcakes, go ahead and make a whole batch. Otherwise, I suggest only making half.


1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 box (16 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine the cream cheese and the butter in a medium bowl. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, and the remaining 1 tablespoon milk if the mixture is too thick.

Simply Vegan Vanilla and Agave Cupcakes

Rich Chocolate Vegan Ganache Topping


¼ cup soy milk (I’ve also used rice and cow milk in this recipe as well)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


  1. Bring the soy milk to a gentle boil in a small sauce pan. Immediately remove from heat and add the chocolate and maple syrup.
  2. Use a rubber heatproof spatula to mix the chocolate until it is fully melted and smooth. Set aside at room temperature.
Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Vegan Ganache Topping
Simple and Healthy Vegan Vanilla and Agave Nectar Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Vegan Ganache Topping, berries and Jelly Beans

Wine pairing:

You wish! But these cupcakes do go really well with hot chocolate or steamed milk!

Moroccan Red Lentil-Bean Stew

Moroccan Red Lentil-Bean Stew
Moroccan Red Lentil-Bean Stew

Last weekend, I took my friends on a culinary journey to Morocco. No suitcase required. Only a plate and a wine glass. Napkins and utensils — optional.

My husband and I experienced Moroccan food on our last vacation. The number of exotic delicacies that we came across was a bit shocking (even a little intimidating).  It was not the sheep’s brain stew, or the pickled lemon, or even the tagine of braided lamb intestines that captured my attention… but rather, a combination of the unique and authentic flavors, a bouquet of savory spices common to Northern African cuisine that left a strong impression on me.

Stews and tagines are not typical at our family’s dinner table (well, in the spirit of full disclosure, neither are cooked brains or intestines). Despite my gravitational pull towards lighter, fresher alternatives, the inviting memories of the Northern African cuisine inspired me to experiment with its flavors at home.

As the kids settled in the opposite corner of our small backyard, the adults gathered around the dinner table.  Red table cloth, chairs close together, dusk setting in, loud conversations, dishes passed around …  Roasted Chickpea appetizer, hearty Moroccan Red Lentil-bean Stew (see recipe below), Baby Greens with Roasted Figs in Honey Vinaigrette, Moroccan Lentil Salad, Tagine Bil Kok, Butternut Squash Tagine over Buttered Chile Couscous, Mejadra Rice, and Cauliflower dressed in Yogurt and Thini. Northern Africa, welcome to my kitchen!

Moroccan Red Lentil-Bean Stew

From A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup dried red lentils
  • ½ cup basmati rice
  • 1 tomato, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus springs of fresh cilantro for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • few drops of Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the saffron with the hot water; set aside.
  3. Add the curry powder, cumin, and rosemary to the Dutch oven; stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the saffron mixture, vegetable stock, beans, lentils, and rice. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and rice and tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato, chopped cilantro, and tomato paste. Season to taste.
  4. Garnish servings with springs of cilantro.

This stew tastes even better the next day.

Wine Pairing

A solid balanced Naked Winery Complicated Viognier is a great choice with a hearty lentil stew.

Julia’s Heirloom Red and Green Tomato Gazpacho

Julia’s Heirloom Red and Green Tomato Gazpacho
Julia’s Heirloom Red and Green Tomato Gazpacho

I feel lucky to know people who are passionate about food and cooking, just like me.

Recently, my friends Julia and Yuri, true aficionados of fine cuisine, had us over for company. Julia’s elaborate multi-course dinners, complemented with her husband’s well researched wine pairings, always make me look forward to evenings at their house.

The theme of the evening was Healthy Gourmet. Pre-dinner wet bar consisted of several types of aperitifs, including Metaxa, a Greek distilled spirit that definitely deserves a sip, if you’ve never tried it.

The first course was awaiting us at the table, even before we sat down. The meal started off with a layered Goat Cheese Beet Napoleon in Balsamic Reduction and a fresh-baked flaky Fig Strudel.

Chilled Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho that came next tasted garden-fresh, with a nice fiery spike. Gazpacho was accompanied by a peachy 2009 Julian Chivite “Gran Feudo” Rosado Navarra that helped to cool the palate and balance the spiciness in the soup.

We were just getting started. Our next course consisted of Ponzu Tuna and Miso Kapahi Duo Tartare.  Julia knows her fish well and matches the flavors and textures impeccably. This flavorful, yet delicate, dish was paired perfectly with Sho Chiku Bai NIGORI Unfiltered Sake.  As someone who does not regularly drink sake, I was very impressed. Unfiltered, creamy and sweet, it went down smoothly and offset the salt in the dish.

To clean the palate before the main course, Julia brought out a scoop of sorbet, served in Champagne.  Did I say “clean the palate?” Yes! Only at fine restaurants…  or Julia’s house! The inspiration for this palate cleanser came to her during her travel in Eastern Europe. That is typically how Julia comes up with most of her recipes – she gets inspirited by dining at exquisite restaurants and then uses that inspiration to fuel her culinary creativity.

With our palates clean, we were finally ready for the main course.  While 2008 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch was filling up our wine glasses, my favorite of the evening entered the dining room – rich and buttery Miso Seabass, served over wilted Georgian spinach, creamy brandied carrots and nutty red quinoa. Even the amount of alcohol consumed prior could not obscure the wonderful taste of that entrée. The soul of the food lover in me simply wanted to sing from joy.

What a night – our evening ended with a variety of seasonal berries, ice cream and other fancy deserts.

Tuna, soup and beets
Ponzu Tuna and Miso Kapahi Duo Tartare, Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Goat Cheese Beet Napoleo

Julia’s Heirloom Red and Green Tomato Gazpacho

(serves 6 )


  • 2.5 cups heirloom red and green tomatoes, chopped
  • 1  red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon green onion, minced
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato juice or V8
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 croissant
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon white sugar (might omit completely, personal preference)
  • Tabasco to taste (might omit completely personal preference)


Green zebra heirloom tomato, sliced thinly into rounds


  1. Roast bell pepper. If you have never roasted peppers, offers a really good tutorial.
  2. Remove the seeds and reserve the juice. (If you are really pressed on time, feel free to use  jarred roasted bell pepper).
  3. In a blender, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth.
  4. Refrigerate the soup until well chilled, about 1 hour. Season the gazpacho with salt and pepper to taste and ladle it into chilled bowls.
  5. Garnish the cold soup with the tomato rounds and serve.

Try this soup with fresh and fruity NV Le Grand Court Grande Cuvee Brut Rosé 

Ponzu Tuna and Miso Kapahi Duo Tartare, Miso Seabass, Sorbet in Champagne
Ponzu Tuna and Miso Kapahi Duo Tartare, Miso Seabass, Sorbet in Champagne

Butternut Squash Tagine with Buttered Chile Couscous

Butternut Squash Tagine
Butternut Squash Tagine

I love snooping around my refrigerator the day after a dinner party. All the delicious leftovers and a break from cooking!

Leftover dinner of the day: comforting and satisfying Squash Tagine with Buttered Couscous. Like all stews, this sweet and hearty slow-cooked squash definitely tastes better the second day.

Hey, kids, wash your hands, it’s a leftovers dinner time.

Butternut Squash Tagine with Buttered Chile Couscous

Adapted from The Modern Vegetarian: Over 120 Recipes to Wake Up Your Palate


  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2x 14 ½ ox cans tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 red chiles, split lengthwise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups water
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • half of small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ cup roasted sliced almonds, to garnish


  1. Peel the butternut squash with a potato peeler. Cut in half crosswise, then again lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and then cut into approximately ¾-inch chunks.
  2. Heat olive oil in a deep pan, sauté the onion until softened, add the garlic and all the dry spices and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, chiles, cinnamon stick, honey and water and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the butternut squash, season with sea salt and black pepper and simmer for 30 minutes until the mixture has thickened and the squash is tender, adding more water if necessary. Stir in the cilantro and adjust the seasoning.
  4. Sprinkle with roasted almonds and serve with Buttered Chile and Date Couscous (recipe below).

Buttered Chile and Date Couscous

Adapted from The Modern Vegetarian: Over 120 Recipes to Wake Up Your Palate

Buttered Chile and Date Couscous
Buttered Chile and Date Couscous


  • 2 cups instant couscous
  • 3 ½ tablespoons butter, melted
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 green chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 6 large dates, pitted, finely sliced
  • half a small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped


  • Place the couscous, butter, lemon zest and chile in a bowl.
  • Add a pinch of salt and pout over boiling water.
  • Cover with a plate and let steam for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the plate and fluff with a fork to loosen the couscous grains.
  • Stir in the dates and cilantro.

These leftovers pair well with a crisp light bodied Yalumba Y Series Pinot Grigio 2008

A Healthiterian’s Mission Statement

A Healthiterian Cucee
A Healthiterian Cucee

I love food.

I love pretty much everything about food — the taste and the smell, the process of preparation, serving it to people, evening meals with my family, going out to restaurants, and dinner parties with friends. For that reason, I would never deprive myself from the pleasure of eating.  I would never skip a meal or go on a diet.  I prefer burning calories to starvation. I would much rather eat well and exercise then deny myself a meal.

At the same time, I refuse to poison my body with anything processed, greasy, full of additives and preservatives, so I will  eliminate the term “frozen food” from my vocabulary. I despise chips, hot dogs, pizza and French fries, so I will avoid them whenever they are present at the table.  I find no comfort in sugary deserts, cookies, or ice cream, so I  will have no guilt rejecting them whenever they are offered.

I will treat my body with the respect that it deserves. And this is my mission statement.

A Healthy Snack – Crispy Roasted Chickpeas with Moroccan Spices

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook and Kalyn’s Kitchen

Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted Chickpeas


  • 2 cups dry garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt (optional)
  • 1 serving of Moroccan Spice Mix

Moroccan Spice Mix – makes 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Cook garbanzo beans according to instructions or use canned beans if pressed on time.
  3. Drain into a colander for 15 minutes. Pat dry if they still look wet.
  4. While beans drain, mix the spices.
  5. When the beans are well dried, toss with olive oil and 1/6th of spice mix. Store the rest in a glass jar.
  6. Spread the beans on a baking sheet, and bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until browned and crunchy. Watch carefully the last few minutes to avoid burning.
  7. Cool and serve right away or store in an air-tight jar to avoid them getting soft.
Roasted Chickpeas - a different view

The Superhero Soup

 Avocado Soup with herbs
Avocado Soup with herbs

I feel like I receive an extra reward sticker every time I successfully serve my family a nutritious meal that they all enjoy. That is why I am always on a lookout for a healthy recipe that appeals to all members of my family, including a self-proclaimed vegetarian daughter who does not really like vegetables, a fast food junkie  son who is yet to try fast food, and a husband who never notices what he just ate.

A few Sundays ago, after our usual morning workout, we spent most of the day hanging out by the pool. It was an unusually hot for the Bay Area day and we all came home, exhausted and dehydrated. As I flipped through the cookbooks, searching for a simple and quick dinner option, a chilled Avocado soup caught my attention. Intrigued by a wild combination of tarragon, marjoram, cucumbers and avocado, I decided to give it a try.

I must admit – this was one unforgettable bowl of soup, with an unfamiliar taste but a truly unique and complex character. A delicious mix of chunky fresh vegetables and herbs, layered over the luscious creamy base, presented a very nutritious first course.

Both my husband and I loved the texture but our kids begged to differ. Tarragon leaves, spiking out of the soup like aliens, fueled no enthusiasm in them. My daughter suggested that I run her portion through a blender and, Walla, a smooth and velvety creation was gobbled down in minutes!

I was so excited that everyone loved the soup that I could not stop talking about its incredible nutritional power. A true superhero, it helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, digest proteins and fats, eliminate toxic waste, absorb vitamins and minerals, guard against liver and pancreatic diseases, treat skin disorders and even fight fatigue. (Yes, I have been brushing up on my knowledge of fruits and vegetables!)

Within minutes of starting my shpil, I lost both of my kids to the trivia game of “Who knows the most facts about the snails” and my husband to his iPhone.

Avocado Soup

Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen


  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup yogurt (I used Fage Total 0%)
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 slender scallions, white parts plus a bit of the green, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or oregano (I always prefer marjoram to oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • ½ teaspoon sweetener, such as agave syrup, to taste

To Finish

  • Finely sliced chives and chive blossoms
  • Thinly slivered radishes
  • Dill, mint, and cilantro sprigs
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds


  1. Puree the buttermilk, yogurt, avocado, garlic, a quarter of the peeled cucumber and salt in a blender until smooth, then pour it into a bowl.
  2. Add the scallions, herbs, chile, and lime zest to the mixture.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lime juice, and sweetener, if needed.
  4. Seed and finely dice the remaining cucumber and add to the soup.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Just before serving, taste and correct the seasonings.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls, then cover the surface with the chives, radishes, herb sprigs, and almonds.

Wine Pairing

It’s not an easy task finding a wine to accompany a dish of many flavors. How about a bottle of tangy Gruner Veltliner, such as Gruner Veltliner to help balance the dill and marjoram in the soup?

Sesame Chicken of Our First Date

Sesame Chicken
Sesame Chicken

My husband, who has known me since I was in high school, is often amazed at how my memory works. I may not remember anything about a movie we watched a week ago but I can tell you in details what I ate on a particular date, a company holiday party, a vacation, or a rehearsal dinner.

On our first date, my husband and I, for the lack of a better destination, stopped by Lucky Penny, a diner on Mason and Geary in San Francisco.  Neither of us was really hungry, so we decided to split a Sesame Chicken entree.  Paying little attention to the chicken we watched day turn into night, while sharing our lives with each other.  There, over Sesame Chicken entree, our story began.

A few years ago, while driving in the city, I passed by Lucky Penny and the memories of our first date came gushing in.  A burgundy booth tucked away in the corner of the half empty diner, worn out plastic benches, dim lighting, and walls covered with faded pictures of celebrities; first-date butterflies, cozy conversation, Sesame Chicken….

I came home that night hoping to re-create the gastronomical sensation of our first date. Within a few clicks, I found a perfect recipe. Not only did it remind me of the Lucky Penny’s original, but it was also delicious and easy to make.  That night, with the help of a bottle of Riesling, an entree from All-Recipes took us back in time to our very first date.

Sesame Chicken

Adapted from

Sesame Chicken in a pan
In a pan


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup  sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 lb chicken tenders
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil (I recommend using Sesame Seed oil)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 6 tablespoons honey (my favorite is Billy Bee Organic)



  1. In a wide frying pan, toast sesame seeds over medium heat, tossing occasionally. For convenience, keep a few bottles of toasted sesame seeds in your pantry.
  2. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine flour, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Place a few pieces of chicken at a time into the bag, and shake to coat. Remove to a platter.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Place chicken into skillet, and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, combine Liquid Aminos and honey.  Add sauce to skillet. Sauté for 2 more minutes, then add corn.
  5. Warm gently until heated through.
  6. To finish off, add 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds and remove from stove.
  7. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing:

My favorite wine to accompany this dish is a Dry Riesling. Its tart peach, pear, and lime flavors go really well with the sweetness of the Sesame Chicken.

Scallion Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato
Scallion Sweet Potatoes

My love affair with Mr. Sweet Potato (aka Sr. Yam) began not that long ago… It was love at first sight.

We were introduced to each other at my friends’ house over one unforgettable Thanksgiving dinner. Served with beef kebab and a medley of root vegetables, Mr. Sweet Potato rested modestly by the rim of the casserole pan.   With the first byte into its thick and textured flesh, my pallet instantly fell in love with the complexity of its character.

That evening marked a beginning of a beautiful life-long friendship. With each serving, my feelings for this sweet and savory vegetable grew stronger. From that day forward, I’ve been religiously revising sweet potatoes every few weeks: roasted, grilled, parboiled, pureed, in a soup, as a stew, or as a side dish… You name it, I’ve done’em all!

This particular recipe has been adapted from The Food Network Magazine. Grilling Yams brings out their natural sweetness and caramelizes them in a way that no other cooking method does. Pair them with salty Moroccan dry-cured olives or pitted Mediterranean Kalamata olives for a quick mid-week dinner.

Scallion Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from Food Network Magazine


  • 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Combine potatoes, scallions, garlic, and thyme in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
  4. Place on a sheet of foil and fold it up. Leave a small opening for the steam to escape.
  5. Grill over low heat with a grill cover down, until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

Wine pairing:

This fresh, with notes of citrus fruit, pear, grapefruit and hints of hazelnut, a solid balanced Naked Winery Complicated Viognier goes really well with the bold flavors of Scallion Sweet Potatoes, especially when you accompany them with grilled fish or roast chicken.