Easy Summer Picnic + Hollywood Bowl

Picnic SpreadIn the spirit of being more spontaneous this summer, Daniel and I decided last minute to go to Reggae Night at the Hollywood Bowl (literally a few hours before the concert started!). So we only had a few hours to throw together a picnic dinner and Daniel also had to play in a soccer game during those hours. I didn’t feel like stressing out about the menu, but also didn’t want to pick up take-out.Bean SaladTabboulehMy happy medium was picking up a few prepared salads (bean salad and tabbouleh), ingredients for a green salad, a loaf of bread, wedge of cheese, bottle of wine and a little chocolate of course. For the green salad, I used arugula, goat cheese, baby heirloom tomatoes, slivered almonds and olive oil and vinegar. I put all of this in a to-go container and tossed it once we got to the concert. I picked up some chocolate peanut butter cups at the store, but also had brownies in the freezer, so brought both for dessert.Picnic SaladBrowniesI pre-sliced the cheese and brought the whole loaf of bread so we could just tear off pieces as we ate. The point is, a good, healthy picnic is not hard to throw together last minute and the stress of putting something together should never hold you back from doing spontaneous things! I encourage you all to go to the Hollywood Bowl if you haven’t yet. It is one of the best summer activities! Don’t forget a wine opener and a blanket :).photo 1 (2)

In My Fridge Week of July 20th

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetEvery Monday morning I go grocery shopping for work. My goal is to restock my fridge for the week with plenty of options for breakfast and beautiful snack plates. Somewhere between the confusion of it not being the weekend anymore and my denial of it being Monday, I try to look out for interesting and fun things to break up the inevitable monotony of breakfast/snacks. This morning I saw lychee, which inspired the fruit and cheese plate above. I’ve decided this is going to be the week of delectable fruit and cheese combinations, so I stocked up on plenty of fresh fruit and cheese. Monday isn’t looking so bad after all!

Hope you all have a wonderful week and find something unique in the grocery store to inspire you.

Happy Eating!

Date Nut Bread

IMG_7353I have been meaning to try more recipes out of the cookbook Good to the Grain and last weekend was the perfect time to carve out some space in the day for baking and catching up with a good friend. I mean, who doesn’t want to catch up over the smell of delicious bread in the oven? That’s my kind of friend date. Scratch that. That is my kind of ANY date. I love cooking so much with Daniel that I will often opt out of going out to dinner so that we can cook together in the kitchen. I think it is so special to spend time together working, creating and sharing what you made. IMG_7368I had to improvise a little bit here because I didn’t have everything on hand for this recipe, but I still love how it turned out. I will write the original recipe and my substitutions below. This bread is arguably more appropriate for fall, but when you crave something, you crave it and you shouldn’t have to wait several months to enjoy it. Thus, I present you with this delightful Date Nut Bread from Good to the Grain.IMG_7386IMG_7400My friend and I MAY have stolen some of the roasted nuts before we could bring ourselves to put them in the batter. The nuts are so simple to make, but they were amazing and something I want to make just as a regular snack by itself. IMG_7480I was a little too anxious to cut into the bread. I highly recommend letting it cool down for awhile so that it doesn’t crumble. I found that it was perfect after hanging out in the fridge overnight, I cut a slice toasted it and smothered it with fig compote. Now put this recipe on your weekend to-do list!IMG_7501Date Nut Bread- slightly adapted from Good to the Grain



Butter for the pan

1 1/2 cups pecan halves (I used 3/4 pecan halves, 1/4 cup cashews, 1/2 cup almonds and chopped them after roasting)

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 large Medjool dates, halved and pitted

Dry Mix:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-grain pastry flour

1/2 cup teff flour (I couldn’t find it, so I substituted 1/4 all purpose and 1/4 whole wheat)

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons nutmeg, freshly grated (I used pre-ground nutmeg and would drop it down to 1.5 tsp)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Mix:

4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used greek yogurt)

*I also added 1 tsp vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the pecans (or mixed nuts) in the oil and salt and spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Toast the pecans/nuts in the middle of the oven until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Set the pecans/nuts aside to cool, but keep the oven heated.

2. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil and pour over dates. Let the dates soften while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

3. Rub a standard loaf pan lightly with butter.

4. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grains or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter and set aside.

5. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to medium speed and cream until light in color, about 3 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend the dates with the soaking water until smooth. Scrape the date puree and whisk until thoroughly combined.

7. Pour half of the date mixture into the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the remaining date mixture into the bowl, then the remaining flour, and mix on high speed for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients. Add the pecans/nuts and stir them throughout the batter.

8. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth out the top.

9. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. When it is ready, the bread will smell like it is on the brink of burning; it should be deeply brown and even darker along the edges; and a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean.

10. As soon as you remove the bread from the oven, flip it out of the pan; then flip it right side up and transfer it to a cooling rack. Let the loaf cool thoroughly before you slice into it. It can be kept, tightly wrapped, for 3 days.


Berkeley Wedding

imageI swear every time I open Facebook I see a picture of a ring on THAT finger. Besides being overwhelmed by the insane amount of significance we place on the size of the diamond and wedding talk, I am still overjoyed for my friends. This wedding was different though. I felt lucky to be a part of a wedding that placed more appreciation for the love, joy and commitment between two people far above the size of a ring. image

imageDaniel and I flew up on Friday night and had a little time to explore before the wedding on Sunday. We walked around the beautiful neighborhoods of Berkeley and stumbled upon a great brunch spot, Elmwood Cafe. I was pleasantly surprised with this cozy, yet bustling cafe filled with hungry people awaiting brunch. Daniel and I both indulged (we were in vacation mode). I went for the chai tea latte, rhubarb scone with orange marmalade AND the poached egg sandwich with tomato jam and Daniel had the croissant, coffee and breakfast sandwich. Needless to say, we really needed to go for a walk after that.imageimageProcessed with VSCOcam with t1 presetLater in the afternoon, my sister, mom and I attended a women’s circle for the bride; an intimate gathering of her closest female friends to bestow blessings, hopes, wishes, dreams and lots of love to the bride before marriage. This was definitely one of the most beautiful things I have had the honor of being a part of (besides the wedding). After I locked Daniel out of the house (woops), we picked him up for dinner and went to Cafe Gratitude for a delicious vegan meal. And then finally, the wedding! We arrived after a lot of rushing around the house, trying to get out of the house by 11:00 am, which is truly difficult for my family. The bride and groom spent a week apart before the wedding and when the groom finally saw the bride, he dropped to his knees, overcome by emotion. Let me tell you, I lost it-absolutely started crying from the collective emotion. The whole day was just a big love fest. Congrats Noa and Jack!!! Thank  you for letting me be a part of celebrating your love and I wish you the most joyous and happy life together.photo








Strawberry Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

jacqui_smoothie001The first thing my sister said when I told her about the flavors of this smoothie, “strawberry and peanut butter together? hmmmm…. how strange”. I’m convinced she still has issues from growing up being a very picky eater. Come on, anyone who ate PB&J’s growing up knows that strawberry and peanut butter love each other.

Anyways, I needed to break up my workout routine, so I signed up for this 30-day Pilates challenge for June and I am loving it so far! I started making this protein smoothie as a post-workout breakfast or snack. Hope you like it! And if you have any fun fitness challenges you do, let me know!

Strawberry Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie: serves 1


1/2 cup frozen strawberries

1/2 frozen banana

splash of vanilla extract (1/4 tsp roughly)

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 scoop protein powder (I use vanilla pea protein that I got from Whole Foods)

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk


Throw everything into the blender and blend for 1 minute. You might have to stop the blender and shake it around a bit or add a little bit more milk.



Lemon Rosemary Tart

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe first time I tried this tart I was over at a friend’s house. She had made it the day before for a dinner party and she pulled the leftovers out of the fridge when I came over. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that my friend and I polished off the rest of the tart. I couldn’t help myself it was AMAZING. So fast forward a few weeks later and I made it for my family. We all declared this tart the new family favorite and the must-have for family celebrations. Fast forward a year down the road and I felt the strong desire to share this tart at work.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHowever, I can’t take credit for this tart. I first saw it on the blog, Happyolks, which had a guest blogger submit the recipe. A few people in my family are gluten free, so I have adapted the crust to be a gluten-free version, but I will include the original recipe below with my adaptations. I also decided to make mini tarts because I got new pans that I wanted to try. I recommend baking it one big pan for your first time. Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

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Lemon Rosemary Tart


for the crust:

  • 1 1/3 cup spelt flour (I used 1 cup almond flour, 1/3 cup coconut flour)
  • 3 tablespoons cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1-2 tablespoon ice water

for the filling

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

for the topping

  • fresh raspberries
  • lemon slices
  • fresh rosemary


1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter a 9-inch tart pan and set aside.

2. Place the flour, sugar, rosemary, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter and pulse until little pea sized bits start to form. Add in the ice water, starting with just 1 tablespoon. Pulse a few more times, then check the dough to see if it holds together when pressed between your fingers. If not, add the 2nd tablespoon. The dough may still seem crumbly, but as long as it holds together when pressed it will be perfect.

3. Dump the dough out into the prepared tart pan. Starting from the center, work your way out to the sides by pressing the dough firmly into the pan. Make sure you press it up along the sides evenly. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place in the oven to bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before filling.

4. Meanwhile prepare the filling. Place the yogurt and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then add the lemon juice and zest. Whisk until smooth and everything is evenly combined.

5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and only slightly jiggles when shaken lightly.

6. Allow to cool completely then place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour before serving (I personally like it to chill for a few hours). Tart can be made the day before and kept covered and chilled in the fridge. Serve with fresh whipped cream, raspberries or garnish with fresh rosemary and lemon slices if you’d like.



Ginger Chamomile Sparkler

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt is HOT outside. Like WOAH. 100 degree weather should not make an appearance this early in the year :/. It is undeniable that we have to say goodbye to certain traditions we have in cold weather times and drinking hot tea is one of them for me. A cup of hot tea in this weather is no longer comforting it just sounds unbearable. So in an effort to still enjoy my tea and feel refreshed, I have been working on a sparkling water and tea combination. Do any of you already do this? I think it is going to be my go-to for the summer! Definitely play around with the recipe and types of tea you use, I think there is great potential for unlimited combinations! And tell me  your delicious creations :)

Ginger Chamomile Sparkler- makes about 6 cups


2 ginger tea bags ( I used ginger lemon)

2 chamomile tea bags

2 cups boiling hot water

2 tablespoons honey

At least 16 ice cubes

4 cups cold sparkling water

1 bunch mint or basil, washed and patted dried


1. Steep the tea bags in the boiling water for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, gently press the tea bags and take them out of the liquid. Add the honey and stir well.

2. Pour the tea into a large pitcher that can hold more than 48 oz. Add the ice cubes and stir to cool down the tea. Next add the sparkling water and stir. If you desire, add the mint and/or basil leaves and stir. Taste and adjust. Maybe add a little more honey or fresh herbs!


In My Fridge Week of May 5 + Birthday Brunch


Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThis week is special because my sister Nikki finally came home from her trip to Singapore and Bali! Her birthday happened to fall during the middle of her trip, so I promised to make her a special meal when she got home. I gave her the option of brunch or dinner. If  you know my sister, you know she said brunch without a moment of hesitation. This girl LOVES her brunch, just look at her Instagram feed and you will see what I mean. When I sat down on Saturday to plan the menu, I had to remember all the foods that she loves and not everything I had been dying to recipe test, because after all, it was HER birthday brunch and I had to be a little selfless.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetAfter careful consideration, I made my way to the store and walked away with lots of goodies including ingredients to make gluten free scones, lemon curd whipped cream, mimosas, roasted potatoes and a tomato-herb frittata! I could hardly sleep on Saturday night because I was so excited to put this meal together for her. If I could express my love for my sister through cooking, I would be cooking for a lifetime! She is darling, hilarious, wonderful, honest, kind, intelligent, and the best older sister I could ask for. We are so incredibly lucky to live together and actually ENJOY living together.Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with t1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with t1 presetChoosing to live with my sister was probably the easiest choice I have ever made. It was so clear to both of us that this time in our 20s is precious and we wouldn’t get the opportunity to live together in the future. We have created our little cozy sister apartment that is very special to us. I could go on and on about how much I love my sister, but I will save you all and end with this:

Dear Nikki (Sissy Poo Poo Pie, Pookie, Spinster Sister),

I love you ALMOST as much as I love chocolate and MUCH MORE than I love vegetables. Happiest of birthdays to you. I hope this year brings even more clarity and joy than the previous ones.


Your CRAZY sister who loves you to pieces!


In My Fridge: Week of April 13 + Caramelized Fennel


Today I visited a new Farmer’s Market to scope out their fresh produce and see if they had more to offer. Before I went in, I quickly glanced at a new cookbook in my car that my sister recently got me. It is called Plenty and it focuses on delicious and interesting vegetable recipes. I was really excited when I saw this gorgeous photo of Caramelized Fennel because I have been wanting to learn how to cook with fennel. So, the inspiration for my trip to the market was this recipe that called for fennel, dill, lemon, garlic and goat cheese.


Just as I was leaving the market, I saw this goat cheese stand with beautiful mason jars filled with goat cheese, olive oil and herbs. The guy let me try a few flavors and then informed me that the goat cheese I wanted was $12 for a large jar. Unfortunately, I only had $3 left in cash :(. What is a girl to do in this situation? Clearly, walking .5 a mile to the nearest ATM is the only solution. I nearly ran back to the market  to make sure there would still be goat cheese left. You can shake your head and laugh at me now, but truly, the goat cheese was too good to pass up.



Seriously? Seriously?! OMG. This was my reaction when I finished making this recipe and finally got to try it. It is SO good. I am thrilled to start making my way through pages and pages of delicious vegetable recipes. All I can really say is go buy yourself some fennel (even if you have never tried it) and make this dish.


Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese- in the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi- Serves 4


4 small fennel bulbs

3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish

2 tbsp sugar ( I used organic cane sugar)

1 tsp fennel seeds ( I didn’t have these on hand, so I went without)

coarse sea salt and black pepper

1 garlic clove, crushed

3/4 cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)

5 oz young and creamy goat cheese

grated zest of 1 lemon


1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First take off the leafy fronds and keep them for the garnish. Then slice off some of the root part and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything togeher. Cut each bulb lengthways into 1/2 inch thick slices.

2. Melt half the butter with half the oil in a large frying pan placed over high heat. When the butter starts to foam add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes. Then turn the slices over using tongs and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Remove fro the pan. Continue with the rest of the fennel, using up the remaining butter and oil.

3. Once all the fennel has been seared, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan and caramelize gently for 1 to 2 minutes (they need to remain firm inside so just allow them to be coated in the melting sugar and seeds). Remove the fennel from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.

4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the garlic and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate and dot with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Finish with a drizzle of oil and a scattering of lemon zest. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.


Blueberry Coconut Muffins

photo 1

I normally shy away from eating muffins because they typically just don’t do it for me. They are either too dry, lacking in flavor, or a calorie death trap. Who knew muffins could pack 500 + calories? Yikes! Soooooo usually I choose to spend my calories on something more worthwhile. HOWEVER, I recently found myself at work needing to come up with a muffin recipe and wanted to develop a recipe without butter and full of flavor. This Blueberry Coconut Muffin is the delicious end result. I hope you try it out in your kitchen!

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Blueberry Coconut Muffins: Makes 14 muffins


1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed

¾ cup raw cane sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats + a small handful for topping

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ cup almond milk

1 ¼ cups frozen blueberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners and spray the muffin liners with baking spray
  3. Melt the coconut oil and set aside. Place both sugars in a large bowl, add the coconut oil and stir until well combined. Add 1 egg at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and combine.
  4. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger
  5. Next, gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix. Then add the almond milk and stir well. Lastly, add the frozen blueberries. (Your batter might turn a little blue at this point. Totally ok!).
  6. Spoon mixture evenly into the muffin liners and sprinkle with rolled oats
  7. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the middle is set and slightly springy
  8. Place muffins on a cooling rack, cool  for a few minutes and eat!