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Cozy Crockpot Cooking: Cauliflower Chickpea Curry


Here is the story of a woman that loves coconut milk curry, chickpeas and fresh vegetables that will not give up her homemade ways of eating well while driving around doing so many things. So she bought a crockpot. Does this sound like you? I must confess: I’m the woman that loves creamy coconut milk curries with chickpeas and freshly roasted veggies like cauliflower and zucchini, and oh, roasted garlic that melts in the mouth. 

October weather here in Los Angeles is unpredictably warm, but a few days we noticed fall approaching. I’m not into the cold weather, as a self-proclaimed “summer” person, but perhaps the intensely broiling summer has changed me. The other morning, as I awoke to the faint ringtone of my 6:00 am alarm, I heard the gentle patter on rainfall. (I also heard my sweetie snoring, as usual.) It rained, and gloriously so. I jumped out of my cozy bed and threw open windows, nearly spinning around like a little girl on Christmas day, so thrilled that rain had finally come. The sliding glass door to the backyard whooshed in the earthy scent of damp soil. Rain, rain, rain. I was about to sing “The Rain in Spain…” in my best My Fair Lady rendition while brewing up coffee and tea, however, before a morning cup my husky voice was better to sing “Stormy Weather” a la Sarah Vaughan. I had to get ready for the day, and quick

Recently while shopping in the supermarket for our weekly usuals– lunch making ingredients and the like– my youngest daughter and I spotted a sale on crockpots. I used to shun this sort of cooking, believing that I could do it all, and do it fresh, making everything from scratch rather than cutting down cooking time for dinner– well this was crazy making. Not only for me, but for my hungry children. It was my former belief that homemade pesto must be whizzed up fresh from the blender before tossing into pasta. I’d be a tad more cray to make the pasta myself (which I am tempted to do, but I have some semblance of sensibility). I could make the handmade pasta in bulk and freeze it. But weeknights are not always perfect dinners. More often I’d swing by somewhere and pick up fried rice and veggies and plop! There’s dinner. 

So in comes the crockpot. 

If I’m giving in to a long legacy of family-style time saving meal strategies (aka the crockpot), I’ll do it on my own terms, and that means, freshly roasted veggies and homemade chickpea curry goes into the slow cooker. 

Here’s what happened: I roasted veggies on a sheetpan, then I created the crockpot curry. I put all ingredients into the crockpot, and left it alone from morning until dinnertime. We did our usual day: kids dropped off at school, I went to my day job. I didn’t eat a burrito in the minivan. The kids didn’t whine about hunger and insist we pick up burritos or fried rice and stuff. We just came home and ate our crockpot dinner, and we were happy for it. 

It lasted throughout the week, which meant I ate it for lunch and dinner myself. Anything to keep me eating something nourishing rather than going too long without eating (because I’m busy) and eating a burrito in the minivan while driving (my unfortunate reality) because I’m beyond hangry and my blood sugar dropped so low that I’m a dangerous hungry person behind the wheel in Los Angeles traffic.

All because I refuse to eat crap. 

Not all of my cooking and dining experiences are long, pleasurable frolicking feasts with vegetables, I’ll have you know. Most of the time it’s avocado toast, an egg on something, tea with coconut milk, and cold coffee sipped from my sweetie’s endless mug o’ coffee, mixed with the questionable half and half creamer that I disapprove of. Lunch is an apple, maybe. Almond butter on a cracker, possibly. A splurge on a green smoothie from a juice bar if I’m lucky. Maybe I’ll grab a veggie burrito somewhere, if I can. So it’s time that I get real on the daily meals, and fix up good food in a crockpot. 

I love chickpeas, curry and roasted cauliflower. So I put them all together in the crockpot and it was marvelous. 

Crockpot Cauliflower Chickpea Curry


Roasted veggies:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, roasted
  • 4-5 carrots, roasted and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 zucchini, roasted and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil, generously tossed into veggies
  • 8-12 garlic cloves
  • sea salt


  • 1/2 qt vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • handful of basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 3-4 kaffir lime leaves (can be found at Asian markets and/or World Market)
  • 1 tbl green curry paste
  • 1/2 knob fresh ginger, grated
  • handful cilantro, garnish (optional)
  • sprinkle of curry powder (mild/medium) I used a Vietnamese brand “Sing Kung” mild


Roasting Veggies

Set the oven to 375F to roast.

Toss the chopped veggies in a bowl with olive oil and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with sea salt and a pinch of mild curry powder. 

Spread the veggies out on a large roasting pan and put into the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until lightly roasted. 


Meanwhile, set the crockpot anywhere between 4-6 hours. If you cannot set the hours, place your setting to allow the chickpeas to cook in the curry for an afternoon. I prepped the ingredients the night before and stored the veggies and curry broth separately, assembling all into the crockpot that morning and enjoyed dinner that night. 

Add all of the following ingredients: vegetable broth, coconut milk, chickpeas, basil leaves, kaffir lime leaves, green curry paste, curry powder. Allow the curry to cook while waiting for the roasted veggies.

Once the roasted veggies are done, add them to the crockpot. Stir the curry to incorporate all of the veggies into the curry. Allow to slowly cook in the crockpot.

You can make adjustments to the curry spice level (I prefer mild for this type of curry) as well as additions to flavor and ingredients. I love ginger and add lots to my curry pot. 

Additions: you can add peas, green lentils, and other veggies that you enjoy, such as green beans, chopped kale, spinach, etc. 

Serve over steamed brown rice or quinoa or any grain of your choice. 

Garnish with cilantro and basil leaves. 









Stuffed Onions with Maille Black Truffle Mustard

As much as I wanted to make many dishes with Maille Black Truffle and Chablis mustard, the contents of the stoneware jar was like precious gold. A waft of truffle enticed my senses to take a small spoon and dip it into the golden mustard for a taste. The truffle flavor was subtle, with a musky nuance of woodsy mushroom, along with a smooth tang of mustard upon the tongue. This is, by the way, not the stuff that disgusts Chef Anthony Bourdain. This is the sort of bonafide truffle that would make him stuff his nose into the jar like a truffle pig rooting for its intoxicating odor. Once described by a writer as “the muskiness of a rumpled bed after an afternoon of love in the tropics,” decadent and divinely sensual truffles inspire gourmands and sensualists to eye-rolling fits of bliss. Such aphrodisiacs of the earth do not disappoint. 

Maille Black Truffle and Chablis Mustard

The black box arrived, with elegant gold writing stamped MAILLE, upon my doorstep in the midst of August, when truffles were just a daydream, as summer temperatures were sweltering, and all I could think about making was iced coffee. But black truffle mustard is irresistible. So I brought the pretty mustard jar along to a family get together in Santa Barbara. 

Maille Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard for stuffed onions

The black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is typically found in the Périgord region of southwest France, however, they can also be found in Asia, North America and North Africa. These fancy fungi can be considered aphrodisiacs, making their appearance in gourmet scenarios where fine dining is an art and an experience of pleasure.


The most memorable black truffle dish was at a pop-up dinner several years ago. I sat at the counter, observing the chef prepare my dish, Miles Davis’ Blue in Green played in the background, with the clatter of dishware, conversations and glasses bouncing upon each other, as the slow twirl of the chef’s long fork coiled ribbons of cream-coated noodles into a spooled nest upon the plate. Then the chef held something in his hand, not parmesan, but a knobby black truffle, and made the thinnest shavings of it upon the angel hair, which landed like snowflakes so delicately upon the mound. The shavings of black truffle almost melted, as translucent as thin cheese. 

onions olives mushrooms

Leafing through French recipes, I knew I’d find the pairing for black truffle mustard. When you have a flavor such as black truffle— which isn’t truly a flavor, per se, but an effluvious aroma that fills the palate via olfactory senses with its musk– one must find something that will showcase its qualities. Potatoes, yes, risotto, yes. All simple and perfect for black truffles and mustard. Grilled cheese sandwiches, of course. Yet, I found a recipe in Monet’s Table, a cookbook that shares the impressionist artist Claude Monet’s family recipes. I’ve made these stuffed onions plenty of times since, adding more of a vegetarian spin on it, omitting the roast pork, chicken or calves’ liver it suggests. I’ve changed the recipe many times depending on what I have on hand, as stuffing onions allows variations. 

I gathered a bunch of sweet white onions from the farmers’ market, as I’d been cooking for almost 22 people during our family reunion; half of our crowd were children, and not all vegetarians. The stuffed onions were a slow yet easy process, as I was ambitious that week: cooking a large copper pot full of sweet potato and carrot soup, roasting heads of cauliflower with garlic and curry spices, chopping up leaves of kale to add to the cauliflower roast, and meanwhile, as burners were all going and cutting boards were a flurry, making quick veggie quesadillas for anyone who was hungry. I could have stayed in the kitchen for a month and never tired of the job of cooking for so many, as it gave me a deep satisfaction.

This recipe would make a great vegetarian Thanksgiving side or any seasonal fall feast. I’ve given options for vegan and gluten-free variations as noted. This recipe serves four, however, it can be doubled to serve a larger group. Each onion can also be cut in half to satiate a table of diners quite easily. 

Stuffed Onions w/Mushrooms, Spinach, Gruyère & Maille Black Truffle Mustard

adapted from Monet’s Table cookbook, originally Charlotte Lysés’s Stuffed White Onions

Serves 4  |  Ⓥ GF option 


  • 4 large white onions (Vidalia or Sweet Mayan onions are lovely)
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped fine 
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons dried mixed herbs 
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped 
  • 4 tablespoons Maille Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyére cheese (vegan cheese, optional)
  • 1 egg, whisked with a fork (omit for vegan option)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (GF breadcrumbs, optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, or more as desired
  • 2 tbsp butter (vegan butter, optional)
  • sea salt & pepper to taste


Set the oven to 350ºF degrees.

Cut 1/2 slices off the tops of the onions.

Blanch the onions by placing in boiling water to cover for about 20 minutes.

Drain and cool.

Scoop out the center of each onion with a spoon, leaving enough of a wall of the onion’s outer skin to hold the stuffing. (The onions will be soft which makes scooping out the centers easier.) 

Place the hollowed onions inside a greased casserole dish, nesting them snugly together for stuffing.

Chop up the onion centers and sauté in a pan on medium flame with a little olive oil, garlic and mushrooms for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until aromatic and well sautéed. I prefer the garlic and onions slightly caramelized, and the mushrooms flavorful and soft. Keep in mind, this will be part of the onion stuffing and will bake within the center of the onions. 

Turn down the flame to low. 

Add the spinach to the sauté mixture in the pan and wilt, coating the spinach with the garlic, onion and mushroom. You may add a pat of butter at this point, unless you are creating a dairy-free dish, in that case, vegan butter works nicely. Turn off flame.

Incorporate all ingredients in the pan with a large wooden spoon, adding the dried herbs, chopped chives, and four (or five!) luscious spoonfuls of Maille Black Truffle & Chablis Mustard. 

Mix in the egg (omit if vegan) and breadcrumbs (gluten-free if desired). Combine the mixture. 

Stuff the onions with the mixture, mounding it slightly above the level of the onion tops. 

Sprinkle the top of each onion with Gruyére cheese (or vegan cheese) and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned. 

Remove from the oven and serve with a dollop of mustard on top of each onion. 







Paella: A Vegetarian One-Dish Feast


Paella is traditionally meant to feed many. The Italians call it risotto, the Spanish, paella. There are similarities and differences, of course, such as the smoky paprika and saffron in paella, and the parmesan and creamy nature of risotto. [click to continue…]




“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” (Henry James, novelist)

Summertime comes and my three children remind me about the last week of school, counting down each day. Of course, for a working mother, the reminders aren’t necessary. Summer camp tuitions and what to make of those leftovers becomes tantamount to the payments due at the first of each month. As much as I am a positive-minded type, I feel the worry creeping into my mind, and pleasure, my dearest friend, goes under the covers to hide. I’m first out of bed and last to settle down for a mere handful of hours each night. Too many responsibilities, decisions, events. Dishes, laundry, doodads from dolls and toys strewn on the floor. An email box full of newsletters, bill reminders, intro offers for meditation programs, life coaching webinars, and suggestions on how to finally get organized are in between those invites to rooftop cocktail events to kick off the summer. Leftover boxes stack themselves into towers: take-out Chinese, take-out Thai noodles, sushi rolls in to-go containers, a mishmash of salsas in portable cups, hot chili sauce from the Vietnamese tofu rolls. The refrigerator can describe the goings-on of our lives in condiment jars, containers and genuine attempts to prepare homemade meals.

There have been phases. The wrap phase, where I make breakfast wraps in lavash bread, and sandwich wraps for lunch. The cold noodle phase, with tell-tale tahini jars full of my blended concoctions of lime juice, tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil and variations.

The best phase this summer has been the party platter phase. I can honestly say that making platters works for feeding many people, all with different tastes, without spending hours in the kitchen and calling it a bonafide meal. My teen son can eat anything and everything within a matter of minutes. My daughters each have their own likes and dislikes. One doesn’t want pepper, mustard, hummus, strawberries, or tomatoes. The other, my oldest girl, will eat those things, albeit sporadically, asking for avocado toast but eating half and claiming to be full. If I eat her leftovers, she’s fine with that. My love of bread and the intention to lose weight are at odds. The avocado toast isn’t pushed aside in these cases, and I make up for it by believing that bread is a necessary food group, eaten for centuries, and wasted upon the gluten-free. My collection of mustards, my penchant for olives and olive tapenade, all of the items can be gathered and made into a veritable feast. 



I had planned a garden, and began to plant what I could anytime I found a little time to spare, with whatever small amount I had in my wallet. A few cherry tomato plants in terracotta pots, some succulents along the path I made on the side of the house with found shells, Mexican beach pebbles, broken pavers that cost less than a dollar each. I had hoped to plant a full vegetable garden this year. Summertime is here. I missed the chance to plant in the spring since I moved into my house two and a half years ago. 

California weather is sunny, as we all know, but a few days ago there was a blaze of heat– 111F degrees is not balmy. The sun was a furious torch of relentless fire that completely scorched my newly planted sod. The jasmine vines were charred, as well as the herbs and bougainvillea, and the rosebushes were fried to a crisp. One day, one hundred eleven degrees. My grass looks like hay. I was quite pleased with my luscious carpet of green, even though it was decadent to invest in, and surely not drought resistant. Perhaps it was indulgent of me to want the green grass. Even the succulents were burned to a shriveled brown clump.

So I got out there in the morning with a paint brush and painted the ugly cinder block wall a deep forest green. It gives everything around it the illusion that there is more verdant greenery than there actually is. I’ll do anything I have to in order to make my garden a sanctuary of plants, leaves and flowers. My wooden table– the one you see in many of my food photos– is bleaching out with the direct sun rays on its surface every day. My props for food photography are usually the bleached wood table and the old wooden fence. 

Vietnamese summer rolls, Thai-style glass noodle salads, cold sesame noodles, and other dishes that don’t require heat, are on the menu at my house. Though the days have been unbearably long. I wake up around 5:30am and down a half-blended protein smoothie before the rigors of a bootcamp workout. Once I’ve sweated through a circuit of lunges, squats, tricep pushups, crunches, and other forms of physical torture, I’m ready for breakfast. Eating every two and a half hours was a prescribed concept by the trainers that eat for fuel. I’m an eat-for-pleasure type, and the eat-for-fuel approach has me questioning whether or not I can do this sort of thing. If only fuel could be grilled cheese sandwiches, we’d all be losing weight in no time. 


A Month of Tofu

I’ve eaten plain tofu with tamari soy sauce for a quick protein fix. I cannot say this is a highly sensual experience in the positive way, although I have enjoyed cold tofu with soy sauce before, as in the homemade tofu that is found in authentic Japanese restaurants– that tofu is sublime, not to be confused with the store-bought. One morning after a workout I tried vegan “eggs” which consisted mostly algal flour and algal protein. They were absolutely repulsive when cooked as “scrambled eggs” and tasted like slimy putty or spongy rubber, or both. I wasn’t sure if I could eat them, even after adding my own dash of this and that, such as Vietnamese curry powder, turmeric, sea salt and cayenne. It’s more like eating a science experiment of flavored play dough. The vegan cheese was gooey and reminded me of the time I stretched my childhood friend’s Stretch Armstrong action figure until the goo inside of its arms squished out. 

Needless to say, attempting to eat a training diet has been challenging. I’ve turned down tempting dinner invites and cocktail hours (no drinking while training) and did the usual dinner, dishes and laundry sort of evening, yawning by 9pm, and crawling under the covers before 10pm. Who have I become? 

The one dinner that shines in its flavorful glory was at a Chinese vegan restaurant for my birthday. I’m a June baby, and summertime is my favorite time of year—evenings are warm and sundresses become evening attire. This summer, tofu is elevated as the main course for my breakfast, lunch and dinner. I might as well have it made in ways that mimic the marvelous sort of degustatory delights. 

This restaurant (Vege Paradise in San Gabriel for those interested) serves plant-based versions of Chinese banquet food. The menu is mind-bogglingly tempting, especially when hungry and even more so when hungry and inquisitive. I asked the waitress for her suggestions, since there were many choices. She brought out a vegan “seafood” soup along with sautéed pea shoot leaves, mushrooms and basil with “kidney” and a sizzling platter of soft tofu in a lustrous amber-colored sauce, covered in crispy bean, which tasted sort of like crumbly pieces of seasoned pork. You might argue this and I don’t blame you. I’ve tasted bacon, pork, chicken, snake, and all kinds of things you wouldn’t expect a vegetarian to admit. To me, life without animal protein means discovering restaurants that serve vegan Chinese food. My romantic partner (and unswerving omnivore), Eddie, known for his extreme eating ways, loved the veggie “kidney” dish. He also swooned over the soft tofu with crispy bean platter. For a food critic of Eddie’s caliber to appreciate and enjoy the food (which is Taiwanese/Chinese Buddhist by origin), this is saying something about the quality. Also, Eddie is Taiwanese. I’ve reminded him of all the vegetarian-friendly restaurants that exist in Taiwan, and discovering Chinese food vegetarian style in our own city of Los Angeles is a second best to that (until we travel to his hometown of Taipei, of course. I’m sure his love of chicken feet and pig brains will be well satisfied). 

I’ve always loved veggies, so being a vegetarian for many (or most) years of my life (since I was a teenager) has been easy to do where I live. Los Angeles has a bevy of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, with raw vegan, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, plant-based organic eateries in every way imaginable: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Mexican, Indian, and maybe Korean (only at the spa, not the BBQ places). However, where I falter in my plant-loving diet, at least when attempting vegan, is my love of eggs.

This month I am trying to get my protein sources from tofu, and although I appreciate the white jiggly stuff, I’m already over it as a daily meal. Tofu is transcendent as hiyayakko (cold tofu 冷奴), topped with katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), green onions, grated ginger and season with a little bit of soy sauce. Vegan and vegetarian preferences can omit the bonito flakes. You can change the toppings with other condiments, but if the tofu is homemade and of good quality, you’ll enjoy the cold tofu anyway. There is a type of Japanese homemade tofu that is more like a creamy custard than a cube, silky enough to make the eyes roll back in pleasure.


I’ve eaten a vegan egg in a bowl of vegan ramen that surprised my senses delightfully. The chef, Ilan Hall, described his method of creating a vegan egg that looks and feels like the ajitsuke tamago—that perfectly soft-boiled egg marinated in a sweet-salty soy sauce. The ramen broth was unbelievably porky in flavor. The chef said the recipe for the vegan ramen broth happened by accident one night after making some other recipe that involved kombu and sunflower seeds. The sunflower seed risotto that Chef Hall made at his other restaurant was the catalyst for the vegan ramen idea. It begins with a mushroom dashi: cooked onions, roasted sunflower seeds, white miso, and nutritional yeast. The “eggs” are molecular gastronomy gone plant-based, using sodium alginate and some kind of mad scientist level cooking. 


 Cold Noodles 

When I was pregnant with my second child, I had cravings for the cold noodles at Mandarin Deli. They came to the table in a big serving bowl, slathered in sesame sauce and topped with cucumber slivers. At the time, I lived in an artist loft in downtown near Little Tokyo. The cold noodles became somewhat of an obsession with me. Ever since, that creamy sesame sauce has been my sort of comfort food. Anything to do with sesame— including those addictive little sesame balls we get in Chinatown— has me under its spell.

Cold noodles done Thai as spicy yum soon sen salads, Korean cold noodles in a icy soup. Summer is here, and they are easy to make. Busy days and no time to cook after work, picking up the kids, driving here and there. The Asian supermarkets carry every variety of rice noodle, sauce, sesame oil and seasoning, as well as herbs and veggies.

I have longed for leisure, quiet moments and naps. Eddie has been traveling much, and I’m declining invitations to dinners, mostly due to my deep craving for alone time and aversion to long drives in traffic, aside from wrangling childcare and playdate sleepover plans for my girls. My laptop, an aging MacBook Pro, is on its sixth year, sputtering along, now used for music and games, it has become our arcade and stereo system. I have to-do lists for other to-do lists, all sectioned in projects to tackle and ideas, then the household planners, the list for groceries. Sometime, perhaps one Sunday morning, I’ll find myself wandering to the farmers’ market for fresh ginger, basil, greens and vegetables to create a big bowl of cold noodles for lunch. It is possible I’ll take the day off and go to the beach. Cold sesame noodles make a good picnic basket meal with toes in the sand. 






Tea & Chocolate


Two of my favorite things, tea and chocolate, are paired together in a heavenly way. Palais des Thés offers their miniature set of three teas and three chocolate bars (from Valrhona chocolates) to give you a taste pairing that’s beyond genius.

Tea with dessert has been served for centuries, but mostly cookies and cakes. Certain teas are enhanced when savoring something that brings out their taste. Here’s a little bit more about pairing teas with sweets

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. (Marcel Proust)

The literary reference to Proust and the Madeleine comes to mind when tea mixed and mingled with the taste of something else– cookie, cake, madeleine— and I think, if Proust had discovered the flavor combination of tea with chocolate, then maybe that crumbly madeleine might have been pushed aside for chocolate instead, n’est ce pas

Each tea is paired beautifully with a flavor complementing chocolate in the tea set as follows:

Grand Yunnan Impérial tea has a floral sweetness, called the “mocha of teas” because of its cocoa notes, paired with a taste of the floral dark chocolate Alpaco (66% dark Valrhona chocolate). 

palais-yunnan-chocolatePure Indulgence Pear, a Chinese Mao Feng green tea, has fresh fruity notes that enhance the flavors, as the essence of pear mingles in the mouth which brings out the vanilla and caramel in the chocolate. 


Thé du Hammam is an enchanting tea with fruity and floral notes that pair with the delicate creamy taste of Opalys 33% white chocolate. 



I know I got a little link happy in this post, but I thought you’d enjoy discovering these tea blends paired with chocolates as much as I did. Side note: when I took photos of the teas and chocolates for this post, I was tormented by a squirrel. My backyard photography “studio” for these images was a wooden gate that I use as a tabletop, placed underneath my orange tree. I was lucky to have an overcast day in which to shoot and wanted to take advantage of the light. The menacing squirrel wanted the chocolates (I’m assuming) and would not leave me alone. As I attempted to focus my camera and carefully set up each shot, the rustle of the branches above startled me into shrieking and cursing at the pesky creature. See, everyone wants tea and chocolate together, including squirrels.