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Thanksgiving Gratitude

HarvestPumpkinSquashMy grand idea for this year’s Thanksgiving went to the wayside when several family issues occurred. Being a mother, I had to pay more attention to my children rather than anything else. I had been imagining what to make for Thanksgiving since August, staring out upon my barren backyard and dusty patio, visualizing a table full of feast, family and friends. Plans changed, and this year will be a light lunch served with butternut squash soup— which I happen to take pleasure in making every year— and then we’re loading into the car to have a proper Thanksgiving at our friends’ house later in the afternoon. 

When I’m cooking, the world is a peaceful place, and my kitchen is where I want to be. Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday.

During the week, I’ve become accustomed to picking up a burrito for myself when my low blood sugar level is sinking, so I pick up more burritos for dinner, because the kids like them, and they’re fairly healthy. I actually find them quite satisfying: black beans, brown rice, veggies and, of course, loads of guacamole. I eat avocados almost daily, and my cousin in rainy England reminds me of how lucky we are for all the avocado bounty we have in California. There’s a Mexican supermarket close to my house in the valley that shames even the grandest Whole Foods Market display of avocados. The first time I discovered it, I heard angels singing and the mountain of avocados for .59 each (that’s two perfectly ripe avocados for a little over a dollar) looked like one of those pot of gold cartoons with the shining visual animation. 

The fantasy of taking a vacation drifts along the landscape of my thoughts while I’m waiting for the left turn signal. I have perspective and realize that my toughest days aren’t the worst, because I don’t like complaining or wallowing in negative thoughts, I still have gratitude. 


I thought that I’d have my garden designed and planted by this time, with pretty tableware and plenty of food for the celebration. In my mind, I had a whole spread on the table, better than last year, though it was quite amazing that I churned out nine vegan-inspired dishes for twelve people, in addition, desserts. I found my kitchen notes stashed away in a drawer while I was cleaning, and remembered all that I made— mashed potatoes with a rich mushroom gravy, cornbread stuffing, wild rice pilaf, grilled sweet potatoes and kabocha, my ritual butternut squash soup, mushroom soup, green beans and a colorful kale salad with hazelnuts and lemon. I also made endive with figs and honey chèvre and grapes. I made a pumpkin pie and an apple galette, served with coconut ice cream, as well as caramel sauce, just because. 

Eddie is a carnivorous eater, as are his two young daughters, my teenage son and my two daughters, so there’s not a chance that a Thanksgiving spread can be completely vegan, however, it is much appreciated and they do eat a lot of vegetables to appease me. It’s Eddie’s job to acquire our ritual Chinese-style turkey, which is made by our friend Chef Liang in Chinatown at his restaurant Hop Woo. These Chinese turkeys are made like they do a roast duck— then stuffed with rice and glazed with sauce. I have nothing to do with the turkey, but I cannot deny them this ritual on Thanksgiving. To make me happy, Eddie takes me out to the Chinese neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley for dinner dates— he intentionally seeks out the tofu abundant vegetarian options to please me. The teapot is refilled; we drink many cups without hurry. He makes the bed every morning, he scrubs the toilets without my asking, washes dishes every once in awhile (a skill acquired from his first job at one of Disneyland’s themed restaurants). He also babysits so I can work later, and adds many honey-filled bears to the tea cabinet at home, encourages my writing goals, tolerates my existentialist angst, and understands me when I’m at my lowest. For all of my positives and negatives, he loves me. I am grateful for that. 

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy— they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” (Marcel Proust)

Gratitude is written in chalk on the framed chalkboard sign above my stove. I look at this everyday. When I’m cooking or when I’m making tea at night, I contemplate gratitude. 

It’s easy to feel complete contentment when things are going right, but something in the depth of my soul seeks to push me beyond this place. Perhaps it’s the way of a creative spirit. We seek to constantly move beyond ourselves, improve, strive to make things even better. This is good when you are cooking, because the creative act is like meditation, and you can think about how to make food with more love in it. I like to keep a positive mind when cooking. I intentionally think about happy moments, such as the birth of my children, laughter, funny things that have happened, and love itself. You cannot think of your troubles when cooking. Just like the story Like Water For Chocolate, your emotions transfer into the food you prepare, at least that is what I believe. I’m superstitious about this and will not cook when angry, sad, depressed, exhausted or incredibly hungry. 

I also find when I haven’t cooked or even prepared a meal in a long time (not everything requires heating or cooking by flame), I’m out of sorts. My body hurts, my mind is clouded with things that aren’t working, and I can’t relax properly. Being creative, I need to paint, write, make love or cook. It comes down to those things that make me the most happy and peaceful. Even the act of giving love to my children in the form of  hugs and cooking meals is nourishing to the soul.HarvestPumpkinsBasket

Gratitude is the experience of emotion that is rooted in appreciation for what is good. We can show our gratitude, parallel to giving love, by sharing. We all want to feel appreciated. I’ve been and am grateful for two very dear friends of mine who have helped me insurmountably, and without their kindnesses, I would be lost. I am grateful to my son’s best friends’ parents who have helped us over the years and opened their home and hearts to us. I am grateful to my former lover for opening my heart and soul. He was the catalyst for this blog and to this day I keep two of his gift cards on display near my writing desk— each one has a picture of a typewriter— and his handwritten note that says: “you inspire, your great gifts, your heart, inspires” which will always remind me of how he believed in me and my talents. I will always hold gratitude in my heart for the beautiful moments we shared and all of the food he lovingly prepared for me, as well as the many meals he wooed me with, and all that he did to show his love. I am most grateful for my three children, because without them I would not know the depth of love itself, or have the experience of being a mother, which has changed the direction of my life and its purpose. I am grateful for sharing love and being with someone who allows me the space I need to grow, expand my dreams, goals, and talents. He shares a parallel path, which isn’t an easy one, of raising children and pursuing writing as a career. I am grateful for his efforts in being my loving partner, for listening to me expound on life’s many events, my deepest thoughts, hopes, dreams, and the miraculousness of being alive. Also, for listening to me rant about terrible days. 


The world and its news is filled with tragedies, horrors, sadnesses, and, because of the recent Paris attacks, my heart drowns in sorrow. I cannot fathom the losses due to the deaths of those killed in Paris, France, nor any other country and city. Loss and sorrow fill those hearts of many around the world during these holidays. My heart sinks when I imagine what their days and nights are like without those they loved. Mothers lost their children, husbands lost their wives, wives lost their husbands, children lost their parents, lovers lost their beloveds, friends lost their friends. There have been atrocities, killings, hatred and innocent people forever gone to this world. I try not to imagine, and maybe it’s morbid of me, but in my way, it’s giving love back to the heart of existence on this planet. I try to put myself in the place of the husband who lost his wife, and feel his pain. The depth of his anguish. The empty space by his bed where she slept. The mother who lost her daughter who was in college abroad. There are no words to give these people, and their every day forward is without that person they loved so entirely. In each meditation, as I am driving in the morning, or if I am standing in line at the supermarket, I stay present, observing each person, trying to understand that we are all here together on this earth, figuring out what life is, how we want to spend it, and forgetting how quickly it all ends, sometimes without warning, due to accident, sickness, terrorism, violence. We cannot know. 

When I gave birth to my second child, my daughter, I felt her body coming through me and I began to laugh. It was in that moment something beyond consciousness was deeply experienced— I don’t know— I kept repeating variations of “I don’t know” until it was an amusing revelation. I was completely open, a vessel for life. I knew absolutely nothing. This was it. The spiritual realization of “I don’t know” gave me utter freedom. 


Gratitude isn’t an easy one. Genetic researchers have discovered that some people are inclined to appreciate more than others. I’ve noticed in my three children such variations in their own abilities to appreciate what they have or bemoan what they don’t. 

I feel gratitude for what I have in this life. I seek love, give love, ask for love and in cooking for those I love, I am giving them my appreciation, compassion, happiness, peaceful thoughts and love as ingredients. 

Since I’ve not had the means to create what I envisioned for this year’s Thanksgiving, I have to change my mindset and believe that it is enough, though maybe not how I wanted it to be. Letting go of the perfect Thanksgiving, it becomes the perfect Thanksgiving, though maybe not in the catalogue-beautiful, sunset-picturesque perfection way, or maybe it is

 Just being present in gratitude of life itself is enough. Making soup comforts, celebrating making something good out of what you have. 

The cinder block wall in the backyard will eventually be covered with bamboo fencing. The grass removed will be replanted with longer fescue grass, another citrus tree, a Meyer lemon, will be planted, some stone paving, an area to grow vegetables— those pesky squirrels better not eat them because I’ll cover the edible garden with netting, though my poor oranges are plundered the moment they are ripe.

I’ll have my youngest daughter set up the table, prepare our Thanksgiving day luncheon, and perhaps next year at this time I’ll have more friends over, share more, give more. This year, I needed the giving to, and that also means, giving to myself the patience and gratitude in just being alive and grateful for that. There are those who are not, and there are those who have much harder lives that worrying about their vegetable gardens being eaten by squirrels.

I consider myself fortunate and with a full heart I wish my readers a Happy Thanksgiving, because we have much to be thankful for here on earth. Let’s celebrate by making something to eat and share with those we love. That act of love and kindness is all that matters, and we can make it better, in small ways, with this chain effect of gratitude and giving. 


I’m sharing my butternut squash soup recipe, because it’s my ritual. Also, I’m trying out a few other recipes this year, mainly due to meeting Nigella Lawson most recently, so I’ll choose a few recipes from her latest cookbook for our mid-day Thanksgiving lunch (we’ll see how I did in recreating them, Nigella). From Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food, I’m making Warm Spiced Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate Seeds as part of our lunch, then baking a Cider 5-Spice Bundt Cake. I think the Smoky Salted Caramel Sauce might go well with the No-Churn Pumpkin Ice Cream and maybe those delectable Nutella Brownies are a good thing to make as an offering to our friends. I did receive a vegan recipe from Matthew Kenney’s chef, so that’s a good one to try for lunch— Forager’s Thanksgiving Pie. It has wild mushrooms and sweet potatoes, so really, you can’t go wrong. This recipe was sent to me via email from Matthew Kenney. Honestly, all of the sweet potatoes just make me smile in gratitude. I’ll try that recipe for another post, because the abundance of mushrooms and sweet potatoes give endless pleasure. 


There are so many ways to make butternut squash soup. I’ve added other squashes, such as kabocha and pumpkin, however there is something about the way butternut squashes blend that have me in awe of the silky texture. The main ingredient I find essential to this particular soup is cashew. Cashews lend a light yet velvety taste with some creamy heft to the soup without butter and/or cream. However, you may add butter and cream to be indulgent, I won’t blame you. If you want the pleasure of a creamy soup that is low-fat and healthy, just use cashews. 

For those with nut allergies, cashews won’t work. I’m making two pots of this soup this year— one with cashews and one without, as we have one of our children that cannot eat nuts. Think for your guests. If you do choose to make this soup with cashew nuts and suspect someone may be allergic, please mention before they ladle up a bowl. In that case, substitute with coconut cream or whole milk cream, if either of those options fit. Yukon Gold potatoes also add a creaminess without the use of dairy or nuts. 

Additionally, adding coconut cream gives it an Indian and South Asian taste, which is complimentary to the use of cashews and curry spices like coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin, and nutmeg. Fresh grated turmeric root and ginger adds a spicy zing to the soup. You can garnish with cilantro and kaffir lime leaves and a few toasted cardamom seeds which changes up the Thanksgiving usuals. Poblano chilies are a spicy shift from the typical flavors during this holiday, and can be magical when added to this squash soup, but you must serve with warm cornbread for dipping. 

Squash soup with brown butter, fried sage leaves, nutmeg and whole milk cream is another variation that pleases the senses. Use this base recipe and then create the flavor with your choice of spices, cream, nuts, butter and garnish. Here are some suggestions:

toasted hazelnuts/cream/brown butter/fried sage leaves
gruyere/hazelnuts/crème fraîche
coconut cream/garam masala spices
pumpkin oil/fresh grated turmeric root/nutmeg
croutons/caramelized red onions/fried sage leaves

Butternut Squash Soup


6 tbsp. olive oil

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut 

4-6 cups vegetable stock, to add as needed 

2 tbl lemon juice, plus more to taste

1 cup of milk or cream (substitute coconut cream)

1 cup cashews, soaked in stock (optional if allergy)

2 or 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

sea salt and spices (to taste)


Heat the oven to 400F. Peel and seed the squash: cut in half then lengthwise, then put cut side down on board and slice off skin carefully. Scoop out seeds. Cut into 2 inch cubes. 

Peel and chop shallots. If using cashews, soak them in the broth awhile. Scrub, peel and chop potatoes. 

Toss the squash, potatoes and shallots with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. A splash of marsala or sherry gives sweetness to the roasting and I tend to do this, but it’s not necessary. Spread the squash mixture on baking sheet pans and roast in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir the roasting squash to get an even browning while they are in the oven. 

Place the roasted squash in a large soup pot with 2 cups of vegetable stock and simmer on the stovetop for about 20 minutes. Add the cashew with broth (if you are using cashews). Then turn off flame and purée the soup in a high speed blender or use an immersion blender. Have a separate soup pot to transfer the blended soup into as you puree in batches. Add more broth to temper the texture of your soup. 

Bring the puréed soup back to simmer and season with lemon juice, spices, sea salt, and whatever ingredients you choose from the suggested list of options. Balance the sweet to acid, salty and spice. 













Meeting Nigella


I was the first to arrive and waited, peering through the windows to catch a glimpse like a groupie. Slightly nervous and a bit giddy, I was finally meeting someone I’ve admired for years: Nigella Lawson. 


My friend Tara arrived soon after, running down the sidewalk toward me, eyes rolling around like two olives bobbling in a jar. She had hurried over after her work day at The New School of Cooking, hoping there would be snacks served at the reception. (Of course, the irony that my friend who works at a cooking school arrives hungry to a culinary interview event, but this is what happens in busy modern life.) We stood in line, waiting for the doors to open to the theater. The neon marquee lights were being fiddled with— on and off went the colored bulbs. A man stood attentively, attempting to correct the lighting. The ticket stand was eventually set up and ready for admittance. While waiting, I took note of Nigella’s fans. They were much like myself: absolutely fascinated with food and the BBC culinary star Nigella Lawson


Simply Nigella cookbooks were loaded up from the hatch of a Toyota Corolla, stacked in a tower upon a dolly, wheeled to the entrance, then unpacked and placed upon a display table in the foyer. Where was Nigella? I knew she was somewhere in the building. My stomach was, at this point, full of butterflies, not food. 

An array of dishes from the Simply Nigella cookbook were presented once inside (thankfully, as we were quite hungry). A bowl of sweet potato and chickpea dip garnished with pomegranate seeds beckoned, there was a bowl of luxurious cauliflower cashew curry, both served with an array of crackers, and a platter of dangerously decadent Nutella brownie bites, too easy to eat up by the handful. 


As I looked up, there was Nigella. She wore an elegant black top and pants ensemble with a white blazer, makeup in muted neutrals accentuating her radiant face. Nigella’s casual style felt approachable, rather than the sexy hourglass dresses she wore on ABC’s The Taste, though she’s gorgeous no matter what she wears. Aside from her timeless beauty, the woman has serious brains and knows how to cook, especially on camera. That’s not easy. 

My friend and I stood in line with the crowd for Nigella’s autograph, clutching our cookbooks and stuffing our faces with Nutella brownies, alternating hands to manage both. I had hoped I didn’t have a smear of chocolate on my chin, but I’m sure Nigella would’ve appreciated that anyway.


Her eyes glittered as she remarked that I was quite glamorous, yet all I could respond with was a shy thank you in mutual admiration. She smiled and stood close to me while our photo was taken. I wondered if I had Nutella brownie coating my teeth. I rushed back to my seat like a little girl who just met her favorite Disney princess onstage. A sip of wine later, I was back to my adult status, ready to sit back and listen to what she had to say about cooking, food and anything else.


As a food writer and home cook, I’m delighted and encouraged by her. She’s beautiful, expressive, engaging, and she loves cooking and eating. But quite honestly, she’s got a certain mystique that makes her on camera presence sizzle like hot prosciutto in a pan. Plus she manages all of her own social media (mainly Twitter and Instagram, as she says she just can’t get into Facebook). She’s fabulously smart, well spoken, a mother of two children, Cosima and Bruno. Her cooking shows and cookbooks are a long list of triumphs, beginning with her first cookbook, How to Eat. Over 5 million copies of Nigella’s cookbooks have sold worldwide. What an amazing lady.


In her first cookbook introduction, she writes: “There is a reason why this book is called How to Eat rather than How to Cook. It’s a simple one: although it’s possible to love eating without being able to cook, I don’t believe you can ever really cook unless you love eating.” 

And we love eating. 


Nigella’s gift of creating recipes for people who love to eat are made for family and friends to share. The recipes are not fanciful or fiddly in the least; just cozy and simple food. Relax and enjoy the pleasures of the kitchen, rather than troubling over the good, the bad and the gluten-free. 

While she’s had a rough time going through a brutal divorce, Nigella is neither ruined nor devastated. She is gracefully rebuilding her life. During the Live Talks interview, she only hinted at her reasons for de-stressing by saying that she required food to help her stay strong, and the cookbook represented this moment of renewal.

“The food in this book is what I’ve been cooking for myself and, although the impetus was certainly to seek out food that made me feel physically strong, I have always believed that food you cook for yourself is essentially good for you. This is not just because real ingredients are better for you than fake foods, but because the act of cooking for yourself is in itself a supremely positive act, an act of kindness.” 

Simply Nigella is the perfect title for this new cookbook (and her new show on BBC 2). We remain enchanted by her wonderful way of describing food with titillating alliterations, as she tempts us with her delicious dishes. She’s calmly preparing a meal, even when she only has half an hour to throw together a last minute dinner for twelve.

Nigella has shown us how to make entertaining easier than ever, not to stress or worry about making things from scratch, just grab this and that, put it together, et voila, dinner is on the table. Now, relax and have a good chat with your friends. 

Nigella's Instagram Photos

“What and how we cook can make our lives easier, make us feel better and more alive.” 

Nigella inspires us to eat out of our fridge in nothing but a nightie. She instructs us to keep plenty of things handy in the freezer. She tells us to give it a squeeze, dollop it on, slurp it up, give it a gush, squidge it with your fingers. There is endless pleasure to be had in cooking and eating, as she’s been known in her cooking videos to lustfully exclaim just look at those plump beauties when preparing a fruit dessert. She wants us to slather on some more cream and spread it ’round luxuriously. Yes, as Nigella is known for her sensual descriptives and suggestive sound bites— it is clear she is a lover of food and pleasure.

In her new cookbook, Simply Nigella, everything is stress-free and simple.


Russ Parsons, writer and columnist for The Los Angeles Times Food Section, interviewed Nigella onstage at the Live Talks LA event, and asked many intelligent questions of the domestic goddess— aside from the less serious inquiry his friends on Facebook asked about her skincare regimen. (She washes her face with a muslin cloth every evening and applies SPF50 face cream to protect her porcelain visage, just in case you too were wondering.)

Then Russ brought up the question of the holidays, “where people barely know where their stoves are, and then suddenly they want to start churning out twelve dishes from The French Laundry Cookbook.” He asked Nigella about her own approach during the holiday season.

“I do a list, take a clipboard to make myself feel more in control, and I write a list of everything I want to cook, and then make myself a cup of tea. Then I go back to the list, and cross off a bunch of things off.”

In the grand ambition of entertaining, most people go overboard and make too much food. Nigella believes in no-stress simplicity, involving her friends and family in setting the table for a simple yet festive meal rather than overwhelming her guests with hors d’oeuvres, fanciful dishes and elaborately ‘gourmet’ holiday recipes. Don’t bother so much, please.

She recommends holiday traditions be kept to enjoyment rather than making a big fuss. Make food to please to the senses, but nothing more than necessary so you don’t miss out on your company. 

“I don’t do starters when I have people over. I do have something to feed people, drinks and such, or I manage to dragoon someone into passing some food around, a dip or some crudités, it wouldn’t even matter if it was to pass around some nuts, frankly.” 

Nigella suggests keeping things in the freezer to warm up and serve. She likes Brazilian cheese bread to serve warm as a welcoming comfort for her guests. Then she puts someone in charge of the drinks. Sounds so easy, I’m thinking about stuffing my freezer with Brazilian cheese bread for such occasions. 

“It’s very relaxing if there’s a DIY element to eating. I don’t mean it in a mess, it can be beautiful. I put out canisters of cutlery out on the table, and then have someone set the knives and forks out, it gives people interplay. I find formality stops people from having fun.”

On the importance of gathering people together, the food is secondary. Holidays are about ritual.

“If the best thing that can be said about the evening was that the food was good, then I feel it’s not a very successful evening. Here’s one thing, if I can say the food was good, but I had a great time, I laughed, I felt very close to everyone who was there. [That’s a successful party.] The holidays are about ritual and repetition and you really don’t need to be doing anything new— at all.”

Hear that? Don’t try to make recipes out of the French Laundry Cookbook. Make a few things from Nigella’s Feel Good Food instead. Adapt the recipes, make your own up from the inspiration. 

Nigella Screen Shot Simply Nigella

The interview event was refreshing, thoughtful and soul nourishing. I was pleased to take everything in without one glance at my iPhone to tweet, tag or Instagram something as per usual media events. 

Live Talks LA events are a great way to get back-to-basics human conversation in your life, because in this push button era, everything can be viewed in an instant. But what cannot be downloaded is the experience of a conversation. No matter what, there’s nothing like a live, in-person interview. 

That following Saturday afternoon I brought my youngest daughter to Williams Sonoma in Beverly Hills to meet Nigella. My seven year old daughter enjoys Nigella’s cooking videos on YouTube, yet she was a bit shy to approach for her autograph.

At home, we made flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from the cookbook, as well as a few other sweets, like chocolate chip cookie dough pots. Inspired for Thanksgiving, I’ll be making Nigella’s sweet potato chickpea dip and smoky salted caramel sauce to drizzle on no-churn brandied pumpkin pie ice cream. And seriously, Nutella brownies are the main reason why I love Nigella and her recipes even more. How can you resist eating melt-in-your-mouth chocolate hazelnut spread filled brownies right from the oven? Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food is here for the holidays. 


 Thank you for the inspiration, Nigella! It was a pleasure to meet you. 

Live Talks LA offers a series of onstage conversations featuring writers, actors, musicians, humorists, artists, chefs, scientists and thought leaders. The Los Angeles-based organization fills our eyes and ears with a food and wine series on their roster, featuring culinary celebrities like Emeril Lagasse, Roy Choi, and just a week ago, the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson. Please check out their line up of interviews, including vegetarian culinary legend Madhur Jaffrey, the “Godmother of Indian Cooking” on Thursday, December 10th, 2015, 8pm (reception 6:30pm-7:30pm) William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404

$47 Reserved Section seating + Book
$95 Pre-Reception(6:30-7:30pm)* + Reserved Section seating + Book
$20 General Admission
* Reception includes selections prepared from the book, California wine

 A sincere thank you to Live Talks LA founder Ted Habte-Gabr for the invitation to attend Nigella Lawson’s interview. Photo sources other than my own: Live Talks LA, BBC, and Nigella Lawson’s Instagram



The Blonde Salad


Earlier this year I became fascinated with The Blonde Salad. I’m not talking about an actual salad, but an Italian fashion blogger, Chiara Ferragni, who’s blog, The Blonde Salad, began with a simple post of her in the nude holding a naked Barbie doll (head and shoulders view, of course.)

I decided an actual blonde salad recipe in Italian antipasto style would be fun to make. Like fashion, the salad ingredients can be thought of as accessories from her world travels. A head of butter lettuce is the base of this blonde salad, then adding anything pleasingly light in color— combining farro, shaved fennelslivered almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, a golden delicious apple, slivers of golden beet, salty crumbles of feta, garbanzos, roasted cauliflower, celery slivers, then a pop of color using pomegranate arils and squash blossoms, all dressed up with fresh lemon juice, tahini, mustard, olive oil and a splash of citrus vinegar.


Chiara Ferragni (The Blonde Salad) is a living, breathing, walking, strolling, coffee sipping fashion model/magazine/editor-in-chief and mastermind of her own business. Harvard Business Review did a case study of The Blonde Salad (the first blogger case study) to decode her success. She didn’t start out with 4.3+ million Instagram followers back in 2009. So how did she do it? Scrolling through Chiara’s Instagram feed— she maintains her own namesake account @chiaraferragni with those 4.3+m followers. I’ve been intrigued with how her partnerships with high fashion brands have fueled the modern Insta-famous millennial maven from her beginning salad days into The Blonde Salad.

Since I’ve scrolled through many feeds on Instagram full of food and fashion, I was inspired to make The Blonde Salad Recipe. As with accessorizing, if you can’t find certain ingredients, mix and match to create your own style. I hope you enjoy this fresh fashion-inspired recipe.

Buon Appetito! 


The Blonde Salad

serves 2


1 head butter lettuce, freshly washed, torn

1 large golden delicious apple, chopped fine (a pear is a good substitute)

2 ribs celery (with leaves), sliced in ½ thick slivers

½ cup slivered blanched almonds

2 cups farro, cooked (quinoa is a good substitute)

1/2 golden beet, shaved thin

1/2 fennel bulb, shaved thin

1 head roasted cauliflower, small pieces

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup pomegranate arils (optional)

¼ cup feta cheese (optional)

a few squash blossoms (optional, garnish)


Citrus Vinaigrette

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or yuzu vinegar

1 tablespoon Maille grain mustard (my favorite)

1 tablespoon tahini

juice of 1 lemon

pinch of white pepper

pinch of garlic powder

½ shallot, minced fine



  1. Mise en place all of your ingredients in front of you. Have everything prepped before you begin— wash and dry the lettuce leaves, shave the fennel and golden beet, chop the celery on the bias cut (a slight diagonal) and keep the leaves on, cook and cool the farro (or quinoa), roast the cauliflower and cool to room temperature, and have all of the garnish and additional ingredients at the ready in individual bowls. 
  2. Use a large wooden salad bowl. If you don’t have a wooden salad bowl, don’t worry. Use any wide salad bowl as you like. I happen to prefer the wood salad bowls. Begin your vinaigrette in the bowl. 
  3. Add the minced shallot into the bottom of the bowl. Pour in the olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar, then whisk. Add the mustard, tahini, white pepper and garlic powder. Whisk until well incorporated and a creamy consistency. 
  4. Take the head of washed butter lettuce and remove the leaves. Roughly tear each leaf into smaller pieces and place them inside the bowl. 
  5. Add the apple, garbanzos, almonds, farro, celery, fennel, beet, feta and pomegranate. 
  6. Toss the salad gently. Mix the vinaigrette from the bottom of the bowl, carefully tossing the lettuce and salad ingredients until well coated. 
  7. Place the salad into two serving bowls.
  8. Garnish with extra ingredients as you like. Add the squash blossoms as a decorative edible flower.
  9. Serve and enjoy. Buon Appetito!

Watch how I make this recipe on The Sensual Foodie Channel on YouTube In The Mood Food






Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite cooking methods come fall and winter months. This recipe is perfect for a Thanksgiving side dish as well as a Sunday dinner at home. Carrots are the sweetest just plucked from the earth. My local farmers’ market inspired this fresh out of the grocery tote and into the roasting pan recipe. 

While the California summer continues with record high temperatures soaring into October, I haven’t felt like turning on the oven, though these carrots were well worth the heat. I’m planning another Thanksgiving table full of vegetarian dishes, and roasting carrots makes a simple dish. Carrots can be seasoned in a variety of ways, like my curry spiced carrots (delicious with yogurt sauce) or drizzled with balsamic créme.

Roasted carrots can be made and seasoned in a variety of ways. (Try my seductive carrots for a Thanksgiving side dish) Here I’ve simply roasted the carrots in olive oil, a light splash of mirin (cooking rice wine) and sea salt. You can then season with curry powder before roasting or drizzle on some balsamic after the oven. 


Curry Powder & Sea Salt ~or~ Balsamic Créme

~ two bunches of carrots
~ olive oil
~ mirin (cooking rice wine)
~ sea salt
~ cilantro (as garnish, optional)

Season with either curry powder before roasting  or balsamic créme after roasting. Depends on your taste, but either way its simplicity will bring out the natural taste of fresh carrots. 

Preheat oven to 375/400°F 

Toss carrots with olive oil, pinch of sea salt, and either curry powder (for the curry spiced carrots) or balsamic créme (dress the carrots lightly in balsamic créme after roasting) and spread out in a large sheet pan. Roast for approximately 40 minutes. Reduce oven to 325°F and roast until carrots are browned and tender.

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Dine at The Masters Table

LONGINES-Chef-Yves-INTERVIEWChef Yves Mattagne sits casually on a white couch in the Masters Club lounge overlooking the dining tables that surround the equestrian ring. A native of Belgium, his charming accent and warm smile pour into his culinary vocabulary, as he explains how he prepares a cold gazpacho with warm lobster to serve 600 tables at the Longines Masters in Los Angeles this weekend. He uses this description to illustrate how he has mastered the art of serving his cuisine at the Longines Masters. 

A celebrated Michelin chef, his flagship restaurant in Brussels, Sea Grill, is where his creativity comes alive. He serves the ‘fruits of the sea’ in their most natural state, using foraged pine tree bark to smoke fish a la minute, wild mushrooms for risotto (and for stuffing chicken), seaweed in water to infuse and bring out the natural flavors of seafood, allowing the freshness to come out. 

To prepare the ringside dining menus, Chef Yves uses local ingredients sourced in Los Angeles for his mise en place, improvising and interchanging ingredients for the event. Each menu for the Longines Masters will be different for lunch during showtimes as well as the gala dinners. For over five years with Longines Masters, the chef has served his fine cuisine during the equestrian events (previously known as Gucci Masters) in Hong Kong and Paris, as well as Los Angeles.

Cooking for this event takes serious planning. As he described a soup, I wondered how it is possible to keep the heat and temperature just right for each serving— cold gazpacho with warm lobster in the center takes finesse. The ingredients are prepared in the kitchen then brought out on a cart to each table for service. The waiter serves the diners from the temperature gauged serving dishes. He chooses local produce and arranges the menus to appeal to a multicultural audience, with much more than seafood and a variety of dishes.

Chef Yves describes how he creates a dish at his main restaurant in Brussels by describing the fragrance of herbs, how he uses a small amount of butter to enhance flavor, a special pepper from Kazakhstan, and his own selected spices. As an example, he explains the process of making langoustines smoked on a hot stone a la minute, dousing the langoustine with a splash of whiskey, serving it with a creamy chestnut soup garnished with shaved white truffles. He prepares a white fish poached in seaweed-infused water for about ten minutes, allowing the sea salt and seaweed to bring out the freshness of the fish. He cooks scallops in tact inside of their shell by opening and cleaning out the shell first, keeping the scallops inside. He then puts seaweed inside the shell with some special pepper and sea salt, then cooks them in a steamer. The scallops are served at the dining table as the server places each scallop upon the diner’s plate, scooping it out, freshly cooked within its shell.

“Keep all the flavor, all the natural things. I serve this kind of dish [scallops steamed within their shell] with soup of watercress, garnished with an emulsion of oyster and caviar. That’s my way of cooking.” Chef Yves Mattagne

The chef forages for his own ingredients, such as pine tree bark and morel mushrooms. He first poaches the bark to remove the spores and bacteria. Then he cleans the inside of bark and encloses fish within, steaming fish, such as sea bass, with pinecone-infused sea salt inside of the pine bark. The result is a flavor imparted to the fish that perfumes it with the essence of pine while keeping the natural flavors. 

To Chef Mattagne, the prepared dish “must be beautiful and kept in its natural way.” He emphasizes that “the food must be kept as it is, do not take away its natural taste, cook slowly to bring out the natural flavor, heat it so that it comes warm, do not cook quickly.”

Chef Yves Mattagne will share his menus for the Longines Masters event in an upcoming post, along with a recipe to be featured from the menus.