Radish Salad with Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette

I made this salad with spring in mind!  Spring is a rebirth, a renewal as well as a transformation.  Spring is the start of the new and letting go of the old.  Spring is love, hope and growth!  It is the birds singing, frogs croaking and flowers opening!

This is a crisp salad with a bit of saltiness from the Pecorino combined with lemony bright flavors from the vinaigrette.  The crunchy vibrant pink and green watermelon radishes make this a beautiful spring salad.


This has been a fun-filled last couple of weeks!  We got MARRIED!!!

It is pretty amazing to have all your closest friends in one place!  Ang and the boys arrived first and we had a great night of chatting on the deck drinking wine!  Maggie, Christine, Jonnie and George showed up Sunday afternoon.  They rented a house one house away from us, how cool is that?!  Monday we had a great girls night out with much laughter and catching up.  We met for cocktails and watched the sun set at the Crows Nest.  Then we headed to The West End Tap and Kitchen for a fantastic dinner as usual!  Tuesday night my mom, dad, step mom, and my friends who came from afar.  We all met for dinner at a new restaurant called The Hideout.  We ate outside on their great deck and had a wonderful time.


Wednesday was all about getting ready for the big day.  I feel so lucky, Angela did my hair and it was more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be.  My dad walked me down the flower lined aisle that my friends Maggie and Christine made with the succulent flowers that grow on the beach.  My mom married us with the most amazing vows she wrote and my friend Tanya took our photos!  After, we walked up the stairs from the beach and the shuttle busses were waiting to drive us to the Wrights Station Winery.  We basically drank great wine and ate the night away!  The best part was the incredible cake my friend Jill made us.  It was the prettiest and best tasting cake I have ever had!  A Spanish almond cake with a rosemary mascarpone frosting.  I feel so blessed to have had my friends and family involved in our wedding the way they were.  It made it much more special!


Recipe: Everything is to taste

  • Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette
  • Watermelon Radish – thinly sliced – to taste (about a half per person)
  • Pink or Red Radish – thinly sliced – to taste (about 2 per person)
  • French Breakfast Radish – thinly sliced – to taste (about 2 per person)
  • Radish Micro Sprouts  – to taste
  • Pecorino Cheese – shaved – to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – for drizzling


Make the vinaigrette and set aside.

Thinly slice the radishes with a sharp knife or a mandoline.

Arrange the radishes on a plate, top with sprouts and shaved cheese.

Drizzle with the vinaigrette and olive oil.


Health benefits:

Radishes help eliminate excess mucus in the body and are great for respiratory disorders, bronchitis and asthma. They are cleansing for the digestive system helping to break down and eliminate stagnant food and toxins that have built up over time as well as eliminate cancer-causing free radicals in the body. They are very high in vitamin C, which improves your immune system.  They have a low glycemic index and helps to regulate the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream, which is great for diabetics. Radishes water content keep your body and skin keep hydrated and with their high fiber content they increase regular bowel movements, relieve bloating and help indigestion. They are a powerful detoxifier of the liver and stomach. They are also great for reducing blood pressure with the high potassium content.

Lemon Thyme has anti-aging properties and boosts the immune system. It helps fight asthma, promotes relaxation and helps digestion. Lemon thyme is high in iron and an excellent source of vitamin C.

Lemon Thyme Pesto Vinaigrette

This is such a vibrant lemony pesto that is packed with flavor!  Add it to your favorite salad, drizzle it on roasted veggies or mix it in some rice or quinoa.  How can you see your self using it?


I can’t believe it’s only 5 days until our wedding!  We have cleaned the house, finished all our shopping and I am now in the process of making all of the food!  My friends Maggie, Ang and Ang’s boys are the first to arrive this Saturday evening.  I can barely contain myself!


Recipe: Approx. 1 1/4 Cup

  • 1 Cup Lemon Thyme
  • 1/2 Cup Pecorino Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar


Wash and dry the thyme.  Slide the thyme leaves off the stems, measure and add to a food processor or blender.

Finely shred the cheese and add to thyme.  Add the walnuts, garlic, olive oil and salt.  Puree, scrape the sides, pulse a few times and put into a bowl using a rubber spatula.

Stir in the lemon juice and vinegar.  Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

Health benefits:

Lemon Thyme has anti-aging properties and boosts the immune system. It helps fight asthma, promotes relaxation and helps digestion.  Lemon thyme is high in iron and an excellent source of vitamin C.

Lemongrass Dal Soup

The lemon grass flavors of this soup are quite delightful and full of flavor.  Another cool aspect of lemongrass is that it helps flush out harmful toxins from the body.  Isn’t it great how something with so much deliciousness can be so healthy for you!  You may ask “what is Dal”?  Dal is a dried lentil, pea or type of bean which has been split.  The word Dal is also referred to as the type of  thick stew prepared from lentils, like these moong beans they start out as fresh mung beans.


With only one and a half weeks away from our wedding date, we have a crazy busy week ahead of us.  I made a big batch of soup and a large kale salad to make meals a little easier.  I can’t believe how fast time flies!  With all of our visitors coming I am sure there will be some beach picnics involved with all this food.

 One of my my most favorite people, Tanya,  is able to pull off coming to our wedding all the way from Switzerland; I couldn’t be more thrilled!  I also can’t get over the fact that five of my closest friends are renting a house only one house away from ours.  Also my mom, Ang and the boys are staying with us too; I am soooo excited about this!


I believe the flavors of this soup are best complimented by a white wine, like a Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or for a Red, a Red Rioja Or Pinot Noir.


Saveur magazine is doing a contest of quality blogs around the world.  If you enjoy our blog, we humbly ask for you to nominate cali-zona.com. Thank you so much for your support! : ) 

Recipe: Approx. 6 – 8 servings

  • 1/2 Large White Onion – diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Ginger Root – microplaned
  • 1 Serrano Pepper – minced
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons Chili Olive Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 Unsalted Vegetable Bouillon Cube
  • 2 Cups Yellow Moong Dal Lentils
  • 10 Cups Filtered Water
  • 1 – 2 Stocks Fresh Lemongrass
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice – Fresh squeezed
  • 2 Teaspoons Turmeric Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro

Garnish options:

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Chili oil
  • Micro sprouts


Dice the onion and add to a 4 to 5 1/2 quart soup pot or dutch oven along with the olive oil.  Sauté on medium heat.
Mince the garlic and Serrano, microplane the ginger, add to onions and sauté for about 10 – 15 minutes or until garlic is slightly golden.
 Add wine and bouillon.  Mash bouillon cube to dissolve and cook until wine is syrupy.
While onions are cooking, measure lentils, sort for any rocks and rinse.  Set aside.
Cut lemon grass into about 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
When the onions are finished cooking add water, lentils, and lemongrass.  Turn heat to high, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer (in between low and medium-low).  Simmer for about an hour or until lentils is completely soft.
While lentils are cooking wash and dry cilantro.  Pick off the leaves, measure and mince.  Set aside.
When the lentils are finished cooking add lime juice, turmeric, coriander, salt and cilantro.
Puree soup in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth.
Health benefits:
Lemongrass is great for the heart and supports healthy cholesterol levels.  It is cleansing, flushes out harmful toxic waste, helps with detoxification and supports the liver and kidney.  Lemongrass helps with the stimulation of bowel function and improves digestion.  Due to its sedative and hypnotic properties, try a cup of lemongrass tea to help with insomnia by increasing the length and quality of sleep.  It can help improve glucose and maintain ideal levels of insulin.  It is great for any respiratory conditions such as colds or asthma.  Lemongrass contains citral, which helps in hindering the growth of hepatic cancer cells in the beginning phases and also stops any more cancerous cells in being produced.

Moong beans have a low glycemic index, which is great for diabetics. They are a great source of protein, rich in soluble dietary fiber and also known to help with lowering bad LDL cholesterol.  Moong beans have protease inhibitors, which are known to prevent cancer and to prevent the formation of cancer and tumor cells.

White Bean and Black Rice Kale Salad w/ Cilantro Pesto Vinaigrette

Here is another hearty kale salad that will leave you wanting more!  The white beans and black rice make this a very fulfilling dish!  The vinaigrette gives it so much flavor and the radishes add a nice touch of crunch!


This has been a great week to say the least!  Robby’s co-workers at EBay threw us a little party for our upcoming wedding.  There was a huge spread of food from around the world, literally!  There was Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern etc..  They had a delicious cake topped with fresh fruit and a whipped cream frosting.  Oh and I can’t forget the Champagne!  The most surprising thing was the $400 Zappos gift certificate!  I was in shock and of course, as soon as we got home I ordered a pair of boots!  I can’t wait to get them    : )


This salad goes great with a Albernino, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Tempernillo or a Pinot Noir.


Recipe: 4 – 6 servings

White Beans

  • 1 Cup White Beans   boiling turned to medium-low
  • 6 Cups Filtered Water
Black Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Forbidden Black Rice
  •  3/4 Cups + 2 Tablespoons Filtered Water
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Cilantro Pesto Vinaigrette

  • 1 Cups Cilantro Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Asiago Cheese
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Walnuts
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Lime Juice – fresh squeezed
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste


  • 1 Head Kale – thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
  • 1 Cup Radishes – thinly sliced  (I used French breakfast)
  • 1/2 Cup Asiago (optional)
  • Micro sprouts – to taste
    White Beans

    Sort the beans to make sure there are no rocks, then rinse and drain.

    Add the beans and the water into a medium pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  They can take longer.

    *You want to cook them slow and at a lower temperature than you would for a soup to ensure that the beans won’t crack as much.

    When done; rinse with cold water to cool down, drain completely and dump into the large bowl of kale.

    Black Rice
    While Beans are cooking, make the rice.

    Measure the rice and water and put them into a small sauce pan, preferably with a glass lid.

    Add the garlic and salt, then cover and bring to a boil on high heat.  Reduce to a simmer (in between medium-low and low) for 30 – 40 minute.  Check at 30 minutes, if you still see a bit of liquid, cook for 5 – 10 more minutes or until water is gone.  Set aside and let cool, then add to the kale and beans.

    While beans and rice are cooking, make the vinaigrette and set aside.

     Wash the kale and remove the main rib by holding the end of the steam and pull down with your other hand and discarding the main rib.  Chop kale into thin strips. Add them to a large bowl.


     Finely shred cheese and pick leaves off the cilantro stems, measure and add to a food processor or blender along with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, lime juice, vinegar and salt.  Puree.

    Health benefits:

    Kale is low in calories, high in fiber and it is a loaded with antioxidants which helps detox the liver. It is also an anti-inflammatory with omega-3 fatty acids, which is helpful for arthritis, joint pain and asthma. Kale has more Iron than beef and more calcium than milk which helps prevents osteoporosis, joint flexibility and helps maintain normal bone health. It is great for cardiovascular support that helps in lowering cholesterol. It is really high in vitamin A, C, and super high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin K (anyone taking anticoagulants should avoid kale because the high level of vitamin K that may interfere with the drugs.)

    White Beans are a super source of dietary fiber, which is good for the prevention of constipation, also helps digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. They are great for heart health because of their significant amounts of folate (support of red blood cell formation, one cup of the cooked beans provides 63.7% of the recommended daily intake for folate) and magnesium (lowers blood pressure). They are good for helping insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, and help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady energy.

    Black rice contains a high amount of anthocyanin like blood oranges.  The research has found that just a spoonful of black rice coating “bran” has more anthocyanin antioxidants than in a spoonful of blueberries, less sugar, more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants.  It is valuable for reducing inflammation and for its anti-aging properties. It is also for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer and helps protect the nervous system from degeneration.

    Cilantro is an extreme anti-oxidant immune-booster that helps detoxify the body by loosening them from the tissue, binding to and pulling out toxins and heavy metals.  It helps promote a healthy liver function and is an overall digestive aid.  It is a powerful anti-inflammatory that may help symptoms of arthritis and joint pain. Cilantro can lower bad cholesterol level and increase the good cholesterol level.  It also helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar. It is rich in essential oils, vitamins and is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K and dietary fiber. It is also an excellent source of omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids and calcium.

Black Bean Potato Au Gratin with a Roasted Poblano Cheese Sauce

This is a flavor packed Mexican au gratin with a delicious roasted poblano cheese sauce that won’t disappoint!
This gratin is a real treat, especially if you like Mexican food as much as Robby and I do!  It is true comfort food for both of us.  Making a dish like this for Robby is an expression of my love for him.  After my restaurant, I had no desire to cook for many years.  However, that all changed when Robby and I got together.  I got my passion back!  The whole act of cooking is so much more than just cooking.  Its inspiring, creative, fills the room with aromatic scents of love and brings people together!  What was the last thing you were inspired to make for that special someone?
I enjoyed this with a glass of Verdejo.  It will also go great with a Mexican beer of your choice.
 Recipe: 9 – 12 Servings
  • 1 1/2 Cups Dried Black Beans 3 1/2 Cups Cooked + 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 12 Cups Filtered water – add more as needed
  • 3 Poblano Peppers – roasted – diced
  • 2 1/2 + 1 Cups Jack Cheese – shredded
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Almonds – ground  – was 3/4 cup
  • 1 Cup Cilantro Leaves
  • 1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes – thinly sliced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1 – 2 Jalapeño Peppers – minced (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Rice Flour (or regular all purpose)
  • 3 Cups Milk – (I used 1 %)
  • 2 Teaspoons Sea Salt ?
  • 1/2 Cup Frozen Corn – or to taste
Garnish ideas: 
Black beans
1. Add the beans and water to a soup pot . Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and let boil until beans are soft about 1 1/2 hours.
2. Make sure to check on the water levels incase you need to add more.  It is better to have more water than less.
3.  When the beans are cooked pour into a colander, rinse and mix in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
Poblano and cheese
1. While the beans are cooking, roast the poblanos.  Remove skin, de-seed and de-stem.  Cut a slit in the poblanos and lay flat on a paper towel and dry both sides.
2. While I am roasting the poblanos, I normally grate the cheese.  If you do this, make sure to check on the poblanos so you don’t totally burn them.  Otherwise, finish roasting the poblanos and then grate the cheese.
3. Add 2 1/2 cups of the grated cheese to a bowl and set aside.
4. Put the remaining cup of grated cheese into a bowl, then grind the almonds in a food processor until it becomes a fine crumble, add them to the cup of cheese and mix  together.
Cilantro, potatoes and corn
1. Wash the cilantro and dry completely with some paper towels.  Pick the leaves off the stems and measure.  If still damp, dry them more.  Set aside.
2. Slice potatoes into thin slices (about 1/8-inch thick).  Add potatoes to a pot and cover with water then bring to a boil, continue to boil for 2 minutes.
3. Drain potatoes in a colander, rinse with cold water.  Dry them with a kitchen towel or a paper towel.  Set aside.
4. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat and drop the corn in just long enough to defrost.  Drain in a colander and dry them as best you can in a paper towel.  Set aside on a dry paper towel to collect any remaining water.

1. Mince the garlic and jalapeño, add olive oil, garlic and jalapeño to a large heavy saucepan. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring until the garlic is soft and starts to turn slightly golden,

2. Add wine and reduce to a syrup.

3. Add butter and salt.  When butter is melted, add flour and continue stirring for about 2 minutes.

4. Slowly add milk a little at a time (this is important) while whisking constantly. Bring liquid to a boil, continuing to stir then reduce heat to a simmer.  Add cheese a little at a time, stir until the cheese is completely melted.  Add the poblano and jalapeño, mix in completely.  Cook until sauce thickens.


Pre-heat oven to 375

1. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a 3 quart casserole dish.  Add a layer of potatoes (if you have some that are thicker than 1/8 inch place them on the outside and the thinner pieces in the middle)  then spread a thin coat of sauce over the potatoes.

2. Evenly spread out half of the black beans.  Next, add a little more sauce, another layer of potatoes and more sauce.

3. Evenly spread the remaining beans, cilantro, corn and add more sauce.  Add the last layer of potatoes, then the rest of the sauce.

4. Bake for 30 min uncovered on the middle rack.

5. Cover with foil and bake for 20 more minutes.

6. Take out of the oven and evenly spread the cheese and almond mix on top and put back in the oven for 15 minutes uncovered.


 Health benefits:

Black beans are high in cholesterol lowering dietary fiber, 1 cup of cooked beans provides you with over 1/2 of your daily requirements and reduces blood cholesterol that helps prevent heart disease.   The fiber supports the digestive tract and the colon, which helps constipation, diverticulitis and other gastrointestinal disorders.  They also maintain normal blood sugar levels, helping to prevent diabetes.   Black beans are a very good meat substitute because of their 15 grams of protein in 1 cup and contain only trace amounts of saturated fat and no cholesterol.  They contain phytochemicals, substances found only in plant foods that help fight cancer and other chronic diseases.  They increase energy with the good amounts of iron in them and have more antioxidant activity than other types of beans. They neutralize cell-damaging free radicals that may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.  Black beans are also rich in B vitamins, Folate, potassium (helps regulate your blood pressure and heart rate), magnesium, calcium (builds and maintains bones) and other heart-healthy nutrients.

Poblano Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C; just one pepper has 95% of your daily value.  They are great for your immune system and help to reduce inflammation like in arthritis and asthma. They contain lycopene a powerful antioxidant, giving many fruits and vegetables their color, especially tomatoes, which is great for the prevention of cancers in the bladder, prostate, cervix and pancreas. They are also helpful with increasing oxygen so the body can burn more calories 20 minutes after eating peppers.  They’re also full of vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium.