Two Dinners with Five Variations for Seven People

Some dinners at our table just turn into an experimental multitude of different dinner plates, especially if we have guests or if there is something my sister is craving and my brother-in-law doesn’t really prefer. I have no problem cooking different dinners for one meal every once in a while, but I think it’s really important for families to share the same meal as often as possible especially when they have children. Kids need to know that chicken nuggets and noodles are not the only things they can survive on and when we all eat the same dinner, this makes them understand that a little more.   
Please remember that not forcing children to eat what we eat is also a good way to start to introduce them to different foods. Kids have a natural inquisitiveness to variety if we allow them to understand and investigate new foods. This is something I work on with my niece very often. She may have a preference for certain things, but she still tries different foods on her good days and she’s 2 years old. So even just giving a couple of pieces of a new fruit, vegetable, protein or grain may incite inquisitiveness in our children’s taste buds and if that’s as far as we get and we try something else later, well I think that it’s progress. Sharing our good eating habits with children is so important to the modeling of their behaviors with ours, which allows them to understand that they can like and eat foods that adults like to eat as well.

So on this particular occasion my sister had a craving for pork chops. My brother-in-law does not eat pork much at all, so I had to make a different meal for him so we could have pork chops. I love pork chops, but I only need a little bit to satisfy my pork craving. They are easy to cook, have a great amount of protein and can be a very flavorful vehicle for a family friendly meal. When you pick pork chops, choose lean cuts that are cut about an inch to an inch and a half thick. If you choose pork chops thinner than this, you run the risk of having very dry pork chops, so I don’t recommend having thin chops unless you’re going to cook, serve and eat them right away; otherwise, the natural juices will dry out rather quickly. The pork chops I made were with a celery, onion and spinach cream glaze. I used parsley and rosemary to compliment the pork chops and to make a little bit of an herb crust on the outside of them.

For side dishes I always enjoy roasted cauliflower and so does my niece, so I pretty much always have roasted cauliflower in the kitchen.  I also roasted cauliflower with a little rendered pancetta, a bag of kale and some zucchini; high heat at about 400 degrees, some salt and pepper and a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. It’s a fantastic side dish if anyone needs a really delicious elegant dish to add along with any protein or to add with just about anything: toss it into pasta, serve it over brown rice or just eat it alone.

Seems like these days, if I get the oven on I roast more than just one thing because it saves time, gives flavor to veggies and makes them ready to eat, if you’re not into eating the raw variety. I like using dried parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper to season my vegetables, but mixing up the seasonings helps keep it new and fresh. Maleeya, my niece, really likes roasted vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, butternut squash and so many more; all of these are rock stars in nutrition and when you cook them this way, kids have a friendly finger food to devour. If you haven’t roasted cauliflower, you’re missing out. It’ll be your new potato chips.
My brother-in-law loves fettuccini alfredo. Pasta with cream sauce is a luxury item in this family, but every now and again I pull out the Parmesano Reggiano and we have a feast.  I knew my grandma would love to have a fettuccine as well, so I made a quick chicken stock, creamy sauce with broccoli and chicken.

So after roasting my way through the kitchen I ended up with dinner for seven people with about five different variations, all equally delicious for everyone. I’m pretty sure this is not normal, but cooking doesn’t have to be normal, sometimes we have to think outside the box and make what we really feel works and tonight I did just that.

Cheers to cooking your way in your kitchen. I hope you enjoyed my journey!



Maleeya’s 2nd Birthday

My niece just recently turned two on Monday, April 8th. I can’t believe she’s already two! It really goes by fast and I know that’s a very cliché thing to say, but it does. It feels like just yesterday that my sister told me she was having a baby and now Maleeya is just so adventurous, ambitious and remarkable. She truly is an amazing little girl and I feel so fortunate to be able to see her every day and watch her little spirit grow.

Happy Birthday, Monkey! Auntie loves you very much.




So for Maleeya’s birthday we had everyone over to Encino Park for some food, of course, and lots of other fun things for the kids and plenty of catching up for the adults. Some of my sister’s friends brought their little children and we were able to get a little kids yoga session to happen while the adults watched. I’m so grateful to the little ones who decided to participate, even with everyone watching. It’s amazing how fearless young children are. So we had yoga, party favors, a huge Minnie Mouse piñata, cake and lots of food.

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The menu this year was more manageable with my current work load and shortage of time, but still delicious and fun. I’m so glad I got to cook for over 50 of our closest family and friends. I’m so grateful for all the support everyone has shown me through my yoga and my cooking. I’m truly living a dream I could only have actualized with all of your help. Thank you!








Homemade Balsamic Cumin Barbeque Sauce Chicken

Rainbow Pasta Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Italian Herbs, Black Olives, Broccoli, Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers

Cobb Salad with Hard boiled Egg, Crispy Bacon, Roasted Garlic Turkey, Tomatoes, Avocado and Blue Cheese over Baby Mixed Greens and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetable Platter

Fruit Platters

My mom prepared our grandma’s special macaroni salad and potato salad, as well as Bachan’s triple-layered Jell-O, which are all family traditions at any event. My boyfriend made delicious pork sliders with jalapeno coleslaw—needless to say, everyone loved them.

We had such a great time celebrating my beautiful niece, Maleeya! I can’t wait for next year. :)

These gorgeous photos are courtesy of the wonderful and talented Lyz Cooper, Brandon’s mom is an amazing photographer! Thanks Lyz for capturing such special memories for out family.



Red Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

There’s really nothing like fall flavors. I love the combination of spices, hot foods and rich flavors that fall and winter have to offer. So as I get ready for Thanksgiving, I look for new ways to make some of the classic favorites into new and exciting dishes. Last year, I really enjoyed sage pumpkin pasta, so this year I decided to add a little bit extra to the mix and came up with this delicious Mac and Cheese. I used rigatoni pasta, but you could use whatever shape of pasta you enjoy. The creamy texture of this pasta comes from pureed butternut squash and a small dice of roasted butternut squash adds texture. Rendered bacon and red Swiss chard makes this pasta hearty and luscious with a generous sprinkle of crispy bacon and parmesan cheese on top. It makes for a wonderful side dish to accompany your favorite Thanksgiving protein or a delicious mid-week meal.

Red Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

1 large butternut squash, cut in ½ and peeled
1 teaspoon dried sage
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 bunch red Swiss chard, washed and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 box rigatoni, cooked to box directions and drained with ½ cup of pasta water retained
2 ½ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Retain ¼ of raw butternut squash and cut into small dice pieces.
Place remaining ¾ of cleaned and peeled butternut squash in tin foil and bake for about 35-45 minutes till very soft and puree with a blender or with a hand blender till smooth.
In a large sautee pan place olive oil and heat over medium. Then place bacon in pan and cook till crispy, about 9-10 minutes, then remove bacon pieces and drain on a paper towel. Add garlic, garlic powder, a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper, dried sage and the small diced butternut squash to the bacon grease. Sauté over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes or until the squash is soft, but still holds its shape.
*Be careful not to heat the squash over too high of heat or you’ll run the risk of burning the garlic.
Add red Swiss chard to the pan and cook for 5 minutes till wilted.
In a measuring cup add 2 tablespoons flour to cold milk and whisk together till incorporated.
Add milk to vegetable mixture and simmer over medium till sauce becomes thickened, about 6 minutes.
Add butternut squash puree and mix together thoroughly.
Toss the pasta in with the sauce and vegetable mixture, add ½ the cooked bacon and toss with ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference.
Place in a casserole dish and sprinkle the rest of the bacon and remaining ¼ cup parmesan on top. Broil in oven till the cheese is melted and the is bacon warmed, about 5 minutes.
Serve Red Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese with your favorite protein or as a hot meal on its own.

If you want this dish vegetarian please feel free to omit the bacon in place of it use 2 tablespoons more extra virgin oil oil when cooking the squash.



Spanakopita Inspired Pasta – Whole Wheat Penne with Feta Cheese, Spinach, Basil and Mushrooms



This pasta was inspired by the Greek dish Spanakopita. Spanakopita is a phyllo dough pastry that has spinach and feta cheese in it. I love the flavors of this dish; it has herbs with a crunchy texture from the crisp phyllo. I didn’t have phyllo dough at my house and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going to the store to get it and turning on the oven and waiting to bake, so I just took inspiration to create this dish.  I used healthy whole grain pasta and some of my favorite vegetables to get a flavorful and healthy meal from a classic idea. I also like to add the freshness of raw vegetables as a side to this pasta.


Whole Wheat Penne with Feta Cheese, Spinach, Basil and Mushrooms


6 basil leaves, chopped

2 cups frozen spinach

2 cups fresh kale, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½  small onion, diced

1 stock celery minced

8 oz carton button or crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered

5 florets cauliflower rough chopped to small pieces

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pinch garlic powder



1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Pinch red pepper flakes

¼- ½  cup feta cheese

Shaved pecorino for garnish

½ pound whole wheat pasta


In a large sauté pan, place 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of the pan.  Heat till glistening, add the onions and cook about 3-4 minutes till soft.

Add dried parsley, pepper flakes, garlic, garlic powder, celery, cauliflower and mushrooms, then cook for about 2 minutes.

Add fresh kale and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add frozen spinach and cook for 6-7 minutes till heated through and kale is soft.

Cook pasta as directed and save about 1 cup pasta water.

Put the pasta into the vegetables and toss in desired amount of feta cheese.

Add black pepper and salt to taste.

If desired, finish with a little more extra virgin olive oil and top with pecorino cheese.

Serve aside chopped tomatoes, basil and cucumbers, seasoned with salt and pepper






Fresh Arugula and Pan Roasted Cauliflower, Kidney Beans and Fusilli with Pecorino Cheese

As we find ourselves in a hurry, which I seem to be doing more and more often nowadays, a large meal or something that takes a lot of time might not be the most accessible thing to eat. Today, after yoga. I was thinking that I’d get home and find some leftovers in the fridge that I could devour, when my sister and mom kindly informed me that they had helped themselves to that food, so I’d have to make something else. No big deal. Instantly my mind started racing. I haven’t been to the store in a couple of days, so I had some slim pickings to make something with. I wanted something substantial, but not too heavy. Pasta seemed simple and is normally a go to ingredient for me when I want something quick and delicious. And from the confines of the pantry, this dish was created.

Fresh Arugula and Pan Roasted Cauliflower, Kidney Beans and Fusilli with Pecorino Cheese

1 cup arugula
½ can of unsalted kidney beans, rinsed
¼ white onion, minced
1 cup small cauliflower florets
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½  cup pasta water
2 tablespoons pecorino, grated
½ lb fusilli
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a large skillet, place olive oil and heat over medium-heat until warm.
Place white onion and cauliflower florets in skillet and sauté for about 3-5 minutes till onions are translucent.
Add salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste.
Boil fusilli as instructed on the package to al dente, drain and reserve ½ cup of water with pasta.
Place the ½ cup of water in to the onion and cauliflower mixture, then add the kidney beans. Cover and heat till warmed through, about 4 minutes.
Finally, add fusilli to the mixture, stir until ingredients are incorporated. Add pecorino cheese and arugula, toss together. Taste for seasoning and if necessary, add a little more extra virgin olive oil to coat pasta and extra cheese to your liking. Plate and serve immediately.

Maleeya’s First Birthday Celebration and Catering

My niece, Maleeya, just recently turned one on Easter, which was April 8th, so we decided that it would be a good idea to celebrate Easter with our family, including a small birthday celebration for her and then, the following Sunday, have her huge birthday celebration at the park. First birthdays, and birthdays in general, are a huge deal for the Fujitaki family, so we knew it was going to be a big production to get everything together; naturally, I was in charge of the food. As the number of guests grew and grew as we approached the party date, I knew that I was in for a good weekend full of catering and cooking, which felt nice because I haven’t done a large event in a while, but boy did my body feel it after cooking for 14 hours, not to mention the countless hours in preparation, shopping, organizing and sourcing. Needless to say, I slept a lot the next day and took a completely necessary yoga class to get my aching back and feet back to normal. 
I didn’t have time to make the cakes but these are pretty darn cute!
The final count for Sunday was about 65 people and I think there seemed to be even more people than that. I have no problem making a lot of food for a lot of people, but with space limitations, refrigeration limitations and my new time limitations (aka Yoga Teacher Training), I found myself planning a different sort of menu.  One person cooking for 65 people in a residential kitchen can be a tricky thing, but with a little patience, a lot of intuition, and a calm demeanor, anything can happen.  I want to thank my sister, my parents and our friend Valinda for helping me put the last minute touches on everything and hauling it over to the park. The whole party was such a success with everyone’s help and I’m so grateful to be a part of such an amazing family and extended family and friends. It’s such a beautiful feeling to see how much love is surrounding this amazing little girl and how it shapes and molds her lovely little soul. Happy Birthday Maleeya! Auntie loves you so much.

Roasted Chicken, Sundried Tomato, Mozzarella and Spinach Basil Pesto Sandwich on Rosemary Garlic Bread
Chinese Spiced Pork Tenderloin (Char Siu) Sandwich on Toasted French Roll with Spicy Asian Mayo, Cucumbers, Pea Shoots and Carrots
Roasted Salmon Lettuce Wraps with Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula, and Quinoa
Sliced Turkey Pinwheels with Hearts of Romaine and CheeseScallion, Black olive and Celery Potato Salad
Rainbow Pasta Salad with Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes, Red Onion and Colby Jack Tossed in Red Wine Vinaigrette
Orzo Salad with Stripped Beets, Broccoli, Cranberries and Fresh Spinach Tossed in Sherry Vinegar Dressing
Purple Cabbage Coleslaw with Honey, Peanuts, Carrots and Granny Smith Apples
Vegetable Platter And Fruit Platter



Dinner for 8: Happy Birthday Big Sister Keek‏

Birthdays are my favorite occasions to celebrate. I always have some extravagant plan for someone I love, if it’s at all possible to get done.  The weekend of the 12th my big sister, Kristen, had a birthday celebration for the family, and myself and Brandon cooked for everyone. We decided on a last-minute venture all over the place, including a trip to Oxnard farmer’s market and a couple of other grocery stores on the way home. We cut the preparation pretty close, but my family is always pretty flexible when it comes to me cooking. I honestly came up with the menu last-minute, so it’s good I had Brandon with me so he could fill in my brain gaps with the menu. So here’s what we decided on for the fun of it all. (Some photos are missing)

Appetizers: Buffalo mozzarella, melon, olives, humus, and pita
Whole sautéed head on prawns with garlic
Three color: white, candy cane, and golden beet salad, with prosciutto chips, goat cheese and mixed greens with honey balsamic vinaigrette
Cabernet and Italian herb braised beef and ricotta stuffed shells
Homemade pasta filled with spinach and chicken ricotta and herbs
Homemade basil spinach pesto with pine nuts and aged Parmesan
Vine-ripened red heirloom pomodoro fresco with basil and extra virgin olive oil
Alfredo sauce over chicken-filled fresh tortelli
Tuile cookie with orange pastry cream and fresh blueberries and blackberries
I think my sister was happily stuffed and opening presents like we used to when we were kids. I loved everyone being together and seeing our little addition, Maleeya, join in the fun.  I love my family very much and my sister is a huge part of that love. I love you Keek. Happy birthday, you old lady! Just remember, I’ll always look up to you just like I did when we were little like monkey. You’re the best sister ever.

Capellini Green Beans and Sweet Tomato Sauce

I’m pasta crazy. I always have been and I always will be. It’s one of my favorite things to eat in the world. I first had something similar to this dish at a friend’s house with bread instead of pasta and so much oil I thought I had it coming out of my pores, but now I know it’s completely necessary to have all that delicious fruity olive oil in this dish. The combination of crispy green beans, onions, tomatoes and a bit of sugar, melts into one wonderful sauce. All these elements just work for me. I hope they do the same for you.  Enjoy

Capellini Green Beans and Sweet Tomato Sauce
2 cups trimmed green beans or haricot vert, cut into bit sized pieces
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced parsley or 1 teaspoon dry parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ red onion, minced
½ teaspoon red chili flake
4-8 ounces of water
Minced cooked chicken (Optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound capellini pasta
In a large pot, salt and boil water. Add trimmed green beans to the water and cook for 3 minutes. Take out of hot water and set aside. Leave water boiling for pasta.
In a large to medium sized pot add oil to pan and heat until hot. Add onions and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 5-8 minutes.
Add red chili flakes, pepper, parsley (if using dry), and sugar to onion mixture and incorporate.
Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to sauce. Add 8 ounces of the water from the pasta pot to the mixture and cook for 10 minutes.
Add green beans to mixture and incorporate. Cook until warmed through and beans are the texture you desire.
Add chicken last and parsley (if using fresh).
Cook pasta in water until barely done 3 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving some water in case the sauce needs to be loosened.
Add pasta to sauce and finishing cooking in tomatoes.
If sauce is not thin enough, adjust consistency with pasta water.
Adjust for spiciness and salt content.
Finish with extra fresh parsley and good extra virgin olive oil.
Plate and eat.
Don’t cook capellini ahead of time ever; you’ll have a messy blob of pasta on your hands.
Also, mastering finishing the capellini in the sauce is the key to the sauce sticking to the pasta perfectly, with just the right amount of shine and no watering.
Good luck



A Birthday Italian Feast

Overindulgence! Phew, I need to get back into the yoga studio. But it’s not for nothing, that’s for sure. I just need to work a little harder and I can make up for all this delicious decadence I’ve been subjecting myself to. My dad’s birthday was at the end of August and we decided to have a little Italian celebration with plenty of pasta and lots of love. I guess I still got it because everything was pretty spot on. I love these dishes and I made a couple of things a few different ways because my family is a mesh of different flavors and tastes. My mom, dad, grandma, brother, sister-in-law, sister, brother-in-law, my niece (thought she didn’t eat) and I all sat down to a great meal. I’m very excited to share it with you.

Spicy Seafood Linguine- Clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops simmered in a white wine, garlic and basil tomato sauce with red pepper flakes

Seafood Linguine

Linguine and Herb Parmesan Meatballs

Antipasto Salad

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta topped with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella

I absolutely love seafood linguine. My dad is a huge fan of it and I would make it for him when my family would visit me at the restaurant. I made a huge pot of marinara, one of my all time favorite sauces, slow simmered with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs. Seafood linguine is something to master, because the ratio of liquid from your shellfish to the perfect timing of tender shrimp and scallops can be three seconds from disaster. Once you accomplish making it, it’s a perfect crowd pleaser.

We were all definitely full of pasta, wine and tomatoes. We had plenty of meatballs for the next day.

I love you Dad. Happy birthday!



Shattered Cauliflower Farfalle

Shattered Cauliflower Farfalle with kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes and spicy garlic rosemary olive oil

Shattered cauliflower is just boiled cauliflower till it melts off of its stems. I kinda wack it with the back of the knife and it shattered into small pieces. I love names for food.

I love this pasta I made it when I came home from yoga, glanced around the fridge and decided that salad just wasn’t going to do. The oil that goes in this pasta I had on hand because I use it as a very beautiful dip for fresh bread  or brush over crostini which has gotten good feedback so you should use it as well.

This is Vegetarian and can be made vegan if you’d like by just not adding cheese at the end.

I love simple pastas such as these which are not heavy and loaded with sauce because honestly I could eat pasta boiled perfectly al dente with some extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper and rock salt for the rest of my life. I’m forever a pasta lover, I really believe I always have been but it’s something I cook naturally and it comes out wonderful.

I’ve made 100’s of pasta dishes I’ll make a million more in my life time. Pasta station at the restaurant was and forever will be my home. Countless water burns and sauce splashes, I miss those times.

This pasta can be made with short or long noodles whichever you prefer. I like farfalle in this because it makes the dish look elegant. I called it shattered cauliflower because I like this pasta to have the cauliflower a little softer then the way I normally eat my vegetables because it kind of melts into the oil and gives it a little sauce. You are more than welcome to cook the cauliflower less or to your liking.

Shattered cauliflower farfalle with kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes and spicy garlic rosemary olive oil

½ lb of pasta
¼ to 1/2 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup of sun dried tomatoes
About 12- 15 pitted kalamata olives smashed or chopped
6 leaves of basil
2 -3 tablespoons of spicy oil with the garlic and chili flakes
3 tablespoons of pasta water

In a medium sized pot add water and salt to taste bring to a boil

Cut ¼ head to ½ depending on the size of the cauliflower off of the large stems, rinse with water till clean and place inside the boiling water

When it reaches your preferred doneness take out from water reserving water in pot and place cauliflower on paper towel hit it with the back of the knife to break it into small pieces then let dry

Add more water to the pot and bring back to a boil adjust water and use this for boiling the pasta

Cook your pasta as directed for the shape you’d like

To prepare spicy garlic rosemary olive oil

This oil is more than is necessary for the recipe so you can have extra for bread or just store in a jar with lid and can be used for up to a couple of days.
In a small sauce pan place about ¼ cup of good extra virgin olive oil
Add teaspoon of black pepper
1 pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons of red chili flake changed on your preference of heat
1 spring of rosemary leaves taken from the stem and minced
2 cloves of garlic sliced
Put oil on very low and add all the ingredients to oil
Heat till oil become fragrant and infused with spice, herbs, and garlic
When oil is done

Take about ½ of it and place it at the bottom of a small sauce pan
Smash pieces of the cauliflower so they become small and then put them in the pan
Sautee till coated with oil and seasoning
Add sundried tomatoes, kalmata olives and chopped basil to the mixture cook till everything is heated through
Then use some of your boiled pasta water about 3 tablespoons to create a little sauce with the cauliflower
Taste for seasoning and adjust black pepper and salt
Toss your pasta in with the cauliflower mixture
If you find it a little dry add a combination of oil and pasta water to create a little more sauce if you’d like
Put on a plate and top with cracked pepper and little Parmesan cheese and basil

Things to remember
Pasta is very much about how you cook the noodles, so make sure you keep an eye on it and know how to make pasta the way you like it. Also this doesn’t have a lot of sauce you’re getting a lot of flavor from the oil and the olives and tomatoes but make sure you season things in stages, don’t add too much salt in the beginning because you have the olives in the dish.

Pastas like this you have to have very good olive oil to make so please look into that and I hope you enjoy it.


This can be done also by taking the vegetables and just putting them in a bowl marinating the cauliflower in the oil over night. The next day cook the pasta quickly and toss it all together. I would also add fresh arugula a squeeze of lemon at the end and make it into a salad. Fried capers would be good too.


Twitter and Foodbuzz

So tomorrow is the big day for the Online bake sale to aid Japan

The preview with pretty much everything to bid on

Bid Bid Bid

Check out the other bloggers and biding tomorrow will start at 6am eastern time

here’s the link to my auction items that I’ll be supporting the cause with!