Candice Kumai’s Go-to Dinners for When You Want to Wake up Beautiful

Photo: Candice Kumai

This January, as part of Well+Good’s (Re)New Year, famed plant-based and classically trained chef Candice Kumai is providing five weeks of healthy recipes to help not only transform your eating habits, but set you up for year-long success. Week One, she curated recipes specifically meant to clean your gut. Last week, it was all about power and energy—AKA meals that are as packed with protein as they are flavor. And this week, she's crafted a whole week of beauty recipes so you look and feel your best.

A breakfast smoothie may be the easiest way to sneak in beauty boosters like collagen powder and spirulina, but your dinner plate can have just as many benefits. Part of the key to waking up like you've slept for 10 hours—even when you haven't—is filling up on hydrating, nourishing foods the night before. For the always camera-ready Candice Kumai, it means going back to the basics, and often, some of her favorite dishes from when she was growing up.

Get ready for lots of ways to get water- and vitamin- dense veggies that aren't just salads. Spoiler alert: You're going to want to dust off that spiralizer. Kumai has mastered ways to make veggies like carrots (with collagen-boosting vitamin C and skin-saving vitamin E) and spaghetti squash (full of nail and hair strengthening calcium) into main dishes that actually taste delish and won't leave you hungry.

And get ready to be impressed with yourself: She'll help you master sushi-making too. It turns out it's way easier than you think.

Keep reading for five weekday dinner recipes that promote beauty from the inside out.

Photo: Candice Kumai

Monday: Avocado barley soup

Serves 3

1/3 cup uncooked hulled barley
1 1/3 cups water
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup raw walnut pieces
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded lacinato kale leaves
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp liquid aminos

1. In a medium stockpot, combine the barley with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the grains are tender and the water has been absorbed. Cover and set aside.

2. In a large stockpot, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, eight to ten minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and bay leaves and sauté until the veggies are soft, ten minutes. Pour in the broth, bring the soup to a light simmer and cook.

3. Stir in the reserved cooked barley, walnut pieces, and nutmeg and simmer for an additional five minutes.

4. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the kale and liquid aminos. Ladle the soup into bowls and top off with avocado slices. Feel free to add unfiltered, raw apple cider vinegar to finish, for some extra cleansing.

Photo: Candice Kumai

Tuesday: Carrot miso ginger beauty noodles

Serves 2

For the bowl:
6 large carrots, spiralized
2 cups of shelled organic edamame
2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa
1 avocado, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh mint to top
2 Tbsp ground sesame seeds

For the miso vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp organic red miso paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
2 tsp honey or maple
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 Tbsp reduced sodium tamari

1. In a medium mixing bowl, add all of your dressing ingredients and whisk well to combine.

2. Add your prepped carrots, edamame, and grains into the dressing bowl. Toss well to coat.

3. Plate up your carrot noodles and grains and top with avocado cubes, fresh mint, and ground sesame seeds.

Candice Kumai spaghetti squash
Photo: Candice Kumai

Wednesday: Fresh pesto spaghetti squash

Serves 2

For the spaghetti squash:
Olive oil cooking spray, for the baking sheet
1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil to oil the squash prior to roasting
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (optional)

For the pesto:
Makes 3/4 cup pesto
1 1/2 cups lacinato kale leaves, torn 1/2 cup whole
Raw almonds
1 to 2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 ̊F. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray.

2. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds from the inside of the squash. Drizzle both halves with olive oil and rub to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

3. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes. Carefully flip each half over and roast for another ten minutes, or until fork- tender. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool slightly.

3. While the squash cools, make the kale pesto: In a food processor, add the kale, almonds, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Stream in the olive oil and process until a smooth paste forms.

Using a fork, u up the strands of “spaghetti” from the inside of the squash. Magic! Lightly coat each half of the roasted squash with one-fouth cup of the kale pesto, and add a sprinkle of Parmesan or fresh basil on top, if desired. Serve just as you would pasta, adding more or less fresh pesto or basil as desired. Leftover pesto will keep in the freezer for up to three months. 

Candice Kumai nori hand rolls
Photo: Candice Kumai

Thursday: Nori hand rolls

Serves 2 to 4

5-7 sheets toasted nori (seaweed)
1-3 cups cooked brown rice 

For the fillers (optional):
1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
Fresh basil, stems removed
Cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Carrots, thinly sliced
Japanese kaiware sprouts
Japanese umeboshi plums, seeds discarded
Daikon Pickles

Proteins (optional):
Smoked salmon, thinly sliced
Smoked Tofu, thinly sliced

Seasonings (optional):
Toasted sesame seeds
Reduced-sodium soy sauce, for dipping
Ponzu sauce, for dipping

1. Using kitchen shears, cut the nori in half. You should have 10 to 12 half sheets. Have ready a small bowl of room-temperature water.

2. Place the nori half vertically in front of you on a clean surface.

3. Place approximately 1/4 cup of brown rice diagonally on the bottom left corner of a nori sheet. Top with your choice of fillers, proteins, and seasonings. Tightly roll the nori into a cone shape around the filling and seal the edge of the nori with a dab of water.

4. Dip in your choice of soy sauce, ponzu, spicy vegan mayo or just enjoy as is!

Candice Kumai mint and pea soup
Photo: Candice Kumai

Friday: Coconut pea and mint soup

Serves 2

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
8 oz. peas
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus more for optional garnish
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup canned light coconut milk, plus 1 Tbsp for finishing
3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Greek yogurt (Optional for topping)

1. In a small sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until fragrant, ten to twelve minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

2. Add the cooled onion mixture to a blender or food processor, followed by the peas, mint leaves, and salt. Blend to combine. Stream in the coconut milk and vegetable broth until the mixture has a nice, velvety soup consistency.

3. Serve the soup at room temperature or chilled with the extra coconut milk and mint to finish. Top with a dollop of yogurt, if desired, for an extra boost of protein.

Here’s how to transform your year in more ways, including how to build strong, healthy habits year-round.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...