A Whole Week’s Worth of Good-for-Your-Gut Dinners From Candice Kumai

Photo: Candice Kumai

This year, famed plant-based and classically trained chef Candice Kumai is kicking off Well+Good's (Re)New Year program with five weeks of healthy—and delish—recipes. For the first week, all 25 recipes she's sharing are crafted specifically to give your gut a boost. And no, that doesn't mean just sipping on green juices or eating loads of sauerkraut.

So, what's cooking for dinner? Get ready for sweet potato and avocado bowls, squash soup, and even—wait for it—vegan mac and cheese. As if your meal plan couldn't get any sweeter (in a no-sugar manner of speaking), every single meal is made to give your gut a boost.

You know those ingredients you've heard are good for your gut but you don't really know how to incorporate into your meals? Things like apple cider vinegar (an OG healthy ingredient for gently cleansing the gut), ginger (which helps get the digestive juices going), and miso (a probiotic)? By the end of the week, you'll have a slew of recipes up your sleeve with these superstar ingredients.

Ready to make your gut—and tastebuds—seriously happy? Keep reading for the recipes.

Candice Kumai sweet potato bowl
Photo: Candice Kumai

Monday: Carrot-ginger apple cider vinaigrette over a sweet potato avo bowl

Serves 2

For the sweet potato avo bowl
3 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 1/2 cups uncooked)
1/2 cup shredded kale
1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
1/2 cup leftover roasted vegetables (optional)

For the carrot-ginger apple cider vinaigrette
1 1/2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger

1. In two individual serving bowls, add the quinoa. Top each with an equal amount of avocado cubes, sweet potato, shredded kale, and leftover roasted veggies, if available.

2. For the vinaigrette, combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

3. Top each serving bowl with the carrot-ginger vinaigrette and mix with a fork. Serve at room temperature, or heat as desired.

Candice Kumai squash soup
Photo: Candice Kumai

Tuesday: Kabocha squash soup with apple cider vinegar

Serves 3

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 crushed garlic clove
1 bay leaf
1/2 large kabocha squash, un-peeled, halved, and cut into 3⁄4-inch cubes (you can also use peeled and cubed butternut squash)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp uncooked quinoa
1/2 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos
1/4 cup shredded lacinato kale leaves
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. In a large stock pot, warm the extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, eight to 10 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and bay leaves and sauté for an additional five minutes until fragrant.

2. Add the kabocha and cook for about eight minutes, or until the squash begins to develop some color.

3. Pour in the broth and bring the soup to a boil. Then turn heat to low and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, add the quinoa, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the liquid aminos, add the shredded kale, and heat just until the kale has wilted slightly. Finish off with the apple cider vinegar just before serving.

Candice Kumai miso tahini kale salad
Photo: Candice Kumai

Wednesday: Tahini miso kale salad

Serves 2

For the salad:
1/2 bunch lacinato kale, tough ribs removed, leaves torn
1/4 Fuji apple, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons
1/2 avocado, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds

For the creamy miso tahini dressing:
1 Tbsp organic miso paste
1 1/2 Tbsp tahini paste
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup, or your favorite sweetener

1. Prep the vegetables for the salad.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the chopped kale and Fuji apple slices to the bowl and toss well to coat with the vinaigrette.

3. Plate the salad and top with the avocado cubes and hulled hemp seeds.

Candice Kumai ginger noodles
Photo: Candice Kumai

Thursday: Miso ginger noodles

Serves 2

For the bowl:
6 large carrots, spiralized (yields 9 cups)
2 cups of shelled organic edamame
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 avocado, cubed
2 Tbsp fresh mint to top
2 Tbsp ground sesame seeds

For miso vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp organic red miso paste
1/4 cup apple cider  vinegar
2 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
2 tsp honey
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.

vegan mac and cheese recipe
Photo: Candice Kumai

Friday: Vegan mac and cheese

Serves 8

For the mac and cheese:
1 1/2 15 oz cans of organic pumpkin
4 to 6 garlic cloves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 cans, 13.5 oz can coconut milk
3 Tbsp organic miso paste
4 cups pasta shells or penne, cooked and drained
1⁄4 cup + 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
Coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray, for the pan

For the herbed bread crumb topping:
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp granulated garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup finely chopped kale or parsley leaves
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch pan with coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin, garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, salt, and coconut milk. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.

3. Carefully place the squash mixture in a blender. Add in miso paste and purée until all velvety smooth.

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water, remove all excess liquid.

5. Spread out the pasta in the prepared pan, and pour the pumpkin–coconut milk purée over the pasta. Gently fold in the nutritional yeast and mix well to combine, ensuring that all noodles are coated. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly and cooked through.

6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping.

7. Remove the mac and cheese from the oven, uncover, and sprinkle the top with the herbed breadcrumb topping, followed by a sprinkle of the remaining 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast. Transfer to the broiler for two to three minutes until brown and bubbly.

 Here are more ways to help heal your gut, which has the added bonus of lowering anxiety levels. Plus, how to transform other areas of your life this year.

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