5 Weeknight Dinner Recipes From Candice Kumai Made With Longevity-Boosting Foods

Photo: Candice Kumai
Intel straight from our hand-picked health squad of best-selling authors, entrepreneurs, and healthy-minded celebs who are leading—and shaking up—the wellness scene.

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 4 is all about eating in a way that will inspire a long, healthy life.

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" has been the wellness battlecry in many circles ever since expert Michael Pollan revealed those seven words summed up everything he's ever learned about food and health. It sounds great in theory, until you're left trying to figure out how to make a meal full of veggies satiating enough to not leave you reaching for a pint of vegan Ben & Jerry's later.

Fortunately, Candice Kumai has figured it out. (Just one of the many side-effects that happens after writing six healthy cookbooks.) Her Japanese heritage helped lay the foundation for building plant-forward meals, and over time, she's added her own twists to them, ensuring they're delish even if you didn't grow up like she did with your mom making tofu fried rice and cloudy miso soup.

The secret to living a long, healthy life is quite simple, really: Eat real foods and spice up your dishes with powerful inflammation fighters like turmeric and ginger. That's it! Ready to fill your dinner table with foods that are meant to give your longevity a boost? Keep reading!

Scroll down for a week's worth of dinner recipes made to inspire longevity.

Candice Kumai bento box
Photo: Candice Kumai

Monday: Squash salad bento box

Serves 3

For the salad:
1/2 kabocha squash, halved, quartered and thinly sliced into 1⁄2-inch moons (skin-on)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cups cooked and cooled: brown rice, freekeh, quinoa, or pick your favorite leftover whole grain
1 cup curly or lacinato kale leaves, tough stems removed, finely chopped
1/2 Fuji, Gala or Braeburn apple, cored and sliced into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup raw pepitas

For the apple cider-honey vinaigrette:
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp raw or manuka honey

1. Preheat the oven to 375 ̊F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a large bowl, toss the squash slices with the olive oil until well coated. Spread the squash out in an even layer across the baking sheet, making sure each piece is touching the surface of the pan to ensure even browning. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, then flip the squash and roast for another 20 minutes on the opposite sides. When the squash is fork-tender, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together for the apple cider-honey vinaigrette.

4. While the squash is roasting, make your salad: In a large bowl, add the apple cider honey vinaigrette, leftover grains, and kale and toss gently to coat. Add the cooled squash, apple slices, and pumpkin seeds to top off. Toss well to coat, place into your bento box, cover and feel free to decorate it as desired.

Candice Kumai taco recipe
Photo: Candice Kumai

Tuesday: Curry avocado tacos

Serves 3

For the tacos:
1 tsp avocado or coconut oil
6 6-inch corn tortillas
1 lime cut in wedges
Avocado slices
Wild arugula for garnish
Thinly sliced watermelon or basic radish

For the marinade:
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp light coconut milk
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 lb fresh mahi mahi (or grilled savory tofus, for a vegetarian or vegan option)

For the sauce:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp grated lime zest plus 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp finely chopped cilantro
Touch of sea salt to taste

1. Marinate the fish: Whisk the fresh lime juice, avocado or coconut oil, coconut milk, curry powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the fish fillets and turn to coat.

2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to three hours.

3. For the sauce, whisk the yogurt, lime zest and juice, curry powder, and cilantro together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.

4. Heat a ridged cast iron grill pan to medium high heat.

5. Remove the fish from the marinade and grill without turning until it is firm and opaque throughout, four to five minutes. Transfer the fish to a plate and break it up into bite-sized pieces.

6. Make tortillas playable over heat and divide the fish among the tortillas.

7. Top tacos with some curry yogurt sauce, sliced avocado, arugula and radish and a side fresh lime wedge.

Candice Kumai clean soda noodle soup
Photo: Candice Kumai

Wednesday: Clean soba noodle soup

Serves 2

4 oz. soba noodles
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or veggie broth
1 Tbsp tamari reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
3 1/2 dried shiitake mushrooms, covered in boiling water 5 minutes, drained, and chopped
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/2 cup watercress, arugula, or baby spinach leaves
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and halved (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook until the noodles are cooked through, two to three minutes. Strain through a medium mesh sieve and rinse the noodles under cold running water for one minute.

2. Meanwhile, make the broth. Bring the chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for three minutes, then add the mushrooms and simmer until they’re tender, about five minutes. Add three-fourths of the scallions and simmer until soft, about one minute.

3. Divide the noodles among two bowls and pour the soup over the noodles. Add the spinach or greens, sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve each bowl with a hard boiled egg half. 

Photo: Candice Kumai

Thursday: Ginger satsuma noodles

Serves 2

For the salad:
1/2 of an  8-10 oz package soba, cooked, cooled, and drained
1/2 cup snap peas, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 to 1 cup fresh baby arugula
1/2 package, 6 oz, savory baked tofu, cut into thin slices or cubes 1/4 cup satsuma segments

For the satsuma ginger vinaigrette:
1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp rice vinegar 
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seed oil 
1/4 cup satsuma juice (Mandarin orange juice)
1 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger

For the toppings:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds, divided
Additional satsuma (Mandarin orange) segments (optional)

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Gently add the cooked and cooled soba noodles and toss well to coat with the dressing. Add in your snap peas and toss.

2. Mix in the arugula, toss well to coat. Plate up noodles into four even portions, top with savory tofu, mandarin orange segments, and toasted sesame seeds.

Candice Kumai turmeric kale fried rice
Photo: Candice Kumai

Friday: Turmeric kale fried rice

Serves 2 

4 cups cooked grains (your choice of brown rice, quinoa, farro, freekeh)
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp reduced-sodium Tamari soy sauce
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1-2 cups savory, organic tofu, cut into 3/4-inch cut cubes
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 cup finely chopped kale or broccoli rabe
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 scallions, finely sliced
Sesame seeds, for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring two cups uncooked brown rice, farro, or your choice of grains, plus the appropriate amount of water to boil. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until tender. Drain any excess liquid, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool.

2. Chop your savory tofu into three-fourth inch cubes and set aside.

3. Place a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the toasted sesame oil, heat, followed by the chopped onion, and saute until fragrant. Add the garlic, carrots, and soy sauce, and sauté until it begins to evaporate (approximately two minutes).

4. Finish off with half of the scallions and stir-fry for another three minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

5. Sprinkle in your turmeric. Add your choice of grains and sauté until all is warmed through. Add your tofu and mix to combine all ingredients.

6. Finally, add the chopped kale or broccoli rabe and stir gently to coat and quickly warm through. Top with the remaining scallions and some sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Here's how to transform your year in more ways, including setting goals that set you up for success longterm

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