These Japanese-Inspired Weeknight Dinner Recipes From Candice Kumai Are Beauty and Brain Boosting

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. For the fifth and last week, the former model is sharing her top recipes to enhance your beauty *and* brains.

Pizza, pesto, and ramen may not sound like mega good-for-you dinners, but they 100 percent can be with some smart substitutions. Candice Kumai isn't one to miss out on pizza night. She just gives it a little healthy makeover using a cauliflower pizza crust and brain healthy standbys like olive oil, avocado, and kale. (All of those are major beauty-boosting ingredients, too.)

Besides some delish homemade pizza, get ready for skin-saving miso soup (loaded with linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that keeps skin soft), pesto spaghetti squash (full of vitamin A), and matcha-encrusted cod (major brain food).

Treat yourself with the brain and beauty boosting recipes below.

Candice Kumai beauty ramen
Photo: Candice Kumai

Monday: Miso beauty ramen

Serves 2

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup organic red miso paste
2 Tbsp tahini paste (sesame paste) or neri goma (練りごま)
1 Tbsp mirin
4 cups purified water
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 10 oz package of fresh ramen

1 cup baby spinach, divided
1 green onion, sliced on the bias
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
Chili oil (optional)
Togarashi (optional)
Nori slices, cut into small rectangular pieces for dipping (optional)
Hard boiled egg (optional)

1. In a large saucepan or stock pot, over medium heat, add your toasted sesame oil and onion, saute for approximately ten minutes or until fragrant and translucent. Add in your mushrooms and sautee for an additional two minutes.

2. Add in your miso paste and tahini (or neri goma) paste to coat all of your onions and mushrooms, stir, cook for another two minutes. Carefully watch your heat and turn down turn stovetop down to medium low, if needed or the soup can separate. Pour in the mirin to deglaze your pan. Pour in your water, stir well to dissolve all miso paste.

3. Bring your miso soup up to a light simmer on high heat and then  reduce heat to medium-high. Turn off heat just before serving.

4. In a separate medium saucepan bring water to a boil, cook your ramen noodles for approximately three minutes and 30 seconds. Use tongs to remove noodles from boiling water, or strain noodles into a colander and place directly into serving bowls.

5. To plate up and serve: Divide and place your noodles into two equal bowls. Add your spinach and green onions to each bowl. Top with avocado slices and choice of optional toppings.

Candice Kumai pesto pizza
Photo: Candice Kumai

Tuesday: Pesto pizza over a cauliflower crust

Serves 4

1 cauliflower pizza crust

For the kale pesto base:
1 1/2 cups lacinato or curly kale leaves, torn
1/2 cup whole, raw almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt, to taste
3/4 cup organic marinara sauce
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves or arugula to finish (optional)

For the toppings:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups lacinato kale, finely chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Avocado slices (optional)

For the pizza:
1. Pre-bake the cauliflower dough into a 450 ̊F oven for approximately ten minutes. Carefully flip and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Make your pesto.

For the pesto:
1. Place all ingredients into a high powered blender or food processor and blend until a thick pesto meal forms. Cover and set aside.

2. Top the pizza with the pesto, place into the oven to warm thru at 450  ̊F. Remove from oven, carefully, prep toppings.

3. To prep toppings: Sautee your mushrooms and chopped kale with the olive oil. And a touch of sea salt and garlic powder, approximately eight minutes. Place hot mushrooms and kale on top of your pesto pizza.

4. Bake in the oven for approximately five minutes, middle rack.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with your choice of cheese, or vegan cheese. Add the avocado slices, if desired.

Candice Kumai miso soup
Photo: Candice Kumai

Wednesday: Baachan's miso soup

Serves 3

3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 large potato, cubed
1/2 cup fish stock (try vegetable stock if not available)
1/2 piece kombu (a type of seaweed used for stock)
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed
1 Tbsp dried wakame (smaller seaweed leaves)
1 Tbsp brown miso paste
1/2 Tbsp white miso paste
1 Tbsp chopped green onion, to garnish

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for ten minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid.

2. Add the potatoes a pot of boiling water.

3. Once the potatoes are almost fork-tender, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the fish stock (or vegetable stock), kombu, yellow onion, carrot, firm tofu, sliced shiitake mushrooms, and wakame. Cook all veggies through.

4. Add both types of miso paste and mash them into the soup until thoroughly dissolved.

5. Serve garnished with the green onion.

Candice Kumai spaghetti squash
Photo: Candice Kumai

Thursday: 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.

4. Using a fork, up the strands of “spaghetti” from the inside of the squash. Lightly coat each half of the roasted squash with one-fourth 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 matcha cod
Photo: Candice Kumai

Friday: Matcha pistachio-crusted cod

Serves 2

Coconut oil or olive oil spray
.75 lbs fresh cod or halibut
1/4 cup raw pistachios
1/2 Tbsp matcha powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

1. Place all dry ingredients into a food processor, pulse until it resembles a crust, not into a powder. Transfer to a shallow dish.

2. Prep your fish and portion out into two servings. Spray each fillet with coconut oil and crust the flesh side of the fish with the pistachio crust in a shallow dish. Dust with sea salt to finish.

3. Lightly coat a stainless steel sauté pan with coconut oil spray. Place over medium heat. Add in your fish and cook until firm to the touch, approximately ten minutes. Serve over a bed of fresh dressed greens and quinoa or brown rice.

 Here’s how to transform your year in more ways, including keeping on track year-round.

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