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5 power dinners from Candice Kumai to fuel busy weekdays


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Photo: Candice Kumai
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This January, as part of Well+Good’s (Re)New Year, famed classically trained, plant-based 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. Last week, she curated a slate of recipes specifically to clean your gut. This week, it’s all about power and energy—AKA meals that are as packed with protein as they are flavor. 

You’ve been nourishing yourself with power meals all day—and the momentum isn’t about to stop. Take a second and notice how good your body feels after eating a protein-rich breakfast and lunch. Chances are, you’re still energized and your digestion isn’t acting up, making you feel bloated the way it might after too many sweets or carbs. Want to wake up feeling the same way? That’s where these delish dinner recipes come in.

From sweet potato avocado burgers to turmeric kale fried rice, prepare to look forward to every single dinner this week. All the ingredients in these recipes are good for you, giving your body what it needs to recover from being the busy, on-the-go human that you are. (Think: protein- and iron-rich soba noodles and ancient grains like quinoa and farro.) And to boot: Everything is easy to digest, giving your GI tract a chance to rest when you turn in for the night.

The results? Pretty powerful.

Ready to get started? Keep reading for the recipes.

Get Started
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Candice Kumai squash salad
Photo: Candice Kumai

Monday: Roasted kabocha squash salad

Serves 3

Ingredients
For the salad
1/2 kabocha squash, halved, quartered and thinly sliced into 1/2-inch moons
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup curly kale leaves, tough stems removed, finely chopped
1/2 Honeycrisp or Fuji apple, cored and sliced into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup raw pepitas

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

For the salad:
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 slightly.

For the apple cider vinaigrette:
1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl for the vinaigrette.

2. Add the apple cider vinaigrette, quinoa, and kale to a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Add the slightly cooled squash, apple slices, and pepitas to finish. Toss well to coat and serve immediately at room temperature.

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Photo: Candice Kumai

Tuesday: Clean soba noodle soup

Serves 2

Ingredients
4 oz. soba noodles
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or veggie broth
1 Tbsp Tamari reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp 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 broth/stock, 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.

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Candice Kumai turmeric kale fried rice
Photo: Candice Kumai

Wednesday: Turmeric kale fried rice

Serves 2

Ingredients
2 cups cooked grains (your choice of brown rice, quinoa, farro, freekeh)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp reduced sodium tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 scallion, finely sliced on the bias
1/2 Tbsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup savory tofu cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped kale or broccoli rabe
Gomashio, optional to top

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

2.  In a hot medium sauté pan, add your toasted sesame oil and chopped onion. Sauté until fragrant. Add the garlic, followed by the carrots. Add in the soy sauce and sauté until it begins to evaporate; approximately two minutes, continue to stir all well.

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

4. Sprinkle in your turmeric. Add in your cooked grains and sauté until all is warmed through. Add your tofu to warm through and gently mix to combine all ingredients.

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

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Candice Kumai almond noodles
Photo: Candice Kumai

Thursday: Spicy Asian almond noodles

Ingredients
1/4 pound gluten-free soba noodles
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 savory block of organic tofu, cubed (optional, or try your fave protein)
1/2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger root
1 1/2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Heaping 1/4 cup creamy almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps or 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained, and chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, halved, and thinly sliced
1/2 large zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt and cook until al dente, or about eight to ten minutes. Reserve one-fourth cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta in a colander. Rinse the pasta under cold running water for a minute or two to chill the noodles. Give them a few shakes to remove the excess water and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the protein and cook, stirring often, until golden-brown on all sides and cooked through, about eight minutes. Transfer the protein to a plate and set aside.

3. Add the ginger and garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, stirring often, for about one minute. Stir in the peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, pepper flakes, and reserved cooking water and cook until it becomes creamy, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, two to three minutes. Stir in cooked chicken and the drained noodles and serve sprinkled with the scallions.

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Candice Kumai sweet potato burger
Photo: Candice Kumai

Friday: Sweet potato avocado burger

Serves 2

Ingredients
1/4 lbs sweet potato cubes, roasted
1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Tbsp granulated garlic powder
3/4 Tbsp reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3/4 cups organic rolled oats
1/4 cup raw walnuts, crushed
1 Tbsp chia seeds 
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 1/2 Tbsp unrefined coconut oil

For serving
Whole wheat or gluten-free buns
1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced (2 to 3 slices per burger)
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (per burger)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 to 2 torn lacinato kale leaves per burger
Dijon mustard
Olive oil mayonnaise

1. Wash and pat your sweet potatoes dry. Cut your sweet potatoes into small one-inch cubes. Roast your sweet potato cubes, with extra-virgin olive oil, granulated garlic powder, and salt. Place on to a sheet tray and roast at 375 ̊F for approximately 40 minutes, remove from the oven, and cool slightly.

2. In a food processor, add the roasted sweet potato, Tamari soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Pulse to combine. Add the onion and chickpeas and pulse until fully combined, periodically stopping the food processor and using a spatula or wooden spoon to move the mixture around. Mix just until the chickpeas and onion are fully incorporated. Look for the consistency of mashed potatoes. Do not overmix.

3. Meanwhile, combine the oats, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseed meal in a large bowl.

4. Remove the sweet potato mixture from the food processor and fold into the dry ingredients. Measure out one-third cup of the mixture at a time and, using your hands, form into round burger-shaped patties.

5. In a medium sauté pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the patties and sauté for about four minutes per side, or until they are warmed through and golden brown on each side.

6. To serve, place the patties on toasted buns, if desired, and add your choice of toppings. I love avocado, kale, and Worcestershire sauce.

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

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