Financial Health is Wealth


I heard once that money doesn’t necessarily buy you happiness but it does buy you options.  My habits with money, like food, are driven by really poor impulse control and the fact that I liked having lots of options.  If I had to pick between two pairs of Cole Haan shoes, I wouldn’t.  I would just buy both.  If I had to pick between a vacation to New York, Hawaii and Disneyland, I didn’t.  We just did all three.  I don’t know why I never connected the two–eating and spending–have become mindless activities that I tended to overindulge in.  I never stopped to think about what I put in my mouth or what I took out of my wallet.

Last year, I got smart about my eating habits and level of exercise.  It’s not completely hardwired yet as both remain works in progress that I suspect will need all my commitment and will power for the rest of my life.  I am OK with this.  I am a mother in my mid 40s and will just be peeking into retirement while my son is still finishing high school, so the math is not lost on me.

Health is indeed wealth, but then so is money.  So this year, we are beginning to get smart about spending habits.  Another epiphany for me is how emotion is so deeply connected to money.  Last year, we celebrated my birthday by seeing Rent and followed it with a decadent dinner at Wayfare Tavern.  That was roughly a $400 birthday celebration.  Both experiences were memorable and in my mind filled me with such joy that it was well worth the cost.  I have no regrets about that expense.  The problem was, every memorable experience last year was more expensive than the one before it and its importance, diminished because it was one of many.

So I write this post, as I do with the rest of this blog, to share a lesson.  It’s not a comfortable exercise and I am keenly aware that this particular post might be an overshare.  But if I can at least see my thoughts on paper, it will serve as a touchstone for the rest of this financial planning journey that we have just started on.  Remember how I said several posts ago that my new love, my favorite find of 2017 was cauliflower rice?  My other new love is  I will have ID bracelets made to celebrate our union. is a web based, free personal finance software that allows you to basically manage and watch your money.  It is the kind of thing that makes my little OCD heart sing.    It’s easy to use and the best thing about it is how visual and compelling the data is presented so I can make smarter choices about how I spend money.

So this year for my birthday, my husband and I spent a happy morning cooking and baking.  Afterwards we grabbed some coffee and shared a pastry at the nearby Philz coffee right before we picked up our son from a sleepover to watch the Super Bowl at our friends’ house.  This is now one of my favorite memories–we laughed a lot, the Eagles beat the Pats and the whole thing cost us all of 15$.


Chocolate Pots de Creme


Pots de creme, pronounced ‘Poe-day-krem’ is my new bestie.  That along with cauliflower rice might very well be my go to low carb duo in 2018.  Pots de creme is this amazingly smooth, velvety rich mousse-like dessert that I always seem to order when we eat out. Now that I know how to make it I will likely not order it in the future and pay 8$ for a thimble-sized serving.

It’s so simple to make and very low in sugar because I use dark chocolate with 6 net carbs. Take caution though with the dark chocolate you use because I’ve had the Montezuma Absolute Black Chocolate  and I swear it was like eating charcoal or dirt. I wound up spitting  it out after chewing for a few minutes and it looked exactly the same as when I first put it in my mouth. Simply Lite is much better both in texture and flavor

What I love most about chocolate pots de creme is how seemingly decadent it is and somehow still manages to be low carb.

*Makes 3 servings


2 eggs
1 T honey
1 t vanilla extract
3.5 – 4 oz dark chocolate
3/4 c coconut milk


Throw everything except the coconut milk in your blender or food processor and blend unttil smooth and chocolate is pulverized. Heat the coconut milk either in the microwave or stove top until almost boiling. With blender on low, slowly drizzle in the coconut milk and blend until mixture is thickened. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Top with fresh whipped cream and raspberries.





Tiramisu: A Haiku


Tiramisu: An Ode

Spongy decadence
Your caffeinated sweetness
it awakens me

Most of the recipes I write about in this blog are steeped in childhood memories or memories of the first time I had the dish in a restaurant or at a food truck.  That is not the case with tiramisu.  I don’t remember the first time I had it or where, and more importantly, how I felt about it.  I can still remember the first time I took a bite of the ginger spiced cake, for example, at Chow.  Or the time I had tempeh and didn’t realize it was tempeh, which was a good thing, otherwise I would have lost my tempeh(been waiting to use that pun for weeks now.)

Alas, I’m not Lidia Bastianich and tiramisu doesn’t inspire those childhood memories for me.  What it does inspire is poetry, hence  this haiku.

But finally, last night is a tiramisu memory that won’t fade for awhile.   Last night, we attended a crab feed at my son’s school and there was a silent dessert auction with a variety of desserts donated by members of the school community.  Some were homemade, others were store bought and fetched above modest prices from generous contributors.  We love our school and when close friends on the crab feed committee asked for a dessert donation, tiramisu instantly leapt to mind.

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I was a little (a lot) anxious about how it would taste, too runny, heavy on the rum, etc, etc.  Then came the moment of reckoning and I worried that no one would bid on it–like a girl going to her first dance and then doesn’t get asked by anyone.  I put a lot of pressure on that tiramisu.  Because I’m a dork, I stalked that auction table repeatedly and eventually sent my homie Marie to check on its current going price.

The tiramisu got asked to dance.  At a final selling price of $130, the tiramisu had, in fact, been elected prom queen.

Processed with MOLDIV


Tiramisu Recipe (adapted from: The Best Tiramisu You Will Ever Make: Ask Chef Dennis)


  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese – room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 -7 oz packages Italian ladyfingers
  • 1 cup cold espresso or strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup dark rum ( Ron Mocambo is my favorite)
  • 1 ounce cocoa for dusting


  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl on  top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Keep stirring because you don’t want scrambled eggs.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks, beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks.
  4. Gently fold the whipped cream in the mascarpone egg mixture and set aside. The mascarpone does not have to be at room temperature, but it will be easier to mix in.
  5. Mix the cold espresso with the dark rum and dip the lady fingers into the mixture for only a second–don’t soak them or run the risk of overly soggy lady fingers.
  6. Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of a 9 inch square baking dish (or container similarly sized)
  7. Spoon half the mascarpone cream filling over the lady fingers.
  8. Repeat process with another layer of lady fingers, alternating the mascarpone mixture and lady fingers
  9. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  10. Dust with cocoa before serving.

Red Rice


For me, finding cauliflower rice is probably the best thing about the dumpster fire that 2017 was.  Between hurricanes and mass shootings and our president and the many disturbing revelations of sexual assault and our president, I’m looking forward to next year and the new recipes I can pair with my newfound bestie, cauliflower rice.

Cauliflower rice is essentially cauliflower florets you grind in a food processor until they resemble tiny rice pellets.  But if you’re efficient (lazy) like me, you can also buy 12 oz frozen bags at Trader Joe’s ($1.99) or a 32 oz fresh bag in the refrigerated produce section at Costco ($3.79).  A whole new low carb world has opened up for me with the discovery of cauliflower rice.  Por ejemplo, ‘silog’ is a Filipino dish of garlic fried rice with egg and whatever protein you choose.

Spamsilog = Spam+ garlic fried rice +egg

Chicksilog = Chicken + garlic fried rice +egg

Longsilog = Longanisa + garlic fried rice +egg

The combinations are endless and the carb count, low.  Sometimes I prefer to not remember I’m eating cauliflower rice because the texture is too crunchy and feels too much like I’m eating vegetables so I mix it with brown rice.  Don’t judge.  I use a 3:1 ratio–3 parts cauliflower to 1 part rice, heathens.

Imagine my delight then at being able to make red rice to pair with kelaguen.  The beautiful red hue of the ‘rice’ comes from the annatto powder you’ll need to find at your local Asian grocery store.


  • 12 oz cauliflower rice
  • 3 oz cooked brown rice
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 T oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 t annatto powder


  1. Pour the oil into the pan and wait until pan is smoking hot
  2. Saute garlic and onion in hot pan until translucent
  3. Sprinkle annato powder over sautéed onions and garlic and cook
  4. Mix both cauliflower and red rice with the red garlic/onion mixture and fry until both rice are heated through and red
  5. Serve hot with cold kelaguen chicken


Kelaguen in Guam, do as the Guamanians do…


You know you’ve eaten at a good restaurant when you get home and can’t stop thinking about the food.  This is what happened to me soon after I ate the kelaguen at Booniepepper Grill in Newark.  A nondescript Guamanian eatery in an even more nondescript strip mall in Newark, Booniepepper Grill, which will heretofore be known as the notorious BPG, is an unassuming restaurant–loosely termed–that specializes in the kelaguen mannok, a tart/salty/spicy chopped chicken. This flavor profile is just what my palette craves.  I think it comes from being raised on a mixture of Thai chili peppers, fish sauce and lemon juice as condiments to everything ranging from crab to fish, and oysters–I’ve always loved that spicy and salty lemony kick in foods.

But at $10 for a serving of kelaguen and red rice, BPG is not cheap, especially when the ingredients are so easily accessible and cheap at that.  So when I got home, I looked up everything kelaguen and found that it’s like the ceviche of Guam; even better, it’s a cousin of a native Filipino dish, ‘kilawin’ which uses vinegar not just as a marinade but also to cook various fishes and meats.

So easy this dish, I won’t bother you with step-by-step pictures.


  • 1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped
  • *Thai red chills
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (I can’t stress this enough.  Do not make the mistake of using the sweetened coconut you normally find in the baked goods aisle.)
  • 3/4 – 1 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 4 stalks green onion, chopped
  • salt to taste

*Red chili pepper flakes can be substituted

Quantities listed for the ingredients above can be adjusted to your liking.  After awhile, I stopped measuring and just used the force.


  • Buy rotisserie chicken from Costco, no need to cook or grill your own. As Marilyn McCoo once said, “One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry.”
  • Chop said chicken
  • Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour the entire concoction over chicken
  • Stir and let marinade coat the chopped chicken pieces
  • Let marinated chicken stand for at least an hour and allow all flavors to meld
  • Serve with *red rice or regular steamed rice (red rice is better)

* Recipe in next post, stay tuned!









Spam Musubi


We’ve been home from our Maui vacation for five days now and I’m wondering why the towel I threw on the bathroom floor yesterday is still there and my plate of half eaten chicken salad from last night’s dinner is still on the table.

I called housekeeping and guess who answered.  Me.

In contrast to last year’s vacation where we sailed, ziplined and hiked magnificent  trails, our Maui trip this year was decidedly more chill.  We swam or snorkeled every day–even managed to swim with some exotic fish and sea turtles at Makena and Ulua Beach–and sampled a lot of great island food.  So I realized that the only way to extend our island vacation was to duplicate some of this amazing food.


Left to right:

Roasted Bone Marrow – Sweetwater Tavern, Kihei
Black Polynesian Pearl – Mama’s Fish House, Paia
Loco Moco – Kihei Cafe, Cafe
Pina Colada Cake – Tommy Bahama, Wailea
Garlic Shrimp and Mochiko Chicken – Tin Roof Maui, Kahului
Banana Bread – Mile Marker #17, Road to Hana

But I just got back from vacation, and most of the dishes above are beyond my culinary expertise and patience (Black Polynesian Pearl) so I decided to recreate this instead:


This beautiful structure is the spicy Spam Musubi from the Sugar Beach Bake Shop in Kihei.  Notice the jalapeños on top, they bring a nice texture and lots of heat.  It’s right next door to the best shave ice place on the island, Ululani’s.


Soy sauce
Oyster sauce
Rice wine
8 slices of Spam
8 pieces of nori, 2.5″x6″
Furikake, optional

Mix all the ingredients except Spam, furikake and nori.  There are no measurements because the balance of sweet/salty flavors is really up to you so make adjustments as necessary. Marinate the Spam in your sauce mixture for about 5 minutes, just enough to coat the Spam slices.  Then pan fry the Spam over medium heat and pour sauce into the pan.  Watch closely as the sweet sauce makes it easy to burn the Spam slices.  Finally, remove the pan from heat and begin to assemble your musubi.

See below:

IMG_1213The bottom layer is 2 oz of white or brown rice sprinkled with furikake, middle is Spam, top layer is rice sprinkled with furikake.  Press your mold hard with every layer and finally, fold seaweed over your musubi.


Some tips when you make Spam Musubi:

  • Get yourself these Spam gadgets: Spam slicer which cuts even slices with one move and the Spam mold, self explanatory.  You can buy them at Takahashi Market and/or Chanco
  • Without these gadgets, a knife and a hollowed out Span can will do.
  • Press hard, like put your body weight on it hard, on the mold when you’re pressing on the rice.   What you want is a tightly packed, dense Spam/rice brick.  If it’s loosely packed, your musubi will fall apart.
  • Try not to fixate on the fact that you’re eating Spam.


**Though my Musubis tasted like the real thing, I did not pack them as tightly as I would’ve liked and they consequently fell apart.  They were still delish!  Remember to press hard on your mold.

Joule Love It, part 2


I just had to stop by and once again profess my love and allegiance to my sous vide, Joule.  Tonight, I cooked chicken breasts.  Actually, last night, I threw them in a bag with some salt, pepper and a couple of lemon slices, sous vide them for about an hour and refrigerated the breasts over night.  Tonight I browned said breasts in a cast iron skillet, about 6 minutes per side, squeezed some lemon juice and olive oil on them and here I am post dinner–blogging with a belly full of salad made of chicken, pine nuts and avocados and some goat milk feta cheese we procured from our recent visit to Maui’s Surfing Goat Dairy.

I was so excited that after years of overcooked dry chicken breasts–so much so that I now only cook thighs–I had to come here and share my excitement.  Over moist, juicy chicken breasts.

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Last night, we sous vide some pork chops and again, my Joule did not disappoint.  We had just returned from vacation and there was nothing in the freezer I was interested in except for some pork chops I’d frozen weeks ago and seasoned with salt, pepper, rosemary.  Into the Joule they went and the result was a perfectly moist, cooked pork chop.  Again, so much excitement after years of dry, inedible pork chops–I gotta go lie down.


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Sous vide or not sous vide: That is the Question


Sous vide is:
A.  An appliance you don’t think you need
B.  A word you can’t pronounce
C.  French for ‘boil in a bag’
D.  All of the above

My friend Rose introduced me to the sous vide, pronounced soo-veed, and as I suspected, it’s essentially a snooty way of saying ‘boil in a bag’. Said sample came with a pork chop she made using the sous vide method and I was hooked. Rose’s pork chops were perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cooked pork chops that were beautifully brown and done on the outside but raw, leathery and tasteless on the inside. (A Kardashian analogy leaps to mind.)

There are a couple out in the market but the sous vide I decided on is the Joule because Rose once said, “Joule love it. Joule be pleased by how good your food turns out.”  I totally made that up.  That never happened because Rose is far too awesome to use silly puns.

The best thing about Joule is how fool proof and reliable it is.  I have cooked at least a dozen or so ribeyes this way and they have turned out perfectly each and every time. I have also cooked chicken thighs and results, same.  The only thing I’m not crazy about is how there is no status indicator on the Joule itself, you need to look at your mobile device to check your food’s progress.  But that small inconvenience is a first world problem that you can overlook.

No detailed recipes here because Joule is probably smarter than you and me. All I do is tell Joule how thick the ribeye is, whether it’s frozen or thawed and how done I want that steak. Joule does the rest.

  • Marinate your ribeye
  • Place in a vacuum sealed bag or gallon resealable Glad bags
  • Immerse your vacuum sealed bag in a container tall enough to fully submerge your bag.
  • If you’re using resealable bags, clip it to the side of your container to make sure no water seeps in
  • Program your Joule and sous vide to desired doneness.
  • Brown steak in a cast iron skillet or pan to give it that seared and crispy outside
  • Enjoy your perfectly cooked, tender steak.




Isn’t Sushi Lovely


I took something called Conceptual Physics in high school.  It’s not real Physics; it’s Physics without all the difficult equations and concepts are translated from math into English for those not ‘mathletically’ inclined like myself.  In short, it’s Physics for dumdums. I have no shame in owning that.  I had fun in high school, cut class a lot and saw the inside of Stonestown more than classrooms during my senior year.  And I mostly turned out OK.

Baked sushi is like conceptual physics in that it is sushi for those of us who don’t have the means nor the patience and expertise to roll out real sushi.  And it turns out better than OK.  Allow me to compare and contrast:

  • Real sushi is all about fresh, good quality fish like ahi tuna and hamachi.
  • Baked sushi uses your seafood of choice, the cheaper the better like imitation crab, baby shrimp and salmon that has been roasted and flaked.
  • Real sushi is perfectly structured; either rolled in seaweed, futo maki, or hand formed, nigiri .
  • Baked sushi is a casserole–yep, I said casserole.  No bamboo mats needed, only a spatula to evenly spread your fish over a thin layer of cooked rice.


3 c of cooked white rice
1 lb salmon, roasted and flaked
1 lb imitation crab
1/2 c Japanese mayo, Kewpie*
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 lb masago
furikake seasoning**


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of hot cooked rice on a 9×12 baking pan.  Cold rice is hard to spread so ensure your rice is hot enough to spread with a rice paddle or spatula.  Sprinkle furikake seasoning all over cooked rice.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and spread evenly over the rice with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the top of the seafood and mayo/sour cream mixture with more furikake seasoning.  Bake for 20 minutes.

You can either eat right out of the pan or take a spoonful and wrap it inside some nori.  Flavored nori comes in a jar of individually wrapped packets.

*You can substitute American mayo for the Japanese mayo.  I just find that the Japanese variety is a little less tangy and creamier than its American cousin.

**Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning with seaweed, sesame seeds, etc.  I just found out that the ‘etc.’ is MSG and I now understand why it makes everything I put it on taste so good.

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Pescadero Day Trip


We returned this weekend to my favorite town Pescadero, located about 1 1/2 hours south of San Francisco on Highway 1.  Pescadero reminds me a bit of upcountry Maui with its quaint shops, artistic vibe and idyllic coastal views but colder and foggier.  In fact, when we visit Maui, we return time and again to Surfing Goat Dairy which is Kula’s equivalent of Harley Farms.   We were hoping for some good weather, a bit of sun since everywhere else away from the coast was baking in 80+degree weather.  No dice on the sun but Pescadero never disappoints.

We started at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport with some hot strawberry cider and strawberry scones and ollalieberry cobbler with some strawberry rhubarb jam.  They were all berry, berry good!  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

Swanton Berry Farm is a farm stand overflowing with all things strawberry with baked goods, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry apply cider, an assortment of strawberry jams.  You can buy flats of strawberries or pick your own at their adjoining farm.  We chose to start our day by hanging out in their common seating area to enjoy our baked goods and cider along with a nostalgic throwback to this right here:


The last time I held a Viewmaster, Ronald Reagan was in office.  It occurs to me as I write this that I am suddenly nostalgic for Ronald Reagan’s presidency–which is a little like saying that you wish you only looked as old and wrinkly as you did last year because you now realize that you’ve aged exponentially since then.

I was most impressed by the farmstand’s honor till.  The concept is simple: the farm relies on your honesty, integrity and ability to make change.  There are no salespeople to police you, no cameras to record your shortcomings.

There are no cashiers, just you and your conscience.

Still intrigued by the concept of trusting strangers I interviewed the guy walking around the store who was mostly there to help earnest patrons do basic math.  They have not lost money and in fact they make more money than they anticipate as people tended to pay more than the listed price; most errors result from bad calculations but 99% of people they’ve encountered are honest and generous.

After Swanton fed us tasty eats and restored our faith in humanity, on we went to strawberry picking.  We walked a few hundred yards, and though it was a nippy and windy 52 degrees, we were rewarded by an ample bounty of vine ripened, sweet red strawberries.

A few tips to enjoy you strawberry picking experience:

  • Dress in layers; you would be lucky to see a high of 60 degrees in these parts.
  • Wear close toed shoes for walking those muddy fields.
  • Bring a cardboard flat and a couple of those pint sized baskets (provided by Swanton Farm) with you so you can have a large container while the kids fill their small container.
  • The port-o-potties are extremely funky.  You’ve been warned.

Our next stop was lunch at Arcangeli Deli/Norm’s Market, home of the Godfather sandwich, an insanely delicious herbed focaccia that served as the vehicle for some tasty salami, mortadella and prosciutto all slathered with a garlic herb spread.  The lines are long but be patient because your sandwich will be lovingly prepared.

No photos of said sandwich due to hunger.  We did however manage to catch this beautiful sentiment on the wall outside the Slowcoast Shop next door:


The final stop on our road trip was Harley Farms.   We skipped the tour as we had done this previously and by the way, pro tip: tours are booked two months in advance.  Without a tour, you can still pet the kids while you and your human kid stand outside their enclosed fence.  With the tour, you get the privilege of going inside the fence and possibly being peed on by said goats.  At the very least, they will chew on your backpack straps, try to sniff you in your privates and gently ram you in the rear to get out of their way–all this without buying you dinner first.

Harley Farms also hosts a monthly dinner with seasonal offerings at their hay loft or the upper barn pictured above.  It is a beautiful setting overlooking the goats and fields below.  You would be wise to make reservations.

Thank you for a wonderful day, Pescadero and for giving us a little bit of Maui on the mainland!