Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Prettiest Spring Salad

Hello Substantial Living beauty and health lovers!

As the spring season takes us out of the winter coldness, we see signs of life through blooms throughout the country.  It’s always magical for me to see nature evolve out of the hibernation of winter. In honor of the blooms, and the weather getting warmer, I thought what better way to honor our mother earth than to create something simple, fresh, and believe it or not, very approachable.  You can buy all the ingredients at Trader Joes!

The first step is to make a Basil Vinaigrette.  Here’s the recipe:


  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 6 TBSP of EVOO
  • 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar

Place all ingredients in a blender except the EVOO, and blend initially slowly adding the EVOO while mixture is blending.

Once you have the basil-vinaigrette made, take a tablespoon of it, and place it on a plate.  With the bottom of the spoon smear the vinaigrette in one fluid motion in a circle around the plate (or whatever shape you desire-get creative).



  • 3 baby heirloom tomatoes (preferably different colors)
  • 1 Baby fresh mozzarella ball hand-torn into smaller pieces
  • 3-4 Micro greens
  • 3-4 Fresh english peas
  • Pink peppercorns
  • 1 Tsp of EVOO
  • 1 drop of Balsamic Vineger

Add these components anywhere your creativity feels like it on the plate.  I liked to place them over the basil vinaigrette, but there is no right or wrong way to style a salad!  Sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel and ENJOY!  It’s simple, gorgeous and a show  stopper!



3 Simple Foods to Host Your Friends

Hello Substantial Living!

Part of my job is to make sure people love their home through healthy food and design.  However, the most important part of my job is to make sure people share their space and connect authentically to other people.  You know, something a little more substantial.

Here’s a really simple appetizer platter containing spicy cashews and fresh black olives from Rainbow Grocery.  Dessert is one of my favorite- milk chocolate pretzels from Trader Joes.

All simple, tasty, mostly raw, and great paired with any types of beverages.  You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to share simple foods with other people.  Go ahead, try it.  It will help you connect with all natural things and your friends in a deeper way.  XO

Icelandic Fish Stew with a Saffron Leek Broth

Hello Substantial Living!

As the flowers are popping out of the earth and we say goodbye to winter in the last rainy days of San Francisco, I was inspired to create this recipe.  It was shortly after I was having some Chinese lychee tea with my lovely friend, Kamila, whose fashion designs always make me feel feminine, elegant, and beautiful.  While most of our conversation revolved around our entrepreneurship  hopes and dreams, the last part of our chat inspired me to cook.  What a surprise!!  We ended talking about living in Europe, growing and making our own rustic delicious foods, and so I was inspired to make something rustic and comforting as we say goodbye to the rain (and hopefully snow for my East Coast besties!), with this super rustic, Icelandic fish stew.

While I spent over a decade enjoying the classic New England chowders-a meal certainly not tremendously healthy, but hey, it can be so good on a cold, snowy day with a sourdough rustic bread!  You can’t say no to a properly reduced broth made into a cream sauce!


  • 3-4 TBS butter
  • 2 small onion – finely slice
  • 1/2 leek – finely sliced
  • 3 tomatoes – chopped into very small pieces
  • 2 small stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sherry (optional)
  • 3 TBS tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp saffron powder
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3-4 TBS wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 3 cups jumbo shrimps
  • 4 cups cod or salmon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS chives-finely chopped
  • 1 TBS Microgreens + Fresh English Peas (Garnish)

Melt butter in a large cast iron pot, add all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add sherry and white wine and reduce for 4 minutes. Add the stock, tomato concentrate, saffron and vinegar.

Boil for 15-20 minutes. Add the fish, shrimps, red chili powder, paprika and chopped tomatoes, bring to a soft boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add cream and stir. It is important not to make the soup boil again (as the cream might ‘break’/curdle). Garnish with micro greens, chives, and english peas.

Serve with some warm bread and butter on the side.


Buy Now on Sale-Pickled Mixed Vegetables


My Anti-Bacterial Zen Bowl: Manuka Honey + Blueberries

Hello Substantial Living!

As the cold weather arrives, my brain is warmed with luxurious, yet simple foods.  Since breakfast is the most important meal of our day, I always like to start of my day with high quality foods, like Manuka Honey mixed in yogurt with a side of organic blueberries.


Manuka Honey is amazing and yes, quite pricy (although the best deal I found was at Trader Joes), and my favorite type of honey.  It’s so fragrant and the texture feels almost regal.  For a second I feel like I’m transported to some different part of our magical world.  Imported from New Zealand, from the bees that eat on Tree Tree Plant flowers, this honey has beautiful flavors and healing…


I also like to eat blueberries raw or slowly mix them into the yogurt.  It’s always a great cerebral experience to taste different flavors and textures on their own-rather than our often pre-mixed, in-a-hurry meals.  First, it makes us eat slower.  Scientifically, eating slower makes us eat less. It takes time for our food to digest and for our brains to signal that we are ‘full’.  Second, it makes us enjoy the experience, and maybe for short time in our busy days, we have meditation in eating, and appreciation of nature.



  • Manuka Honey has anti-bacterial properties
  • In a study conducted by the University of Sydney killed nearly every types of bacteria it was exposed to.
  • In 2004 Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) licensed the use of medical grade manuka honey as a wound dressing, confirming what the indigenous people of NZ have long known – that manuka honey is a product with some seemingly miraculous properties. So cool!
  • Manuka honey has been found to be effective against a range of bacteria including Helicobacter pylori (which causes most stomach ulcers); Escherichia coli (the most common cause of infected wounds) and Streptococcus pyogenes (which causes sore throats).
  • Manuka honey is antimicrobial and antiviral. It is also an antioxidant that can help to increase vitality and immunity.



  • As always, loving my hand crafted Japanese bowls
  • My new plates from Pottery Barn, that are great for picnics, used casually as trays, for children, or even to put your vases or candles on.  Great for all seasons.

So with flu and cold season in the air, treat yourself to a little, luxurious bowl of healing and a treat for your senses.  XO

Substantial Living Autumn 2016: My Life + Style

Hello Substantial Living,

Happy Fall!  I am so happy to be back writing since the last month was caught up with traveling and business.  I have missed you all, along with missing putting my little lifestyle tidbits out to share.


Fall is my favorite time of the year.  It’s when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall.  A form of evolution and gathered maturity picked up through the year, from the ups and downs of our everyday living, one might say.  I definitely have felt a sense of maturity as I have moved my business into its second year.   Today I decided to share my 2016 Fall styling pictures weaved along with my story.

These past two years, after so many highs and lows, times of feeling lost and then found, and then lost again, I finally feel a sense of clarity and voice.  Let me tell you, business has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done (neuroscience, much easier…the paradox!).  However, it has been the best teacher I have ever had.  Creating something from nothing but an idea, a philosophy, a dream, to something tangible that I can make money on is still an ongoing journey, but it’s slowly happening.


Moreover, the things I have learned about myself, what’s possible to create, the power of belief, has gone beyond any self-help book or spiritual healing I’ve had in the past.   It has been the biggest blessing life has given me.  Moving cross country, quitting a successful career with a one-way ticket to San Francisco, a different culture, a different career, and literally different lifestyle, was not a walk in the park, contrary to what most people think my life is.  (although I guess that’s how I did end up on the East Coast 14 years ago-a slight itch for adventure and curiosity?)


But here’s the thing I learned, success is not a test of intelligence or luck or who you know, as people often think it is.  It’s a numbers game and it’s a test of time and tenacity.  What will you do to not give up?  It’s inner strength and loyalty to your cause.  How deep is your belief in your abilities, and how deep is your passion in your idea and the value it will bring to the world?  This I see at market and need.   As I’m learning how to build a brand, I’ve learned to slowly let go of my ego.  The mind is the most powerful thing in this world.  It can make or break people.   People think failure is unfair or a bad sign.  I argue the opposite.  I think failure can be the best thing in the long run because it can lead to a letting go.  When we truly let go, evolution happens because we are authentically open to our experience with little bias.  We listen, we learn, we manage, we create, we live in the moment, we change…just like the autumn leaves.  Somewhere along that line, our community carries us through the rest-family, friends, clients, randoms-I’ve experienced acts of kindness and compassion like I’ve never had.


Earlier this year, I couldn’t afford a professional photographer for my Pottery Barn Blog article (which I had to nail!), so I decided to pick up my camera and started learning asap about food photography.  I had no choice (but we always have a choice).  I didn’t start my business to become a photographer, and I have so much other stuff I need to do because I’m a CEO (ha! Chief E Optimism)),  but after a rigorous learning curve, an awesome teacher (my dad) , I now LOVE food shooting and styling; capturing perspectives and enhancing the power of beauty and design through a visual medium in MY voice.  The power of intention and belief is stronger than I’ve ever known, and continues to lead to me to a higher lever of shared spiritual consciousness of how connected everything in this universe truly is.

I wanted to share my journey thus far, because it’s what makes us human and connects us to others-it’s part of living of Substantial life.  Our shared human experience of vulnerability-the real stuff-all of our secret hopes and fears-sheds the biases of status, religion, ethnicity, geography.  I’m hoping to do a better job in the future of sharing little tidbits of my “life” to add to the “style” part to give a better picture of a Substantial Life + Style; to share my wonder, curiosity, creativity, and growth in this world, with you all…

In science, we learn that matter is made up of atoms.  Atoms are made up of their little ecosystem of electrons, protons, and neutrons.  All spinning in their own orbit individually but connected through an energy force, creating something bigger called matter.  Let’s create something Substantial together that matters, through the art of eating-something we all have to do- that connects people together in a new way…through the marvels of science, nature, and beauty.


As you can see, I weaved in my fall simple table styling pictures for a dinner party this week I threw for my beautiful, water-surf-sister who was in town.  I loved shooting and styling this table with the pristine rustic green and white colors of fall, white squash, succulents, orchids, linens, and Japanese bowls.

I am constantly inspired and awed at the patterns and beauty of nature everywhere (it’s wired in my DNA!); it’s flawless in its arrangement and science.  Something us humans still cannot achieve to the level that nature has.  If we follow it, I believe our hearts and brains will be happy; and design will be beautiful in its simplicity…

Substantial Take Home Tips:

  • Never give up if you truly believe in what you’re doing, the only thing to give up is your ego.
  • Let the designs seen in Nature and Science lead your mind and guide your Life + Style
  • Less is always more, our brains don’t need more clutter

Autumn is often the time of retirement, but today I have a sense of fulfillment, richness, wisdom, freedom.  It’s a good day.

With Gratitude + Love,



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Breaking Bread with Science, Food, Design Supper Club July 23 Tix in link

Want to be healthy at 100? What do you need to know? Learn the science of bread making, wellness, research, longevity over the next Substantial Living Supper Club dinner with me and Dr. Helen Pillbury-a Stanford physician and researcher next Saturday July 23, 2016 in Russian Hill. Excited to merge my old and new life in this Substantial event. More details below and link to buying tickets!

Find more information and buy tickets here

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Science Template

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Find more information and buy tickets here

My Watermelon Summer Medley of Nature + Beauty + Health

Hello Substantial Living!

This dish just makes me happy-so happy!  This is, by far, my favorite recipe and blog post of 2016.  It’s a watermelon- feta-heirloom baby tomato dessert inspired by Flinders Lane in NYC.   I had so much fun creating, photographing, styling, and most of all- making this for a recent dinner party where one of my mom’s oldest friends from England was visiting me in Russian Hill.  She took care of me when I was born!DSC_7086

It is the perfect juxtaposition of every Substantial element I believe in…flavor, seasonal, beautiful, pure and colorful abundance from the Mother Earth.  It also happens to taste amazing!!



Creating beauty from nature and connecting people together through the simple things like food + wellness from across the globe is what Substantial Living is all about…






As my Eating with Meaning food philosophy goes, it’s not only about what you eat, but also how you eat it…This dish takes the award for the prettiest and simplest styling.  What makes it unique is the basil seeds-which are good for improving digestion and have calming effects for anxiety-so yes, makes our brain happy.


Photographing this dish was even better because I got to have so much fun playing  with lighting and contrast with such vibrant colors and details.


So here’s the recipe!

¼ seedless watermelon, finely sliced
2 tablespoon Lemon marinated feta
1 teaspoon bloomed basil seeds
4 Heirloom cherry tomatoes cut in quarters
Salad greens-arugula, basil, mache
Extra Virgin olive oil

Lemon Feta
2 tablespoon drained feta cheese
1 lemon –zest and juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon finely chopped basil
Fleur de sel and freshly cracked pepper

Basil Seeds
Place 1 tablespoon of basil seeds in a mixing bowl and cover with 3 tablespoons of water. After 5-10 minutes they should begin to bloom, transforming from dry small seeds to swollen seeds with a pearl like look and texture. If they still look dry, don’t be afraid to add a few more teaspoons of water.
Basil seeds can be found at health food shops or Asian grocery stores.

Lemon Feta
In a large mixing bowl, use your hands to crumble the feta. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped chives, salt and pepper to taste and combine well.

To assemble
Lay sliced watermelon on a large plate. Sprinkle the watermelon with the marinated feta. Place cherry tomatoes over the feta. Dress with the basil seeds, drizzle with olive oil and finish with fresh baby greens.

Make this dish the star for your Fourth of July party!!

Substantial Living: Mindful Food + Style Event April 22 Buy Tickets Below

You’ve been invited to

Substantial Living: A Mindful Food + Style Workshop

Have you ever wondered how Substantial values can lead to amazing food and beautiful design, and a mindful appreciation of life? Come experience with us in this intimate, curated event high up in the SF skies!!

Join SF fashion designer Kamila Dmowska and lifestyle curator Mahin Arastu Substantial Living on April 22 for an exclusive and intimate experience of food and style as we celebrate our local San Francisco Substantial life style community and our values. Tickets can be bought below online. Of course there will be Substantial live music, food, fashion, and small-batch Napa Preamble Wines and conversation!

Discounts for attendees on Kamila’s dresses, and Mahin’s food products and event services.  Buy tickets soon, as it’s an intimate event, and my last event was sold out!  Feel free to invite other Substantial friends…XO

Russian Hill
900 Chestnut Street #604
San Francisco, CA 94109
Friday, April 22nd
For updates, photos and more, visit: