Family Monday at Tender Greens | Santa Monica

walking in santa monica

It's been a while since I've done a Family Monday recap, so I think I'll go ahead and share with you about this new cafe in Santa Monica.  Well, it's more like new to us but I sure have been eyeing it for a solid 2 years. 

Tender Greens Cafe in Santa Monica
Tender Greens Cafe Scottish salmon dish
Tender Greens Cafe Chipotle chicken salad

Now onto the restaurant. Tender Greens Cafe!  It's one of those places that you can easily miss in the busyness of walking around Santa Monica as you're frantically looking for that other cafe you were determined to find.  Tender Greens is one of those eateries where you order, pay, and seat yourself a la Chipotle style.  The line seems dauntingly long at first impression, long enough to make you double minded on whether or not you should eat there, but be sure to stand in line for about 5 minutes and you'll be paying for your food before you know it! 

While there, Greg pleasantly surprised me with his order!  You know that feeling you get when you sneak in super healthy ingredients into everyone's dish, and you can't help but snicker with a creepy smile? (Not that I've done that or anything)  Yes, that feeling.  You can imagine that same creepy smile resurfaced yesterday as Greg ordered the Chipotle chicken salad which, according to him, was pretty good for being "so fresh". 

As for me, I wanted nothing more than a plateful of greens and veggies--after all, they are called Tender Greens--so I got their featured special, the Scottish salmon plate atop a bed of tangy citrus salad.  Let me tell you.  The food tasted incredibly high quality and the meat was nothing short of succulent!  Oozing with juice from every which way...Mmm.  Even Selah loved the salmon given that she ate at least half of it, that is until she started eyeing the bread that the nice lady next to us was eating.  The poor lady didn't know whether or not she should give her bread to Selah.

Greg also ordered hot coffee and I had their cold brew iced coffee.  I would say that my first cold brew experience wasn't half bad!  Tender Greens serves Groundwork Coffee and neither of us had tried it before.  Unfortunately now I'm regretting that choice, only because it was one of the best simple coffees around in my opinion.  It had that complex flavor that's hard to come by.  It's not extremely bold, nor is it watered down.  It has a slight smoky flavor that makes you go "mmmm" with each sip.  Groundwork, please come to the South Bay!

All in all, we highly recommend Tender Greens for a refreshing foodie experience.  They cater both to omnivores and vegans alike, which is a huge plus nowadays.  However, know that the prices go up to $12 on average, so make sure to save up or use that visa gift card you got on your birthday. ;)

shopping at The Gap

After dinner we did our usual favorite, walking around town and spending some quality time together.  Plus a quick visit at Gap since they were having some pretty good sales, heh!  I got this $70 high waisted pair of jeans for $20 which is a big deal when you're shopping for jeans, right? I also had a Visa gift card so I only paid $2 out of pocket.  #thankfuldoesntevendescribe

High waisted jeans are my favorite!  I'm curious to know, what's your favorite style?

Tender Greens in Santa Monica

201 Arizona Avenue Santa Monica, CA 90401 // website


What are your first choices when you eat at "green" restaurants?

Best coffee you've ever had?

How I've Found Food Freedom+Foodie Finds

sam's choice coffee and donut chunk ice cream
miso and tofu collard greens

Lately my diet has been zigzagging quite a bit, as Kath explains about her in squiggly line method rather eloquently.  I guess one could say that I've been eating a lot more 'instinctively' without the intention of losing weight or being Wonder Woman fit, meaning that I really don't think much about what I eat as much as how I'm savoring my food.  This is mostly due to Selah keeping me busier than ever before, and with all the attention--okay, some of the attention--going to her meals, I instinctively gravitate towards healthy food more than before, because I crave that refreshing crunch from fresh greens, which then translates into a burst of energy.  Ta-da! 

Then in the late afternoon I step into a zone of let's-have-tea-and-crumpets-mode while pretending to be sophisticated...only I don't have anyone to join me in the party.  ;)  So what do I do?  I grab the nearest pastry or ice cream I can get a hold of and I'm satisfied.  Don't even think twice about the guilt, etc.  Well, that's a lie.  Sometimes I do feel kind of bad but I think that's something we all face at times.  Freedom is found in the way we handle those thoughts rather than completely do without them.  As humans we can let go of things and grow from the experience, but I find it really hard to actually forget the experience!  Hence, thoughts and temptations may come up, but we don't have to say yes to them.  Nor should we feel guilt from them.  But I digress...The less I focus on specific macros and just eat for the strength and experience food provides, the happier my body (and mind) is!  Once upon a time I was so strict on myself if I didn't eat a 100% clean diet on any given day, but the more I focus on living life and realizing that one off day won't sabotage my pursuit of health, the freer I am.  I tell ya, motherhood does things to ya.

Phew!  That rant went on longer than I thought! 

The photos above show:

Sam's Choice Coffee and Donuts ice cream.  Never did I think I would like donuts, till I tasted this ultra decadent dessert, hah!  The only thing I don't fancy is the swirly glaze because it's too sweet for my liking.  The rest is A+ though, as evidenced by that huge dent I made in the ice cream.  :)

Kombucha SynergyIf you saw my instagram picture then you probably heard me scream about how much I missed this stuff!  From an imaginary rooftop, no less.  I would have to say that the Gingerberry is one of my favorite Kombucha flavors because it tastes light and not as stinky as other Kombucha.  *Makes ahhhhh noise after taking a sip*

Peaches and miso+tofu collard greens.  Need I say more?  I forgot how good peaches are right now!  I'm already rationing on these so I can have enough for the zillion dishes I want to include them in.

I hope you have a fantastic day filled with never ending blessings!  Let's also stay in prayer for all the people suffering around the world.  I feel so helpless but I know that prayer is the best thing we can do. 

How are you doing in your pursuit of health?  If you were restrictive at one point, do you feel like you've loosened up?

What are some of your favorite foodie finds and recipes lately?

Italian Appetizer: Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Figs


It's truly funny how cooking can sometimes indicate that we've been living in a type of comfort zone.  Okay, so it's not that funny but it's true that we all seek to stay in our comfort zone at times. :)  I realize that food is food and it doesn't characterize our attitude towards deep matters of life!  But for me, cooking and baking have become a creative outlet much like painting and sculpting is to some of you cool hipsters and thus, I just can't help but want to think outside the box.  I'm not saying crostini is innovative or anything, as it is "thought to originate in medieval times when it was typical for Italian peasants to eat their meals on slices of bread instead of using ceramics" (Wikipedia).  So...I guess I'm a peasant now (thanks Wikipedia for the boost of confidence).  And I don't mind it as long as I get to munch on perfectly crunchy slices of bread drizzled in savoury olive oil, topped with the some of nature's sweetest candy known to mankind--figs! 

As you can tell, I had loads of fun and made my food all fancy with greenery.  The addition of herbs is one of the tastiest and healthiest ways to flavor any dish, and this particular recipe contains tarragon.  Oohhhh tarragon, how foreign you were once upon a time!  Tarragon was definitely one of those out-of-my-comfort-zone ingredients because it tends to be used quite a bit in French cuisine.  Quite honestly?  The closest I've ever gotten to cooking French guessed it, eclairs.  Initially I really wanted to roast the figs in balsamic, but I had my reservations since I'd never done that.  I turned to the internet and fortunately came across David Lebovitz' recipe which was almost what I had envisioned!  He uses alcohol to spice up the dish, but in my opinion there really is no better alternative than balsamic.  Now, you have to understand that ricotta is one of my favorite foods.  I always want to include it in my recipes but so far I've been unsuccessful at it, so it's safe to say that I'm extremely giddy about this creation! 

Crostini with Tarragon Balsamic Roasted Figs and Ricotta

Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Figs

Makes 20 crostini

Ingredients for base

1 day stale wheat+oat boule bread (or other fresh bread like baguette)

1/4 C virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Ingredients for spread and topping (adapted from David Lebovitz)

12 halved figs with tips trimmed

1- 15 oz tub of full fat ricotta cheese

2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP brown sugar

1 TBSP maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

5 sprigs of 8 in. long tarragon

1/2 C chopped toasted walnuts (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.  Slice your bread into 20 slices, into pieces that are approximately 3x5 inches (size of small photo)Spread them evenly on a large cookie sheet and brush both sides with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for approximately 26-28 minutes until crisp on both sides.  Check on them at about 14 minute mark just to make sure they're not burning.  Then let them cool for a few minutes.

Raise the oven temp to 400F.  Place the figs in a baking pan and add balsamic, sugar, maple, vanilla, and tarragon leaves.  In order to get just the small leaves, run your index and thumb on the stem and the leaves will easily tear off (like rosemary).  Gently toss so the figs get nicely coated.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes until balsamic reduces and becomes slightly thicker.  When it's a bit cool, spread the ricotta cheese on the crisps and top with balsamic fig and toasted walnuts.  Enjoy as an appetizer or a side to your Italian meal!

Crostini withTarragon Balsamic Figs and Ricotta

Do you sometimes feel like you're in a cooking/baking comfort zone?  In what ways have you always wanted to venture out?

What are some of your favorite fig combinations?

Seven Ways to Better Food Photography

Before you go ahead and roll your eyes in sarcasm thinking, "yeah you can totally educate us because you're an expert at this, huh?" I'm pointing out that the title isn't implying a how-to but rather, how-I-personally-improved and still continue to learn and improve to this day.  Okay now you can roll your eyes.

Alright, so I know that there are prooobably a good gazillion posts on how to become a better photographer, but I would like to add my experience to the list because we all have different bits of wisdom, as well as what works and what doesn't. Even though I still have a long way to go to reach my photography goals, I hope that my experience will be helpful to you! Or perhaps my woes will at least be somewhat relevant...?

Seven Ways to Better Food Photography

1.  Study and understand camera's settings-  This is tricky because it all has to do with the purpose of the picture--whether your priority is to capture a motion shot or a dish from up close with a super blurry background!  Not to mention, aperture, shutter speed, and all those settings have to harmonize with each other.  It can take months, or even years of practice as it did for me, but if you're determined then you can do it.  Maybe in a matter of a few weeks?  It is very tricky to explain the ins and outs of a DSLR and I recommend lots of reading on your free time--with your camera on hand so you can go back and forth as you do trial and error.  I highly suggest this post on how to master your dslr camera on manual mode.  It is amazing and you will never struggle with your settings again!  Well, for the most part...unless you're in a haunted house from the 1800s with absolutely no light.

In summary:  By simply learning the methodology of setting the right aperture and shutter speed, you will take your photography skill to the next level. 

2.  Use different angles and direction of light- It makes perfect sense to always have the light shining directly on the food or subject matter, right?  But what I've come to realize is that it all depends on the mood I want depict, and this is actually something many pros recommend like Helene Dujardin of Plate to Pixel (I lost the book and only got to read a few pages, this one being one of them, boo!).  I personally don't like to have light beaming right at the dish because it gives the food a rather harsh quality; subsequently, it seems to wash out the small details that make the dish look pretty and enticing.  Now going back to the "mood" aspect...lately I really enjoy using side-light and back-light because both result in a somewhat somber yet happy mood.  In my opinion, this creates a pretty good medium between the two.  On the other hand, if we want to illustrate a dark and moody feel then it is ideal (or at least easier) to have the light shining from behind the dish.  Likewise, light coming in from the front or the side results in an uplifting and bright mood overall.


In summary:  I like to try different angles and don't confine myself to just one corner of the room.  Plus, different times of the day require different areas to get the right lighting so I move around quite a bit!

3.  Embrace the shadows-  We've all been there.  You know, that fear of having any shadows on your plate?  Lately I just love shadows that naturally occur in my pictures. In my opinion, allowing a good amount of shadow into the picture makes it a lot more interesting and dramatic.  Of course there are exceptions depending on whether you want your photo to look light or dark.  So once again, remember that it's all about the mood--or shall we say, experience--that you want to illustrate for the viewer.


In summary:  Make natural shadows by placing the dish or yourself in a strategic manner, so as to have light coming in from anywhere other than the front.   

4.  Do not over mix highly saturated tones- Again, it all depends on the purpose and feel of the shot.  If you are aiming to make your shot into something that exudes that "cutesy slash hipster" feel then you might be okay mixing a yellow background with big ol' pineapples.  However, it's also important to pair colors that complement each other.  Don't make the same mistake I made, like pairing these beautiful eclairs that just so happen to be green, with a perinwinkle/blue surface.  They look good on their own, but really?  Those specific tones do nothing but clash and make my eyes hurt.  In conclusion, I think that pairing colorful food with a neutral background makes the food look more pleasing to the viewer.


In summary:  Make yourself a collection of neutral colored surfaces, like tan, grey, and white color boards or napkins.  You can also use your table if it's neutral.  And vice versa, sometimes a neutral food display goes well with bright surfaces.

5. Invest in a good quality photo editor-  Since most photo editing programs cost an arm and a leg, you can easily use free programs like Picmonkey.  Nevertheless, I know that most people who are serious about photography prefer to invest in Photoshop or Lightroom.  I personally use Lightroom 4 and have had it for a couple of years, although I didn't use it very seriously until 2 years ago, as I felt overwhelmed with it for a long time.  I'm going to be honest and say that almost any professional photo editing program can seem daunting at first, but give it a few weeks of practice and you will surely get a better grasp of it.  Lightroom is much cheaper than Photoshop, but many great photographers say that they don't see any notable differences between the two, and in fact, they often prefer LR over PS due to its user friendly quality.  When I purchased LR I took advantage of their amazing student discount, so maybe there's something for you there. Those are my 2 cents on LR because I love it so much!  And no, I am not sponsored by them in case you were wondering. ;)


In summary:  Look for good offers on editing programs, but don't go with the most popular one just because.  Choose the one you'll be comfortable using after reading up on reviews.  Less expensive doesn't always mean it's bad quality.  The more you can do with what you have, the more you'll succeed.

6.  Search for props-  Props for food styling don't always have to be expensive.  You can actually pay next to nothing!  Whenever I go thrift shopping for clothes I always make sure to check out the kitchen section.  Most likely there is something you'll like, particularly if you fancy vintage items.  Normally one item costs me $0.75 or less.  Now, antique shops are a whole different story!  Their silverware, for example, can often range anywhere from $2 -$4 per piece!  For my color surfaces, I mostly use old wooden boards that I find lying around the house.  I clean them up, paint them with $1.00 acrylic, dry them out for 30 minutes, and I'm good to go.


In summary:  One man's trash is most definitely another man's treasure.  So head on over to your nearest thrift store or make your own color boards!

7.  Practice-  Though we can never perfect our skills we can certainly get better.  A lot better.  It's much like painting, actually!  There are days when I get so frustrated at the poor inanimate dish because everything seems off.  When that happens I take a deep breath and go on trying different setups, angles, and props.  Then voila!  Something magical happens and the outcome surprisingly exceeds my expectations.

In summary:  If I lose motivation then I keep on trying.  Sometimes I just let it be and come back to it another time. Practicing by looking at different photo styles and gathering inspiration for your next shoot also makes a huge difference!

These are really basic tips, but I find them to be extremely helpful and monumental in improving my photography!  Whatever you are passionate about, don't give up when you face bumps on the road.  Keep pursuing them and don't stop until you've reached your goals.

What are some simple or crazy photography tips you've learned along the way?  Whether it's people, food, or nature photos?

July Favorites


July has been a month of loooooong--and I mean, very long month of long suffering.  Sorry for all those L's, guys! :)  Life with a 13 month old is definitely a night and day difference from when baby is something like 7, 8, or 10 months old.  Selah has developed a sense of freewill, and let's just say that it makes for an even more chaotic and interesting life.  Haha!  I do love how responsive she is, though.  Whenever daddy leaves for work she waves at him and has even said bye-bye a few times.  I'm curious to hear about your experience with a little one, if you're a parent!

Food Love

Bibimbap and All Things Spicy


Seasonal Fruit

Mangoes and watermelon are my current and possibly my forever favorites!  It's really strange how my appetite has completely changed this month, and I think it's partially due to the weaning process.  Well, that's been over for a whole month, but my hormones are still a little off.  These days I seldom crave hearty foods and if I do, it has to be drenched in Sriracha or gochujang.  Thankfully watermelon is something I constantly crave, and it's the first thing I eat every morning as it keeps me refreshed from the get go!  You can read more about the benefits of eating fruit first thing in the morning via the link.

Fitness Love

Interval Running with Body Weight Moves


Lately I crave running in some form or another.  Whether it be in the form of long distance, and by long distance I mean a mere 2.5 miles with the stroller, or just sprinting in front of our house.  I also have an amazing cardio circuit coming your way that will seriously have you dying by the end of it!  It's quite humbling, actually. 

Quote Love



True that!  My main mottos in life are those that encompass humility, compassion, and loving others as God loves them.  Nobody can do them perfectly but we can certainly try.  After experiencing some divine encounters this month, these quotes have become a fresh reminder once again.

Past Monthly Favorites

What are some of your July favorites?

Share some inspiring reminders and quotes/links!

Best Ice Cream and Yoga Update


Matcha!  Dessert!  Sweet breakfast!  And the greener the better!  Notice a common theme here?  Pretty much all my meals lately contain a green of some sort, and if I can find an excuse to throw in some green tea in the mix then I'll do what I can. ;) 

Now let's talk about that dessert...It looks pretty glorious, doesn't it?  This bowl of goodness contains my current favorite ice cream by Tillamook.  All of their different  vanilla flavors are extremely creamy and fluffy like a cloud.  None of that sherbert texture to it which I can't stand. Eeeek.  I like to drizzle it with a wannabe matcha syrup made of coconut oil, green tea powder, a little Stevia and maple syrup.  Now, since it's kind of fun to live a little, I've been enjoying dessert pretty much everyday for the past few weeks, and to balance it out I opt for delicious and wholesome meals.  Errrrr more like "thrown together last minute" plates? And luckily Selah follows suit by chomping on asparagus, and as you can already guess that makes me one super proud mom! :)  She still hates avocados, though.  Don't worry--I'm sure she'll acquire the taste for it since I've had her try it about, oh I don't know...20 times now?  I don't give up easily.  Apparently.

In case you are craving a not-so-healthy but nevertheless delicious little dessert, here's a recipe for green tea eclairs from a few months back!

Yoga Update


The practice of yoga has quickly made its way into my weekly fitness rotation, and even though I don't follow its spiritual teaching I do find it incredibly relaxing and strengthening at the same time.  Up to date, I have developed an exponentially higher amount of upper body strength, a "longer" lower body definition, ab definition that I never knew I could achieve, and a higher awareness of my body's needs like hunger, satiation, and in how far I should push my body to its limits. 

The strange thing I have come to realize about my yoga practice is that I'm not thinking much about how I look or how much my physique has changed.  Sure, those things may be fun to notice in the end and they are some great challenges to achieve!  But all that seems to be taking the back seat more and more....all the while I keep reaping great cardio and strength benefits. In other words, I feel less preoccupied with the image aspect of it and simply love the way I feel afterwards. Does anyone relate to this?  I'm very curious to know!

I know I have a long way to go to perfect my poses as evidenced in the lopsided side crow pose, and the ones that particularly kill me are the balance based ones!  Yup, you guessed it.  I still topple over while attempting a headstand, hah!  It's totally okay though because I love to challenge myself in every area of life. 

Well, I hope you have a great rest of the day and talk to you soon!

If you do yoga, in what ways has it benefited you?

What foods are you obsessed with lately?

Mint Pineapple Cake with Mascarpone Frosting


So I'm back!  Back at this thing called recipe-ing, blogging, and connecting.  Just so you know--I infinitely appreciate all your kind words and constant support especially during times like last week.  To say that it was an overwhelming one would be a real understatement because added to said week was...motherhood.  Hah!  End of post.

Actually, there's a liiiiittle more to share.  This cake.  Ohhhhh how unsalvageable it was prior to taking these pictures!  Lighting and angle can do wonders sometimes, you know.  And although it's quite embarrassing to say this, I let all the built up frustration get the best of me while making this cake, which made the cutting and frosting process that much more difficult.  Despite the fact that I was on the brink of pulling my hair out though, it somehow worked out.  The bright side is that this cake tastes amazing, all thanks to the beautiful Molly!  This recipe was adapted from and inspired by her beautiful Pony Cake.  But wait!  Before you go off thinking that hers is much more beautiful (which it is) and there's no way that it was inspired by hers, let me tell you that this recipe has white flour (yes, white! ut-oh) and almond meal.  I also didn't want to jump headfirst with using rosemary, simply because I didn't feel ready enough.  Mint seemed like the perfect fancy addition to my dessert, and pretty much everybody loves mint! We're taking baby steps here.  :)  Is that a good enough justification? 

As fussy as this recipe may look--I mean, when is cake making not fussy--am I right? I think it's a great way to surprise your loved ones because of its unique combination of flavors.  The subtle minty sensation nicely complements the tropical taste of pineapple, while the creamy mascarpone texture along with the chunky orange rinds brings everything together to make this one moist and fun cake to eat!  Enjoy!


Mint Pineapple Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Highly adapted from Pony Cake // Makes about 10 servings

Ingredients for Cake

  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C loosely packed almond meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or regular)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 3/4 C pure maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP vanilla extract
  • 1 C mint infused soymilk***
  • 1/4 C chopped mint leaves***
  • 3/4 C melted coconut oil
  • 2- 8 oz cans of sliced pineapple

Ingredients for Mascarpone Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted room temp butter
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/3 C orange marmalade


  1. ***Simmer the soymilk (or cow's milk) in a little pot with the chopped mint leaves for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat.  Stir often so it doesn't burn.  Throw away mint and let milk cool down while you make the cake.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 F and lightly grease/butter a 9 in. cake pan. In a large bowl whisk the flour, almond meal, baking powder, soda, and salt.  If you have a stand/hand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, mint infused milk, and coconut oil until well incorporated.  Add all pineapple slices except 2, for decoration later on.
  3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and beat until everything is just about melded together.  Don't over beat the batter or it will toughen up.  Pour batter into the greased pan and bake for for approximately 50-55 minutes, rotating the pan into the 25 minute mark. 
  4. Let cake cool down for 5 minutes and invert onto a wire rack until it cools down all the way.
  5. Make frosting now beating the butter, mascarpone, and vanilla with a mixer.  Add powdered sugar and beat on medium to high.  Scrape sides as needed.  If frosting needs to thin out a bit, add 2 tsp milk.
  6. With a serrated knife, cut the cake in half and brush off excess crumbs.  Spread orange marmalade on one side evenly and then carefully spread the mascarpone frosting.  Place the other half of the cake and then frost all around.  Garnish with remaining pineapple and mint leaves! 

Which cake recipe is your favorite?

Are there any ingredients that you're wary of using in your baking or cooking?

See You on the Other Side

Sometimes there are things in life that deserve to take first priority, like being there for our friends.  All I can say is that life can throw some unexpected events, surprises, and losses, as it is in this case. A dear friend of mine, whom I had lost touch with over the past few years, has gone to be in our Daddy's presence last Wednesday.  There are not many words I can say, except that grieving can come in so many different waves and magnitudes.  Although I do want to continue living my life as usual and go on my daily tasks with fortitude, I also want to live with even more purpose than before.  More mindfulness of my loved ones as I take advantage of their amazing presence in my life. 

Contrary to popular thinking, tomorrow is never promised and the day to love and live to the fullest is TODAY.  All I can say is--dear brother, you've fought the good fight!  I am thankful that you were the one who so perfectly related to me in those times when I felt like the biggest outsider in this foreign land...when I didn't know what this immigrant life had in store for me, really.  Thank you for your consistent faith and for being the example of an open ear and an open heart not only to me, but to all.  We are proud of you and can't wait to see you on the other side!  Probably break dancing to heavenly tunes and tripping a time or two.

So with that said, I will probably be back next Monday or Tuesday with our normal schedule, you guys.  This week is busy to the max as I'm tying loose ends with a workshop I'm teaching for a youth conference.  I am excited and rather nervous for some reason, so prayers are much appreciated!  I wish you a blessed week and see you soon!