Archive for July, 2014

Dara the Darista and her Dips, plus a recipe!

Even though I have not met Dara in person, I already like her. Her delicious dips are to die for, and oh so good for you.

In honor of the upcoming Clean Eating Challenge, I asked Dara to share with us how she got to be the Darista that she is today. Ironically, the place that inspired her to move toward this culinary journey is my home-country: Thailand. I am sure she and I will have a lot to talk about when we finally meet!
Here is Dara, in her own words. I enjoyed reading her stories and her wisdom. I hope you will, too.
You can get her dips at stores around Columbus, and at Bexley Natural Market for the locals! Be sure to try her recipe at the end of this post. It looks scrumptious!
1. Tell us a little about what you do, and how you got there.

I currently own and operate Darista Dips—a trio of all-natural take home dips that focus on local and organic ingredients to create unique, bold flavors. I have been on a journey to open Darista Café and had run a seasonal pop-up for two years out of the Hills Market in Worthington. It went amazingly well and we were on a path to securing a permanent home for the cafe, however we couldn’t secure the funding we needed, so that’s when I decided to reverse my business plan (wholesale, then brick and mortar.) The risk was significantly less. When I first met the Hills Market team back in 2011, Kyle Baker, Vice President of Hills Worthington, was the one who encouraged me to start thinking of ways to get my brand on the shelves, especially in preparation for the pop-up.

My background is in advertising and design. I used to be the Creative Director at a local agency here in Columbus. The concept of Darista Cafe was born on my trip to Thailand in 2006. I have been fortunate enough to travel to over 19 countries, where I like to say, “I travel the world on my taste buds,” and had the unique opportunity to immerse myself with local culture through the lens of food. It was here where beautiful friendships were born and this incredible cross-cultural exchange would happen.

I returned from Thailand feeling inspired that I needed to somehow translate my world journey, my experience to the plate. Whether it’s marrying kaffir and coconut  flavors in a braise to create a latin arepa with coconut curry pork, to recreating dishes that I shared with friends in Spain. I wanted to build these world flavors while sourcing locally. This is where Darista Cafe, world inspired, local fare was born.

2. What inspired you to make your products?

First, anyone will tell you, I’m a grazer and a snacker. I love to eat small amounts of many things. Potlucks might be my favorite gatherings. Needless to say, I’m a dipper. I love to dip.

Some were happy accidents! The Garlicky Kale Yogurt Dip was merely a result of “what’s left in the fridge.” After one of our pop-ups I had a few pounds of Wishwell Farm kale left. I blended it with Snowville Creamery Vanilla Yogurt (didn’t realize it was vanilla at that time) and other reachable spices. Loved it and made it again with regular yogurt. I missed the sweetness (that the vanilla gave,) so I added Honeyrun Farm honey to the recipe.
And others were world inspiration. The Moroccan Carrot and Roasted Beet Hummus really reflect our brand of “world-inspired”— where we take inspiration from flavors from around the world to give bright, bold flavor profiles. When I create new dishes, I usually get inspired around an ingredient. In the Moroccan’s case, harissa was my main squeeze. My intention was to offer a taste of Morocco with carrots being the hero ingredient.


3. If you could design a perfect meal, what would it be?

My perfect meal would be a large table with a huge spread, filled with my favorite things. A table that brings together family and friends where they can all dive in and sample amazing dishes. Small amounts of many things:) It probably would not make sense, nor would the food items complement one another, but it would be globally represented. A worldly tapas extravaganza!
Non-negotiable items at this perfect meal include: Pain au Chocolat paired with a macchiato , crusty french baquette with brie, iberico, manchego, goat-blue (any cheese really,) Tortilla Española, Mediterranean and Turkish salads, chicken makhani, Thai coconut curry, tostones, guacamole. And deviled eggs. One big mess, huh? and throughout this journey, I would love to have a beverage selection of: Rockmill Brewery Saison, a lovely Rose, Vinho Verde and Sauvignon Blanc, and a bold, spicy tempranillo red!
(not drinking all at one time, of course, but just to have options)
4. How do you stay healthy in life, and in business?  Any advice you could give to encourage others to eat and live better?

I try to find balance in everything I do, personally and professionally. It’s hard to do and I’m not always good at it. I keep coming back to “sustainability.” Create reasonable goals through eating, exercise and social engagement. Nothing in excess…We do not “diet” and we are not die hard weightlifters;)

On Food: When it comes to nurturing the body and soul, I do focus a lot on food. For me, it’s very important to know where my food comes from—one of the reasons I am a huge fan of forming relationships with our local farmers. One, they are awesome people, my heros. And they are working crazy hard to bring you the best, most nutritious and delicious produce and meat they can grow and raise. Not only you are getting the most nutrients out of each berry or vegetable (since they pick it at their prime,) but you are also keeping the dollars here locally and supporting our economy. And you get the benefit of learning their growing methods.

In our family, we eat and prepare fresh items from scratch. In the summer, we even grow some of our food in our tiny garden. We avoid a lot of artificial/pre-packaged preservative/mass-produced items and eat a lot of organic. It can seem intimidating to create many items from scratch, but the key is to plan and make it easy on yourself. Choose a day to prep for the week. For example, on Sunday, make salad dressing to last you the week, cook a large back of grains to add into your salads or meals, roast almonds for 9 minutes in your 350 degree oven and create your favorite granola recipe so you have snacks for the next two weeks. Then your Monday can easily be roasting or grilling chicken and serve it over that couscous or quinoa. Tuesday, grab your lettuce greens, dress them and garnish with cheese and toasted almonds; and so on.

Now, I’m not going to lie. We still indulge on pizza, brats and burgers, but we are super ok with that and love it.

On Exercise: I’m also a runner. I’ve run two marathons, but will say those shoes are retired and a bit dusty. I try to run at least 2-3 times a week—it clears my mind. And for additional “therapy” I dance flamenco (a Spanish dance) once a week. My husband and I walk and bike almost everywhere. If we could get rid of the concept of a car, I totally would. There’s something to be said about the experience and intake when you can absorb everything around you—from the music birds create to the social interaction of other pedestrians you pass by. Something you would not get from a car.

My strategy is to create reasonable goals (not always the case for me, as I seem to like to overwhelm myself). For instance, if you tie yourself to certain criteria to equate to success, it may result negatively. If you mentally commit to run 3 miles, 5 days a week, well, that can be a difficult routine for one’s lifestyle. What if you miss a day, and then another. Now you are feeling awful about yourself because you trained your mind that this is your “healthy.” And you may just fall off this routine entirely, resulting in no exercise. I’m not about excess. It’s about sustainability and that’s how I try to stay healthy. Where things become automated and integrated into my daily routine. Give yourself wiggle room.

On Engagement: I bought a book for my husband (who is nerded out on urban planning,) called Happy City, by Charles Montgomery. It talks about how lives can be transformed through urban design. I’m a true believer that your environment design and lifestyle is critical to healthy living and happiness. For instance, being able to come home from work and engage with the neighbors for 15 minutes before you dive into house work, or walking to your nearest cafe and meeting new people in your neighborhood—social engagement and activity does increase one’s quality of life. Being involved in our community and engaging with the neighborhood definitely contributes to our wellness.

1. Identify your strengths and find support to help in areas your not well-versed in, so you can grow and focus on what you do best. Be informed of those areas you’re not strong in, but do not burden yourself to take those on. Align yourself with valuable partnerships to help grow you and your business. I can identify with those areas immediately when I say to myself “you’re spending/wasting too much time on this.” And that’s my cue to seek help.

2. Lead with an open heart. I sometimes find myself bundled. I say “my creative pores are clogged.” When I am jumbled like this, I know that I am not good to the rest of the world, nor am I open to receive or be truly receptive to opportunities or little things that bring happiness. When you are purely “open” and cleansed, that’s when the “magic” happens. Align yourself with the universe and send out your positive energy, it will be received.

3. Be nimble. Often we have a strict vision of what our dreams, life or family should look like. It will almost never pan out that way and if you are open and receptive, a new direction will be introduced that can lead you to that path, or detour to something even more magnificent. Always consider. Always take that meeting. I never visioned myself in a pop-up. However, it took me on this journey I could have never mapped out for myself. I found a new niche, explored new concepts and met some incredible people, who I have developed strong partnerships with.


4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1¼ cup quinoa

1½ cup vegetable broth

Dressing and filling:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

½ cup fresh basil leaves chopped

¼ cup flat-leaf parsley chopped

2 tbsp fresh mint chopped

4 shaved radish

cup cherry tomatoes, halved

½ tsp kosher salt

Feta crumbles (optional)

Pepper to taste

Parsley for garnish

{Yields: 4 servings}

For the quinoa: Rinse quinoa in cold water and strain in a fine sieve until water runs clear. In a medium saucepan, bring broth and quinoa to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Set aside for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.

In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon zest and juice, herbs, salt and pepper. Toss with quinoa and add the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste.

For the salmon: Heat a large non-stick pan over high heat with olive oil (coat pan evenly.) Season the salmon with salt and pepper. When oil is almost smoking hot, place salmon skin side down in pan. Do not move fillet or over crowd pan. Lower heat to medium. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn the salmon (away from you to avoid splashing oil) and sear until just cooked, about 4 minutes, or until just barely pink in the center. Serve immediately with the skin side up.

To plate: Place 1-cup mound of quinoa on center of plate. Top with salmon and drizzle Garlicky Kale Yogurt Dip over top. Garnish with parsley.

Top Ten surprises acupuncture could help you

As promised, here is the top ten list of (lesser known) health conditions that acupuncture could benefit you, drug – free.

I have treated all of these conditions, and have seen that acupuncture therapy improves significantly, or completely eliminates the problems.

  1. Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ)
  2. Tinnitus
  3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  4. Vertigo
  5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  6. Sore Throat
  7. Common Cold
  8. Hives
  9. Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  10. Tailbone pain

Everyone responds differently to acupuncture therapy (similar to how we all respond differently to other medical treatments). For some, just a few treatments are needed to ‘fix’ the problems. For others, a series of treatments yield better outcome.

I remember in acupuncture school, we would get so excited about having a sore throat (I know – weird) so that we could test our new knowledge on each other. The treatment felt almost magical because if you do it correctly (and catch it early), the sore throat would disappear immediately. We were totally geeked out by it!

For more chronic conditions like tinnitus, it is essential to treat the root cause which usually has to do with a deficiency of Kidney Qi. Acupuncture helps restore the Qi and regain the free flow of Qi. Again, more chronic conditions tend to require a series of treatments, and sometimes lifestyle changes can speed up the progress significantly as well.

Acupuncture can be incredibly helpful for digestive issues. That was my introduction to this medicine, actually. I was dealing with GERD while under a lot of stress, and it was so uncomfortable. The acupuncturist I saw was confident that she could help me. And after a few treatments, and a few changes in my diet, my symptoms resolved.

Because acupuncture seems to have positive effects on the brain chemistry, conditions that manifest during stress/ anxiety respond well to treatments (IBS, GERD, hives, OCD, etc). It also does not hurt to take (at least) an hour out of your day, to relax, and restore. You will be amazed at what the respite (plus a few pins) can do for your health and well being, physically, and mentally.

All my best,


Top 10 reasons people get acupuncture

I have been doing acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for a while now (since 2002), and I am privileged to have seen and treated hundreds (thousands?) of people over that time. Here’s a list (after 12 years) of why people seek acupuncture with me, not necessarily in this order, but close:

1. Back pain

2. Shoulder pain/ Knee pain/ elbow pain

3. Sciatica

4. Headaches

5. Stress/ Anxiety/ Depression

6. Fibromyalgia

7. Insomnia

8. Allergies

9. Hormone imbalance (menstrual issues, postmenopausal symptoms, PMS)

10. Weight management (weight loss, food cravings)

Acupuncture is a great option for all the above. Most people respond well to a series of treatments, and in some cases, the conditions resolve completely in just a few treatments.

Next week, I will list the 10 reasons you should get acupuncture that you may not know about.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week!

Best wishes,



Clean Eating Challenge Part III: The Challenge

Happy almost July!

Are you ready for a week of Clean-Eating-Challenge at the end of July?

7 words for 7 days.


To reiterate : this is not a cleanse, a detox, or a weight loss plan. It is simply a way to eliminate (or significantly reduce) processed sugar, and processed foods from our diet for a week. We will eat healthier, and feel better (and some of us may end up shedding a few pounds). I have been wanting to do this for a while, and I hope that some of you will join me (because it is easier to do it as a group – accountability is the key to success!).

You probably know the benefits of eating less sugar, less processed foods, and to eat more wholesome, organic, real foods, yes? If not, watch this video. Dr. Andrew Weil did a wonderful job explaining why REAL FOOD is our best food choice.

There are many ways to ‘eat clean’, and you will find all kinds of books, websites, blogs, diets, and other things about it. For me, I was most inspired by Michael Pollan’s book: FOOD RULES. After spending a lot of time thinking about what he should actually eat (in this complicated food world), he decided, besides simplifying to the 7 words, on a list of 64 rules.

I am not a huge fan of (strict) rules, and can’t abide by a few, let alone 64. I want it to be the least complicated possible.

So for the purpose of our week long challenge, I narrowed the food rules down to 17. That’s still too many, really, but they all seem quite important if we want to eat healthier, and feel better about what we put into our mouths and bodies. And after all, there is a reason we are calling this a ‘challenge’, right?

Here’s my adapted version of Michael Pollan’s FOOD RULES:

  1. Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  2. Avoid products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
  3. Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
  4. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
  5. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
  6. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third grader cannot pronounce.
  7. Avoid food products with the word “lite”, “low-fat”, or “non-fat” in their names.
  8. Avoid foods  you see advertised on television.
  9. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
  10. Eat only foods that will eventually rot.
  11. Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.
  12. Get out of the supermarket whenever you can.
  13. Buy your snacks at the farmers’ market.
  14. Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans.
  15. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.
  16. If it came from a  plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
  17. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles).

I do realize that not everyone reading this post is interested in joining me in the challenge, but some of you might be. Instead of continuing to bore the former group, I will restrict the rest of the information to the latter group!

So, to all the Clean-Eating-Challlengers, after you finish reading this post, please write me a comment at the bottom of this post.

Inside the comment, if you would like to join the Private Facebook Group for the Challenge, please let me know what name you use for Facebook so that I can invite you to it.

I will not actually post any of your comments: it is just a way for me to get your information in order to be in touch with you before and during the challenge.

Once I receive your information, I will:

  • Send you an email with a FREE guideline to the Challenge, complete with the Dos and the Don’ts. This is the guideline that I designed, and will be following personally. It’s pretty straight forward, and completely doable!
  • Invite you to the Private Facebook Group especially made for this Challenge. This is where we can keep each other in check, inspired, ask questions, share recipes and so much more.
  • Give you access to the Secret Pinterest Group where you will find all kinds of culinary inspirations during the Challenge.
  • Give you a special rate for a mini session with me before and during the Challenge (more information to come!).

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  I look forward to connecting with many of you.

In good health,


NOTE: The advice shared in this document has not been evaluated by the FDA. The methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical care. Seek medical advice if you are under medical care for serious medical conditions, pregnant, breast feeding, or postpartum.