Bare Essentials

This blog post is sponsored by iHerb but as always, the opinions and experiences expressed in this post are my own.

Essentially, the freshest new obsessions in ancient wellness trends are essential oils.

Distilled from the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits, essential oils are the most concentrated expression of individual plants available through natural means, which makes them incredibly potent and effective for therapeutic uses. It doesn’t take a medical degree to reap the benefits, though! Aura Cacia makes these powerful extracts accessible to everyone, offering well over one hundred single origin essential oils and dozens of different blends. Previously overlooked or simply unavailable in small health food shops, iHerb is delivering the largest selection of these indispensable ingredients around.

Based in California but reaching customers in over 150 countries all around the world, iHerb boasts over 30,000 brand name natural products, guaranteed at the highest quality and lowest prices possible. Free or discounted shipping ensures that your oils will arrive on time for even the most urgent needs or ailments; no need to suffer from both an unfortunate malady and the offense of an interminable wait. Additionally, do I have to remind you that all this shopping can be done from the comfort of your own home, without going on a mad goose chase trying to hunt down obscure pieces to complete your wellness puzzle?

Aura Cacia oils promise the highest standards of quality. You’ll never find synthetic fragrances, fillers, artificial colors or stabilizers in any of their products. Only 100% pure essential oils make the cut.

Starting from truly the bare essentials, uses for these powerhouse oils are endless. Take a peek into my kitchen and you’ll undoubtedly find an impressive array of those tiny glass bottles standing tall, but perhaps not in the way you might imagine for someone as food-focused as myself.

Not only do citrus oils infuse everything they touch with a bright, clean, uplifting scent, but they’re also powerhouse grease busters. Natural antibacterial and antiviral properties make everything from lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, sweet orange, and all the sunny shades of warm yellow in between ideal candidates for chemical-free cleaning. My very favorite Citrus Symphony Dish Scrub is made of little more than baking soda and essential oils. Sometimes I’ll switch up the routine and inject a new bright scent with ginger or lemongrass, which are both excellent for soothing nausea, in case the aroma of your splattered, stained, and crusty dishes becomes overwhelming.

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Ease into Easter

Watch out for seasonal whiplash. Ready or not, we’re hopping madly towards the first big family gathering since Christmas. If you’re still recovering from a brutal winter, far removed from the pastel-clad merriment of egg hunts, parades, and garden parties, fear not. There’s still plenty of time to shake off any residual frost and turn out a stunning dessert.

Inspired by the brilliant fresh flavor of real berries baked into Voortman Raspberry Wafers, these light and crispy creme-filled cookies have kept me sane in the dark days of barren farmers markets and middling fresh fruit options. Now, paired with the tender ruby gems themselves, those sweet sticks become the building blocks of even greater tastes.

Swapping bland, spongy ladyfingers for these new treats from Voortman injects new life into an Italian staple. Stacking bright, vibrant layers of flavor with the greatest of ease, anyone can assemble this masterpiece in minutes.

Be it an elegant brunch or low-key gathering with friends, it’s hard to beat this invigorating combination of rich, tangy cream cut by a touch of citrus zest, lightly spiked and softened wafers, and whole fresh raspberries. Bundle up the whole pan to go and take it away on breezy springtime picnics, since it’s surprisingly stable at room temperature too.

Served immediately, the cookies will remain crunchy for a resoundingly satisfying bite, but hold up brilliantly to delayed gratification. After a day or overnight, you’ll enjoy a more tender forkful from top to bottom, easy to slice, serve, and fully embrace with an open mouth. Go ahead, prep well in advance, so you can be ready whenever your party springs to life.

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Mousse Tracks

Like so many great culinary achievements, we have the French to thank for inventing the edible frothy custard known as mousse. Originally a savory dish akin to aerated pâté, it didn’t catch on as a dessert, typically built upon fruity flavors, until the later half of the 19th century. Undergoing a dramatic rebranding since then, the concept is now nearly synonymous with chocolate, which is precisely what we’re celebrating today.

National Chocolate Mousse Day is a real date on the official calendar, and this designation is genuinely warranted. As easy to whip up as your average pudding but far more decadent, eggs need not apply for any of the natural loft in my last course. Swapping in tofu makes the process effortless, and the end results impressively high in protein.

Fool-proof, crowd-pleasing, and devilishly decadent, one of my favorite versions comes from Laura Theodore. Her Marvelous Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse has been a frequent dinner party guest. Always welcome at the table and excellent company to share, it even seems to clean up after itself; every glass is licked clean by the end of the night.

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BitterSweet Beginnings

UPDATE: As many of you smart cookies have surmised by now… April Fools! Though it now breaks my heart to let down so many sweet supporters, no, I’m not opening up shop in the east bay. Honestly, I’m floored by the wild success of this mild prank. Does it say more about the need for new vegan eateries at large, or the desire to get my recipes without heading into home kitchens? Either way, I’m humbled, touched, and inspired by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Maybe one day, BitterSweet Cafe can become a reality… Just not anytime in the foreseeable future!


Crazy is as crazy does. No one has ever accused me of being sane, rational, or anything near “normal,” however you might qualify such an inscrutable term, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. Quite the contrary, I’m preparing to taking a plunge that could drive even the most measured people into the depths of madness.

After years of staunchly denying any interest in jumping into the cut-throat restaurant industry, despite my dabbling behind the scenes all the while, there was always a kernel of hope buried within. Disregarding my complete lack of business acumen, and the stone cold sober knowledge that the odds for success would always be stacked against me, still that dream persisted.

Over a decade in the making, from the time that BitterSweet Blog started to establish itself as a legitimate online resource, BitterSweet Cafe is about to become a reality. Offering all of my favorite recipes previous only available to cooks and bakers motivated enough to start from scratch, this brick-and-mortar outpost is really just the next evolution in my drive to share some sweetness in a somewhat bitter world.

100% plant-based pastries, including flaky croissants and tender yeasted doughnuts, chewy cookies, layer cakes lavished with aquafaba buttercream frosting, and buttery scones will be just the beginning. Savory options will join the ranks after soft opening, along with brunch offerings and daily specials. Coffee and tea will come with either homemade macadamia or oat creamer, and bubbly sodas made from real fruit syrups will soon be standing by to quench your thirst.

This is all just the beginning. Coming at you late spring/early summer, Oakland is about to get a lot more BitterSweet.

Going to the Dogs

If you build it, they will come. If you shake the treat bag within earshot, they will come with tails wagging and tongues panting, too.

The push for alternative proteins isn’t limited to just the human diet; behind the scenes, toiling away in laboratories and kitchens, the race is on to develop a more sustainable, ethical, and wholesome way to nourish man’s best friend. Wild Earth is growing their blend, and their business, from the ground up with koji, a type of fungus used in soy sauce and miso.

Higher in protein content than steak (24 percent protein by weight), these cultured mushrooms contain over 45 percent protein by contrast. Though the nutritional numbers are impressive, to say the least, what matters the most to my guy is the fact that these healthy spores impart a unique umami flavor to the treats.

Luka and I were early adopters of this innovative concept, well before the Berkeley-based company revamped their packages, added different flavors, and made a big splash on Shark Tank last week. Now pet parents nationwide can’t stop buzzing about the brand, which successfully secured a $550,000 investment on the show.

Treats are truly just the appetizer to kick things off. Coming soon, proper dog food will be made of the very same savory stuff, providing a completely vegan, fully vetted (AAFCO-compliant) main meal.  That may come as a surprise to those still wedded to the notion that dogs are obligate carnivores, but with more research supporting the possibility of raising healthy, happy canines without the need for meat, Wild Earth is making it not only feasible, but enjoyable for the pups in question.