Happy Spring & Meyer Lemon Pudding

Spring has sprung and our bodies are ready for fresh lighter foods and more movement. It can be a difficult transition at times since we’ve been moving slow for so long, but our bodies actually thrive when we can adapt to the seasons.

This is a time of shedding what doesn't serve us (physically, mentally, emotionally) and become a fresher, lighter, and more powerful version of ourselves. 

I personally like to ease my body into Spring by freshening up my meals with a bit of raw foods, start with a few room-temp smoothies, and snacking on fresh fruit. I also like to start taking my movement outside more. I feel this helps my body adapt to the change better instead of going all in.

This pudding was one of the first Spring treats I made and enjoyed in the sun. May you have an easeful and inspiring transition. 

meyer lemon pudding raspberries

Ingredients

1 can full-fat BPA free coconut milk

½ cup filtered water

4 Tablespoons chia seeds (I used white chia seeds but any color works)

Zest and juice of 1 large meyer lemon

2 Tablespoons maple syrup, more to taste

½ teaspoon turmeric

Pinch of sea salt

1 cup raspberries, mashed with a fork, for garnish

 

Procedure

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients except raspberries. Taste and adjust sweetness to your liking.

  2. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Pour into pretty glasses and top with mashed raspberries.

 

meyer lemon pudding with raspberries

10 Things I've Learned About Food & People During My Chef Years

In my years as a chef, I've learned so many interesting things about common eating preferences and what's most important for someone when they hire a personal chef. 

  1. The simpler, the better. You'd think that people hire a chef because they want complicated meals prepared, but simpler meals somehow still become favorites. One-pot meals in particular are always a huge hit. Perhaps they offer more of a comfort feel. 
  2. Chia pudding for the win! Seriously this delicious 5-minute treat is the most requested by my clients and the recipe that most people visit and make from my blog
  3. Variety is not always the case. I check-in with clients consistently to make sure I'm meeting their needs and expectations. Variety is something most claim they really want, but when I check-in and take requests, everyone wants their favorite meals repeated (all the time!). We are creatures of habit after all. 
  4. Love over flavor, most of the time. My work is all about satisfying people's taste buds with the healthiest meals. What I've found to be even more valuable about my services is the love and care I put into every single dish. In those mentioned client check-ins, most responses are about how much they enjoy working with me personally and having my energy in their home. This is a compliment as much as a reinforcement that love put into something overrides any outcome. 
  5. "You can make vegan food taste like real food". True story. A client said this to me after making a Mediterranean stew that apparently tasted exactly like pizza. I took that on as my new 'skill'. This did become a favorite dish. 
  6. Yogurt dressing on everything. It is one of the most requested toppings/dressings from all my clients - I make a special herbal yogurt dressing. They literally dollop it on everything and can't ever get enough. I personally cannot tolerate dairy, but I know the deliciousness of yogurt, I'd be putting that on everything also if I didn't get a stomach ache every time. 
  7. Vegan desserts are the most favored. This was ironic to me when writing this right after the yogurt craze, but vegan desserts for some reason seem to be most popular. There's something about using alternative ingredients to dairy and eggs in some desserts that make them more enjoyable and indulgent, my clients and I sure think so. 
  8. Brussels sprouts - roasted vs. any other cooking method. I think 99% of people I know LOVE brussels sprouts but there is something about roasted that just makes someone melt, and turn their face when cooked any other way. My clients have made it very clear that if they're not roasted, they don't want them. I agree. 
  9. Attention to detail. There seems to be great appreciation for my attention to detail when it comes to storing my client's food, leaving necessary instructions, and most importantly, cleaning up. This is a no-brainer for me, but I get so many ecstatic comments about how clean I leave a client's kitchen - cleaner than I found it. I feel grateful every time to know that my clients truly value this service as so much more than just any meal delivery service. 
  10. A personal chef is not for everyone. Although hiring a personal chef sounds luxurious and like a dream come true, some people try out the service and realize it's not for them. These people are mainly ones that love cooking, don't necessarily want everything prepared for them, and simply need more direction as to what, when, and how much to cook. Because of seeing this so often, I created a meal planning service option to support those who either can't afford a personal chef or simply don't want one but want to save time with meal planing. 

It's these little things that make my work oh so fun and pleasurable.

Comment below or email me personally (giovanna@apurifiedlife.com) if you'd like my support making your life healthier and easier. 

Carrot & Zuchinni Fritters

My best recipes mostly turn out to be the ones I throw together last minute and without much preparation. I love creating simple and delicious meals that anyone can re-create. 

This one is a weeknight favorite in the summer when carrots and zucchini are vibrant and abundant.

Enjoy these fritters on their own (they are filling) or with a side salad or vegetables. 

Ingredients

2 medium-large carrots, shredded (by hand or in a food processor)

2 zucchinis (or 1 zucchini and 1 summer squash), shredded

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup oat or almond flour

2 eggs, whisked together in a small bowl

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of red chili flakes

To cook fritters:

2+ Tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

Procedure

  1. Place shredded vegetables over a paper towel for a moment and pat down some of their water. Transfer to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients, except coconut oil. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Note: make sure to lightly whisk eggs in a separate bowl first. 
  2. With your hands, form patties with mixture. Heat coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Add patties and cook on first side until lightly browned (30 sec-2 min depending on heat and pan). Flip and cook on the other side until browned as well. Continue until all mixture is used up. Note: You may need to add more coconut oil throughout cooking so patties don't stick to the pan. 
  3. Serve fritters with your favorite dressing or sauce. I love topping them with pesto (You can find some great pesto dressings/sauces in my summer Ebook). 

Makes ~6 large fritters

Happy Cooking! 

Scrumptious Berry Crumble {Gluten-Free}

Isn't berry season the best season ever?!

Some of nature's best candy, in my opinion. 

I've noticed that every year for the past 3 years, this is the first dessert I make with berries when they come around. It's just too good and simple not to.

Goes extra well with some creamy coconut ice cream. 

Indulge without guilt with this gluten-free and refined sugar-free dessert. 

 

Ingredients

Berry Layer:

3 1/2 cups mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)

1 Tablespoon coconut sugar

 

Crumble Layer:

2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

2 teaspoons goji extract powder

1 teaspoon lucuma

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean or vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

3/4 cup ghee/clarified butter, diced

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  2. To make berry layer: Toss berries with coconut sugar in a medium-size bowl and place in your baking dish. 
  3. To make crumble: Place all ingredients, except ghee, in a large bowl and combine well. Add ghee and press down with fork or pastry cutter to cut ghee into smaller pieces and blend into the mixture. 
  4. Spread out crumble evenly over berries. 
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until berries are soft and crumble is browned (not burnt). 

Recipe and Photos by Giovanna Garcia

 

12 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

It’s a misconception that eating healthily has to be expensive. In fact, it’s very manageable to have three all-organic healthy and nourishing meals (plus snacks!) each day no matter what your grocery and food budget may be -- I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept and testing out new ways to eat well for cheap. There are ways!

If you don’t know where to start, follow these tips for eating well on a budget:

1. Cook As Many of Your Meals as You Can

This is at once the simplest and the most difficult tip: commit to cooking your meals rather than eating out. Not only does eating out add up quick, but it tends to be less healthy than what you would cook at home. Depending on your habits, you could save roughly $180 - 250 each month by not eating out. How’s that for savings?

2. Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Once you’re committed to cooking at home more, try planning your meals for the week ahead of time. Make use of versatile ingredients that you can use in multiple different dishes throughout the week, and stick to simple meals that don’t require too many ingredients. Doing this helps with a few things:

  • You can buy bulk, which saves you on the total cost of items.
  • You’ll have less chance of unused ingredients going bad in your fridge and, as a result, you’ll waste less.

  • You’ll put more thought into what you’re eating and how much you’re spending, which will help you keep to you stick to your good eating and spending habits.

3. Eat What's in Season

This might seem like a no-brainer, but in-season foods are always cheaper than out of season foods, which were likely imported from elsewhere in the world.

So, to save money, focus on foods that are in-season. Learn to love cabbage and citruses in the winter, and go crazy with squashes and root plants in the fall. For a full list of in-season produce and recipe suggestions try Wise Breads’s post on seasonal produce. The Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture also has a very good, comprehensive chart.

Above all, avoid pricey pre-packaged foods. These foods will not only be pricier but also most likely contain ingredients that are not health-enhancing. Remember to read the ingredient list if you are purchasing packaged foods.

4. Take Advantage of Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Imperfect-Looking Vegetables

Some of the best places to find cheap and delicious in-season produce is at your local farmer’s market. Try going at the end of the day and asking for deals to save even more. If you don’t have a farmer's market close to you, try an online farmer’s market such as GrubMarket - they deliver straight to your door!

If you have a CSA in your area, you can also save money while getting ultra-fresh produce (sometimes things you’ve never even seen before!) by ordering from them.

Similar to a CSA is a new produce delivery service, Imperfect Produce, which delivers totally edible -- but “too ugly for supermarket” -- fruits and veggies for super cheap. For example, you could order a 7 - 9 pound box, which will last at least a week, of produce for roughly $12. Awesome!

5. Look for Sales and Take Advantage of Them

For the non-produce staples (and, okay, even some produce) keep an eye out for sales and take advantage of them. Be open to adjusting your weekly meal plan to accommodate a good deal you found at the supermarket or stocking up on dry goods when they go on sale.

Hint: in some supermarkets, if you buy one item that’s on a “2 for $3” sale, you’ll still be able to get it half off. Don’t buy both if you don’t need them.

6. Shop at Ethnic Markets

Want a cheap box of coconuts? Go to Chinatown or your nearest ethnic grocery store. Even for some more common items like rice noodles, or a bag of apples, ethnic grocery stores often still have good quality items for cheaper. Keep in mind that organic is ideal.

7. Focus on Plant Foods and Make Fewer Meat-Centric Dishes

I advocate a high plant-focused way of eating in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, but it's also a way to save money if you know how to balance your non-meat meals appropriately.

For those of you who don't want to omit meat entirely (and you don't necessarily need to - your body knows best!), try eating fewer meat-centric dishes. Rather than serving up a steak with a side of broccoli, make meat a compliment, rather than the focus. Cook a quinoa dish with a bit of ground turkey, or a veggie stir fry with some slices of lamb.

8. Start a Garden

Whether you’ve got a yard or a windowsill, starting a garden is the ultimate way to lower your food spending. After all, it’s free (well, almost -- you might still have to make a small upfront investment in seeds, pots, and soil).

Certain things, like arugula or bok choy, are super easy to grow for first timers, whereas others, like tomatoes, require a bit more care and attention. No matter what you grow, gardens are a great way to get a constant supply of nourishing food. Not to mention, there’s no fresher food than what you’re growing outside your front door.

9. Learn to Love Your Freezer

This tip goes back to that whole idea that by letting food go bad, you’re wasting money. Which is why any health-nut on a budget should really learn to love their freezer. There’s two big ways this can help:

First, you can freeze leftovers if you know you won’t be eating them in the next couple of days. Personally, if something’s been in my fridge for 2 days, I’ll either eat it or freeze it to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Just make sure to mark when you put them in.

Second, if you’ve got a garden, weren’t able to eat all the food you got in your CSA or last week’s grocery store run, you can preserve a lot of fruits and veggies by either canning, pickling, or -- yes -- freezing them.

One of my favorite things to do is to take greens (arugula, parsley, etc.) and turn them into a pesto. Stick them in an ice cube tray and freeze them. That way, you’ll have a stash of homemade pesto you can easily pop on pasta for the rest of the year.

10. Embrace the Health Value of Super Basic Foods

You don’t have to be splurging on obscure and expensive health foods to be healthy. Some of the commonly available foods (brown rice, apples, broccoli, bananas, spinach) are incredibly healthy for you (when organic).

I think that expensive, trendy health foods like chia seeds or acai are part of the reason people assume eating well needs to cost money. Yes, I may be into these more trendy ‘superfoods', but in reality, some of the best stuff for you is downright common and unexotic — you can find amazingly cheap organic produce for less than $1 at the farmer’s market.

To add to that, these more expensive 'superfoods' can go a long way. You only need small amounts to reap the health benefits of these foods, so you won’t need to be purchasing them all that often.

11. Make Your Own Drinks

Buying beverages can get pricey quick -- not to mention, you might not have any control of the amount of sugar and other ingredients in them or whether or not they’re organic.

Personally, I prefer getting around this problem by making my own drinks. Especially since frozen organic berries are cheaper than fresh ones, buying a few big bags of organic frozen berries is an easy way to get my berry fix without breaking the bank. Simply toss some in a blender with water (or milk), lemon juice and a bit of honey (optional) and voila!

12. Get Creative with Your Recipes

This might be the best tip I can give you - There are no rules in the kitchen! Did you know you could make chocolate with mushrooms? Well, you can. And if mushrooms can be a core ingredient for one of your favorite dessert foods, then you should absolutely get creative with leeks, turnips, boysenberries, or whatever else is most affordable at the moment in your supermarket/farmers market.

Chocolate For The Heart

It's no coincidence that chocolate is the treat of choice for the love holiday. Here are 3 benefits of cacao that nourish the heart:

Heart Opener

Cacao, in its raw and unprocessed form, is a food that naturally opens and connects us to our heart space. It allows us to feel deeper into our emotions and desires. This is why we share chocolate with loved ones so we can be open and connect with one another perhaps on a more meaningful level. 

High in Magnesium

Another major health property of raw cacao is that it is the highest food source of magnesium, which is an essential mineral for many bodily functions. It relaxes muscles and the nervous system, aids digestion, and alkalizes the body. Raw cacao also improves sleep, hydrates, and supports bone health. Magnesium is important for heart health because it keeps calcium levels balanced.

Cacao as an Aphrodisiac

Cacao contains Theobromine, which is a natural occurring chemical that is a stimulant similar to coffee but without the caffeine. It also relaxes blood vessels, dropping blood pressure, and allowing us to relax. The Aztecs referred to cacao as food of the Gods mainly due to it containing theobromnie and using it as a healing and opening substance before making love - an aphrodisiac!


Live A Lot Superfood Chocolate is intentionally made with the highest quality fair-trade raw cacao to obtain the endless health benefits of this food. We infuse our bars with a blend of medicinal mushrooms to make them more nourishing and delicious. 

These bars are decadent on their own, but if you feel like getting creative, there are many ways to enjoy this chocolate. One of my favorite ways is simply melting it down and drizzling it over fresh fruit. 

For an extra playful experience in the bedroom with your partner, melt the chocolate down and let your imagination and playfulness flow. 

Chocolate Dipped Fresh Figs and Chocolate Drizzled Fresh Apples

Chocolate Dipped Fresh Figs and Chocolate Drizzled Fresh Apples

Melted Chocolate Drizzled on Creamy Coconut Ice Cream

Melted Chocolate Drizzled on Creamy Coconut Ice Cream

xx,

Giovanna

3 Detoxing Tips For The New Year

With the end of the holidays and the start of the new year, we're all looking to make changes and improve our lives. 

In the past, I would make resolutions at the beginning of every year - only to end up disappointed at myself just a few months later because 1) I didn't go through with them 2) I didn't "commit enough" or 3) I generally believed that I had no will power. Perhaps you can relate.

Over time I've learned that the point of making resolutions isn't really to deprive myself or assert unnecessary pressure toward achieving something that might make me feel happy. In fact, that "goal" I'm working toward often is not what I'm truly aiming for. 

For example, I can say that I want to lose weight with the end goal of being thin. I might say that because I might believe that being thin alone will make me happy. Instead, I should really be striving for good health and focusing on those overall positive effects on my life that deep down I know to be true, which may include weight loss, but more importantly - feeling vibrant, energetic, and confident!

When we set goals to look a certain way or to have others perceive us in a positive light, we can become unattached to the outcome and/or suffer from disappointment when we realize our "goal" isn't what we truly want. Setting these kinds of goals may cause resistance and prevent us from achieving our true desires. However, when we set intentions based on how we truly want to FEEL, it's a whole different experience.

Setting intentions help me change perspective and detox my mind of thoughts, patterns, and viewpoints that don't serve me. At the beginning of every year, I now set intentions and affirmations, rather than resolutions, to remind me of how I strive to feel. Setting intentions and incorporating this into a morning routine, as I've mentioned before, help with this practice. 

Further, there are many factors that contribute to toxicity in the body: stress (emotional and physical), environment/pollution, chemicals in beauty and cleaning products, self-sabotaging and negative thoughts, plastic bottled and tap water, and inflammatory foods such as processed/packaged foods and sugar, to name a few.

I believe that our thoughts are affected by what we put into and on our bodies. If we consume toxic foods, then we are likely to be foggy-headed, lethargic, and disconnected to our highest self. Every lasting positive change that we want to make in our lives needs the support of real whole foods in addition to a perspective shift. 

Eating foods from the earth keeps us feeling clear, light, and energized. It also connects us deeper to our heart and life purpose. 

It's our responsibility to be aware of and limit the toxins we have control over, such as what we put INTO and ON our body. One simple change can make all the difference when it comes to health. It's about "going back to basics" and living from the earth as it was intended. See below for my favorite tips to detox your body and mind this year. 


3 Top Tips to Detox Your Body and Mind

1. Drink water first thing in the morning. This is one of the oldest and yet most overlooked practices for optimal health. We are mostly made up of water so it is crucial for us to drink water to stay hydrated, have a balanced pH (acidity = inflammation), and keep our organs nourished and functioning properly. 

Drink at least 3 cups of pure water on an empty stomach upon waking and you'll be supporting your digestion and detoxification process immensely. 

It's also crucial to avoid drinking water from the tap and water that comes in plastic, as they are both contaminated sources and contribute to how we ingest toxins into our body. Drink clean water that is purified by the earth; I recommend finding a clean source of spring water near you (www.findaspring.comor using an effective water purifier/filter at home. 

2. Have healthy snacks on hand. We often think that we can't eat anything when we are trying to detox, but if we're eating the right foods, there's no need to deprive ourselves. Our bodies naturally detox when nourished properly!

Here are some healthy snack ideas:

  • Fresh Fruit - THE fast food. Quick to digest and packed with vitamins and minerals to keep us beautiful and energized. 
  • Chia Pudding - Packed with fiber, omega-3, calcium, protein, and antioxidants. Recipe here
  • Mojito Power Protein Smoothie - The perfect blend of healthy fats, two of the best plant-based protein sources (spirulina and hemp seeds) and fresh greens. Recipe here
  • Vegetables with Seed or Nut Butter - Making your own seed or nut butter is better than the store-bought kind and doesn't contain refined sugars and other unnecessary additives. Find my recipe for homemade sunflower seed butter here
  • Superfood Chocolate - Cacao is one of the healthiest foods on the planet and incredibly nourishing. A truly healthy chocolate bar will kick any packaged snack out of the ballpark! Get your Superfood Chocolate bundle here

3. Spend Time in Nature. I've mentioned this before because it's so important for our health. Nature is the ultimate medicine for us since we ARE nature. The more we move away from nature, the less grounded and more scattered we feel. 

Personally, if I spend too much time in the city or even indoors, and don't make time to be outside and touch the earth, I become irritated and uneasy. 

Take time to be outside each day. Go for a walk, touch the trees, smell the flowers. Even a short, 10-minute walk will lift you up and help detox both your body and your mind.

Looking for more detox tips? Check out my previous post here.

Mushroom Latte - Post-Holiday Immune Boost

The holidays are a fun time with loved ones and a much needed break for most. It's also possible that our immune system can weaken during this time due to over-indulging, emotions, and perhaps letting go of our normal self-care practices

I can say for myself that it's been an emotional time (with full moon in effect also) and my body has responded quickly and feels weaker. It's making me slow down and actually take a look at all that's arising and needs to be worked out. 

Health is so much more than just what we put into our body. Emotions, environment, and thoughts are just as important to our well-being. Although I have kept my holistic way of eating while I've been traveling and taking time off from work, I am needing to bump up my natural medicinal remedies (along with being still and looking inward) to keep my immune system strong. 

My go-to the past few days has been this super creamy and delicious mushroom latte (because you all know I love mushrooms and chocolate!), which the whole family loved too.

This morning, I partially enjoyed this latte outside while it was snowing! Sadly, it didn't stick, but it was beautiful to watch. 

Ingredients

2 cups hot spring water or tea

1 teaspoon Mushroom Immunity blend (find here)

1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder

1/2 teaspoon mucuna pruriens powder

1 Tablespoon raw honey

1 Tablespoon ghee or coconut oil

Pinch of sea salt

Procedure

  1. Blend all ingredients together until creamy and frothy. 

Enjoy and Stay Healthy! 

Guilt-Free Holiday Thumbprint Cookies

'Tis the season for all the indulgent (and healthy) things! 

Yes, this time of year we are presented with treats everywhere we go, but I like to always find a way to bring in some nourishment into the mix. For me, it starts with completely erasing the story of healthy needing to be boring and indulgent needing to be 'bad for you.'

The quality of ingredients is key when making anything healthy yet still indulgent. When we use organic and unrefined ingredients, our body actually knows how to process them and there is no inflammation or sluggishness involved. You truly can have your cake and eat it too. 

I've been making these cookies for the past month for clients, friends, and events. They're a hit and super easy to make. Give them a try at your holiday gatherings coming up. 

Ingredients

Oat cookie base:

2 cups oat flour (blend gluten-free oats to make flour)

¼ cup coconut flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

⅓ cup coconut palm sugar

⅛ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 organic egg

⅓ cup melted coconut oil

2-3 Tablespoons water or almond milk, as needed

 

Fruit Jam Filling:

1 pound fresh cranberries (or fruit of choice)

3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

 

Melted organic dark chocolate to drizzle over baked cookies. Get some superfood chocolate here or make your own

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. To make cookie base: In a small bowl, mix flours, baking soda, coconut sugar, and sea salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut oil, egg water or almond milk, and vanilla. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and whisk to combine well. Add enough liquid until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and flatten out slightly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use finger to make a dent in the middle of the cookie.

  3. To make jam: Place cranberries in a medium saucepan along with maple syrup and lemon juice. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries start popping and become soft like a puree. Taste and adjust flavor to your liking.

  4. Add fruit jam to center of cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bottom of cookies is lightly browned.

  5. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Place cookies on a parchment lined flat surface such as a cutting board or baking sheet. Drizzle with melted chocolate as much as you want. Place in refrigerator for a few minutes, until chocolate is firm. Remove from fridge and enjoy. Note: If you want to eat them while still warm, skip putting them in the fridge and enjoy with the chocolate melted over cookies. 

Makes ~20 cookies