lifestyle

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. 

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.

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.

Healthy + Local Last Minute Holiday Gifts

'Tis the season to show the ones you care about how much you truly care about them. Though I do think that this should be a year-round event (and one not focused so much on the material aspect of gift-giving), I've started a list of some of my favorite gift ideas that are healthy and if you're in the Bay Area, local. Check them out below, and feel free to add more of your favorites in the comments!


Massage with an Amazing Therapist. David "Dayalan" Clark moved to San Francisco in January 2012 and has been one of the best therapists I've seen since. He is also a certified yoga instructor and holistic health practitioner. You can gift 60 or 90 minute massages directly through his website at 4dbliss.com.

 Photo courtesy of David Clark at 4d Bliss

Photo courtesy of David Clark at 4d Bliss

Healing Acupuncture Session. If you're looking for a holistic health care clinic in San Francisco, Golden Point Acupuncture is that place, and the talented Rebecca Fettig is the person you want to see. She has helped replenish my health immensely. The perfect gift for the person needing less stress, more energy, and ultimately a transformed body and mind. (Wait, isn't that everyone?) While you're getting holiday presents, book a session for yourself at goldenpointacupuncture.com.

Recovery and Restoration through Depth Hypnosis. Suzanne Katanic provides integrated counseling through hypnosis and counseling. Essentially, she helps her clients find connection with their personal purpose and direction and will use Shamanic practices, Huna, energy medicine, and Buddhist psychology to do so. Visit artofdeepbusiness.com to learn more and schedule (or gift) a time to meet with her.

 Photo courtesy of Broth Baby

Photo courtesy of Broth Baby

Comforting Bone Broth. Described as "a hug from your mother," Broth Baby's bone broth is pasture raised and perfect for cooking or sipping. It's my personal most favorite thing to sip on after a long day! You can FEEL the nourishment. Check out this wonder at brothbaby.com.

Herbal Apothecary Goods. Sometimes it can be difficult to shop for the men in your life. But MoonriseCreek Herbal Apothecary makes it easier with its natural, eco-friendly botanical skin care line, aromatherapy oils, and other plant-based, artisanal products. Plus, they even sell men's grooming products and personalized gifts as well! Put in your order today through their Etsy shop.

Private or Event Yoga. Perhaps you're looking for a more experiential gift this season. Why not organize an energizing yoga session for a group of your friends, colleagues, and/or family members? Regina Garcia is a fun, knowledgable teacher who will help you begin the New Year "on the right foot." Bonus: Regina also doubles as a photographer, if you are interested in gifting a photo session too. Schedule your session with Regina at yogafelice.com.

 Photo courtesy of Yoga Felice

Photo courtesy of Yoga Felice

 Photo from A Purified Life

Photo from A Purified Life

Wholesome Cuisine. Last but not least, you could gift my private chef services - a helpful present for the busy individuals in your life! I'll plan, shop, and cook the meals and in return, your recipient will enjoy the nourishment and health benefits of a week of wholesome, home-cooked meals. Alternatively, I also offer private brunch/dinner party catering and in-home cooking classes. Check out A Purified Life's website for more information.

Creamy Sleep Tonic

One of the most important keys to health is rest. Quality rest and sleep. We live in a fast-paced society where we think we can go forever and don't need to sleep because we have too many other more important things to do.

Perhaps we can get away with it for a short period, but with time, we get worn out and don't function as efficiently as we want.

Personally, I like to tell myself that I can go without a lot of rest and sleep sometimes, but I know that is not true. I've learned that staying up until the very late hours of the night doing work is not very efficient. It takes me twice as long to accomplish a task and the lack of sleep causes me to feel more stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, emotionally unstable, and simply ungrounded.

Not allowing ourselves to rest can play a huge toll on the body, which leads to inflammation, lower immune system, and disease. Lack of rest and sleep is also a common factor to not being able to lose weight.

That said, It’s often hard to slow down and even fall asleep at night since we are so stimulated by technology, lights, and mind chatter. It is very helpful to have a night routine that creates ease, peace, and relaxation before bed.

Here are a few things I do:

  1. Shut off electronics at least 20 minutes before getting in bed

  2. Read a good book or journal

  3. Apply some lavender essential oil on my hands, neck, and nose or light some incense

  4. Drink a hot cup of herbal tea or sleep tonic that I’m sharing below

This routine is still challenging at times, but I do my best because I know that getting good sleep makes me feel refreshed and happier in my life.

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup coconut milk (Homemade or Organic BPA-free canned coconut milk)

cinnamon sticks or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 inch fresh ginger root

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2-3 Tablespoons raw honey, to taste

Procedure

  1. If using cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods: Add all ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer with lid on for 15-20 minutes. Strain into mug and enjoy.
  2. If using powdered spices: Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a small pot and bring to a simmer to heat up. Pour into mug and enjoy. 
  3. Garnish with cinnamon, optional. 

Serves 1-2

ote: You can substitute almond milk for coconut milk but the healthy fats in coconut will aid relaxation more than lower fat content. 

Sweet dreams! 

My Pantry Food Brands of Choice

 Photo by  Fluxi On Tour

Photo by Fluxi On Tour

I often get asked about what my favorite food products are and what brands I buy. I hardly ever purchase packaged foods other than condiments. My meals usually consist of produce that's in season. 

I get all my staples such as grains, nuts, and seeds from bulk, and I prefer getting my produce at the farmers market. 

I always recommend shopping organic and supporting local businesses. The products I use vary depending on what new local and quality products I discover at times, but here is a list of brands I currently purchase:

Sea Salt - Celtic Sea Salt 

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil - Dr.Bronner's

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Napa Valley Naturals

Apple Cider Vinegar - Bragg's Organic Raw Unfiltered

Balsamic Vinegar - Napa Valley Naturals

Red Wine Vinegar - Napa Valley Naturals

Ground Spices - Spicely & Simply Organic

Sauerkraut - Farmhouse Culture

Nut & Seed Butters - Artisana (or make your own!)

Ghee - Purity Farms

Canned Coconut Milk (Organic & BPA free) - Native Forest

Coconut Water - Harmless Harvest

 

Captures of February Brunch Club

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Brunch Club was a hit - we are GRATEFUL for the amazing help and everyone who came together to celebrate a Sunday. We had a wonderful time sharing about seasonal foods and enjoying a gluten-free, organic feast made with whole ingredients. We're already wishing we had some leftover coconut whipped cream! Hope to see you all again for March Brunch Club on the 14th. Happy Monday :)

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Captures of Valentine’s Day Chocolate Making Workshop

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There’s no such thing as getting your hands dirty when it comes to chocolate. But if there were, I guess you could say that’s how we spent our Valentine’s Day. At the Chocolate Making Workshop we made rose and fig truffles, chai spiced chocolate mousse, and dark chocolate bark. Everyone got to build their own dark chocolate bark with nuts, seeds, fruit, and superfood powders. There was a lot of love in the air (and in the chocolate) on Saturday! We’re grateful for everyone’s great energy and company.

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Brunch Club: Farewell Winter Harvest

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Change isn’t always easy, but all we can do is embrace it and CELEBRATE it. At Brunch Club we’ll be saying farewell to the winter harvest before welcoming the bright vegetables of spring. Come enjoy a three-course meal and learn about the importance of eating for the seasons. All ingredients are organic, local, vegetarian friendly, and free of gluten and refined sugars. You’ll take home new recipes and connect with some awesome people. Check out photos from January Brunch Club to see what you’re in for.

There’s also an optional yoga practice before brunch (10am). Francesca Gobeille will be starting us off with a gentle, all-levels yoga practice to ease in the day. Visit Francesca's website to learn more about her teaching practice.

Hope this menu makes you ‘MMMMMmmmmmm’ as much as us!

FIRST COURSE

Green Winter Smoothie

A balanced blend of seasonal fruits and vegetables with an added superfood bonus of spirulina, seeds, and raw honey.

Kombucha by House Kombucha

Lavender lemonade House Kombucha.

Grindstone Bakery Gluten-Free Bread with Homemade Almond Butter

Served with sides of fresh bananas and ground cinnamon.

SECOND COURSE

Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Scramble (Vegan Option Available)

Organic eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil and seasoned with warming spices. Topped with herbs and served with avocado.

Grapefruit pancakes with coconut whipped cream

Coconut flour pancakes with fresh grapefruit zest and cinnamon. Topped with coconut whipped cream, pure maple syrup, and sliced kumquats.

THIRD COURSE

Apple pie breakfast bars

Raw dates, apples, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and sea salt.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! Get your tickets on Feastly. See you on 2/22 .

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