Strawberry Arugula Salad

Strawberries are now in peak season here in Los Angeles, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy them are in a simple salad with arugula. Arugula is perfect for hot summer days as its peppery flavor has a natural cooling effect. And, like other leafy greens, arugula is naturally full of water, making it a food that can help you stay hydrated. These great summer ingredients pair up to make a wonderful salad to bring to a picnic, pool party, or barbecue. Or toss some blueberries on top, and the salad’s color profile shifts into a dish perfect for Fourth of July festivities.

Recipe Serves 8

¾ pound raw arugula

¼ cup Meyer lemon olive oil (such as Katz brand)

1 pinch salt & pepper

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

¼ cup blackberry balsamic vinegar (such as Chaparral Gardens brand)

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Toss the arugula in the Meyer lemon olive oil with salt and pepper to taste, and place in serving bowl.
  2. Toss the strawberries in the blackberry balsamic vinegar, then spread them on top of the arugula. Pour any remaining vinegar on top of the salad.
  3. Sprinkle feta cheese over the salad.
  4. If you’re adding blueberries, toss them on top of the salad too.

The best part of this salad is that it’s not only beautiful and tasty but good for you too! Even the feta cheese has less fat than most cheeses and provides calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and Vitamins B2, B6, and B12.

Strawberries are loaded with fiber, Vitamin C, magnesium, and manganese. The nutrients in strawberries help fight many anti-inflammatory disorders, lower blood pressure, improve the immune system, and build bone structure.

Packed with fiber, antioxidants, and high levels of Vitamins A, C, K, and B9, arugula helps promote good heart health, build strong bones, protect against cognitive decline, and decrease the risk of cancer. All that at only 10 calories for a 2-cup serving!

The most important step in preparing this salad is purchasing high quality ingredients. Look for bright green crispy arugula leaves, and choose strawberries that are deep red all the way through. In addition, make sure you taste the olive oil and vinegar before you douse your salad in them.

I hope you enjoy your salad! And whether you bring it to your Independence Day celebration or not, have a wonderful 4th of July! Come back soon for more recipes and food-related facts, tips, and news.

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Don’t Fizzle in the Summer Sizzle!

With summer already unofficially here and the solstice just over a week away (this year it arrives on June 21st), it seems like a good time to remind everyone of the dangers of overheating and to give some tips for avoiding the serious health risks associated with overdoing things in hot weather.

As we all know, our bodies have an ingenious system designed to keep us from getting too hot. When we start to really warm up, we start to perspire, and when this perspiration evaporates, our bodies cool down as a result. But when it’s too hot outside and we exert ourselves for too long in such high temperatures, our natural cooling system just can’t keep up, and our core body temperature can rise dangerously high. The result can be heat exhaustion or, even more serious, heat stroke. Luckily, this never has to happen to you! There are tried and true ways to still enjoy your workouts this time of year while minimizing the risk of ever getting dangerously hot. Just heed the following tips:

More H2O is the Way to Go!

Your body needs enough water to keep up with the amount you’re losing to perspiration, so when it’s hot out, drink even more than usual. While you’re exercising, drink 8 to 10 ounces of water every 20 minutes. After you’ve finished, drink at least another 8 to 10 oz.

When the Sun’s Up High, You Lay Low!

Avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. Instead, schedule your outdoor workouts for early in the morning or after the sun’s gone down. If neither time is an option, move your exercise indoors: Work out at the gym or use the air-conditioned mall for a brisk walk.

Dress Right, Keep it Light!

Since it’s not the perspiration but its evaporation that cools you down, wear loose-fitting clothing that will enable air to circulate over your skin. Also, wear light colors, since dark ones absorb the sun’s heat.

It’s Great to Acclimate!

Ease into your summertime outdoor activities. Your body will gradually become more efficient at keeping you cool while it’s hot—but it will take a little practice. Cut down on the length of time you do your workout or the speed at which you do it. In about 4 to 14 days, your body will acclimate. As it does, you can pick up the pace or lengthen the race, but pay attention to what your body is telling you, and don’t get ahead of yourself.

Everyone at California Chef wishes you a fun, safe summer!

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Gourmand Getaway: Marseille!

What happens when a chef and a wine maker go to France? Well, in this case, you get a gourmand getaway that provides so many wonderful experiences and memories that I have to share one with you right now.

Earlier this month, my best friend, Pallet wine maker Linda Donovan, and I set out to experience the specialty dishes and wines of the south of France. We were both hoping to discover exceptional tastes and regional secrets that would inspire us in our crafts.

Our first stop together was Marseille, birthplace of bouillabaisse, the famous French fish stew. What was once a simple fisherman’s dish made from the day’s leftover catch has been elevated to an art form with its own governing charter. Although there is a lot of room for interpretation, the Marseille Bouillabaisse Charter provides certain guidelines and traditions that must be upheld in order to ensure a high standard of quality.

Our first night in town, we dined in the old port at Le Miramar, one of the original restaurant charter members. There, a huge, steaming plate of seafood—weevers, dories, gunards, anglerfish, eel, crabs, and mussels—was brought to our table and displayed before us. It was then taken aside so that the staff could debone the fish and remove the shells from the crustaceans. In the meantime, we were brought delicious thick fish broth seasoned with saffron, garlic, and fennel. We were also left with a basket of crunchy crostini that we were instructed to rub with raw garlic cloves, top with creamy rouille, and add to our broth. Before long, the deboned and shelled seafood was brought back over and added to our individual bowls. Linda chose a 2014 Bandol rosé, Chateau de Pibarnon, to complement our meal, and it was a perfect pairing. The bouillabaisse, the service, the wine—the entire experience was outstanding!

Le Miramar provides the recipe for their bouillabaisse on their website. It is a relatively healthy meal as long as you control your portion size. I admit, I did not do a good job restraining myself the night we dined at Le Miramar, but when I make the bouillabaisse myself stateside, I intend to. The dish has also inspired me to create a new recipe incorporating the traditional soup flavors and rouille: Marseille Shrimp Soup. When I’ve ironed out the details, I’ll share that recipe as well. In the meantime, bon appétit!

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Advocating for Avocados

A one-ounce portion of avocado has about 50 calories, and over 75% of those come from fat. But that’s not a reason to stop eating avocados. In fact, quite the opposite: Avocados are a wonderful source of healthy fat and provide other substantial health benefits.

For example, a good portion of the fat in avocados is made up of phytosterols, which have been documented to help keep inflammation under control, particularly the inflammation associated with arthritis.

Avocados not only contain an impressive array of antioxidants, but the fat of avocados contains a high amount of oleic acid, which aids in the absorption of many antioxidants and Vitamins A, D, K, and E. So, it’s a great idea to add avocado to salads, for instance. That’s because your body needs healthy fats in order to effectively absorb many nutrients—like the ones sure to be found in other ingredients in your salad.

In addition, research has shown that heart health is promoted by the intake of oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids—both of which are found in avocados. Avocados are also high in fiber, Vitamin B-6, and folic acid, which are all part of a heart-healthy diet. Good fats, like those in avocados, also aide in lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

But wait, there’s more: Avocados are also high in potassium, containing even more per serving than bananas do. Potassium is essential in building muscle and helps to offset some of the harmful effects of sodium on blood pressure.

So, if you ever needed any more justification for including avocados in your diet than their wonderful flavor, you now have your fill. Eat up and enjoy!

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Top o’ the Morning Treat for St. Paddy’s Day!

What could put you more in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day than starting it off with a delicious green breakfast? And since St. Patrick’s Day is largely about maximizing fun, what could be more fun at breakfast than Green Eggs & Ham?

The bonus is that this particular recipe is both fun and healthy. It includes egg whites, which are a great source of lean protein: each egg white has 6 grams of protein and zero grams of fat! And spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet!

So, here’s our quick and easy California Chef recipe for Green Eggs & Ham, and some delicious ways to enjoy it:

Recipe: Serves 1

1 cup egg whites

1/8 cup raw spinach

1/8 cup fresh basil

1 garlic clove

1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 spray olive oil spray

1 slice lean, low-sodium deli ham, chopped

  1. Blend egg whites, spinach, basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper until smooth and completely green.
  2. Heat up a non-stick frying pan.
  3. Spray non-stick pan with olive oil spray.
  4. Add green egg mixture and cook like scrambled eggs.
  5. When eggs are almost all cooked through, add ham to the pan and finish cooking eggs.
  6. See below for serving suggestions:

You can put your eggs next to potatoes,

Or top them with chopped tomatoes.

You can roll them in a spinach tortilla,

Or stuff them in a whole wheat pita.

They are delicious on toasted bread,

Or on an English muffin you can spread.

Of course you can always eat them plain,

But don’t wait a year to eat them again.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For more healthy recipes, please skim through prior blogs. Or, if you’d like to go one step further and have us prepare our healthy, delicious recipes and deliver the meals to your door, sign up for our service by clicking on the orange “Sign-Up Now!” box at the top left of this page.

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Put Some Spring in Your Step!

As you hopefully already know, we turned the clocks ahead by 1 hour early Sunday morning. That means that today—as the first workday after the change—is when many people will truly notice how much extra daylight we’re now getting in the early evening. The sun won’t set here in Southern California until just about 7:00 pm. That gives us all more than an hour’s bonus of sunshine this evening over what we had just 2 nights ago. Let’s enjoy it!

How about getting outside and taking a walk this evening? Or if you’ve been biking only on the weekends this winter because of visibility concerns at night, how about sneaking in a nice ride before dinner? If running is your thing, how about revving things up in that extra hour of sun when drivers can more easily see you? Parcourse, paddleball, tennis—whatever exercise gets your blood flowing, get going with it tonight. No matter how healthy you eat, burning extra calories through exercise is a great help in losing weight, and if winter’s early darkness has been keeping you sedentary at night, now’s the time to get off the couch and to spring into action!

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Kale: A Leafy Green Vegetable’s Long March from Rabbit Food to Superfood!

Yes, of course, the title is a little much, but we’re on the eve of the Academy Awards so everything has to be at least a little dramatic. But, in all seriousness, I remember talking about kale at dinner with my wife’s (that is, Chef Denise’s) food-obsessed family more than a decade ago, and one of Denise’s cousins saying the only thing she’d ever used kale for was to feed her rabbits. Other people at the table came to kale’s defense, of course, and it seems like only 10 years later the rest of America—or at least California—got in step as well.

I think kale has gone mainstream for two major reasons: It is a superfood, and it is far tastier than most people who haven’t tried it assume. On the superfood front, kale is one of the rare foods that score a perfect 1,000 on the ANDI scale (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index). The leafy green is chock-a-block full of Vitamins A and C, a good source of Vitamins B and K, and also offers lots of important minerals.

On the taste front, people who try kale that is prepared properly quickly dismiss prior concerns about how bitter the taste or tough the texture might be. The key to enjoying kale raw is to first cut it into small pieces and then marinate it for a short time in a dressing. Cooking kale softens its texture and opens up a world of possible flavor combinations that can span the taste spectrum. Great tasting and great for you—now that’s a combination everyone can enjoy!


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February: The Month for Anyone Who Has a Heart!

As the month that gives us Valentine’s Day, when images of hearts become ubiquitous, it is fitting that February is also American Heart Month—an opportunity for all of us to learn more about how to keep this critical organ healthy. And, judging from the statistics, we better do so in a hurry! As the official declaration for American Heart Month states, “Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is responsible for one out of every three deaths [in this country]. It is the Number 1 killer of American women and men, and it is a leading cause of serious illness and disability.”

OK, that’s the really, really bad news. The really, really good news is that we can all take important steps to help prevent us from becoming victims of cardiovascular disease. To get started, let’s take a look at the leading risk factors for developing heart problems:

  1. Tobacco Use
  2. Insufficient Physical Activity
  3. Inappropriate Diet
  4. Obesity
  5. High Blood Pressure
  6. Unhealthy Blood Cholesterol
  7. Diabetes

Now that we know the leading risks, let’s discuss how to go about dealing with them.

First things first: We all know that smoking is a dangerous habit, so if you haven’t started smoking, DON’T! If you do smoke, consider yourself lucky to be living in a time in which there are the best options ever available for helping you quit. Talk to your doctor about the most appropriate strategy for you.

Regarding the last four risks on the list (Items 4 through 7), the silver lining is the fact that they can all be largely dealt with by tackling Items 2 and 3. So let’s take a closer look at those.

Item 2: I think you’ve already guessed the treatment for this risk factor: Exercise regularly! Routine physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, tame unhealthy cholesterol, and help manage or even reverse Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity activity for at least 150 minutes per week. If you’re not regularly engaging in exercise already, now is the time to start. Take a look at some of our prior blogs on the subject to give you a head start.

Item 3: OK, I think you’ve probably guessed the answer to dealing with this risk factor too: Eat right! You probably know the bare basics already, even if you don’t strictly abide by them: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid significant quantities of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, and highly processed food of any kind. If you’re doing this on your own already, then congratulations! If you’re not, we at California Chef can definitely help you. We not only know how to prepare healthy meals but how to make them delicious—so they feel like a treat, not a chore! And, like exercise, a proper diet can help you achieve and keep an ideal weight, lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol numbers, and manage or reverse Type 2 diabetes. Eating properly is also a crucial factor in managing Type 1 diabetes.

We at California Chef have helped hundreds of our clients with these conditions and others. So if you’d like us to help you get on the road to better heart health, click here to learn about our meal options and pricing and get started!

And whether you enlist our help or not, please get serious about your cardiovascular health. I put this primer together in hopes of getting your attention, but this is really just a start. Go to the Center for Disease Control’s site  or the American Heart Association’s site to learn more, and if you’re 40 or over, or think you’re at risk for heart disease, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out—You’ll heart yourself for doing so!


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Healthy Nachos To Score Big on Super Bowl Sunday!

If you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you don’t have to blow it on Super Bowl Sunday. This simplified California Chef recipe for Guiltless Turkey Nachos is less than 400 calories per serving, and it’s satisfyingly delicious. Not only are these nachos healthy and diet friendly, but they are even gluten free!

Recipe Serves 4

  1. The secret of this recipe is the chips. Take 4 brown rice tortillas and spray them with a touch of olive oil spray.
  2. Dust them with any pre-made Mexican seasoning, or a mix of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne.
  3. Cut the tortillas as if you were slicing a pizza into 8 pieces. Place the resulting triangles on a baking sheet, and bake at 375° for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. While the chips are crisping, brown 16 oz. of lean ground turkey in a pan with ½ cup of your favorite salsa.
  5. When chips are crisp, top with 1 cup of pinto beans.
  6. Distribute the turkey evenly over the beans.
  7. Cover turkey with 1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese made with 2% milk (you’ll find this cheese at almost any grocery store).
  8. Top with chopped cilantro, green onions, and jalapeños.
  9. Serve with salsa and fat-free sour cream.
  10. Enjoy the game while staying on track with your commitment to lose weight.


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5 Tips for Keeping This Year’s Resolutions!

If, like many people, you follow the January ritual of making new year’s resolutions—and then are stung by the lack of success you have in keeping them—here are 5 tips for making 2015 the year you get things right! These tips are taken from a blog I did on the subject early last year, and I received so many thank you’s and comments about these that I thought I should share them again.

1. Choose Realistic Goals.

This might seem obvious, but many of us trip over this very first step. If you’re of a certain age and saw the recent photo of Christie Brinkley at 60 on the cover of People magazine, and then resolved to look just like her—you’ve already set yourself up for failure. [Last January, Christie appeared in a one-piece swimsuit on the cover of People and looked incredible for her age—well, really, for any age. As luck would have it, just a few days ago, buzz erupted once again on the internet when Christie posted photos of herself in a bikini on Instagram during a family vacation in Turks & Caicos. Once again, she looked amazing!] If you’ve pledged to strike it rich this year, and given yourself just a year to do it in, you’ve already stacked the deck against yourself. Losing weight or making more money are both perfectly realistic goals, but becoming a supermodel (even an older one) or the next Bill Gates is a tad overly ambitious—at least in the short term. Keep your goals realistic, then take the next step.

2. Define Your Goals.

Again, if weight loss is your goal, saying that you’re going to lose weight is not enough. Take a serious, honest look at yourself and come up with an estimate of how much weight you want to lose this year. Write down that figure for yourself. If making more money is your goal, how much? What is a realistic figure to shoot for this year? Write it down. Whatever your goal is, make it concrete and measurable. This way you’ll know what your real goal is; how you’re doing along the way; and whether you’ve reached it by the end of your effort.

3. Develop Your Strategy.

So far you’ve been honing in on your goals. This is when you get to the nitty-gritty. What exactly do you need to do to reach your realistic, well-defined goals? If you’re trying to lose weight, just contact California Chef and they’ll take care of the rest. Just kidding! I didn’t come all this way just to give myself a plug. But, on the other hand, this is a real strategy. We’ll calculate your calories, measure out your proteins/carbs/healthy fats portions, make your meals to your taste specifications, and delivery them to your home. You just heat and eat.

But whether you call on us for help, or go it alone, you need a specific strategy for how you’re going to eat the correct foods in the correct quantities to meet your goal. Be sure to include a realistic exercise component as well, since this will hasten your weight loss. And come up with a schedule for all of the above.

If you’re going to make your own meals, allocate the time you’ll need to research what’s appropriate, shop for the proper ingredients, and prepare your healthy choices. Mark on your calendar or app or however you keep your schedule the exact times you’re going to exercise, whether that’s taking walks at your lunch breaks, taking classes at your fitness facility, or taking the time to burn some calories at home. Keep track of how things are going. If you find you’re not really able to get to your spin class on Tuesdays because of the new Team Meeting at work, or your lunchtime walk buddies come up with too many detours to the neighborhood cupcake shop, make some changes. Your successful strategy is not set in stone; it is a work in progress. If something is not working, make the effort to fix it. Don’t just let your goals fizzle away by not keeping track of your progress and adjusting your efforts as needed.

4. Don’t Get Discouraged by Setbacks.

The road to success is almost never a straight line. Although you should work diligently to keep to your strategy and schedule, don’t be surprised if you goof things up once in a while. You’re not perfect, and you’re likely to hit some roadblocks on your way to your goal. Don’t let this discourage you! If you stumble, figure out what tripped you up, and come up with a tweak to your strategy to avoid such a misstep in the future. Your goal is not to be perfect, but to be better. I even know people who switch calendars in February just to get themselves back on track;)

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Some—if not most—worthwhile goals are best achieved with some assistance. If you’re trying to quit smoking, tell all your smoking buddies, and ask for their assistance in keeping you on the straight and narrow if you feel yourself looking to light up. Exercising, on the other hand, is a classic positive activity that is easier to stick with if you’re doing it with someone else—or a group of someone elses. If you know so and so will be expecting you at the gym, or at walk time, or at Pilates class, you’ll be more motivated to show up—even on those occasions when you’re not looking all that forward to doing so.

And if your goal is really something so important to you that you’re willing to make the effort outlined above to achieve it, share your goal with the people in your life that matter most. During tough times, they can be there to encourage you to struggle through, and just opening up to them about why your goal is important to you and why you’re determined to achieve it will make you more accountable to the person who should really matter most to you—yourself!

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