5 Ingredients to Add Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Feast!

At first glance, the typical Thanksgiving feast appears to be a healthy, balanced meal. There’s the lean protein (turkey), the healthy carb (potatoes), and of course, some fruit (cranberry sauce) and veggies (maybe green beans). However, by the time all the butter, sugar, and marshmallows are added, healthy has left the building. But flavorful doesn’t have to equate to fat and sugar. If you’re trying to keep it healthy this Thanksgiving, here are 5 ingredients to make sure you have on hand, and a few ideas on how to use them.

1. Oranges: They’re the color of the season, and a great way to sweeten your sides!

  • Instead of slathering butter on your vegetables, squeeze a fresh orange over them. Veggies like green beans, butternut squash, carrots, and broccoli will all taste great. Grate some zest on top as the finishing touch.
  • Cut down on sugar by adding a little orange juice and diced oranges to your cranberry sauce.
  • Grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa also taste delicious with some squeezed orange juice instead of added oil or butter.
  • Use orange garnishes for your serving trays, or add orange slices to your water glasses.

2. Cinnamon: Having the aroma of cinnamon in your home is reason enough to use it!

  • You won’t even miss the marshmallows when you whisk some cinnamon into your mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Toss some cinnamon in with your carrots and butternut squash to enhance the natural sweetness of your vegetables without having to add brown sugar.
  • You can cut down on cream and sugar if you brew cinnamon in your coffee (cinnamon sticks make great stirrers).
  • Sprinkle a little on top of the whipped cream on desserts.

 3. Ginger: A little ginger can provide a lot of flavor. When your food is flavorful, you’ll find you don’t need to add as much butter, oil, sugar, or salt. You can use minced fresh ginger or powdered ginger.

  • Spice up your turkey gravy with a little ginger.
  • Kick-up your carbs like mashed sweet potatoes or any grain.
  • They’ll be craving your cranberry sauce with ginger.

 4. Roasted Garlic: Roasted garlic actually has a creamy texture similar to butter. So think about using it in a dish where you may substitute it for butter, or at least part of the butter. Some possibilities are adding it to mashed potatoes, any vegetable, stuffing, or grain. You can even spread it on bread!

 5. Sage: Dried sage leaves have a smoky flavor similar to bacon—without all the fat! You can add these to stuffing, mushrooms, gravy, and roasted potatoes with adding no significant calories.

Best of all, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one of the above ingredients per dish. Try combining them and see which ones you prefer together. Have fun experimenting and have a happy Thanksgiving!


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Happy 10-Year Anniversary, California Chef! Now What?

As I wrote in my last blog, this month marks the 10-year anniversary of California Chef! Getting here has been an exciting, challenging, and highly rewarding journey, but as we look back on the ride, we’re also planning for the road ahead. So here I share my thoughts on transitioning from reaching one milestone to setting course for the next.

I still love what I do! Although running California Chef has been the most demanding professional challenge I’ve ever taken on, I still love it. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we have the strongest team in place that we’ve ever assembled. Everyone here is dedicated to doing their very best every day to ensure that our clients get exactly what they need to meet their dietary goals. I still love relaying to our entire staff the many calls and emails we get from satisfied clients detailing how we’ve improved their lives. In short, I still get a great feeling from helping people—be they celebrities, world-class athletes, high-flying executives, time-crunched moms, or simply hardworking Southern Californians like myself—improve the quality of their lives by taking the hassle out of eating right, the convenient, delicious, California Chef way!

We still have much to accomplish! Making it this far has been a wonderful accomplishment. Only 9% of all start-ups ever make it to Year 10, and we had the added challenge of struggling through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to get here. But there is much more to do. We want to broaden our network of doctors and other health professionals so that those patients that can substantially benefit from changes to their eating habits get the help they need to easily transition to a healthy diet that still tastes great! I’ve wanted to write my own cookbook for years, and still haven’t found the time to do so. That goal is moving up on my priority list this year! We want to inform even more people in the greater Los Angeles area that we are here to help them meet their dietary needs—whatever they might be—the convenient, delicious, California Chef way! We want to expand our philanthropic efforts to help put an end to hunger in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable communities!

I’m not too proud to ask for help! Even though we’ve come this far, we still operate on razor-thin margins that leave us scant resources to spread the word about our service. If you’re a current client who loves our service, please don’t be shy about telling your friends, family, and co-workers about the important changes we’ve helped you make in your life. If you’re a doctor or health professional just finding out about what we have to offer, please contact us to learn more about how we can work together to improve the health of your patients. If you’re a business looking for ways to help your employees improve their quality of life, ask us about workplace discounts we can offer to members of your team. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and want to try our service, click on the “Sign Up Now” tab at the top left of this page, mention this anniversary blog on your sign-up form, and we’ll give you a special anniversary discount! Even if you simply enjoy reading our blogs, please retweet them or share them with your Facebook friends. We thank all of you for your help!

Our staff and clients make all the difference! Everyone here on our team plays a critical role in making sure that the food we prepare is the best it can possibly be and the most appropriate for each individual client’s unique needs. Whether it’s painstakingly selecting the best ingredients, carefully planning menus that provide enticing flavors and interesting variety, applying just the right cooking technique to accentuate what each ingredient has to offer, or consistently providing timely delivery with a friendly smile, everyone here at California Chef does their best to offer the best to our clients. But if it wasn’t for our wonderful clients who appreciate the food we prepare and the results that we help them achieve, all of our work would be for naught. So I once again give heartfelt thanks to my staff for making their very best efforts, and to our clients for making every effort worth it! You have my word that I’ll do everything I can to make the next 10 years of California Chef even better!!!


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Happy 10-Year Anniversary, California Chef!

It is hard to believe that California Chef has been providing healthy, customized meal delivery for 10 years! Because we’re a local, family-run business that takes the time and effort needed to focus on the personal touch, sometimes it still feels like we’re a start-up. And, as California Chef reaches this major milestone, so many thoughts come to mind.

Wow, we’ve come a long way! When I started California Chef, on August 1, 2005, I was subletting a small space in a bakery and shared half of a refrigerator. California Chef was just me, and I did everything: developed recipes, shopped, cooked, cleaned, delivered, billed, responded to all customer emails and phone calls, created and revised web-site content, and devised and implemented all marketing efforts. And I didn’t even pay myself (or, more accurately, couldn’t even pay myself). Now, 10 years later, I employ a cadre of chefs, an administrative team, and a delivery crew. We operate out of a full kitchen, with a full office, and have multiple walls of refrigerator space. We’ve gone from providing our service to a handful of close-by clients to offering our service throughout the greater Los Angeles area: from Thousand Oaks to Palos Verdes, from Malibu to Pasadena!

I am proud of our work! Yes, our food is delicious, but because California Chef specializes in providing healthy meals, we have also helped thousands of people lose weight and enhance their wellness. Clients have thanked us for helping them significantly improve their cholesterol readings, lower their blood pressure, stabilize their blood sugar, decrease inflammation, recover from surgery, eat properly during pregnancy, maintain their strength and appetite while undergoing cancer treatments—and even finally fit back into their little black dresses.

We have done some fun things! We’ve had the pleasure of cooking for iconic celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson and Billy Crystal, numerous other movie and TV stars, professional athletes, singers, song writers, fashion designers, producers, directors, video game creators, authors, . . . and the list goes on. We’ve cooked for a TV show, helped write a book, helped Dr. Phil get results for his book, taught nutrition to underprivileged youth, had an internet radio show, visited many companies in LA to talk about eating healthy, shopped farmers markets in many countries, and discovered delicious regional fare that inspired new recipes we use to make delicious, nutritious meals for our clients.

A lot of people helped us get here! When I started this business, I had lots of friends who donated their time to help me out in the kitchen. One of those friends, Lori Corbitt, became Employee Number 2. Shortly thereafter, my husband Michael took the plunge and became Employee Number 3. We have added many gifted employees since. It takes a certain type of person to work in an entrepreneurial food company, and I am grateful to the talented individuals who have taken on this challenge with me. I thank everyone who has been part of our team and has contributed to our success by working hard, adhering to the highest standards, improving our systems, being flexible, wearing numerous hats, and putting in many long hours. And I give thanks to every client who has ever ordered from California Chef, especially those who have stayed with us over many years!

At this time of reflection, I am also reminded of a special kindness shown to me by my mother-in-law, Halyna Macuk, 10 years ago. I didn’t ask for it, and we had never discussed a need for money, but out of the blue, she sent me a check that happened to be the exact amount I needed to finalize my start in this venture. That sweet, wonderful woman passed away last month, and in her memory, I will be making a donation to help some other woman with a dream start a business through KIVA.org.

To be continued . . .

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Kiwi: A Love Story. No, Seriously.

Before I ever lived in California, I visited here with my family when I was just a sophomore in high school in a little town in Maryland. We came out to spend some time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins who lived here, and then we all took an ambitious road trip together to a few of the major natural attractions of the great west, including Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. The visit was great and the road trip was awesome. The combo began my love affair with California, which led to my love affair with UCLA (where I enrolled after high school in order to get back to California), which led to my love affair with my amazing wife Denise, whom I met at UCLA before we even took our first freshman class together. But even before any of these major loves developed, that first California trip introduced me to another love that, while not as key to my life as the others, I’ve still enjoyed ever since: kiwi!

On the first day of our trip, my aunt made us a delicious lunch that started off with a fresh fruit salad that, among the obvious California bounty, also contained some exotic-looking, green-fleshed circles that I had never seen before. They had a lovely sweet-tart taste and appealing texture, and I was hooked. What I didn’t know then was what a healthy treat they are. Kiwis are one of the best sources of antioxidant vitamins available, packing a potent punch of Vitamin C and healthy helpings of Vitamins A and E. All three help protect our DNA against the threats posed by our encounters with pollution and toxins. In addition, Vitamin C helps fortify the collagen in our skin, Vitamin E helps with nerve function, and Vitamin A helps prevent the formation of cataracts. Kiwi is also a surprising source of omega-3 oils, with a single fruit yielding 32 milligrams!

If you’ve never had kiwi or need a refresher on how to pick good ones, look for the fuzzy brown fruit that looks like what we have pictured here. To check for ripeness, squeeze the fruit gently, and select those that yield a bit, but don’t feel soft or mushy. Reject those that have visible nicks or cracks. When you’ve brought home the ones you want, wash them, then peel them with a paring knife, cutting just deep enough to get below the thin brown skin. When peeled, the edible part of the fruit will reveal itself as uniformly green on the outside, with a white core in the center, surrounded by tiny seeds. You can eat everything but the fuzzy brown wrapper.

You can enjoy kiwi all by themselves, or slice or cube them up in fruit salads, or toss them into a yogurt with the berries of your choice. Obviously, you’ll come up with other fine uses on your own. But if you’re having kiwi for the first time, be careful: You might just fall in love.


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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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