The 5 Most Popular Private Chef Recipes that Clients Love

healthy Caesar Salad, vegan caesar salad, dairy free caesar recipe, dairy free caesar dressing

We thought it’d be fun to give you a peek into how we plan menus as private chefs.  Whether you are curious about what our recipes look like or are a current client and want to know what other clients are eating, we’ve got some tasty ideas for you here.   

Whenever we start working with a new private chef client, we always find out as much about their dietary likes, dislikes and preferences as we can.  The most common things we see are gluten free, dairy free, grain free, nightshade free, sugar free, dairy free (vegan), nut free (any so many other unique nutritional needs). 

We also like to know what’s going on with our clients' health, so that we can focus on ingredients that are going to help them the most.  We’ll alter our favourite recipes or come up with new recipes for anyone that has food allergies, sensitivities, or a long list of foods that they are trying to omit from their diet.   Yes, this means, you can usually find us with our heads buried in cookbooks (and food blogs) to find new ideas and inspiration!

While everyone's menu is unique and different every week, we have found that there are many recipes that are really popular and repeated on menus more often than other recipes, because everyone loves them so much.

We’ll let you in on some of our most popular private chef recipes for omnivores, vegans, and everyone in between.  And, we’ll even give you one of the recipes, so read through to the end!  And, if you love the sound of everything, but need some help with cooking, let us know.
 

The Top 5 Most Popular Recipes:

1. Kale and Romaine “Caesar” Salad

We love creating interesting salads, especially when using local, in season ingredients to inspire the combination of veggies (sometimes they are raw and sometimes we roast veggies in the colder months to make more comforting salads).   But, no matter how many interesting salads we’ve made, this classic “Caesar” salad is well loved by all.

We make this creamy salad dressing with cashews as the base, so it's completely dairy free.  But, we also have many variations that don’t use cashews, in case you can’t eat them (hempseeds and macadamia nuts make a wonderful dressing).

We love adding some other special ingredients into this salad, such as homemade croutons (made from gluten free bread of sprouted bread), coconut crisps, or “cheese” made out of hempseeds and nutritional yeast.

 

2. Tahini Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Pinenuts and Fresh Herbs

Hands down, this is one of our favourite all time dishes.  Cauliflower and tahini, two of our most loved ingredients.  We love tahini so much that we use it in everything from breakfast recipes to dessert recipes and everything in between.  Have no fear, if you don’t like tahini, we would never put it on your menu!

Roasted cauliflower is absolutely delicious, slightly crisp on the outside, soft inside and infused with the flavours of olive oil, garlic, and sea salt.  The tahini lemon sauce is vegan and makes this dish more substantial, especially with the addition of toasted pinenuts.

 

3. Black Bean and Rice Bowl w/ Roasted Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes and Avocado

black bean bowl, black bean tex mex bowl, private chef Toronto, personal chef Toronto, holistic private chef

This is one of the most popular vegan meals that we prepare, packed with flavour and yet flexible (so we can always swap out veggies that you don’t like and add in different vegetable options).  

One of the things that we keep in mind when planning vegan or vegetarian menus is the importance of including a wide array of plant based sources of proteins on the menu.  We know this can be a challenge and it can take time to prepare interesting vegetarian meals, especially if you get tired of eating boring salads and don’t want to depend on tofu as your protein.

Because we love this recipe so much, we are going to share it with you below! And, an important note if you don’t eat beans or grains.  You can use our recipe-modifying skills and change this recipe to work for you.  Omit the brown rice and black beans.  Instead, use some chicken as your protein and add in finely chopped cauliflower “rice.”

 

4. Fresh Herb Salmon Grain-Free Burgers

We have found that many of our clients feel better when they eat a grain-free diet (we also work with lots of people who still eat grains and love them).  If you’ve ever struggled with figuring out how to prepare a plethora of grain free meals, the secret is to focus on vegetables.  There are so many wonderful and varied veggies, so it becomes a lot easier to plan a grain-free menu when you think about amping up the veggies and focus on complex, interesting vegetable side dishes instead of thinking about how to replace grain based dishes.  So many of the main dishes that we prepare are inherently grain free, so we focus on creating more interesting mains that highlight beautiful ingredients instead of relying on things like pasta and rice based mains.  

These salmon burgers are loved by adults and kids.  We use almond flour in them instead of a grain.  We also use mashed sweet potato to help keep the burgers together.  However, we also have versions of this recipe that are almond-free and sweet potato-free, in case you can’t eat those ingredients!  

 

5. Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

almond flour chocolate chip cookies, gluten free, grain free cookies, private chef Toronto, healthy private chef Toronto

Although many of our clients follow a low-sugar diet, everyone loves dessert.  Some of our clients get more dessert and snack items prepared than others.  Since everyone’s menu is personalized, we usually focus on preparing lots of main and side dishes, but sometimes we make more snack, dessert and even breakfast items on a menu.

These chocolate chip cookies are grain free and refined sugar-free, sweetened with maple syrup.  They can be made with eggs or absolutely no eggs, depending on what you’re able to eat. We even have a variation of this recipe that incorporates in oats.  And, we have cookie recipes that are made with tahini instead of almond flour (those are quickly becoming one of the most popular recipes).

 

And, now for the recipe:

Black Bean and Rice Bowl with Roasted Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes, Avocado and Organic Corn

Let us know if you end up making it or make your own variation of the recipe. We’d love to hear from you and see a photo of your meal if you post it on social media platforms, be sure to tag us @livingkitchenco so we can see it!

And, if you need help with cooking, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Ingredients:
1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed off
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp garlic powder
Dash of tamari
Olive oil

½ cup brown rice

1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small box cherry tomatoes
1 ear of organic corn

¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 avocado, sliced

Directions:

  1. Cook the brown rice with 1 cup water in a small pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, cover and cook on low for 35 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice is fluffy.

  2. Chop garlic and white ends off of the asparagus.  Place asparagus, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil on baking sheet (leave asparagus on one side of the baking sheet and the cherry tomatoes on the other side)- roast at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until cooked.

  3. Steam the corn in a pot with a little bit of water for 5 minutes.  Cool down under cold water. Then cut off the cob.

  4. Drain and rinse the black beans. Saute the black beans in a pan with the spices, olive oil and dash of tamari.

  5. Chop the cilantro.  

  6. Toss cilantro together with corn and the cooked cherry tomatoes and lime juice.

  7. In a bowl: place the cooked rice and beans.  Add corn and cherry tomato mixture.  Add the asparagus.

  8. Add avocado on top along with with a handful of fresh cilantro. Yum!

Cherry Coconut Smoothie and Why You Should Eat Cherries

cherries, cherry, summer fruit, berries, cherry bowl

We're absolutely lovin' cherry season this year, especially since it's for such a short time, it feels extra special.  Cherries are one of the best fruits to pack for snacks during the work day, on road trips, on camping trips, and even on plane rides, because they are strong enough to stand the heat and are less likely to get crushed than softer berries and nectarines or peaches. 

The rich and bright colour of cherries is caused by a type of flavanoids called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties and studies have found that cherries even have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries also naturally contain melatonin, so they are a good food to eat later in the day or for dessert in the evening as they are sleep supportive. 

Another reason why we recommend eating cherries instead of sweeter fruits, such as banana and tropical fruits, is because they are low glycemic and low in sugar.  Many of our clients that are dealing with cancer choose to follow a diet that is low in sugar and avoid eating desserts, baked goods and refined carbohydrates.  Studies have found that consuming sugar interferes with the function of the immune system, so if your body is compromised and dealing with a disease or even a cold, we recommend avoiding sugar and choosing very low-sugar fruits like cherries and berries (raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are all great options as well). You'll still get to enjoy these delicious fruits while at the same time get the benefit of their antioxidant and vitamin content. 

We've added some healthy whole-food fats into this smoothie, avocado and hempseeds.  These will keep you feeling full for longer, as well as provide anti-inflammatory omega 3s. 

 

Cherry Coconut Smoothie

1 cup cherries
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup coconut water
2 Tbsp hempseeds (or add vegan protein powder instead)
2 Tbsp avocado (or you can add more, if you like)

Directions:
1. Rinse off the cherries well and remove the pits.  This part can be a little time intensive, but it's worth it!  There are two ways to do this- Option 1: We cut away as much of the cherry as we can from the pit. Option 2: We poke something into the center of the cherry (like a chopstick) to make a small whole and pull the pit out.

2. Then combine all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.

cherry smoothie, cherry coconut smoothie

 

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24811821
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.meir-ez.medlcp.tau.ac.il/pubmed/28274450
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.meir-ez.medlcp.tau.ac.il/pubmed/26005400
https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.meir-ez.medlcp.tau.ac.il/pubmed/23480341

Our Top 5 Favourite Snacks

One of the most creative and fun parts of our job is to create menus for our clients.  When working with dietary sensitivities and allergies, we have to be more creative than usual because we often need to avoid using common ingredients.  Avoiding dairy and gluten is our jam.  It’s basically our “normal” and there’s never a moment of hesitation when it comes time to plan a gluten and dairy free menu.  But, those aren’t the only ingredients that we work without.  Many of our clients also avoid eating sugar (and sometimes even healthy sweeteners, like maple syrup and honey).  And, some of them are taking a break from eating grains.  Some of them are vegan, so no eggs or other animal ingredients allowed.  Or, no nightshades. There are a lot of other foods that clients need to avoid and often come to us with their food sensitivity test results.  No matter how many limitations, we’ll always get creative with planning a menu for each client we work with.

Sometimes though, we also like to recommend good products to our clients.  And, quick, easy snacks that they can carry with them and eat on the go or in between meals.  

Here, we’ll share our top 5 favourite snacks, some of which happen to be local Canadian based brands or our recipes that we actually prepare for our clients.


1. Kale Chips

We’re sure you’ve seen kale chips everywhere, as they have quickly gained popularity.   The only downside is that they tend to crumble and break easily.  If you are bringing kale chips along for the day, we recommend packing them in a container instead of a bag.  Make sure to read the label when you pick up a bag of kale chips to avoid any sweeteners or specific ingredients that you might be sensitive to.  Kale is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which we always recommend that you eat because these veggies specifically support the liver and help with detoxification. Many studies have looked into kale (and other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower) and its link with cancer prevention, due its high content of antioxidants that can help protect cells from stress and damage.


2. Homemade Guacamole and Veggies for Dipping

Although there are so many guacamole recipes out there, we usually end up whipping up the easiest version of this classic dip to save time.  Avocadoes help your body properly absorb carotenoids (the orange-yellow pigment found in orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes).  Carotenoids are a type of antioxidant that help protect your cells from damage, and your body is able to absorb and utilize them better when eaten with some healthy fat.  Avocadoes are known for their high content of monounsaturated fat, especially oleic acid, which is linked with supporting heart health and reducing inflammation.

 

Easy Guacamole:

1 large ripe avocado (or 2 smaller ones)
Pinch of sea salt (add to taste)
1 small clove garlic, minced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
½ of a lime, juiced

Serve with:
2 carrots, chopped in sticks
2 stalks of celery, chopped in sticks
1 cucumber, chopped in sticks

Directions:

  1. Slice the avocado through the center.  Carefully remove the pit.

  2. Scoop out the inside of the inside of the avocado.

  3. Chop the cilantro and mince the garlic.

  4. Mix together the guacamole ingredients and mash together in a bowl.

  5. Serve with  chopped veggie sticks.

 

3. Dates and Nuts (or Nut Butter)

Dates are packed with many minerals, such as potassium and magnesium, and are one of the best energy boosting foods you can eat.  They are great as a mid-afternoon pick me up, especially paired with nuts or nut butter to ensure you get some protein and healthy fat as well to keep you energized for longer.  Although dates are sweet, studies have found that they do not raise blood sugar levels as quickly as other types of sweets. And, studies have also found that dates have antioxidant properties, so they can actually help keep your cells healthy.


4. Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas are one of our favourite snacks because they’re a great option if you need something savoury and can’t eat a lot of sweet things. Whether you’re doing a sugar detox, candida cleanse, healing your digestive system, balancing hormones or are going through cancer, it can be challenging to find snacks that are not sweet.  It’s always easy to find muffins, cookies, and even granola bars, but they are all sweet.  So, we are quite excited about roasted chickpeas!  You can now find packaged roasted chickpeas at most grocery stores.  Just make sure to read the ingredients and check to see that they are made with real food and don’t contain any artificial flavourings, yeast, or other items that you don’t recognize.  Chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber, which helps keep your blood sugar and energy stable throughout the day.  And, if you want to make your own roasted chickpeas, here’s one of our recipes:

Roasted Chickpeas

1 small can of chickpeas
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.

  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

  3. If the chickpeas are wet, dry them off as much as possible with a clean dish towel.  They will roast better if they have less moisture on them.  

  4. Toss the chickpeas together with all of the spices and olive oil, ensuring they are coated well.

  5. Spread the out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

  6. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes or until the chickpeas are crisp on the outside.

  7. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy.

  8. Store them in a closed paper bag on the counter to keep them crisp.


5. Nud Fud Crackers

We love Nud Fud crackers (not only because we went to nutrition school with Julia, the founder) because they are grain-free, paleo and vegan.  They are made with really simple, but nutritionally dense, ingredients.  For example, the Goji Chia Banana Crisps are made with banana, sesame seeds, coconut, goji berries and chia seeds.  They also make some savory flavours as well, so if you can’t eat banana or sweets, then there are still delicious choices.  Sesame seeds provide healthy fat and protein, and are also one of the best sources of calcium that we recommend to our clients.  We haven’t found a ton of snacks that contain sesame seeds, so these crackers are a great option, especially if you don’t eat nuts.

For more information you can visit their website: Nud Fud  

If you don’t have access to these crackers, look for a similar type of product made by another brand.  Look for crackers made from seeds, such as flax seeds and chia seeds, as they are high in fiber and tend to also include other nutritionally dense ingredients.

 

Need Help?

If you want more homemade snacks, but don’t have the time to cook or just hate cooking, we can help.  Our private chefs can prepare customized snacks and meals that are made fresh for you!




References:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf901559a

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996910002243

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124081178000106

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23587027

What's the Deal with Xylitol?

written by Jessica Tilley

xylitol, sweetener, sugar, maple syrup, honey, nutrition

There is sugar in almost every processed product that we buy. Even in the organic, “healthy” stuff, there’s still some form of it.  On average, a person in North America consumes 32g of sugar daily and it is causes so many health issues that most people are not aware of. Ingesting this large amount of sugar damages the liver, increases insulin levels (which can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances) and can cause an imbalance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.  Besides that, sugar also negatively impacts the immune system and your body’s ability to defend itself from illness.

There are, however, much healthier substitutes that could be used instead of white sugar that won’t cause the same negative effects.  Maple syrup and honey are popular choices- however they will still raise your blood sugar and be broken down into glucose in your body like refined sugar, however they still contain other nutrients, such as minerals.   Another lesser known option is xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is derived from plants such as berries, corn and birch. It is lower in calories than sugar but delivers the same level of sweetness. It also is absorbed more gradually so it won’t spike insulin levels.   

We’ve been curious about xylitol and whether it is a safe alternative to using sugar, maple syrup and honey in sweet recipes.

Studies have shown that consuming xylitol benefits your dental health- some dentists recommend chewing gum that contains xylitol to combat tooth decay and the growth of plaque causing bacteria. There are also studies that show this sugar substitute also helps with the absorption of calcium, and reduces the acidity level of saliva in our mouths.  Xylitol is not used by the bad bacteria in your gut (they feed on glucose, which can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria).  Xylitol is very easily substituted in any baking, or really any recipe that contains sugar.

However, we do have our concerns with xylitol.  This substance is highly toxic to dogs, even the smallest amount can result in liver failure.  In humans, although it is not as common, it can cause some digestive discomfort. Sugar alcohols draw water into the gut and if it stays there for a while can start to ferment, causing gas and bloating.

 

So, what’s the conclusion?

We would stay away from xylitol if you are managing or recovering from a digestive illness or know that you have a sensitive digestive system.  If you do use xylitol, we would use it in small amounts (same rule as we apply to other sweet things).  We’d also recommend trying out stevia instead, if you need a completely glucose-free sweetener option.  

 

Resources:

Daniluk, J. (n.d.). Life After Sugar: A Guide to Alternative Sweeteners . Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://juliedaniluk.com/food-facts/life-after-sugar-a-guide-to-alternative-sweeteners.html?highlight=WyJzd2VldGVuZXJzIl0

Gunnars , K. (2016, August 18). Xylitol: Everything You Need to Know (Literally). Retrieved April 14, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/xylitol-101/

Mercola, Dr. (n.d.). What Happens in Your Body When You Eat Too Much Sugar? Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sugar-side-effects.aspx

Turmeric Recipe Round Up!

Turmeric is a bright orange spice that is a part of the ginger family.  This spice has been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years and has gained mainstream popularity in the last few years.

Turmeric has medicinal properties to help combat digestive disorders, liver problems, skin diseases, wounds, parasites and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, immunostimulant, and antiseptic properties.

One thing to note is that cancer, heart disease, and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's are linked to chronic inflammation.  Inflammation and cancer are closely related in the sense that inflammation in the body can increase risk of cancer development.

Turmeric in the diet can prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells since curcumin, a component in turmeric, interferes with the DNA  of cancer cells preventing them from growing and instead potentially causing these mutated cells to die.  Turmeric prevents angiogenesis, a process that creates new blood vessels, which can form tumours and cancer cells.

Lastly, turmeric has antioxidant properties that can remove and repair damage to the cells that are caused by free radicals.  Free radicals are created through exposure to pollution and stress and wreak havoc on healthy cells.   

There are many ways to incorporate turmeric in the diet.  Here are some recipes we’ve developed that are delicious and contain turmeric.  We have a turmeric breakfast bowl, coconut turmeric chickpeas, and a turmeric latte.  The links are below!

Turmeric Breakfast Bowl

 

 

Resources

Love, D. S. (2017, 04 16). Turmeric and Cancer: 5 Ways Turmeric Can Help Prevent Cancer. Retrieved from TTAC: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/turmeric-can-prevent-cancer/?gl=582840323

University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2017, 04 16). Turmeric. Retrieved from www.umm.edu: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric

Vegan Spelt Flour Apple Pie

written by Jessica Tilley

vegan spelt flour apple pie recipe, holistic nutrition, Toronto

We’ve created this recipe based on the traditional apple pie, with all the familiar flavours, but put a healthy twist on it!  Don’t worry though… unless you tell everyone it’s healthy, they’ll never guess. It’s delicious and sweet and the crust is super flakey. Our pie is naturally sweetened with maple syrup and the apples, instead of white processed sugar, so you'll support your blood sugar balance and immune system when eating this dessert.

In this recipe, we use spelt flour for the crust. Spelt flour is better tolerated than wheat flour for those with gluten sensitivities. Although we don't tend to count calories as holistic nutritionists, we think it's interesting that spelt flour is lower in calories (254 vs 728) than white flour, as wel as lower in carbs (52 vs 152) and higher in fiber (8 vs 6).

We also switched out traditional butter for coconut oil, to make this recipe vegan and dairy free. Coconut oil is a great source of healthy fat; it is actually considered saturated fat… but not the kind that is bad for your health. The saturated fat that is found in coconut oil consists of HDL’s (high-density lipoproteins), which convert the bad cholesterol (LDL) into the healthier form of cholesterol. There are also studies that show coconut oil might help to prevent inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

 

Vegan Apple Pie

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

                                            
Crust:
2 cups whole wheat spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup coconut oil, cubed
3 tbsp cold water
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
 

Filling:
9 apples, cored and thinly sliced (empires worked well for us)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp whole wheat spelt flour
¼ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp + 1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions:
Crust:

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and cinnamon. Add the cold, cubed coconut oil into the dry ingredients and combine until the mixture is a crumbly texture.

2. Combine together the water and maple syrup. Make a well in the flour and pour the wet into the dry. Mix until dough comes together.

3 Refrigerate dough while you make the filling
 

Filling:
4. Wash the apples. Core and remove the skin from the apples. Using a mandolin, thinly slice the apples.

5. Toss the apples in the cinnamon, flour, salt and 3 tbsp of maple syrup. Set aside while you roll out the dough.

6. Sprinkle flour over your working surface, and the top of the dough.

7. Cut 1/3 of the dough off for the top of the pie. Roll both pieces of dough to be ¼ inch thick. Press the bigger piece into the pie pan and poke holes in the bottom.

8. Fill the crust with the apple-filling, making it as level as possible. Add little chunks of coconut oil and drizzle with 1 tsp of maple syrup. Top with excess dough in any design that is desired.

9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until dough is golden brown.



Resources:
Axe, J., Dr. (2017, March). 20 Coconut Oil Benefits (#5 is Life-Saving). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from https://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/

D. (2014, November 26). Pumpkin Apple Pie | Minimalist Baker Recipes. Retrieved April 07, 2017, from http://minimalistbaker.com/pumpkin-spiced-apple-pie/

Nutritional info of: Spelt vs White flour. (2012). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://skipthepie.org/cereal-grains-and-pasta/spelt-cooked/compared-to/wheat-flour-white-all-purpose-enriched-calcium-fortified/