Vegetarian Thanksgiving? No Problem!

Filed under: Cooking Tips,Holiday Foods , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 18, 2019

If you have vegetarian clients–or family or friends, for that matter–and you’re in charge of Thanksgiving, whether it’s a personal gathering or you’re catering, you may be smacking your forehead trying to figure out how to create a meal that’s not all about the turkey.

No worries. But, first a couple of ground rules your guests will appreciate. Let’s start with the whole premise of the meal: it’s celebrating a holiday with family and friends and making it your own–not about specific dishes. So, don’t be rigid in your thinking about what dishes you feel you have to make.

Second, if you’re going vegetarian or vegan, don’t try to make things taste like something else. As one chef friend of mine told me, “You’ll never see tofurky in my house.”

 

Many vegetarian and vegan people are used to composing courses much like non-vegetarians—a main course of protein, starch, and vegetable. But, the beauty of vegetarian courses is being able to focus on just one or two primary vegetables and back them up with flavors that enhance. Say, grilled eggplant with sauteed shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, and tomato jus with herbs.

Keep it simple. It’s very easy for cooks to combine so many vegetables on a plate that it gets messy in terms of flavor. Try a stuffed acorn squash with a simple vegetable medley or grain with bright flavors to contrast with the creamy, earthy, and sweet flavors of the squash. Stuffed vegetables are a hit for presentation and the combinations are endless.

You can’t miss by using what’s in season. This time of year, for Thanksgiving, it’s all about greens, root vegetables, pumpkins and squashes, wonderful citrus fruits, apples, pears, and persimmons. Instead of fake meats use grains to add flavor. Also, contrast textural elements of dishes to put them in the forefront rather than have a table full of side dishes. Stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, Swiss chard tamales, and parsnip au gratin are all dishes that can stand up proudly to any turduckin.

Many of these dishes above work well as main courses. Build around them with complementary Think salads made of greens with Gorgonzola, toasted hazelnuts, persimmon slices, cranberries, and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

And don’t skimp on the good stuff—rich cheeses, chestnuts, morels and chanterelles, even truffles for a splurge. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge in culinary treats.

For vegetarians, that could also mean a gorgeous puffy cheese soufflé as the meal’s centerpiece, or a truffle mac ‘n cheese, or an omelet roulade filled with spinach and roasted peppers. For vegans, it could be a root vegetable pot pie spiked with truffles, with a rich sauce made from root vegetable stock. Or consider sautéed or roasted vegetables snuggled rustically in phyllo packages—which have the additional benefit of being able to be made in advance and frozen before cooking. You can wrap each portion individually with a big fluffy knot of phyllo on top, and use olive oil instead of butter when cooking for vegans.

The idea boils down to having a holiday feast that highlights a few main dishes with side dishes and salads to complement them.

Here are some great cooking tips for making vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving dishes from my friend Susan Sbicca, a chef in San Diego:

  • Use flaxseed meal as a thickener for sauces and gravies.
  • Cashews make excellent cream and milk alternative.
  • Use mushroom stems, soy sauce or tamari and a touch of molasses for a hearty rich broth for gravy.
  • Use combinations of raw and cooked vegetables and grains for more flavor depth. Example:  quinoa or farro with matchstick cut carrots, marinated grated parsnip, julienned raw arugula and of course spinach
  • Keep close watch on the amount of oil used in recipes and vegetable marinades. Eggplant and portabella mushrooms (delicious hearty entrees) act like sponges. Use a combination of soy sauce or amino acids, good olive oil, a touch of lemon and vegetable stock to keep them moist but not fat bombs. (throw in a medjool date or two for deeper sweetness).
  • Stuffed vegetables are a hit for presentation and the combinations are endless.  Stuff baby pumpkins, acorn squash, patty pan squash etc.
  • Make salads interest using seasonal dried berries such as dried cranberrys and cherries.
  • Add more texture to a dish with seasonal nuts: walnuts and pecans.
  • Think about combining mashed foods: potatoes and parsnip,  butternut and pumpkin, yams and yellow potatoes.
  • Use medjool dates as sweeteners in recipes that call for sugars.

Are you making a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving meal? What are some of the dishes you’re presenting?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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We’re two weeks out from Thanksgiving and while we tend to focus on our own family celebrations, some industrious personal chefs may also have picked up a Thanksgiving catering gig. Whether you’re expert at managing your own expansive meal or you usually bring a dish or two to someone else who’s hosting, it can be a little daunting to create this big, über meaningful holiday meal for a client. Not only do you have to meet their expectations, but also those of their guests, who come with life experiences and expectations of their own traditions.

But you have a distinct advantage. As a personal chef you are expert in preparation and organization. And who is the best at both? Our own executive director, Candy Wallace. We thought we’d share again some of her best tips for streamlining Thanksgiving so you can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Let’s assume you’ve already done your client assessment, so you know what foods your client and their guests can eat or need to avoid before you planned your menu. And, let’s assume that if the meal needs to be vegetarian or vegan, you’ve got experience with creating delicious options that meet that criteria.

With that behind you, really, the biggest things to do are advanced planning and shopping along with mindful prep. And here’s where Candy can help, offering seven tips to make your Thanksgiving week easier:

  • Make turkey stock to be used in multiple dishes in advance of your event. Roast vegetables and purée in advance to have for a gravy base.
  • Measure and prepackage everything to be used in assembling your recipes. You’ve got that down, of course. Personal chefs are the experts in food packaging and meal storage for clients. But this time, use your skills to set up efficient and smooth assembly of components used to prepare the holiday meal your clients are looking forward to.
  • Are you baking cornbread? Then be sure to pre-measure all dry ingredients, then package and label them. Do the same with the wet ingredients.
  • If you’re making cranberry relish, again, pre-measure the berries, dried cherries, etc. and package and label them separately from the liquid components, which you’ll also package. Assemble the relish on the day of service.

  • Vegetables can take a lot of prep. So get that done ahead of time, including any blanching, shocking, and cooling so you can store them and make the recipes with little fuss on the day of the meal. Do the same with your herbs and spices–prep, measure, and store them. If you’re using the same herbs and spices for different dishes, separate them for each dish and mark them.
  • Clean and prep your bird ahead of time. If you’re dealing with a frozen turkey, be sure you give it enough time to thaw in the fridge. If you’re going to do a wet or dry brine, you’ll need to start that process within a couple of days of the holiday.
  • If space on the stove or in the oven is limited, identify the dishes that can be cooked in advance, frozen, and then reheated for the meal. Many pies–apple and pecan, for instance–can be made ahead of time, wrapped well, and frozen. So can stuffing and even mashed potatoes.

Working a day or even several days ahead will save you time, and keep you sane and strong on Thanksgiving and other holiday service. Hey, do it right and you will still be able to enjoy the day yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What dishes are on your Thanksgiving menu for clients? What tips can you share to make holiday catering more manageable?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Swiss Chard Pesto for Kids

Filed under: Business Strategies,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 4, 2019

We’ve written here periodically about teaching cooking classes for kids. Well, I was looking back at an old calendar and saw entries for classes I used to teach as a volunteer at Olivewood Gardens in National City, just south of San Diego. Olivewood Gardens is a non-profit oasis in a fairly low-income community, with organic gardens and a Queen Anne house outfitted with a kitchen where classes are taught to school kids. Olivewood Gardens is designed to help families learn where their food comes from and help them learn how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals. What’s taught at Olivewood is part of the school curriculum and kids come one or two times a year. On any given day there, I’d teach six, 25-minute classes to a group of about a dozen kids.

I thought I’d share my experience there as inspiration for some of you chefs who may also be interested in working with families on these issues and demonstrate how exciting and easy to develop recipes for and cook with children.

Back on that November morning the dish I decided to make with the kids, who were in the fourth and fifth grades, was a lavash pizza with garden veggies and Swiss chard pesto.


See, we had several criteria for our recipes — they needed to be nutritious, they needed to be able to be made and eaten in 25 minutes, they had to be something the kids could help prepare, and the ingredients had to include produce grown in the gardens. As we all know, with November the pickins are a little slim–even in Southern California. What did they have in abundance? Swiss chard. So, I played around with the pesto idea and came up with a recipe that tasted good and also would be fun for the kids to squirt out of a bottle and decorate their pizzas. Sort of a cooking/art project.

The kids, of course, were completely unfamiliar with lavash (and we discovered they also need help with geography since they had no clue about what countries make up the Middle East), but they were open to trying it. First came a layer of shredded mozzarella. Then they each added a rainbow of veggies that could include mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, jalapenos, grated carrots, sliced black olives, zucchini, and tomatillos. Then a little more cheese followed by squirts of the pesto.

Each square went into a 375-degree oven for about 13 minutes. I have to say they were delicious and the kids loved them.

Now, here’s the kicker. By the third class I was looking to change things up so when we were making the pesto I asked the kids if they wanted to add any other ingredients and see what would happen. They decided on a handful of chopped tomatillo and a few tablespoons of chopped chives. And, it was delicious! Even better than the original, plus the kids were thrilled that they had created a recipe.


Swiss Chard Pesto
Makes 2 cups

1 pound Swiss chard (or kale, spinach, or other leafy green)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon honey
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup or more olive oil
(feel free to add about 1/2 a cup of chopped raw tomatillo and 3 tablespoons of chopped chives)

Carefully wash the Swiss chard leaves. Remove the tough central ribs, then tear into smaller pieces.

Purée all the ingredients in the food processor or blender to form a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar, covered with a thin layer of oil, where it will keep for a week or more. It also freezes well.

Do you teach kids cooking classes? What kinds of recipes do you develop for them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Whole Foods’ 2020 Top 10 Food Trend Predictions

Filed under: Trends , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , October 28, 2019

At the end of every year, we try to publish food trends experts predictions for the coming year. This year we start with Whole Foods Market. Its global buyers and experts put together its fifth annual trends predictions that includes regenerative agriculture, West African foods, meat-plant blends and new varieties of flour.

The team that compiles the report is made up of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members who include local foragers, regional and global buyers and culinary experts based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and participating in food and wellness industry exhibitions worldwide.

Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2020:

Regenerative Agriculture

Farmers, producers, academics, government agencies, retailers and more are taking a closer look at how to use land and animal management practices to improve soil health and sequester carbon. While the term “regenerative agriculture” can have many definitions, in general it describes farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits, such as positively impacting climate change. You can help by seeking out brands that support regenerative practices.

Flour Power

As seasoned and amateur bakers alike look to scratch a creative itch in the kitchen, an array of interesting flours are entering the market making baking more inclusive and adventurous. Consumers on the baking bandwagon are seeking out ingredients used in traditional dishes, like teff flour used for Ethiopian injera. 2020 will bring more interesting fruit and vegetable flours (like banana!) into home pantries, with products like cauliflower flour in bulk and baking aisles, rather than already baked into crusts and snack products. Consumer packaged goods are getting in on the trend by replacing traditional alternative flours with tigernut flour in chips and snack foods, and tasty pastries made with seed flour blends. As consumers look for more ways to boost their bake, “super” flours delivering protein and fiber join the trend. Let the adventures in baking begin!

Foods from West Africa

From indigenous superfoods to rich, earthy dishes, traditional West African flavors are popping up everywhere in food and in beverage. The trio of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers form a base for many West African dishes, and peanuts, ginger and lemongrass are all common additions. The 16 nations within West Africa share similar foods, but each have their own specialties based on subtle influences from the Middle East and Western Europe. Brands are looking to West Africa for its superfoods too like moringa and tamarind, and lesser known cereal grains sorghum, fonio, teff and millet. Chefs like Pierre Thiam are embracing the region too. His new Harlem restaurant, Teranga, is an ode to African culture through food.

Out-of-the-Box, Into-the-Fridge Snacking

Life isn’t slowing down, but snack options are more than keeping up. The keyword is “fresh” in this new generation of grabbing and going—gone are the days when the only options were granola bars and mini pretzel bags. The refrigerated section is filling up with the kind of wholesome, fresh snacks typically prepared and portioned in advance at home: hard-boiled eggs with savory toppings, pickled vegetables, drinkable soups and mini dips and dippers of all kinds, all perfectly portioned and in convenient single-serve packaging. Even nutrition bars have made their way from the shelves to the chiller, thanks to the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables. These snacking innovations mean ingredients lists are shrinking and there’s a lot less guesswork in picking up a quick snack you can feel better about.

 

 

Plant-Based, Beyond Soy

Tofu scrambles may always have a place at the vegan breakfast table, but in 2020 the trendiest brands are slowing down on soy, which has traditionally dominated the plant-based protein space. Some of the products touting “no soy” in the next year will be replacing it instead with innovative blends (like grains and mung beans) to mimic the creamy textures of yogurts and other dairy products. In the supplement aisle, brands are swapping soy for mung bean, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed and golden chlorella, maintaining the smooth textures in vegan protein powders and bringing a spectrum of plant-based amino acids to the table. As the plant-based movement gains traction with flexitarian eaters, brands are looking to avoid as many of the top allergens as possible, so look for plant-based prepared foods (especially meat alternatives) and traditionally soy-based condiments going soy-less!

Everything Butters and Spreads

Has (insert nut, seed, snack) been made into a butter yet? It’s likely to happen in 2020. Think seed butters beyond tahini – like watermelon seed butter – and seasonal products like pumpkin butter year-round. Nut butters beyond cashew, almond, and peanut (hello, macadamia) and even chickpea butters (no, it’s not a new name for hummus). Look for creamy vegan spreads perfect for toast, crackers, bagels, and celery sticks that get their full flavors from trending superfoods like pili. It helps the trend that spreads and butters are touting paleo- and keto-friendly attributes, but transparency is also a key player in this trend. Many brands are looking to either eliminate the use of palm oil or promote a Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil certification and use nuts that are grown in ways with less likelihood for environmental impact.

Rethinking the Kids’ Menu

Are the days of picky eaters numbered? Judging from the number of kids’ cooking and baking competitions on TV, kids are kitchen-savvier than ever. By 2026, 80% of millennials will have children, and many parents are introducing their kids to more adventurous foods — with great results. (Seeing kids chowing down alongside parents at the Whole Foods Market sushi bar is a common sight.) Food brands are taking notice for the next generation – possibly our first true “foodies” – expanding the menu beyond nostalgic foods with better-for-you ingredients and organic chicken nuggets. They’re bridging the gap from old-school basic kids’ menus and taking more sophisticated younger palates into consideration. Think non-breaded salmon fish sticks. Foods that are fermented, spiced or rich in umami flavors. Colorful pastas in fun shapes made from alternative flours. Maybe it’s time adults start taking some cues from the kids’ menu.

Not-So-Simple Sugars

Sure, there’s sugar. But for those seeking sweetness outside of the usual suspects like sugar, stevia, honey and maple syrup, there’s lots more to choose from for your cooking, baking and tea- or coffee-stirring needs. Syrupy reductions from fruit sources like monk fruit, pomegranates, coconut and dates are one way to add concentrated, unique flavors into recipes for desserts, meat glazes and marinades. Sweet syrups made from starches like sorghum and sweet potato can be compared to the deep flavors of molasses or honey, and can be used for baking and sweetening beverages. Swerve, a cup-for-cup zero-calorie non-glycemic replacement for sugar, combines erythritol with ingredients from fruit and starchy root vegetables to produce a sweetener that’s available in granular, confectioners’ and brown versions.

Meat-Plant Blends

Butchers and meat brands won’t be left out of the “plant-based” craze in 2020, but they’re not going vegetarian. Chefs across the country have been on board with the trend for years through James Beard Foundation’s The Blended Burger Project, a movement that strives to make the iconic burger “better for customers and for the planet” by blending in at least 25% fresh mushrooms. For the health-conscious at-home chef, adding plant-based ingredients to meatballs and burgers has an added bonus – it’s budget-friendly! Major brands like Applegate are seeing if meat-eating consumers will swap a traditional beef burger for one with 30% plant-based ingredients, touting benefits of less fat and cholesterol when compared to USDA data for regular ground beef (check out Applegate’s website for nutritional comparison information). And other brands are taking note, too, with products like the Lika Plus Burger made using 75% ground beef blended with 25% Lika Plus (wheat, mushroom, barley yeast and water), showing up at meat counters in Whole Foods Market’s Southwest region. Flexitarians looking to strike a tasty balance between meats and plants can expect more blended products in their future.

Zero-Proof Drinks

With so many consumers seeking out alternatives to alcohol, unique non-alcoholic options are popping up everywhere, from menus at the world’s most acclaimed bars to specialty stores. Many of these beverages seek to re-create classic cocktail flavors using distilling methods typically reserved for alcohol, creating an alternative to liquor meant to be used with a mixer rather than a drink on its own. Think alt-gin for gin and tonics and botanical-infused faux spirits for a faux martini. Add to that options enjoyed straight from the bottle or can, like hops-infused sparkling waters and zero-proof apertifs, and you can be sure guests avoiding the bar cart will never get bored.

What trends above are you most intrigued by? What trends are you anticipating for 2020?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Over the years one thing I’ve learned from APPCA executive director Candy Wallace is how important client care is. By nature Candy is someone who is generous to others and loves surprising them with treats. But she’s also a smart businesswoman–and letting clients know how special they are to you is an important aspect of successfully running your business.

That’s why this time of year I like to offer ideas and recipes for edible gifts that you can make to give to clients for the holidays. Whether you make them or use them as inspiration for treasures you dream up, it should be a pleasure to offer a token of your appreciation you know your clients will enjoy, along with a sweet note that expresses that appreciation and your excitement about working with them in the coming year. And it’s also a smart gesture to make to potential clients you’re trying to win over.

The treat I’m offering you this week is something you can make now and store away for a couple of months. Pickles, of course, are a delight to many. These pickled watermelon gherkins are very special, if only because they’re so compellingly unusual. I got this recipe from my friend chef Kelli Crosson of A.R. Valentien in La Jolla, California, who I first made them with to give out at a big annual fall food event, Celebrate the Craft.

First, something about watermelon gherkins. These heirloom gherkins are known by numerous names, including Mouse Melons, Mexican sour gherkins, Cucamelons, and Cuka-Nuts. They’re treated as cucumbers, but technically they’re a different genus so they’re more like “honorary” cukes. They’re tiny, about the size of a grape, and look just like ultra-mini watermelons. They’re terrific for pickling, but you can enjoy them raw, add them to a salsa, or even to a cocktail. The question, of course, will be if you can find them in your city or town. If you have a specialty market that services restaurants, that would be the first place to look. And farmers markets, since farmers across the country do grow them. But hurry, as the weather co0ls, they’ll become harder to find this season.

Start, of course, with sterilized half-pint glass jars and lids. Then begin adding the herbs and spices. Slice and distribute the serrano chiles. Then add the little gherkins, followed by a classic pickle brine of water, distilled white vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt that has been brought to a boil.

(And if you’re a pickling geek, check out this stainless steel confectionary funnel I use to inject the water/vinegar mixture into the jars. It gives so much control with hot liquids!) Screw on the lids and place the jars into a water bath. Once they cool, label the jars and store in a cool, dark pantry until you’re ready to gift them.

Pickled Watermelon Gherkins are itty bitty flavor balls–crispy with a little saltiness, a hint of clove, and a pleasing hit of heat on the palate.

Pickled Watermelon Gherkins
from Kelli Crosson of A.R. Valentien

Makes 2 pints

1/2 pound watermelon gherkins, washed with stems removed
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 serrano chile, halved
4 garlic cloves
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1. Wash and sterilize two pint jars and lids, per manufacturer instructions.
2. In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, divide the serrano, garlic, clove, bay leaf, mustard seed, and peppercorns between the jars, and pack with the watermelon gherkins.
4. Pour hot brine over the gherkins, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.
5. Close the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
6. Store in a cool, dry, dark place for at least two weeks before eating the pickles. After opening, store in the refrigerator.

What do you make for clients–or potential clients–for the holidays? 

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Classic Filipino Adobo

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , October 14, 2019

I don’t know about your community, but in San Diego we are enjoying a boom of Filipino-American chefs who either are running Filipino restaurants or putting a Filipino flavor spin on fine dining restaurants. Back in 2018 I shared a recipe here from my friend Anthony Sinsay for his Mussels Adobo–one of my favorite dishes. He’s since moved on to Seattle, where he is the chef at Outlier.

 

Another chef friend, Evan Cruz, took the time a few years ago to introduce me to his family and their market, JNC Pinoy Food Mart. Here Cruz’s aunt Nora served me house-made pancit, a dish that revolves around thin rice-stick noodles tossed with pork, shrimp, and chicken. There was kare-kare, a rich mixture of thick peanut sauce, eggplant, and string beans. I enjoyed taro leaves cooked in coconut milk like spinach, classic lumpia—a Filipino spring roll stuffed with ground pork, beef, onion, carrots, celery, and water chestnuts—and crispy pork belly served with what’s called liver sauce. After all, this is a culture that uses everything from the animal. The pig’s innards are used to make a rich brown sauce.

Then Cruz’s grandmother, Rosario Cruz, showed me how to make a family and customer favorite, turon. This dessert version of lumpia is something you’d find as a mirienda, or snack, in the Philippines and is especially popular with kids. Cruz said the best ones are sold by vendors in front of elementary schools—like an ice cream truck. The dish is simple. Using a lumpia wrapper, which is just made of flour and water, you place slices of plantain or pear banana and jack fruit on the wrapper. Then sprinkle a good tablespoon of sugar over the slices. Fold the bottom of the wrapper over and tucked under the fruit and sugar. Roll, bring in the sides, moisten the top inside of the wrapper with a slurry of cornstarch and water so it will adhere to the rest of the wrapper, and finish rolling. Chill for a day, then fry in vegetable oil and finish in caramel. Easy. But let it cool so you won’t burn your tongue.

Cruz, whose grandmother taught him many of the dishes he grew up with, showed me how to make the classic Filipino adobo, with the caveat that everyone in every village throughout the Philippines makes it slightly differently. His adobo is what he calls “dry,” and features pork or chicken. He noted that anything that can be braised can be an adobo. Those living by the sea, like his maternal grandparents, tend to make it with octopus or squid. His paternal grandparents lived inland. The sauce ingredients are simple—soy sauce, distilled vinegar, water, bay leaves, garlic, black peppercorns, and canola oil. While others include onion, Cruz doesn’t. It’s not part of his family tradition.

Now, the polite way to eat adobo is over white rice. But Cruz laughed when he told me that he and his younger brother Marc always fought as kids over the way their dad prepared it—adding the rice to the finished adobo so that it could caramelize and get crispy. And, Cruz made it for me like that, too.

Some family traditions are universal.

Chicken or Pork Adobo
From Evan Cruz
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 pounds chicken , cut into 8 pieces or chicken wings
Or you can substitute cubed pork shoulder or belly
2 cups low sodium soy
2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
4 bay leaves
8 ounces garlic, peeled
2 ounces black peppercorns
2 ounces canola oil

Directions
In a large pot, add all ingredients except the canola oil and bring to a simmer. Cook for about and hour and a half or until the meat is tender. You can serve it as is or follow the next step.

Remove half the meat and continue to reduce liquid by half.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat add canola oil. Add meat and lightly sauté. Add reduced sauce and reduce until sauce glazes meat.

Serve with steamed white rice.

Have you ever tried or cooked Filipino food? What dishes are your or your clients’ favorites?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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This falls under the category of “there’s no proof but it just feels right:” Talented cooks love to share what they do. They are often innate teachers.

If I’m wrong, forgive me. But if you’re a personal chef and you find yourself instructing your kids or friends in the kitchen… well… And perhaps you should consider releasing that inner teacher to the world–and earn some money while doing it.

Not sure if this is your thing or if you’ve got game? Round up some friends for a cooking session and try it out. Then find an organization that could use a volunteer to teach kids cooking or teach adults in transition for housing. I’ve done both, bringing an understanding of how to cook low-cost but healthy meals, complete with recipes and it was very satisfying.

With that under your belt you could go in several directions.

APPCA member Shelbie Hafter Wassel of Shallots Personal Chef in Baltimore actually started teaching classes before she became a personal chef.

Shelbie Wassel

“This was years before social media,” she said. “I ran an ad in a local rag, taught a series of three ethnic cuisine classes. Years later, after joining the APPCA, I met a fellow chef here in Baltimore who was giving up her teaching gig at the community college and she suggested that I apply. The reality is that community colleges are dying to get instructors for adult Ed classes. Just contact them and offer your services. The pay isn’t great, but it can become a marketing tool for other jobs. I loved my students and found it rewarding!”

Angela Felice Cerezo of Amore Kitchen in San Diego teaches cooking classes for kids along with adults. “I do kids cooking camps because I used to be a school teacher,” she explained. “I include lessons in etiquette, nutrition, cleanliness, and more. I mostly teach Italian cooking classes.”

Perry E. McCown of Thyme is Precious in Roseland, California, is also interested in working with kids. “I am in the process of writing a plan to teach a group of kids (10 aging from 5 to 10) a few skills leading to a meal they can own and make for their families in the future. An educate and empower kids in the kitchen class. Probably a salad, dressing, pasta with chicken and a sauce… maybe cookies or a pie…”

Depending on your situation, you could teach from your home or a client’s. In fact, one of your personal chef services could include cooking class parties. Of course, you need to research your local jurisdiction to find out what the rules are.

And, while Amazon has effectively caused the closing of many local housewares shops, chains like Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma still offer cooking classes, which means they need teachers. Check those out, as well as any local shops in your area.

What should you charge? Wassel explained that it depends on the menu. “Unlike my PC clients who pay chef fee plus groceries, I usually charge a flat fee,” she said. “I think about my grocery bill and factor in my time and the amount of students. It also depends on my crowd. Are we talking homemade pizza for kids or a sophisticated menu for adults? Adding a wine pairing requires an expert (which I am not), so that’s another element.”

You could also research cooking classes in your area to learn the going rates and work backwards from there in terms of pricing your food and expenses, not to mention time.

For any of this you’ll need to market your new services. Tell your current clients. Tell your friends and family. Promote it on Facebook and other social media. Certainly set up a new page on your business website that outlines your class offerings. And as you start teaching, post lots of great photos.

Clearly, this isn’t a comprehensive guide to teaching cooking classes, but think of it as a way to turn on a light bulb in your head for launching a new business line. As we grow closer to a new year, you’ll want to be considering how you want to shake up your business and find additional ways to bring in income under your personal chef umbrella.

Do you teach cooking classes? How did you get started and how has it evolved?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Are clients still paying you by check? How is that working for you? It may actually be easier for you–and them–to use an electronic, or “e-payment,” solution. A client can use a credit or debit card if they prefer or, depending on the tool, the money owed to you can be deposited virtually immediately and securely and with less steps on your part to make the deposit–even if your bank or credit union allows you to make electronic check deposits using their mobile app.

No doubt you’re familiar with PayPal, Square, and Venmo but there are literally dozens of options with different fee schedules, security, and other services.

Recently Entrepreneur magazine published a piece with a slide show of 25 payment tools for small businesses. These tools include systems like Dwolla, Authorize.net, Braintree, and Stripe. The differences between them include global versus domestic payments, the ability to handle recurring payments, processing fees, device friendliness, loyalty programs, and tax calculation.

Time tracker software firm Clockify also has suggestions for payment tools specific to freelancers, which can translate, of course, to your personal chef business. They include Quickbooks Online, which facilitates online invoicing, and Google Pay, which combines and replaces the previously used Android Pay, Google Pay Send and Google Wallet.

According to Clockify, these are some issues to consider when choosing a payment tool:

  • Transaction fees: how much it charges for each transaction
  • Processing time: how much time it needs to process payments
  • Payment methods: does it support your preferred payment methods
  • Transfer limit: how much money can you receive at once

You also obviously want to do thorough research on those tools that look the most appealing to you. The biggest risk is that you hook up with a less-than-savory service. A company like Payza, which was charged with money laundering and fraud in 2018, is clearly one to avoid.

And, remember, the best payment system for you also has to be the best for your clients.

How do you invoice and collect payment from clients? Do you use an e-payment solution?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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This time of year I wish I lived in New Mexico–and for one very specific reason. It’s Hatch chile season. This year Labor Day barely passed when I came across them at my local Sprouts. I also see them at farmers markets and more conventional supermarkets. I assume that across the country they make a play as well. Don’t ignore them. Scoop up a couple of pounds of these long, firm green chiles and head back to your kitchen or your client’s kitchen to roast them.

I wish I could tell you I had some fantastic hand-cranked fire-roasting contraption that you see at the farmers markets. Nope. It’s just the chiles, heavy cookie sheets, and the oven broiler. There’s no special trick to it. Just line them up in a single layer and fire them up. Let your nose tell you when they’re ready to be turned–once–and then removed from the oven. You’ll get the distinctive aroma of burning chiles and, indeed, they should be well charred.

Then it’s time to gather them into plastic or paper bags, close the opening, and let them steam for about 10 to 15 minutes. This helps loosen the thick skin from the flesh. Then peel off the skin, remove the stem and seeds, and chop or slice them. I bag what I don’t use immediately and put them in the freezer, so I have them to use the rest of the year. Which means I’ll be heading back out to Sprouts again soon to stock up.

You could rightly ask at this point, “What’s the big deal about Hatch chiles?” Clearly, there’s some superb marketing going on. The chiles, known as Big Jims, are grown in one region, the Hatch Valley, along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, although it’s also an umbrella term for the green chiles grown throughout New Mexico. Maybe it’s the elevation that makes them so distinctive; maybe it’s the volcanic soil. Or the hot days and cool evenings. Or the combination of all three, plus its short August/September season. Anaheim chiles are descendants of the Hatch chiles, but Anaheims don’t have nearly the allure or the uniquely sweet, smoky, earthy scent and flavor. You can learn more about Hatch chiles in this Bon Appetit article.

Traditionally, your prepped Hatch chile can go into posoles and enchiladas. I have long used them in a pork stew, corn bread, and tomato sauces. They can run from mild to hot, so gauge your accompanying ingredients accordingly, whether its for a savory dish or even desserts like ice cream, cookies, and brownies (you’ll want to use a puree for those to create a uniform flavor).

No time to fuss over a big recipe? Then how about a Hatch Chile Frittata? That’s what I did with a couple of the chiles I had after packaging the rest. There’s no recipe here, just some suggestions.

Take a look in the fridge and see what’s in need of being used. I had a quarter of an onion, a couple of boiled red potatoes, and a wedge of Pondhopper farmstead gouda. It’s a goat milk that’s slightly yeasty thanks to being steeped in beer. It would easily match the flavors of the chiles.

You’ll need a well-seasoned cast iron pan. I have several but my favorite is an eight-inch Lodge pan I bought about 30 years ago at a hardware store on Broadway on the upper west side of Manhattan, where I lived once upon a time. It’s in perfect, shiny condition from years of use.

Heat up the broiler. Slice the onions, chop the chiles and potatoes, and break the eggs. Beat them with a little milk till frothy. Heat the pan on the stove and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Then add the onions and sauté until they start to brown. Then add the potatoes and do the same, adding some salt and pepper. While they’re cooking, dice up some cheese. Once the potatoes and onions are browned to your liking, reduce the heat and add the beaten eggs. Let them just start to cook, then sprinkle the chile pieces over the forming omelet. Let it cook for a minute or so, then top with the cheese. Use a thick towel or oven mitt and carefully move the pan to the broiler. It’ll just take a minute or two to finish it off.

The result will be a puffy, almost souffle-like egg dish. For me, two eggs and an egg white made a complete solo dinner. More eggs, more servings. Add a salad, a glass or wine or beer and you’ve got an easy meal after a long day of cooking for someone else.

Are you enchanted with Hatch chiles? How do you cook with them?

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What’s in this apple pie that makes it so indefinably good? See below!

Are your flavor profiles in need of a refresh? Do you have a recipe or two that you and your clients enjoy but could be elevated? Brightened? Recharged?

If so, here are some suggestions we hope you’ll consider inspiration. All are easy to find, whether in your local market–if not the traditional supermarket, then an Asian or Latinx market–or online.

Let’s start with sumac. It’s a deep red powder that you’ve probably enjoyed in Middle Eastern food. It comes from the sumac flower, which is a relative of cashews of all things. Sumac has a fruity tart, lemony flavor–just a bit astringent, which makes it wonderful in vinaigrettes, sprinkled over roasted vegetables, or to season meat or fish. Incorporate it in a dip you want to have a lemony flavor. You could even include it in a dessert. Importantly, it’s a key ingredient in the spice mixture, zatar. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets and Whole Foods, or online on Amazon, The Spice House, Williams-Sonoma, and Penzys.

Next up is merquén. A friend of mine who was a buyer for years at Dean & DeLuca introduced me to this Chilean smoked chile condiment long ago. I add it to everything savory–from meats to whole grains to tomato sauce. Merquén’s base is the cacho de cabra, a pepper that is first dried naturally in the sun, then smoked over a wood fire before being ground. The merquén I buy and have used since that long-ago introduction is a brand called Etnia. It mixes this smoked chile with salt, dehydrated cilantro seeds, and cumin. Use it as a dry rub for lamb, beef, or poultry. Sprinkle it over sauteed vegetables or an omelet. Add it to stews or soups, to ceviche, tacos, or a bowl of lentils or beans. This is your go-to for a touch of smoky heat. I found it at My Panier, Walmart, and The Gourmet Import Shop.Nigella seeds are a fascinating spice. If you taste these tiny black seeds on their own with your eyes closed you would swear you were munching on oregano. They’re native to the Mediterranean but found wild across Egypt and India, as well as North Africa. Leave them whole or grind them. I leave them whole and use them as a substitute for sesame seeds. Add them at the end of cooking a dish like sauteed or steamed potatoes to add a crunchy texture. Mix them into a whipped feta and yogurt dip for crudites. Add them to whole grains. If you bake crackers, top the crackers with the seeds before baking. You should be able to get them at your local Middle Eastern market or online at Amazon, Spice Jungle, World Spice Merchants, and The Spice House.Oh, how I adore Shichimi Togarashi! It’s a much-loved Japanese seven-spice mixture that offers citrus and just a bit of heat. It can vary but typically, the blend includes red chili peppers, sanshō or sichuan peppercorns, dried orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, ground ginger, poppy seeds and nori (seaweed). Add this to eggs, steamed or sauteed vegetables, ramen, soups, sauces, edamame, chicken, lamb, salmon, shrimp, or tofu dishes. Whisk it into a marinade or dressing. Sprinkle it on skewered, grilled dishes to finish. You can easily find it at an Asian market or any online store that sells spices.Yuzu Koshio is quite unusual. It’s a spice mix, but in the form of a fermented paste made from chilies, salt, and citrus fruit. The traditional name is actually yuzu kosho but the version I bought comes from a Seattle-based company called Umami Kushi and they added an “i” to the second word. It is truly an umami flavor bomb for fish, steak, noodles, soups, and desserts. If you have a dish for which you want to cut the fat flavor, this is the antidote. It’s also perfect to add to a dressing to pour over sturdy vegetables like eggplant or winter squash. You can find it on Amazon, but I discovered it and bought it on My Panier.

 

Finally, there’s fennel pollen. Fennel pollen is collected from wild fennel, with an anise flavor melded with  a musky sweet, floral taste. You can use it alone to elevate pasta dishes, sauces, grains, roasted pork or chicken, and sausages. But I’m actually a sucker for “Divine Desserts,” which is a blend of fennel pollen, orange peel, lemon grass, cayenne pepper, sour plum powder, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, vanilla powder, clove, coriander. If you’re a baker coming on fall dessert season–think apple pie–add a touch of this mixture to your apples. It’s now part of my apple pie recipe and I always get questions about what’s in the pie that makes it so different and good. You can also add it to banana bread, carrot cake, or muffins or scones, or spice cookies. Not into baking? Sprinkle it over fresh fruit. I get mine from Pollen Ranch but you can also find it on Amazon.

What new magical spices or spice mixes are you now enchanted by? How do you use them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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