The world may fall into two distinct camps: those who love garlic and how it perfumes whatever it touches — and those who detest it.

I belong to the first camp and so I was naturally intrigued when I learned about black garlic many years ago. Yes, it’s garlic. No, it’s not a unique variety. And, no, it’s not rotten. It’s the same head you’ve been cooking with for years only it’s been aged and fermented for a month to the point where it’s softened, turned black and has taken on a sweeter, mellower flavor. Think molasses or figs. Dark and deep and complex. Some restaurant chefs have figured out how to make it on their own and there are directions on various sites for making it but it’s readily available online at Black Garlic North America, Mondo Food, Amazon, at specialty spice shops, and some Whole Foods stores. And there are plenty of sites with recipes for using black garlic that you can do an easy search for. Basically, though, use it as you would use roasted garlic, understanding that the flavor will be different.

One dish I’ve made with black garlic is pesto. The pesto is your basic basil, parmesan, nut variety but I substituted fresh garlic with the black garlic. The results were a deep dark sauce with nutty flavors but sweet instead of pungent. To offset the sweetness I added red pepper flakes.

Pesto with Black Garlic

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts this time)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
9 cloves (1 head) of black garlic
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and let it run until the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed and pureed. Then, with the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

I expected the pesto to be much darker given the color of the garlic, but it’s still quite green. The pesto will be perfect, of course, with pasta, but with warmer weather on the way, it’s perfect for drizzling over tomatoes and roasted vegetables like fennel. It’s also perfect on pizza and drizzled over fish.

Black garlic is also a perfect ingredient for roasted chicken. Here’s what I’ve done successfully: make black garlic butter. But I upped the flavor by also including fresh ginger. It’s easy to do. Use a mini food processor and puree two tablespoons of softened butter, three cloves of black garlic and about an inch of peeled ginger chopped into a few pieces. Just for myself, with a whole chicken leg I spread half under the skin, added salt and pepper to the skin, threw in a beautiful spring onion I had trimmed, sprinkled a little olive oil on both. The chicken and spring onion roasted at 400 for about an hour.



With the rest of the compound butter, I sautéed lovely miniature (not “baby”) carrots. These are no more than an inch-and-half long (many even smaller) in colors ranging from cream to orange to red. They have all the flavor of full-sized carrots but are precious on the plate. Once the carrots were cooked through, I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a sprinkling of dill and cooked it for another couple of minutes. You can use fresh chopped dill, of course. I had on hand a bottle of dill I had dried on my own (spread the dill fronds on a baking sheet and bake at low heat for about 10 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it sit until the dill is thoroughly dry being careful not to let it burn. Break it up, chop and store.)

What unique ingredient is now your “secret ingredient” and how do you use it?

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

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Spring will be here in a week–March 20th. While those of you on the East Coast may still be dealing with harsh storms, eventually the chill will give way to warmth and flowers and sunshine. It’s a time of renewal–so what better activity to engage in than a virtual spring cleaning for your personal chef business!

We have five tasks you should take on to rebirth your business:

  • Examine and update your marketing tools: How long have you had the same style of business card? When was the last time you updated your website? Does it have all the critical information necessary for a potential client to find you and be engaged by your offerings (including the basics, like the geographic area you serve, your latest menu, your name, your phone number/email address)? Is it time to replace your Facebook business page cover photo? All touch points should examined–and ask your friends for their input about their effectiveness.
  • Embrace a new social media platform: If you’re already on Facebook, add Instagram and/or Twitter and/or Pinterest. You can do fun new things on each platform that can show off your offerings. Photos are your big sales tool on social media so be sure you’re posting well-lit, appetizing dishes.
  • Sharpen your knives and do a great cleaning on your tools: You probably give your knives a honing when you use them, but how often do you actually sharpen them? If you have to think about it, it’s been too long. And take a look at your other cooking tools. Are they showing signs of wear or grime? Clean them or replace them. And, hey, that includes your chefs aprons, your towels, your knife roll, and even your footwear. Spiff yourself up.
  • Learn new skills: Spring is a time of feeling energized so take that burst of energy and direct it into something constructive. Take an online cooking course from our partner Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy–or, better yet, sign up for a certificate in culinary arts. Or take a cooking class at a local school. Learn new techniques or global cuisines. Experiment with new ingredients. Learn how to take better food photos and how to style your dishes to help with marketing. Take a writing class and start a blog on your site or write a food column for your local newspaper. Learn how to do public speaking.
  • Volunteer in your community: We talk a lot about networking. One way to network without having to “sell” yourself is to get involved in your community. Spring is the perfect time to look around and decide what group/s could use your skills and enthusiasm. Spend a weekend morning serving meals at a homeless shelter. Volunteer at the local food bank. Or do something outside of your food background with Habitat for Humanity or your local Humane Society if you love animals–whatever moves you. You’re helping your neighborhood, meeting new people, and building your resume.

These are just five ideas that should energize you and give you some momentum in building your business or moving it into a direction that excites you. If you have additional suggestions, please add your voice!

What is a “spring cleaning” task that you’ve found helps you re-energize your business? What have you been toying with doing that you’re finally going to act on?

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

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Have any of you mixed and cultivated your own sourdough starter–and then given it up? I have. Much as I loved baking bread it began to feel like a burden. I just couldn’t keep up. But what I didn’t consider was that sourdough starter didn’t require bread baking to be useful. There are all sorts of other baked goods you can make with it.

There’s also another option. If you haven’t cultivated starter, you need to know that it requires regular feeding with equal parts flour and water–but before you add the new you have to discard much of the old. The Friendship Bread Project, also known as Amish friendship bread, encourages people to share their discarded starter with friends–like a benign chain letter.

But what if on a given week you don’t have anyone to share it with and you don’t want to just throw it away? I did some research and found that there are lots of ways to use discarded starter: pancakes and waffles, cakes, quick breads, muffins, crackers, and crepes. Some you can use with just the weakened starter. For others, like the English muffins I tried that were an epic fail, I learned you need to feed first. My friend Joanne Sherif, who owns San Diego’s Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, has been using hers for cornbread and banana bread, which you can buy at the bakery.

Initially, when I decided to use up my discards before the weekly feeding, I had a limited range of options,  but only because of simple quantity–my first discards were limited to half a cup. When I fed the starter I added four ounces each of King Arthur white whole wheat flour and water. (And note, I add ingredients by weight, not volume.) Unless I need more starter for a big baking project, I’ll add two ounces of flour and water each in the future, let it sit on the counter for several hours until it bubbles up, then store it in the fridge. I put a line on the see-through container that shows the starting point so I can see how much it grows (I still find that hugely exciting). Because it’s being refrigerated I only need to feed it weekly. If left on the counter, it would need daily feeding. I don’t think I have enough interested friends to share discards from that or the time to use it up daily.

As I scoured online resources I came across a site I wasn’t familiar with but that I discovered, along with the ever-reliable King Arthur Flour, is hugely informative: Cultures for Health. The site has an entire section devoted to how to use discarded starter. And from there I found my recipe: Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake.

Yes, I was lured by biscuits, including biscuits with cheddar cheese, and pretzels, and English muffins… but I didn’t have enough starter. Curious about a sourdough dessert, and honestly getting a little desperate, I clicked on desserts and found this cake. Bingo! It sounded divine–and only needed half cup of starter.

This recipe is super simple and yields a deep chocolate brownie-like consistency. It calls for baking in a cake pan, but I fiddled around with measurements and decided to use a loaf pan instead–and it worked just fine. I also didn’t have non-alkalized cocoa powder and worried that since the recipe called for baking soda there might be an issue. But no, it all turned out well. (I’ve since found–and ordered–natural cocoa powder for when this comes up again.)

I actually didn’t taste much of a sour/tangy flavor from the starter, but the cake benefitted in moistness and richness. And, oh, how wonderful it is with a cup of coffee or tea.

And, really, the point of this bake was to demonstrate to myself that I could relax a bit about having a starter again since the pressure is off to bake bread at a pace I can’t keep up with. In fact, the following week I did  bake crackers–something you could do for clients you’re making appetizers for if you’re catering a dinner party or event.

And, if anyone in San Diego would like my discards, let me know. I’m happy to share when I feed on Sundays.

Chocolate Sourdough Snack Cake
From Cultures for Health


1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cold, strong coffee
1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened, non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts or naturally sweetened mini chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper; lightly butter and set aside.
3. Mix unrefined sugar and butter together in a large bowl until sugar is thoroughly incorporated into butter. Beat in egg, vanilla, coffee, and sourdough starter.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Blend dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until batter is mixed through.
6. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. Cool on a rack and serve plain or frosted.

Do you keep a sourdough starter? What kinds of treats do you make with it?

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

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Sublime Chicken Liver Mousse

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , February 26, 2018

If one of your umbrella businesses is catering–whether large gatherings or intimate dinner parties–you’re probably always on the hunt for dish inspiration, especially for appetizers.

Well, have I got something special for you! A luscious chicken liver mousse. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good mousse. I grew up eating the very unluscious chopped liver, which I still love but it’s one of those things you have to have grown up with to enjoy. As I became an adult and was introduced to pâtés and mousses, my palate changed and I craved this rich food. And like anyone who has some sense I limited my consumption to special occasions.

A number of restaurants in San Diego have chicken liver mousse on the menu. I decided I wanted to learn how to make the one at a young eatery called Trust. Chef/owner Brad Wise’s is a silky buttery spread with a hint of herbs and sweet liqueurs, delivered via a slice of grilled sourdough levain and accompanied by a tangy mostarda and sliced radishes. Wise’s passion is for rustic contemporary American.

“It may not look great on a plate, but it’s what I really like to prepare. I’m a wintertime type of guy,” he said.

That, of course, explains his Chicken Liver Mousse, which has refined flavors but he serves in a very rustic style. The process for making it is very simple. And pretty quick, which is great for catering. But you have to build in the time to prep the ingredients. You’ve got to soak the chicken livers in milk overnight. You’ll need to slice shallots, stem and mince herbs, zest a few lemons, and cube a lot of butter. But once you do that, then the cooking process takes about 10 minutes. Oh, and then you need to let the creamy mixture sit in the fridge for at least five hours to reach the right consistency. Then before serving, take it out and let it sit at room temperature to soften.

The directions are straightforward, but I have a couple of tips from Wise. A key one comes while you’re sautéing the livers and shallots. You want the livers to be thoroughly cooked but not overcooked–think medium rare in a steak with a pink, not raw, center. You accomplish this by slicing into the larger livers as soon as you think they’re almost done. If they’re still on the red and mushy side, keep cooking–but remove the small ones so they won’t overcook. Keep testing until they reach that sweet spot.

The next tip has to do with seasoning. Wise adds a good amount of salt to this dish. Consider what you’ll be serving the mousse with. Ideally, you’ll include a sweet/tart preserve, perhaps whole-grain mustard, and gherkins or cornichons–and the mousse will be served on a hearty bread or cracker. They all function as a way to add flavor, yes, but also cut the intensity of the fat. With that in mind, you’ll want to punch up the mousse with more salt than you might otherwise think is appropriate. I found, as he salted, stirred, tasted, and added more, that early in the seasoning exercise the mousse seemed too salty. Then he actually added more, stirred and gave me a taste, and somehow the saltiness gave way to a more full-bodied flavor.

Finally, this is a dish you can prepared days in advance. Wise’s trick here is to prepare it, then melt some more butter and pour it over the finished mousse in its container or serving dish. Refrigerate and then before serving, remove the congealed butter lid from the top and toss it. The cold butter will seal the mousse.

As for serving it, you’ll smooth the mousse over the grilled levain and slice it, then strategically spoon on mostarda or a jam and place thin radish slices and chervil on top. Then finish it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

You can also pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and place little bowls of preserves, mustard, and pickles nearby. Slice up a sourdough baguette or levain and let it sit out all day to get just a little stale (another Wise tip) and serve that with the mousse.

Trust’s Chicken Liver Mousse 
From Chef Brad Wise
Yield: 4 cups

1 pound chicken livers
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces shallots, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons madeira
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ cup heavy cream
Zest from 3 lemons
2 pounds unsalted butter, cubed

1. Soak chicken livers overnight in milk. Place in colander over a bowl and drain. Put napkin on top of livers to soak up additional moisture.
2. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil. Sauté shallots until they just start to brown. Stir in herbs. Add livers and cook until the middle is pink but not raw—medium rare. To check on doneness, cut through the thickest part of the livers.
3. About halfway through the cooking process, deglaze the skillet with the liquor. Reduce the heat as the livers absorb the liquor. Add the salt and stir well.
4. Once the livers are cooked, turn off the heat and let sit about 20 seconds.
5. Using a heavy-weight blender, like a Vitamix, add the liver mixture, scrapping the skillet clean to get all the bits included. Add the cream and the lemon zest. Blend until smooth.
6. Take off the top and slowly add the butter while at medium/high speed. Add a pinch more salt while mixing.
7. If you want, you can strain the mousse mixture through a sieve. Stir the mixture and add more salt until it’s just a bit saltier than you think you’d like, taking into account what you’ll be serving the mousse with, such as whole grain mustard and jam.
8. Pour the mousse into a concave serving dish and refrigerate at least five hours to let it firm. You can make this several days in advance. To keep it fresh, melt butter and pour over the top to seal it and refrigerate. Before serving, lift up the congealed butter top and discard.

Do you have a favorite go-to recipe for appetizers? Please share it with us!

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Back in the day, when I lived in New York, my friends and I used to joke that February was the longest month and we would throw “thank God February is over” parties.

Well, we’re right in the middle of February and I have to admit I have no standing for complaining about the horrors of icy winter since I now live in balmy San Diego–but I still love a good soup on those chilly 65-degree days. (Yes, I appreciate the absurdity of this but we take our cool weather when we can.)

One soup I’ve come to love that I think your clients will enjoy as well is Delicata and Carrot Soup. While you could substitute other hard squashes, oblong delicata is one of my favorites. First, they’re just so cute, with their stripes of colors. I love their sweet flavor and the fact that they don’t require peeling. The skin is thin and perfectly edible. And, I love the seeds. My dad taught me how to prep and roast pumpkin seeds when I was a little girl and I do it on almost every winter squash I buy. It’s such a waste not to!

If I have a complaint about winter squash it’s that it can be kind of challenging to bring flavors to it that won’t be overshadowed by its own flavor. But winter squash pairs beautifully with the sweetness of carrots, so that was a natural go to. And from there I came up with four ingredients that I thought could pull it off–even if they didn’t seem to go together: mirin (rice wine), white miso, fresh lemongrass, and shichimi togarashi spice seasoning. This is a spicy multi-ingredient Japanese mix that contains chili pepper, black sesame, white sesame, orange peel, basil, and szechuan pepper. You can find it easily at Asian markets. And I had onions and garlic.

Since soup is one of those wonderful dishes that don’t require precision, I figured I’d just go for it. I sliced up the carrots and roughly cut the onion. I minced the garlic and peeled off the tougher layers of the lemongrass and then chopped that. Pretty soon, ingredients were going into the medium-size blue Le Creuset pot my mom gave me when she moved out of her house. I added a little water to the sauteeing onion, garlic, and carrots to keep them from burning while I dismembered the squash and pulled out the nest of seeds.

Once I added the squash and the rest of the ingredients, along with water (I didn’t have any stock on hand but you could use chicken or vegetable stock to make it even richer) I brought the pot ingredients to the boil, then reduced the heat to simmer for about an hour until the squash softened. And, oh, the aroma. It turns out combining mirin, miso, and lemongrass is, well, inspired. Sweet and salty and full of umami.

Now your clients can enjoy the soup as a loose vegetable soup. But I prefer creamy soups so I pulled out my stick blender and puréed it to a silky consistency. I had some pumpkin seed oil I had been waiting to use, so I drizzled that on my soup once I poured a serving into a bowl. And sighed after the first bite. Lucky me. I had plenty to enjoy with a hank of warm sourdough bread for a few more meals!

Delicata and Carrot Soup
Serves 2 to 4

Olive oil for sautéing
½ large onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, sliced
1 large Delicata squash, cut into cubes
¼ cup fresh lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 cup mirin
2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi spice mix
Water or chicken or vegetable stock
Pumpkin seed oil (optional)


1. In a medium size pot, sauté half an onion and five cloves minced garlic. Add carrot slices. Add a little water to prevent burning while cutting up the squash (save seeds for roasting).
2. Add squash pieces, chopped lemongrass, mirin, white miso, togarashi, and water to cover.
3. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour until squash is soft.
4. Use an immersion blender to purée. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil from Vom Fass. Serve with crusty sourdough bread.

What are your or your clients’ favorite winter soups? Let us know if you’d like to share a recipe here.

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We’re so tickled that Lida Saunders of Austin, Texas’ Foodie DeLites Private Chef Service has written a truly resource-filled post for us this week about cooking for elders.

If you are a private/personal chef and have the opportunity to cook for clients who are 60 and older, you will have a very satisfying experience, very appreciative audience and will be providing a needed service to folks who no longer wish to or can cook for themselves.

The challenges you face will open doors to new ideas and ways of viewing flavors and will increase your marketability and increased business, I assure you.

I have been a private/personal chef for 7 years and have also worked as a chef in two assisted living organizations. In both positions I was allowed to develop menus and be creative with flavors and seasonings with much success. And yes there were special diets and health conditions I had to consider in preparing food for residents. I even learned to make tasty pureed food for several residents who had swallowing issues.

I have also had the pleasure of privately cooking for seven elderly clients ranging in age from 85 to 98. Two of these clients had some dementia but the others were all people who had no cognitive issues. And they still enjoyed good, tasty food.

Now, I will tell you, that you do need to sit down with the client and ask a lot of questions, such as their favorite foods currently, flavors, spices they like and don’t like. And, of course, ask about food allergies and doctors orders for dietary exclusions such as salt and sugar.

Then I would suggest coming up with a list of meals they might be interested in and just see if your suggestions meet their approval. Don’t take offense if they don’t like what you have suggested. This is a trial and error process. Be patient and view this process as kinda like asking a child what they want to eat. And sometimes the client will just say, “oh anything you want to make.” Believe me, that will not work. You really need to find out truly what meals they have really enjoyed perhaps when they went out to eat. Otherwise you will be cooking in the dark and the client may be very disappointed and will tell you so.

However, truly, if you can perk up someone’s taste buds and provide them with an enjoyable meal, you will reap wonderful rewards and praises galore. You’ll become “a culinary rock star”!

So here are some tips to consider, but as the wonderful, talented chef you are, you will create, inspire and cook fabulous dishes.

  • Enhance the flavor: Spices can boost the flavor of a food but many elderly people cannot tolerate them. If spices don’t bother your gastrointestinal system, enjoy! Avoid salt, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. Simulated flavors, like bacon or cheese, can be added to soups and vegetables to make them more palatable. Try acidic flavors like lemon to boost the flow of saliva.
  • Enhance the aroma: Season chicken, beef and fish using low-sodium marinades; for example, chicken can be marinated in chicken flavor to intensify its aroma.
  • Add variety: Avoid sensory fatigue by having a variety of foods and textures on your plate. Then try switching from item to item between bites to keep your taste buds firing.
  • Play with temperature: Food that’s too hot or too cold may not be tasted as thoroughly; try varying the temperature to maximize food’s flavor.

There are many factors beyond pure taste that affect how much we enjoy our food. Experiment with presentation and even bite size to maximize your eating enjoyment as you age.

The Physiology of Taste and Smell as We Age

Now, for your reading pleasure, I have done some research and included below a little education on the physiology of taste and smell as we age (should you want to really understand what is going on about our taste and “smellology”):

Taste and Aging: First, a bit of taste physiology: the raised bumps, or taste papillae, you see when you stick out your tongue in the mirror are made up of specialized epithelial cells. Arranged around and inside these are your taste buds, only visible with the help of a microscope. The average person has about 4,600 taste buds on their tongue. In addition, taste buds can be found on the roof of the mouth, in the esophagus and at the back of the throat. They respond to five basic taste stimuli: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and the more recently recognized “umami,” the savory flavors of certain amino acids.

Taste receptors are heroes in the world of cell turnover, regenerating about every 10 days. With age, though, it’s believed that taste buds simply aren’t reproduced at the same rate. And fewer taste buds translated into diminished flavor perception. Cell membranes, the which transmit signals from the taste buds to the brain, also change with time and become less effective.

Some older people hang on to their sense of taste with little decline. Others, especially those suffering from dry mouth or who are taking certain medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants, may lose much of their taste perception. Certain conditions, such as stroke, Bell’s palsy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and depression, can also cause a loss or altering of taste.

Even tooth extractions can do damage to the nerves that transmit taste sensation to the brain.

Smell and Aging: Sensory cells within the nose transmit olfactory, or smell, messages to the brain. Over time, these smell receptors, like those for taste, stop regenerating as rapidly. They’re also more vulnerable to damage by environmental contaminants like air pollution, smoking, and microbes. Diseases like stroke, epilepsy, and various medications can also affect how smell is perceived by the brain. How well we smell also plays a large role in what we taste. It is probably a dwindling sense of smell, or anosmia that accounts for most changes in taste with age.

One large study in Wisconsin found that almost two-thirds of people between the ages of 80 and 97 had some form of smell impairment. The researchers concluded that as many as 14 million older adults in the United States have a diminished sense of smell.

Consequences: At the minor end, a loss of taste perception can make a dinner out less enjoyable. But for the elderly, malnutrition is a real danger, either from eating less or making less nutritious choices.

People whose sensitivity to salt drops may add too much salt to their food, a potential risk if they have high blood pressure.

A reduced sensitivity to sweetness is a danger for diabetics if they add extra sugar to compensate. In addition, an altered sense of taste can make old favorites, like fruits and vegetables, less appealing. This has been shown to erode immunity to disease, even when the calories consumed remain the same.


Cecile L. Phan, Jodi L. Kashmere, Sanjay Kalra. “Unilateral Atrophy of Fungiform Papillae Associated with Lingual Nerve Injury”. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, Volume 33, Number 4 / November 2006.

Claire Murphy, Ph.D.; Carla R. Schubert, MS; Karen J. Cruickshanks, Ph.D.; Barbara E. K. Klein, MD, MPH; Ronald Klein, MD, MPH; David M. Nondahl, MS.” Prevalence of Olfactory Impairment in Older Adults.” JAMA. 2002;288(18):2307-2312. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.18.2307.

Cowart, B. J. Relationships between Taste and Smell across the Adult Life Span. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 561: 39-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1989.tb20968.x (personal communication with author)

Schiffman, S. “Taste and Smell Losses in Normal Aging and Disease.” JAMA. 1997;278(16):1357-1362. doi: 10.1001/jama.1997.03550160077042

What has been your experience in cooking for elders? What have you found to be the most challenging issues and the greatest joys?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to 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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No doubt many–dare I say most–of you engage both personally and professionally on various social media platforms. We’ve spent a lot of time here explaining the hows and whys to help you benefit from having a presence. But we may be overdue in encouraging you to find APPCA on social media. We’re on Facebook, both with a page and a group, and Twitter. And this doesn’t count our private groups on our website.

Our Facebook business page has more than 2,500 likes. It’s filled with great food information–from links to recipes and food trends to tips on healthy eating, nutrition updates, professional strategies… basically the wealth of useful information out there on the web geared to educate and inspire. I update the page four times a day during the work week and often ask questions related to the content so we can have a dialogue and share information with one another. It’s also where I link our weekly à la minute blog post on Tuesday mornings.

The Facebook group page has 1,139 members. It’s a closed group and Dennis and Candy decide who may join it–and we get a lot of requests. It’s very similar to our APPCA forums, only on Facebook. Are you getting what you think are spam requests for service? Do you have a question about how to use an ingredient or cook for a client with a specific health issue? This is a great place to post and get back helpful insights from colleagues.

For example, back in October APPCA member Perry McCown posted that he now had his first client with a no-egg requirement. He needed suggestions for an alternative binder.

” I recently connected with a new client with a few allergies, one was no eggs,” he told me. “It was a new requirement for me. Feeling very limited, I posted this to my fellow APPCA members confident someone has been there. Wow, it was hours before I had responses from several and the knowledge that came with it. I embraced that guidance quickly and have had beautiful results. Flax seeds being simmered…lead to corn bread my clients love and have asked for a few times. I’m not hesitant to do pie crusts on my beef pot pies using the exact egg replacer taught to me by our community. I was not limited, I just needed to be educated by my fellow chefs.”

Our Facebook group page is also a cool place to share referrals–this happens frequently. Our members also often share photos of successful meals they’ve created and share menus–or ask questions to get help with new menus.

Finally, we have our Twitter account. Follow us on Twitter and engage with other personal chefs, pick up links to useful information on all things food, and show off your own accomplishments. We’d love to hear from you and share your achievements.

No matter which of these platforms you use, when you connect with us, please say hi! Start a conversation. Ask a question. Post a great photo of a dish you’ve made. It’s social for a reason!

What social media platforms are you engaged in? What are you looking to get out of the experience?

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

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How to Adapt Recipes: Chile Verde

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , January 29, 2018

How many of you are big fans of Hatch chiles? I am and for years would wait eagerly for them to appear in produce departments of San Diego grocery stores in the fall. Few had them. But that made my quest ever more diligent and I had some reliable haunts. When were in season I’d buy about five pounds, roast them, and them freeze them to use in the winter for cold-weather dishes.

But this past fall it slipped my mind. I was caring for a new puppy who broke one of his legs just two weeks after joining my household. By the time I was thinking about life outside my little world it was too late. And then came New Year’s. It was cold (for San Diego) and I wanted to make my annual Green Chile Stew, a dish my friend Laura Levy had shared with me years ago.

What to do? Hatch chiles have a distinctive smoky, earthy flavor that similar chilies, like Anaheim, don’t have. But I was craving this chile and so I started down the Google path to see what the experts would suggest as a substitute. I came across a piece written by the brilliant Tasting Table Food Lab writer J. Kenji López-Alt. It asked that very same question: Can you make a great chile verde without Hatch chilies? His answer was yes–and contends that while authenticity is nice, he’ll settle for delicious.

Once I read the piece, which also addresses technique, I decided to experiment and play with some of his suggestions, while still keeping what I love about Laura’s recipe, like adding potatoes and dredging the meat in masa. This is the kind of thing I’m sure all of you do as well. We adapt to circumstances and, in doing so, adapt favorite recipes to those circumstances. So…

1. I’m using poblano and Anaheim peppers. López-Alt suggested cubanelle peppers, but they’re not in season now and hard to find in San Diego anyway. He also brings in jalapeños and since I like some heat, in they went, too.

2. López-Alt also includes tomatillos–both for flavor and their pectin to thicken the stew. I love tomatillos and a thick stew so in they went.

3. I took up the suggestion for roasting not just the peppers, but also the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños. You purée them together with cilantro and add to the stew. Essentially (although López-Alt doesn’t say this), you create a stunning salsa verde. So you could take the first three pieces of instruction in the recipe alone and have yourself a winning salsa verde. By the way, I have long broiled peppers (no gas stove) and then let them steam in a paper bag. I like his method of steaming them in a bowl topped by a plate.

4. I did not follow his directions for the pork, beyond salting it. I really enjoy the texture and flavor of masa-tossed and browned pork. And, to extract more smoky New Mexican flavor from the chile, I added some Chimayo chile powder I have stored in the freezer.

5. I did end up braising the stew for three hours in a low-heat oven with the lid askew to let a little steam out instead of much more quickly on the stove. And loved it–the stew cooks evenly, benefitting by being surrounded by gentle heat, and the pork becomes truly tender.

Now, that three-hour braise time ended up not working for me for New Year’s Eve because I got too late a start. So, I broke it up over two days, prepping the salsa verde first that afternoon and refrigerating it overnight. The next morning while watching the Rose Parade I trimmed the pork shoulder and salted it. An hour later I was in full cooking mode. By noon I had the chile in the oven and by 3 p.m. I enjoyed my first bowl, the house filled with its spicy, earthy aroma. The pork and theYukon Gold potatoes were as tender as you’d desire after a good braising. The chile was far spicier than I’d imagine it would be but still very enjoyable. Because it was looser than I wanted, I cooked it a little longer on the stove and added a little more masa to thicken it–but later as I was letting it cool to refrigerate it thickened on its own, so don’t worry that much if it’s soupier than you think you want.

I still love Laura’s version of her stew, but this is a wonderful variation and the science behind the changes makes sense to me.

Chile Verde
Adapted from recipes by Laura Levy and J. Kenji López-Alt
Serves up to 10


3 cups chopped roasted New Mexico or Hatch chilies – skins and seeds removed
OR, if not available:
5 poblano peppers
5 Anaheim peppers

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 jalapeño peppers, stems removed and sliced in half lengthwise
8 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper
2.5 to 3 pounds cubed pork shoulder
3 tablespoons masa flour
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground Chimayo pepper
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
32 ounces chicken stock
2 additional tablespoons masa (if needed to thicken)


1. Roast poblano and Anaheim peppers by placing them directly over the flame of a gas stove until deeply charred on all surfaces, about 10 minutes total. If you don’t have a gas burner, broil them or char on an outdoor grill. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with a large plate. Let steam for 5 minutes, then peel. Dry chilies, discard seeds and stems, and roughly chop. Transfer to bowl of food processor.

2. Preheat broiler to high if you didn’t broil the peppers. Toss tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeños with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Pour onto to rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil until charred, blistered, and just softened, turning once halfway through cooking, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to the food processor along with any exuded liquid.

3. Add half of cilantro to the food processor and pulse mixture until it is roughly pureed but not smooth, about 8 to 10 one-second pulses. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve (can make this the day before).

4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 225˚ F.

5. Dredge pork cubes in masa flour in plastic bag until all pieces are coated. Brown in oil in large Dutch oven or pot. Add onions and lightly cook until slightly colored (not browned). Stir frequently and scrap up brown bits from bottom of pot. Add cumin and Chimayo pepper. Stir till fragrant.

6. Add potatoes, chicken stock and pureed chili mixture to pot and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook for about three hours.

7. Remove from oven and skim excess fat. Check consistency; if it needs to be thicker slowly add a small amount (no more than two tablespoons) of masa at a time and stir until thick. You can also heat it up on the stove to a good simmer and let reduce. Too thick? Add some water. When it’s reached the right consistency for you, stir in remaining cilantro and season to taste with more salt.

8. Garnish with sour cream, diced onions, cilantro, cheese, and lime wedges. Serve with corn bread or homemade tortillas.

Note: The chile can be chilled and stored in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen. The flavors will deepen over time.

Is there a favorite recipe you’ve enjoyed making for years but recently adapted to suit a client’s diet or health goals? Or because ingredients weren’t seasonally available?

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Back in the ’90s, my parents lived in Boston and one of my favorite expeditions when visiting them was to a Newbury St. housewares store I loved. I no longer remember its name–and it probably isn’t there anymore–but back then they had an astounding array of reconditioned knives. I built my knife collection there and still have many of them, including a chef’s knife.

But back in San Diego at Great News!, a much-loved housewares store that finally did go out of business, I bought what immediately became my favorite, go-to, pack-when-I-evacuate-for-a-fire knife. It’s a Wusthof Dreizack Culinar santoku knife. I didn’t even think I needed a new knife until a friend who worked there put it in my hand. It fit perfectly. I have small hands and this knife made me feel for the first time that I had control.

You can talk about materials, craftsmanship, and price–all of which are important. But ultimately if a knife is going to be an extension of your hand, what makes a perfect chef’s knife is very personal.

“My mother-in-law bought me a Wusthof Ikon Santoku because she liked how it looked,” said personal chef and food blogger Carol Borchardt. ‘I’ve been in love with this knife ever since. It feels great in my hand because of the shape of the handle.”

For personal chef Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown, it was important to find a great knife guy and build a relationship with him. Hers, she said, is old school and knows what she likes.

“I like a well-balanced knife. I do not like a heavy knife,” she explained. “So my knife is a cross between a Global and a Henkel. The brand is an F. Dick. It fits my hand well. Not too heavy so I don’t get tired… Not so light that I feel like it’s cheap. It is an extension of my own hand. I love this knife. I have two of them. One for home and one for work.”

Photo from Suzy Dannette Heglin-Brown

San Diego chef Christian Eggert is a knife fanatic. He has been collecting them since he was a kid and said he has about 40. For Eggert, the quality of the steel is his first priority. “It equates to the knife’s ability to hold and edge and be resharpened.” However, he suggested that less experienced cooks should go with a Kyocera ceramic knife.

“They need to be careful with the brittleness of the ceramic as far as impact and cuts that require blade flexibility, but the warranty and inexpensive repair far outweighs the cost of a real knife,” Eggert said. “If you go for steel, though, I would recommend nothing less than a S30V or VG10 steel. These hold a true edge and can take a fair amount of abuse. When they want to get to a top layer steel R2 is world class along side D2 or other steels that add resilience and sharpen ability.”

Christian Eggert’s Mr. Itou knife

Then there’s grip. Linen micarta, Eggert said, is the best. “It gets grippy when wet and wears like iron. Ideally it should just about balance on your pointer finger. I like a little weight in my knife so I use a full tang custom (Mr. Itou). But again, even though they are very light, the Kyoceras are the knife I would recommend to most people for their ease of use, edge holding, and they are very light which reduces fatigue overall.”

Of course, a light knife isn’t for everyone and it can take time to get used to it if you’ve been a longtime user of heavier knives. Personal chef Jim Huff picked up an 8-inch Wusthof classic chef knife at Sur La Table because it felt “right” to him (and he got a nice discount as a student taking a class there). But he’s since picked up a Wusthof Pro Chef’s Knife that is much lighter. “I’m still adjusting to using it at home,” he said. “Up till now I’ve always preferred the heavier knives.”

Almost every quality food magazine invariably has stories dedicated to how to buy a good chef’s knife. Do a Google search and dig in. But you might also want to check out’s recent piece that lays out various features that aren’t subjective. They culled a list of 170 knives to 11 top performers. Then they put the knives through a series of tests–cutting herbs, carrots, butternut squash, and chicken. And they found that, just like the rest of us, the test wasn’t going to work as planned since right out of the factory, they would all perform well. Instead, it would be fairly subjective.

“Were we able to grip it comfortably? Was it too light or too heavy? Did the spine rub awkwardly against our index fingers as we chopped? These are the details that can make or break a cook’s relationship with their kitchen knife.”

But, even given the variety of testers, they were able to narrow the field down to some favorites, based on the user’s experience.

For many of us, of course, some of these choices come down to price. For Carolyn Tipton Wold, she went with what she was used to when she was training to become a personal chef and it wasn’t the most expensive. “I have a set of Wusthof and another well-known brand, but they couldn’t hold their edge when sharpened. Professional sharpeners wouldn’t sharpen them because the steel was too soft. I went back to my training knife and for $25, I haven’t been disappointed!”

Eggert noted that a Kyocera santoku will cost less than $50. Depending on the material, a Mr. Itou santoku will range from $400 to $600. More familiar names, like Kramers, Shuns, Henkels, and the like have a high price based on branding. But, Eggert said, there are far superior knives with a smaller price tag.

Serious Eats has a terrific guide by J. Kenji López-Alt. Here’s his list of things to consider (aside from personal preference). To my mind, these will help get you to personal preference:

  • Style: Do you prefer a slim-and-maneuverable modern gyutou-style hybrid knife, a rough-and-tough Western-style knife, or a more precise and delicate Japanese-style santoku?
  • Design: A good knife should be as fine-tuned as a race car with every aspect, from the curvature of the blade to the weight of the bolster to the shape of the handle, taken into consideration for optimal balance and performance.
  • Craftsmanship: Do the pieces all fit together tightly and firmly? Are the rivets going to fall out or is the blade going to separate from the handle? Is the finish on the handle smooth and pleasant to hold, and is the blade properly honed straight out of the box?
  • Materials: Is the steel hard or soft? Harder steels in Japanese and hybrid-style knives retain edges for a longer time but are tougher to sharpen. Softer steels are easier, but need to be honed and sharpened more frequently. Is the composite or wood in the handle durable and comfortable?

Once you hit all your priorities in terms of these four issues as well as price, then it comes down to how it feels in your hand and how it makes you feel about getting the tasks done with it. (And keep that feel-good condition. Don’t neglect sharpening and honing them!)

What chefs knife do you use and how did you come to choosing it?

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If you’re a personal chef who is starting to get requests from clients for vegan meals, chances are you freaking out just a little. Because while there are plenty of meat- and dairy-free dishes out there in the world that would be considered vegan—salads, sautéed or roasted vegetables, pasta and tomato sauce just for starters—that’s not the stuff of a well-rounded diet. People need protein, for starters, and they want complex flavors that are so easy to come by when you add in animal-based proteins.

So, where do you start?

A brief survey of some of our members yielded some favorite websites. And I’ve also included some I’ve found.

  • You might want to start at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, which has a list of the Top 50 Began blogs. This directs you to blogs that will teach you how to make vegan yogurt to nut-based “cheeses.” Their top pick? Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows. Their favorite recipe? Sundried Tomato, Mushroom and Spinach Tofu Quiche.

  • Member Jennifer Zirkle of The Ginger Chef in Michigan likes Forks Over Knives. This plant-based diet website evolved from the documentary of the same name. The site offers a meal planner, cooking course, articles, and, of course, recipes—435 of them. They also have an app you can download. So, you can be inspired by Smoky, Saucy Black-Eyed Peas; Pesto Penne; Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese; or a Festive Vegetable Pot Pie.

  • Member Suzy Dannette Hegglin-Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services in Northern California is a fan of the blog Vegan Richa. Richa Hingle is its author. She’s been featured on, Huffington Post, Glamour,, The Kitchn, and many others. She’s also the author of Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. On the day I visited her site it featured Peanut Butter Cauliflower Bowl with Roasted Carrots. She includes Instant Pot cooking, as well. And check out her Indian Butter Tofu Paneer. It looks divine.
  • The Vegan Society is committed to making veganism easily adopted. They publish a magazine, The Vegan—and if you subscribe, you also get access to a website that addresses nutrition and health, food and drink, recipes, shopping, travel, and more.
  • Cooking for vegan kids? Check out the list on Hummasapien. They include a range of kid-friendly recipes like Zucchini Tater Tots, Vegan Carrot Dogs, Vegan Broccoli Cheeze Chickpea Burgers, and Summer Vegetable Lasagna Rolls.

  • Chickpea Magazine is a vegan food and writing quarterly. Love the idea of Cauliflower Wings? Get the recipe here!
  • Chefs like Jamie Oliver have developed vegan recipes. Oliver has well over 100, from Whole Wheat Maple Cinnamon Buns and Sweet Potato & White Bean Chili to Homemade Mustard and Spiced Plum Chutney. He also has videos that will teach you how to make vegan gravy, chocolate pots, and raw “spaghetti Bolognese.”

Because vegan eating has gone so mainstream, you’ll also find plenty of resources on conventional food websites, like Food Network, Serious Eats, Food and Wine, and even Good Housekeeping.

Finally, we have a lovely recipe for you to try from member Carol Borchardt’s blog From a Chef’s Kitchen. This Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup will surely make your clients warm and cozy in these chilly winter months. (Note that Carol offers a choice of chicken broth or vegetable broth. Use the latter, of course, to make this dish vegan.)

Thai Red Curry Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup
from Carol Borchardt
Serves 6


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red curry paste (or to taste)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1/2-inch cubes)
1 can (15-ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups red lentils, picked over
1 can (14.5-ounce) coconut milk, light or regular
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish if desired


Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until onion begins to soften.

Add the garlic and red curry paste, give it a quick stir, then add the broth, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and lentils. Bring to a boil, cover slightly and simmer until potatoes and lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and heat through.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Stir in cilantro.

MAKE AHEAD: Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cool thoroughly. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave for individual servings. FREEZER-FRIENDLY: Cool thoroughly and package as desired. Freeze up to 2 months.


Do you have vegan clients you cook for? What dishes are in your repertoire? What were your biggest challenges?

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

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