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Like Candy and Dennis, I live in San Diego. And I’m cold. All of you on the East Coast and Midwest may laugh but thin-skinned San Diegans have been living in temperatures in the 50s with winds and rain. We’re shivering, actually wearing jackets and rain boots, turning up the heat in the furnace.

And eating a lot of soup.

I’m sure each of you has your favorite for the winter months. I know I have a bunch–hot and sour, roasted tomato, lentil, and, of course, chicken soup come immediately to mind. But one that truly warms me is this Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens. It’s hearty and thick, thanks to the barley and beef. And the umami flavor that comes from the mushrooms (my favorite to use are dense shitakes) gives it a rich, earthy mouth feel.

Shitake mushrooms, barley, garlic

Plus, like most soups, once you wrangle the ingredients, it’s so simple to make–and then freeze in individual containers for weeks to come.

A note about the barley. While pearled barley is the most common you’ll find, try to find hulled barley. This is the whole grain version of the grain. Both are chewy. Both are healthy. But compared with pearled barley, where the outer husk and bran layers are removed, hulled barley only has the outermost layer removed, which makes it even more nutritious. Remember, also that with the additional layers removed, pearl barley takes less time to cook than hulled barley.

Barley2

Can you change this up to suit your clients’ or your own preferences? Of course! If you have vegetarian or vegan clients, eliminate the meat and use vegetable stock and more mushrooms. For those who don’t eat beef, substitute with chicken and chicken stock. Use multiple varieties of mushrooms and multiple types of greens. Add root vegetables and winter squash. Consider this a template and make it your own.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound of boneless beef short ribs, cut into cubes
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, grated
3/4 cup of barley, preferably hulled
1 quart of beef stock (if using meat, otherwise you can use chicken or vegetable stock)
A couple of splashes of good dry sherry
Salt
Pepper
3 cups or so of Swiss chard or kale

Directions

Use a large stock pot. If you’re including the beef, heat the pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom, let that heat for a minute till it shimmers and then add the beef. Let it brown on all sides and then remove and set aside.

Add a splash more olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. Sauté on low heat until the onion turns translucent and just a little golden.

Then start adding everything else: the mushrooms and carrots, then the beef, then the pearl barley. Then add the liquid. If that’s not enough to cover the contents, add a little water, then a splash or so of sherry to up the flavor. Finally add some salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom Barley soup

Mix it well. Then bring it all to a strong simmer and skim the fat. After that, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook for a couple of hours and toward the end of the cooking time, add the greens. Adjust the amounts if it doesn’t look right to you. Add other ingredients you might like. Cook until they’re wilted and serve.

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

What’s your favorite winter soup to make for yourself or clients? 

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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Stew3

With all the buzz in the last six months or so, you’d think that the Instant Pot was a brand new piece of kitchen equipment. In fact, Instant Pot Company, a Canadian-based company, was founded in 2008. The appliance itself debuted in 2010. Thanks to social media and huge deals from Amazon, though, Instant Pot has more recently become a sensation. There are user clubs on Facebook, bloggers who post Instant Pot-specific recipes, and vast numbers of postings on places like Pinterest and Instagram. 

With that in mind, we thought we’d ask one of our members who uses Instant Pot to explain why she does and how it’s working for her. Jennifer Zirkle, who runs The Ginger Chef in Michigan, loves hers. Read on to learn what it helps her with. And enjoy her GF Beef Stew Recipe:

Following social media these days can be an adventure but if you’re following food trends on your favorite sites you’ve no doubt seen mention of an Instant Pot. These electric pressure cookers seem to be the biggest trend launching 2017 and home cooks are in love with them. They’re part slow cooker, part pressure cooker, part rice cooker and part saucepan. As a personal chef, they can be incredibly versatile and free up some much needed stovetop space.

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I have been using my Instant Pot since September with amazing results. I’m working to become an expert in all of its many uses and I have found it to be such a time saver. My clients have reveled in the results of tender meats and stews that taste like they’ve been cooking all day. I’ve used it to make tender Osso Bucco, Wild Rice Chicken Stew, Beef Tips in Gravy, perfect Homemade Chicken Stock and even quick items like steamed green beans that turn out perfect. These little pots of magic combine the convenience of a crock pot with the speed of stovetop cooking. Perfect mac and cheese can be done in 15 minutes rather than 4 hours in a crock pot or even the multi-pan inconvenience of stove-top morney sauce and noodles.

Electric pressure cookers have many preset settings to choose from. Settings vary from model to model but most have a stew setting, rice cooker setting, beef, chicken, etc. Some models even offer you a customization tool to add more or less pressure or to add more or less time to each setting. For example, when making chicken stock, I set it to the “soup” setting and increase the time from 40 minutes to 100 minutes.

Recipes are popping up everywhere from Pinterest to even more reputable sites like Tasting Table https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/national/instant-pot-recipes-pressure-cooker?utm_medium=email&utm_source=TT&utm_campaign=Weekend&utm_content=Editorial

I’ve taken several of my favorite crock pot recipes and cut the time by a quarter. I’ve even taken my gluten- free beef stew recipe and given it an Instant Pot twist. I’ve included the recipe below. I encourage you to schlep the extra equipment to your next cook day.

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Gluten-Free Beef Stew for Electric Pressure Cooker

Yield: 2 to 3 quarts

Ingredients

2 pounds stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup rice flour
2 medium carrots, diced
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
6 cups beef stock
¼ cup sherry vinegar
1, 10-ounce bag mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Season stew meat. Set Instant Pot to “sauté.”
  2. Add olive oil and stew meat. Brown meat to develop flavor.
  3. Add butter and rice flour. Stir to combine.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, stock, and sherry vinegar.
  5. Place cover and set Instant Pot to “Stew.”
  6. Let Instant Pot run. When finished cooking, let pressure release naturally.
  7. Uncover and add mixed vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let vegetables warm thoroughly and serve or freeze for later.

Stew4

Are you using an Instant Pot for client service? What difference has it made to your cooking routine?

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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Phyllo rolls

Are you launching a catering service under your personal chef business umbrella? If so, you may be looking to build your appetizer recipe repertoire. We have just the pass-around app for you for this season: Savory Ricotta + Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls!

I got this recipe years ago from Atlanta chef Alisa Barry when she was visiting our region and teaching at Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta. Her Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls was so straightforward and so divine I knew I’d be making them for parties. And I have, twice. Plus, I made them with the kids when I taught at Olivewood Gardens.

So, what is it that makes this such a winning recipe? I love the crunch of baked phyllo combined with the lusciousness of ricotta and wilted Swiss chard. The touch of nutmeg adds a spicy note. But, what’s truly great about this recipe is how versatile it is. Add tiny pieces of preserved lemon. Add toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Or, as I did the last time, add scallions, marash pepper for some subtle heat, and plump raisins soaked in Grand Marnier for sweetness.

rolling up

The other change I made to Alisa’s recipe was to the assembly part. Alisa calls for folding one sheet of phyllo dough twice. That’s fine, but yesterday I decided to make the rolls a little thinner so I sliced the sheet in half lengthwise and folded it just once. Since you roll the filled dough like a cigar, it’s still plenty thick. But, I leave that choice to you.

Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls
Adapted from Alisa Barry

1, 1 pound box frozen phyllo (or filo) dough (follow the directions on the box for thawing)

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups mixed winter greens (Swiss chard, kale, arugula, for example)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large scallions (green onions), sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Marash pepper or other red pepper flakes
3/4 cup raisins, marinated for at least two hours in Grand Marnier
1 container (15 ounces) of ricotta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For Assembly:
Olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking sheet/s with olive oil (or use parchment paper.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and add garlic, greens, scallions, and salt. Cook until wilted. Strain excess liquid and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. Add Marash pepper, ricotta, drained raisins, and nutmeg to greens and mix well.

4. To assemble, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough* and slice in half lengthwise. Brush both pieces lightly with olive oil. Fold in half lengthwise. Spoon two teaspoons of the filling mix at the short end of the dough and roll up like a cigar. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, placing each roll on the baking sheet. Brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

baking

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Depending on the quality of the phyllo and how many usable sheets you get, you should have about 3 dozen rolls.

*Note: When working with phyllo, be sure to keep the sheets from drying out. Dampen a dish towel and lay it over the stacked dough, removing it only to remove a sheet of dough and then placing it back over the stacked dough.

Just out of the oven

Are you developing new appetizer recipes for new catering gigs? What will be on your menu?

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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Crabby salad2

We’ve written about Suzy Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services. Suzy is a longtime APPCA member and recently started using essential oils. We’ve long been curious about these oils–what they are and how they’re used in the kitchen so we asked Suzy to give us a primer. If you, too, have been wondering about them, you’ll want to ready Suzy’s post below and enjoy the recipe she’s included that incorporates two essential oils:

I went into my local nutrition store and picked a couple, black pepper and lemon, then started learning more about the healing properties of EOs. What I found out is that while they are rising in popularity today, using plants for healing dates back thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals have their origins in plants. And it’s not uncommon today to use lavender oil for calmness or ginger to treat nausea. Using essential oils in cooking, however, requires research because some EOs are only meant to be used topically, as cleaners, or sprays, not ingested, while others that are edible are very strong and could cause problems if they aren’t used correctly. Look for a supplemental facts area on the bottles, which notes the oils are safe to ingest.

Once I felt I understand how essential oils worked, I started teaching a monthly class on their healing properties and how to cook with them.

Here are answers to some of the most basic questions I get about EOs:

What is an essential oil (EO)? EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, skins and/or seeds. Funnily enough, EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to perform various functions with a few drops.

What purpose do they serve? EOs can provide a myriad of benefits to the body, mind, spirit…and wallet! EOs are used to treat everything from anxiety to yeast infections. All EOs are adaptogens, a natural substance that promotes a balancing reaction in the body.

EOs work by targeting the cause of the problem rather than simply addressing a symptom(s). In some cases you are likely to experience rapid relief and steady improvement. Many EOs are analgesics, acting directly with the nervous system to subdue pain; anti-inflammatory; antiseptics; promote relaxation and stress relief.

Let me give you two examples of how the two favorites I mentioned above work:

Black Pepper: Spleen strengthening, digestive issues, stress reducer, natural painkiller, stimulates the circulatory system, added to hot water or tea, savory dishes.

Lemon: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, fights (colds, flu, fever, headaches). Add to water, warm or cold for a natural detox. Flavor Enhancer for savory, sweet, cocktails.

How are EOs made? EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, including water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. For example, citrus EOs are cold pressed. One pound of essential oil requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. So, for instance, one pound of rosemary EO requires 66 pounds of fresh rosemary.

Are EOs safe to digestWhile contemporary society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, civilizations have been using them for centuries. Today, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven safe to ingest.

When you buy essential oils, look for organic, therapeutic-grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company labels that include the following: 100 percent natural, an English plant name, a botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. And they should state they are safe to ingest.

What is the toxicity of EOs? Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic when ingested in large doses. A little goes a long way. It only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they may experience these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, list has been tested with contemporary technology. Note, per the FDA, there are oils that are NOT recommended for ingestion, and oils that are not recommended for use by folks with particular medical conditions, or who are pregnant or nursing.

How do you cook with EOs? First, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic, therapeutic-grade oils (these oils are 100 percent pure). Also, keep in mind brand reputation. Choose products from reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe.

Some of my favorite EOs you’ll find in my kitchen include black pepper, cilantro, grapefruit, lemon, all varieties of citrus, and peppermint. Below is my recipe for “Crabby Salad,” which features black pepper and lemon essential oils.

Crabby salad2

“Crabby” Salad Featuring Black Pepper & Lemon Essential Oils
Recipe by The Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients:

  • 1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
  • 5 cups fresh celery, minced (baby leaves too)
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, vegan or homemade preferred
  • Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
  • Large pinch Himalayan Salt
  • 4 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 2 to 4 drops lemon essential oil

In a large mixing bowl add in the chickpeas. Dice the hearts of palm into small pieces, about the size of the garbanzo bean. Mince all the remaining vegetables and add them into the mixing bowl. Toss with the mayo, spices and essential oils. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serving suggestions:

  • Lettuce cups
  • Avocado half
  • With crackers
  • If you mash the garbanzo beans a bit you can even put this salad into a sandwich

Essential Oil Chefs Notes:

  • Start with 1 drop of oil then taste.
  • Adjust as needed.
  • Remember you can always add… you can not remove.

Are you using essential oils for cooking? What are your 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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Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes

Happy 2017! With the holidays in the rear-view mirror now, we’re guessing clients are asking you for more healthy meals. Maybe they’re going vegetarian–or at least cutting back on meats. This dish isn’t the most low fat, but let’s say it’s for those times when clients want a vegetable dish but also want a little indulgence. Plus, you can make the Spicy Chipotle Mayo on its own to serve on sandwiches or top tacos or tostadas. It’s wonderfully versatile.

If you’re familiar with elotes you know that they’re a summertime treat–traditional Mexican street food in the form of corn on the cob that’s been grilled to smoky perfection, sprinkled lavishly with salt and chile powder, then slathered with mayo or crema, and topped with cotija cheese and lime juice. One crunchy bite yields layers of popping flavors and textures.

Of course, corn is summer crop. So what to do when it’s unavailable? One of my favorite hang outs is Galaxy Taco in La Jolla. Its chef de cuisine Christine Rivera says take the basic concept and extend it to other vegetables–in this case, Brussels sprouts.

For the Brussels sprouts dish the idea was to create the same flavor profile as traditional elotes, but use vegetables currently in season. I love the charred, smoky flavor the roasting gives the Brussels sprouts. Combining them with the heat and richness of the Spicy Chipotle Mayo, the acid of the lime juice and the salty cheese creates a lively bite that makes you just keep digging in. It brightens the fundamental earthiness of the Brussels sprouts. I can see making this dish with corn kernels, with cauliflower, string beans, carrots, and baby artichokes. It’s just a perfect side to add to your repertoire for clients.

Adding the ingredients

While the finishing of the dish is done in a cast iron skillet, Rivera pre-cooks the Brussels sprouts to cut the working time. Here she roasts them in a pan with olive oil. She also makes the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so that the flavors come together. Be sure to get everything prepped before starting because the stovetop cooking goes very quickly.

Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes (Street Corn)
Christine Rivera of Galaxy Taco
Yield: 4 to 6 servings as a side dish

You can use Brussels sprouts—or other vegetables you enjoy—to make this dish when corn is out of season. Or instead of corn, if you like. If you make it with corn, you can grill the corn on the cob and add the ingredients when you serve the corn (traditional style) or remove the corn from the cob and prepare it as directed below. Be sure to mix up the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so the flavors will meld. Once you get started with the cooking process it will take about five minutes so you want everything prepped and ready to go.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, and halved
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup cilantro, chopped, reserving 1 teaspoon for garnish
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Cotija cheese plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
1 lime, cut in half
Spicy Chipotle Mayo (see below for recipe and make ahead of time*)

Spicy Chipotle Mayo
1 cup mayo
1 chile from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (you can find this in your local supermarket)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine and mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts in extra virgin olive oil and salt. Roast Brussels sprouts for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on size) and let them chill.

Place a pan on the stove at a low medium heat, add extra virgin olive oil. Once the pan is hot add Brussels sprouts. Toss them to cook evenly, then add cotija cheese, cilantro (saving some for a garnish), and lime juice from half a lime. Stir for about 5 minutes on low to medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chipotle mayo. Stir well to insure that the mayo is evenly distributed. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the reserved cotija cheese and cilantro on top and squeeze the second half of the lime.

Christine Rivera and dish2

What new dishes are you incorporating this year for clients? Any you want to share with readers?

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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