Every couple of months, my friends Erin and Dave Smith can be found at a Chinese market in San Diego filling up a cart with vegetables, eggs, and meat. When I went with them, they launched their expedition with huge bags of carrots and eggplants, sweet potatoes and broccoli, big bunches of leafy bok choy, and ginormous king oyster mushrooms. They eyed amounts, compared notes on what each had bagged, then moved on to the meat and poultry aisle. There they grabbed three dozen eggs, then packages of pork cushion, beef peeled knuckle, tripe; and pork livers, hearts, and spleen. They found chicken livers and gizzards and added them to the cart. Oh, and they picked up a big bag of red cargo rice before checking out. The total came to about $142, including Dave’s can of coconut water.

The shopping was for their two corgis, Ricky and Tanuki. And their Sunday would mostly be dedicated to turning that cart full of food into meals that would last for close to two months.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans are estimated to spend $29.69 billion on food for their pets. That could mean your basic kibble or it could extend to organic dehydrated human quality food.

As pet owners have become more aware of what goes into their own food, eschewing processed products for more healthful, seasonal, and organic ingredients they’ve also been eying the labels on their pets’ food—and are not necessarily sanguine about what they read. Pet food recalls haven’t helped. Plus, some owners are addressing specific health issues their pets have with dietary changes. Others are augmenting high-quality foods with home-cooked meals or treats. Still others, at the urging of their pets’ breeders, feed raw diets.

Why mention this? Well, you’re cooking for human clients, but if they have dogs, perhaps you can create a side business of augmenting their diet with healthy meals and treats.

The big challenge in all this is determining how closely home cooked foods adhere to basic nutritional requirements, requirements that change as a puppy or kitten mature, perhaps have litters and lactate, how much they exercise, suffer from health issues, and, eventually, age. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, establishes nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods that pet food companies adhere to. But these standards aren’t easily available for pet owners, change over the years based on new research, and are not easy to follow even if you can figure out how to access them.

Lucy Postins, founder, owner, and Chief Integrity Officer of San Diego-based The Honest Kitchen, explained that the AAFCO standards have guidance on everything from how much fat and protein to include to nutrient profiles—all for every stage of the animal’s life.

“Our biggest challenge is getting recipes to meet AAFCO requirements,” she said. “It’s very difficult to do that across an entire recipe. It’s a $2,500 minimum undertaking to get a recipe evaluated. So, you can imagine that it’s a big challenge for pet owners.”

Erin Smith is a geneticist at UCSD and an avid cook who uses science to coax the best flavors out of food, including caramels that she used to sell locally. She has managed to find older standards and five years ago developed a complex Excel spreadsheet to work the numbers. Based on that, she said she’s pretty comfortable with the ratios she’s come up with to feed Ricky and Tanuki.

No one is saying you should create meals that would strictly feed your clients pets. It’s unlikely that like Smith, you could figure out how to meet AAFCO requirements. But the key to a healthful pet diet is diversity and that’s something you can offer. Bake doggie cookies, make a dish of ground turkey and whole wheat pasta filled with peas, cranberries, and broccoli. Just make sure that the ingredients you use aren’t toxic to dogs (like onions and garlic).

Need some inspiration? Try this meatball recipe from Honest Kitchen’s Lucy Postins:

Turkey and Raspberry Summer Meatballs
From Lucy Postins of The Honest Kitchen
Yield: About 24 small meatballs for humans and their dogs

Just the slightest bit sweet, these meatballs are so fancy and colorful that your guests will think you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen. Little do they know! 

Ingredients
1 pound ground turkey
2 free-range eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1⁄2 cup fresh raspberries

Instructions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.
  2.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, eggs, basil, and raspberries. Stir until thoroughly combined (the raspberries will break apart and spread throughout the mixture).
  3.  Using your hands, make marble-size balls of the mixture and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm to the touch. Cool before serving.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Have clients been talking to you about making food or treats for their dogs? Have you considered pitching them about this?

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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Are you feeling the burn yet? If not, it’s coming. It always helps to have a few solid no cook recipes in your back pocket. We all have them. I thought I’d share some of mine in case you could use some inspiration–either for your own family or clients.

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
This dish has long been a family go to in the high heat of July and August. It’s the most wonderful combination of flavors and textures. It’s healthy. It’s cold. Add some cooked shrimp or crab, a hank of crusty sourdough bread, and a cold beer and you’ve got a great meal.

Serves 8 – 10

5 – 8 large tomatoes, quartered
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ English cucumber, roughly chopped
1 or 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
6 – 8 scallions, roughly chopped
6 – 8 radishes, roughly chopped
½ medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
½ bunch parsley with major stems removed and/or 1 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
2-6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 regular-sized can beef broth
1 can low-salt V-8 juice
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned – if fresh is unavailable, I like the frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s)
1 pound pre-cooked bay shrimp, lump crab (optional)
Sour cream or Mexican crema

Pull out the food processor and a very large bowl. Process each of the vegetables until the pieces are small — but before they’re pureed — and add to the bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the proteins and dairy, which I keep on the table separately for guests to add as they wish. Refrigerate until cold and then adjust seasonings to taste. Top when serving with sour cream or Mexican crema. Serve with fresh tortillas or even hearty sourdough bread.

Spicy Kale, Corn, and Mango Salad
I came up with this during a killer heat wave. It was so refreshing. Add cheese or some other protein like roasted chicken from the market to bulk it up a bit, but it’s a great base for some serious eating.

Serves 4

1 ear of corn, shucked with kernels sliced off
1/2 slightly ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
1/2 medium onion, red or white, diced
4 large kale leaves, spine removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and soaked

1/2 cup of Country French Vinaigrette made from Penzeys’ mix — or your own vinaigrette

Combine vegetables, add dressing. Marinate for about an hour. Serve.

Cucumber and Radish Confetti Soup
For at least 30 years I’ve been making a cucumber soup with yogurt and tomatoes that’s been a go to on hot summer days. But one day I found myself with radishes as well and thought that I’d change things up a bit. This is still a classic for me, but I now also add a bit of low-fat buttermilk to the soup.

Serves 4

1 large English cucumber or 3 good-sized Persian cucumbers (about 6 inches long)
1 dozen radishes
1 1/2 cups unflavored yogurt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fenugreek (for a different flavor, try dill or mint — they’re all equally good)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard. (If you’re using a conventional cucumber first peel the skin; for the other types, leave the thin skin on for color.) Cut into chunks and put in the bowl of a food processor. Trim all the radishes and cut all but one into chunks and add to the food processor. Save the remaining radish for garnish. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blend thoroughly. Remove to a bowl, cover, and chill at least two hours or overnight. Just before serving, slice the remaining radish very thinly, again with the little mandoline, and use it to top the soup. Feel free to add a little hot sauce when serving.

Stone Fruit Salsa
And now for dessert! Yes, you could use this on a taco or pork tenderloin–but it’s so fabulous over a couple of scoops of ice cream!

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 dozen cherries, pitted
2 plums
1 large, firm peach
1/2 serrano or whole jalapeño pepper
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the fruit and the pepper (removing the seeds if you want to reduce the heat intensity). Add to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour. Adjust the seasonings. If you want it sweeter, add a little honey to taste.

What are your no cook summer go-to recipes? What are client 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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Some of you asked Candy to respond to a recent slew of scam emails that some members have received. Here is her expert advice:

Here we go again!

SCAMS! SCAMS! SCAMS!

We have posted warnings and notified members for years in the APPCA Internet Fraud Forum about the latest internet scams directed at the personal chef industry, and since the scamsters seem to have upped their game recently, this is a good time to sound the alert once again.

The latest version of this classic scam features a pretend geologist who found your business info on the APPCA website: 

He is coming to your town with his family for 6 to 8 weeks and wants to hire you.

What he is NOT telling you is that he has also targeted every other personal chef in that town as well as the car service companies, caterers, event planners, personal shoppers, and any other personal service business he/she can identify.

The goal on his end is to get you to give up your banking info to him so he can send a money transfer to you OR, to send you a money order or check for you to deposit in your account that is significantly larger than the agreed upon amount and have you send a check to him for the overage. His check IS NOT REAL, and your bank account may be drained as a result of this action taking place.

One of our newer members who had never been exposed to this scam before recently responded to it, and it got as far as his receiving the bogus check from the scamster. Fortunately, his bank notified him immediately that the check was bogus and he was saved by their swift action.

I suggested he write the bank a letter of thanks and hand deliver it with a basket of homemade personal chef treats to acknowledge their commitment to their small business owner account holders.

I also suggested he share the incident and the bank’s quick action with the business editor of his local daily newspaper, the local Better Business Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce so they can warn small personal service businesses how best to protect themselves from this type of criminal activity.

Here are a few ways to protect your business from an “out of town” potential client:

  • Tell the potential client from out of town you do not book service dates for non-local clients who do business exclusively by e-mail.
  • You require the potential client’s banking information, current workplace contact information, workplace contact information he will be associated within your town and two references with contact information.
  • Tell him/her you must meet with them personally when they arrive in your town before you will book cooking service dates.
  • All cook date service dates MUST be paid in full and personal checks or money orders must clear your bank prior to you booking cook dates for service.

Finally, those of you who are APPCA members who do receive what you think may be a scam, please post it to our personal chef forum or our Facebook group page. Not only can you get feedback (many of your colleagues may have gotten the same or similar request), but you’ll help your colleagues avoid falling for one should they receive a request that is too good to be true!

Have you received a scam letter since you’ve been a personal chef? Please share how you addressed it.

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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Deconstructed Elote Salad

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , July 8, 2019

Now that we’re officially living the summer life, we really need to talk corn. Beautifully grilled corn on the cob is a classic summer treat, but those of us who live near the Mexican border take that a step further with elote, or Mexican Street Corn. With elote you get a corn on the cob that’s beautifully grilled and then sprinkled with salt and chile powder before being slather with mayonnaise or Mexican crema (think sour cream), and topped with a sprinkling of cotija cheese and squeeze of lime juice.

I’ve posted about elote before, but that was off-season, using Brussels sprouts. This week I’ve got yet another version of elote from APPCA member Anne Blankenship, who lives and runs her personal chef business, “Designed Cuisine,” in Dallas. When I posted a link to traditional elote on our Facebook page, Anne immediately came back with her version of a deconstructed elote salad. And, because she’s such a generous chef, was happy to share her recipe.

“I was looking for a Mexican-themed side dish for a client and found this; an alternative to guacamole or Mexican rice,” she said. “I loved the idea. And much as people love guacamole, it looks pretty ugly after it sits awhile. 

Anne pointed out that this can be great for picnics and it’s versatile. You can certainly add additional ingredients, per your clients taste.

“You can serve this dish chilled, at room temperature, or warm,” Anne said. “In all the recipes I read said it was great for picnics and pot luck parties. I read through a LOT of recipes as I wanted to see what each one had to offer and the different variations available.  It’s great because you can add things like the diced red bell pepper or avocado if you want.  It definitely says add the lime, as the dish needs that acid to complete the flavor. I already had a black bean and roasted corn salad in my repertoire but this was more “cool” to me. For that black bean/roasted corn salad I roasted the frozen corn in the oven but who wants to turn on the oven in the summer (especially in Dallas!)  So I loved the idea of the iron skillet on top of the stove for roasting (since neither I nor many of my clients have grills).”

And how’s this for a catering idea:

“I even helped cater an event here one time and they had an “Elote Bar” which was a cool idea,” Anna noted. “They had the charred corn kernels in a chafing dish and then all the toppings in large martini glasses (for effect) so you could add your own toppings.  It was a big hit, and something different than your usual canapes.”

After reading a bunch of different versions of elote salad, Anne pulled this one together. “I had to eliminate the green onions because my client is allergic. I only made it once but it was really good!  I really liked the idea of charring the corn in an iron skillet too.”

Deconstructed Elote Salad
From Anne Blankenship
Yield: 4 servings
Note: You can make it with frozen corn kernels roasted/charred in an iron skillet (which is great if you don’t have a grill).

Ingredients
4 ears of corn, husked OR 24 ounces frozen corn (NOT thawed)
2 stalks green onions, sliced thin
½ teaspoon neutral-flavor vegetable oil
1/3 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1/4 cup mayonnaise
½ cup finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese (plus more for serving)
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Options you can add:
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ fresh avocado, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

1 lime, cut into wedges (For serving)

Instructions
Roast ears of corn: Soak corn with husks still attached in water for 1 hour prior to grilling.
Grill corn with husks on until charred–about 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then shuck ears and remove corn kernels. Set kernels aside to cool.

If using frozen corn, heat vegetable oil in an iron skillet. Add corn and green onions and roast on stovetop over medium-high heat for approximately five minutes, until charred. Set corn aside to cool.

In medium bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, cheese of choice, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cilantro, and salt and pepper. If you are including any of the optional ingredients, add them now. Mix well with small spatula. Add cooled corn and mix well. Refrigerate before serving.

May add extra cheese, onions, cilantro, paprika and/or chili powder when serving

NOTE: Salad needs lime juice for the acid when serving; do not leave it out.

Do you have an unforgettable summer recipe you’re just starting make this season? 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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Enjoying a Garden Burger

You know the drill. You, as a Mom or Dad or in your role as a personal chef, are going out of your way to prepare healthy meals for your kids or your clients’ kids, filled with nutritious vegetables. The kids, however, greet their plate with a scrunched up nose. They don’t care that it’s good for them. They won’t eat it and challenge you or their parents to make them. And who has the energy to sit at a table all night facing down a plate of peas? Or listen to parents complain that the meal you carefully prepared sat uneaten by finicky children?

But with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children over the past 30 years, adults need to find effective ways to help children eat more healthfully— and that, of course, includes eating more vegetables.

According to the USDA, children should eat one to three cups of vegetables a day, depending on their age, with toddlers from two to three eating one cup and teens eating two-and-a-half to three. But making that happen is a challenge when they reject broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and squash at home and toss the lunch  made them for school.

As a volunteer for the Olivewood Gardens & Learning City in National City, near San Diego, I taught cooking classes to young, mostly low-income children using organic produce mostly grown on site. That experience taught me that adults tend to go about wooing kids with vegetables all wrong. Bits and pieces of information are good. Lecturing is dull. Making food all about color and flavor wins hearts. And, well, so does a little subterfuge. It’s not so much that you’re tricking them — after all, they may be around while you’re cooking. They certainly are if you’re teaching a kids’ cooking class. It’s more like you’re incorporating vegetables through clever cooking techniques that don’t blast that they’re eating what they’re trying to avoid.

Try these five approaches:

  1. Make pancakes and waffles — using summer squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower or other vegetables you can grate.
  2. Turn salsa into soup — if the kids you cook for enjoy salsa, they’ll love gazpacho.
  3. Sauce it up — steam veggies and puree them with a little stock and herbs/spices to turn into a simple sauce. Forget the bottled ranch dressing. Make dips by steaming vegetables and pureeing them with yogurt and light mayo.
  4. Wrap it up — Make healthy burritos and wraps by steaming, sauteeing, or roasting veggies. Create a burrito bar with beans, brown rice, cheese, chunks of chicken or fish and set the kids loose.
  5. Hide in plain sight — Chop and add more vegetables to tomato sauce. Stir fry or mix brown rice, whole grains cooked orzo or other pasta with diced, cooked vegetables. Add vegetables to chili or thick soups.

But the most important way to get kids to eat vegetables — and, in general, eat more healthfully — is to cook with them. Even the youngest kids can help in some way. And if they also help with the marketing, even better. Also, whether you’re a parent or cooking class teacher, create a rule that they have to take one big bite before they turn something down. Chances are they will love what they cook.

Do you cook with kids or teach kids cooking classes? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned help children eat more healthfully?

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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