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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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How are your clients feeling? A little achy around the joints with arthritis? Perhaps they’ve got diabetes or cancer or are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, our immune systems become activated when our bodies recognize something foreign—be it an invading microbe, pollen, or chemical. What follows can be a process called inflammation and while intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders can protect our health, if the inflammation persists when we’re not threatened, it can take us down. And so many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, have been linked to inflammation.

If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself way to address inflammation, you can find it in the kitchen via farmers markets and grocery stores. Instead of eating refined carbohydrates, soda, and fried foods, for instance—all foods that cause inflammation—you should prepare more anti-inflammatory foods for clients using ingredients like olive oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and fruits, in your diet.

And spices, like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Let’s focus on turmeric.

Turmeric, which is related to ginger, and its most active compound curcumin, is grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and Central America. The National Institutes of Health reports that turmeric has been shown in preliminary studies to reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients had after surgery, control knee pain from osteoarthritis, and reduce skin irritation that can occur after radiation treatments for breast cancer.

One simple thing you can make for clients to add to their coffee or tea is a spice compound that my friend Su-Mei Yu, a San Diego expert in Thai cooking and former owner of Saffron Thai restaurant in San Diego, taught me. It’s something she spoons into her morning coffee daily to help her address the inevitable aches and pains of aging.

Su-Mei Yu grinding spices

She combines one-part organic turmeric powder with half a part ground black pepper, and one-quarter part each of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. She adds a teaspoon of this compound, along with a dash of olive oil, which she explained boosts the spices’ effectiveness, to her coffee. The flavor is comforting, yet potent—kind of like chai on steroids. If your clients are coffee or tea drinkers, they should find it compellingly delicious. I add it to my coffee every morning now, too, and love it.

Turmeric root can be found in some specialty ethnic grocery stores, but, of course, you’re more likely to find the ground form in the spice section of grocery stores. You can find turmeric supplements in capsule form at various health stores.

Turmeric can be included in fresh root or powder (or both) forms in curry paste or marinades. You can also encourage clients to make a Turmeric Tea. Here’s a recipe from DLife:

Ingredients:

  1.  Water
  2. Turmeric powder
  3. Honey

Directions:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water
  2. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered turmeric.
  3. Let the turmeric seep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
  4. Strain the tea, add honey if desired and sip.

And here is Su-Mei Yu’s recipe for her Yellow Curry Paste.

Yellow Curry Paste
 
5 cloves garlic
2 shallots
2 teaspoons rice bran oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 dried de arbol chilies, soaked, dried, roasted and break into small pieces
1 lemongrass, outer tough layer and green parts removed, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced galangal
1 teaspoon minced kaffir lime peel (substitute with lime)
1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon red miso
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, roasted and ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  1. Wrap the garlic and shallots in separate aluminum sheet, coat with oil and bake at 400 for at least 20 minutes, cool. Remove from the foil and peel. Set aside.
  2. In a mortar with a pestle, pound the salt and dried chilies together until combined into a coarse paste.
  3. Add the lemongrass and pound to puree.
  4. Add the fresh ginger, galangal, kaffir lime peel and turmeric. When the paste becomes pureed, add the roasted garlic cloves and shallots. Pound to combine and puree. Add the red miso and pound to puree and combine.
  5. Add the ground coriander seeds, cumin, white peppercorns, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger powder and turmeric. Mix and combine with the puree.
  6. The paste can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks

Be sure when you use this past to add it to coconut oil in a large saucepan over low heat to keep the ingredients from burning. Once it darkens, add a bit of coconut cream to render the paste to release its flavor. Then you can add ingredients like bite-sized pieces of room-temperature chicken or very firm tofu, cut-up potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, along with chilies, bay leaves, salt, and brown sugar–and then more coconut cream. If the chilies make the dish a little too spicy, add some more brown sugar to balance the flavors. Su-Mei likes to finish the dish off with a little fish sauce at the end. And, if you can find chewy red rice from Thailand, clients should really enjoy it with your curry.

Do you cook with turmeric for clients? What dishes do you use it in?

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Depending on where you live in the U.S. you may be nodding your head in agreement or be totally dismissive when I complain that right now in San Diego the heat and humidity is making me wilt. Yes, San Diego is probably much cooler than almost any other part of the U.S. but I’m not in any other part of the U.S. and while it’s not in the three-digit temperature category, it’s September, and temperatures beyond the coast are in the 90s and could very well go up further tomorrow or next week. In the meantime, those thick clouds that hang in the East tell me a monsoon is happening elsewhere and slipping humidity to us.

No one likes to cook in heat and humidity if they don’t have to. Or eat heavy food. That’s why I take advantage of late summer harvests of cucumbers and tomatoes to make this easy, very refreshing salad. It’s something you can make for clients or show clients how to make for themselves–or, hey, make it for your family to have something cool and simple to have at the ready once you’ve gotten out of your client’s kitchen.

For this salad I use either hothouse cucumbers (you know, the ones so delicate they’re wrapped in plastic) or Persian cucumbers, along with cherry tomatoes. I’m lucky because my garden is overflowing with Sweet 100s and other cherry tomatoes.

To make the salad I pull out my handy little Kyocera slicer, set it to the thickest opening, and get to work. It takes no time to slice the cukes. Then I slice the tomatoes in half in what, maybe two minutes? I clip some mojito mint from my garden and rinse and chop that up in less than 30 seconds. Then I quickly mix together a dressing using seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I layer the cukes in a serving dish with a two-inch lip, toss the tomatoes over them, followed by the mint, then a few dashes of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. I slosh the dressing over the salad, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for about an hour so it can marinate.

The reward is a mouthful of fresh crisp veggies complemented by a mix of flavors and textures–sweet, salty, smoothness, crunch, and a pop of heat. It takes so little effort and the flavor rewards are so great (since all these vegetables are at their peak ripeness) it would be a shame to not make this part of your hot weather  repertoire.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 8

2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced (if conventional cucumbers, peel the skin)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Dressing
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Layer the cucumbers in a bowl or flat serving dish with a lip at least an inch high to hold the dressing. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the mint over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds, the red pepper flakes, and sea salt over the top. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, give it a good shake, and then pour over the salad. Cover and chill for an hour. The vegetables should absorb most of the dressing and the cucumbers will soften a little but still have a little crispness to them. If you want to add some protein to the salad cooked shrimp or beans (I love garbanzo beans with this) will work just fine.

What’s your summer/heat wave go-to salad for yourself or clients?

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