We’re two days out from Thanksgiving and no doubt most of you have either decided on your meal–or the dish you’re bringing if you a guest. But for those of you still hoping for last-minute inspiration I thought we’d revisit some of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes–because you never know when that “aha” moment will strike and you’re motivated to rush to the market to gather ingredients and start cooking.

Turkey Stuffing Muffins and Cranberry Chutney: Just when you thought you couldn’t come up with a new way to approach stuffing someone turns it into muffins. This is so clever. While you could do this with your own favorite, traditional stuffing, take a look at this recipe from the Art Institute of California-San Diego. And pair it with this divine cranberry chutney!

Macaroni and Cheese for Kids and Adults: Don’t even question if this a Thanksgiving dish. This mac and cheese is inspired by two big names: Alton Brown and Martha Stewart. Based on their recipes I created my own version. A little less cooking of the pasta here, the spice combo there, tempering eggs, adding a panko topping. Well, it all came together in a bubbling, rich, creamy casserole with a crusty top and lots of flavor.

Celery Root Mashed Potatoes: You’ve probably seen these gnarled weird root veggies in your market’s produce section and then scurried away, but celery root, or celeriac, is wonderful, especially when mashed. Not surprisingly, it tastes like celery. You’ll also get some great ideas through this link for making other unusual root vegetables.

Ancient Grains Salads: Freekah. Einkorn. If you haven’t cooked with these, you’re missing out on a whole lot of flavor and texture. And they’re perfect for turning into a beautiful late fall salad, like this Kale and Crimini Mushroom Greenwheat Freekah Pilaf. Follow the recipe or be inspired to create your own on the fly.

Madeleines Two Ways: Have you been asked to bring dessert? These citrus and chocolate madeleines are easy to make and will win you new friends at the Thanksgiving potluck. The ingredients are easy enough to source. Just get a couple of madeleine forms and perform your magic!

Apple Crisp: Not comfortable baking pies but still want the traditional flavors? Make this apple crisp! In fact, make enough of the crisp part to store in the freezer so you can make a last-minute dessert with ease. The crisp is the thing here–you could add persimmons or pears or pomegranate seeds to the apples and still come out with a magnificent dessert.

Candy, Dennis, and I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving–and we’re filled with gratitude for you!

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year? 

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving? No Problem!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

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Swiss Chard Pesto for Kids

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Swiss Chard Pesto
Makes 2 cups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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