Breakfast tacos for dinner! Some chorizo with carrots mushrooms and chard, avocado, red onion, backyard eggs: Contributed by The Quarantined Kitchen member Trish Watlington

One of the phenomena that the pandemic has brought to social media is the rise of sharing in the quarantine kitchen. In fact, a private group I joined when it launched last March on Facebook is called The Quarantined Kitchen. Already it has 2.3 thousand members.

It’s by no means the only one. Another Facebook Group, Quarantine Meals, is even larger. Enormous, in fact, since it’s a public group, with 45.2 thousand members.

And, then there’s the more intimate private Facebook culinary lockdown group launched by APPCA member Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service in Boston. She calls her group ChefDemic. It  currently has 520 members.

What the three have in common is that members are encouraged to share photos and videos of the foods they’re preparing, share recipes, ask questions, and generally be a culinary gathering place. Or as Jenn Felmley, a San Diego chef who started The Quarantined Kitchen said, “My goal is to make this an online kitchen where everyone can gather.”

For Robinson, there was also a practical issue that needed solving.

“As things closed down for the pandemic emergency, we found ourselves looking in our freezers and pantries wondering what runs on grocery stores would look like, the panic buying,” she explains. “On a whim I turned to social media and created a Facebook group, ChefDemic. All the people included in the initial invitation seemed to like the name and the idea. The premise was to have a place where friends could come on and say, ‘Hey? I have such and such and no idea how to cook it, but it was all the store had.’ We also wanted to concentrate on what people had at hand in their homes and how they could utilize those items to minimize food waste.”

Initially Robinson thought there would be 20 to 40 people talking back and forth about shredded pork over some odd grain they found and what to do with half a bag of greens. What happened, along with that, she saw, was the building of a supportive community, free from virus talk and politics, dealing only with the food they were making at home, sharing ideas, photos, troubleshooting.

“Dennis [her partner] and I started some short, informative videos, posted what we were eating at home, a few instructions on cuts of meat and freezing. After a week or two, we had people asking to add friends. Then we noticed that conversations were taking place between members who were jumping in to help others with questions. Talk about a wealth of talent and information.

“I have always despised the term, ‘safe place,'” says Robinson, “but during this whole time I have embraced it as we have provided a safe place for over 500 friends and family members, including every level of talent out there, and for ourselves. And the posts have been creative, funny, supportive, informative, and people have stuck to the rules. I have received many private thank you notes via text and Messenger which confirms that there are people craving distraction.”

Most recently on ChefDemic a group member was wondering what to do with quail eggs–and four days later triumphantly posted several photos of her Angus burger with edam cheese, quail eggs, tomatoes, butter lettuce, salt and pepper on toasted, sprouted rye. There are photos of seared polenta cake, pulled pork, and coleslaw; photos of fish markets; photos of chicken and mushroom asparagus crepes with a mushroom dill sauce; shrimp zoodle pad thai; and Bibimgooksu (Korean Cold Mixed Noodles)–and so much more.

And here’s where you can find ChefDemic’s YouTube channel.

 

I know a lot of the folks who post on The Quarantined Kitchen and find myself posting on it pretty regularly. It’s filled with chefs and food writers, and, as you’d expect, a lot of dedicated home cooks–many of whom share dishes they’ve made with food they’ve grown.

To join the private groups, simply head over to the group page and request to join. Once you’re a member you can also invite your friends. These are wonderfully quirky groups and places where you can not just show off your own creations, but get inspired by what others are making and learn how they do it–all while getting out of your head a bit if you’re still in lockdown at home.

Do you belong to a Facebook culinary group? What have you gotten out of 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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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What do your pantry and freezer look like? Back in March when the country began to shelter in place and we were discovering empty shelves for the first time, it was clear hoarding was on. Beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen pizza, chicken–gone. All of a sudden it felt like we were living in the 1970s Soviet Union.

Supply chains have been struggling so it’s no surprise that in May we’re still finding some empty shelves–or being told to limit our purchases of beef or tomato sauce or eggs. But it’s hard to tell what exactly is happening in the kitchens of America when you’re stuck in your own kitchen.

So, it was fascinating to read this article in Axios last week, called The Quarantine Diet. I thought I’d share with you some of their findings.

For one thing, all those food and nutrition trends we were anticipating for 2020? Things like the rise of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and organic or sustainable products? See ya!

Instead, customers are purchasing historic amounts of frozen foods–from pizza to vegetables to entrées. Same with canned and processed foods. According to The New York Times, food sales at General Mills and Campbell Soup rose more than 60 percent in the four weeks that ended April 4. Consumer data company Nielsen also noted that Kraft Heinz, Kellogg, Flower Foods, and others had increases of 37 to 50 percent. This comes after a downward sales trend for soups and other canned foods as consumers began to favor fresh produce and other more nutritious options. Now people are stocking up–what the food industry calls “pantry-loading.”

Another option being revived for those who can afford it are meal kits, like those from Blue Apron and Home Chef. But it’s not just dedicated meal kit companies. Restaurants are getting into the act as well. Chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are introducing their own meal kits along with Denny’s, Panera, and Just Salad. Panera, like many neighborhood restaurants, is also adding groceries for sale. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. customers spent around $100 million on meal kits at retail stores in the month ending April 11. That’s nearly double from the same period the prior year.

And good-bye to the sober-curious. Meet the bored and the anxious (dare you look in the mirror?). They’re driving up liquor sales. Think “quarantinis” and Corona beers (too on point for me). Apparently, the rise in drinking corresponds to the same instincts driving up to childhood comfort food favorites. And dairy is making a comeback. Ice cream. Cheese. Butter. These complete proteins calm us and comfort us.

Axios pointed to several trends to watch. Faux meats are heading south, thanks to the pandemic, which Suzy Badaracco, Culinary Tides consultancy CEO Suzy Badaracco forecasts will continue. According to Badaracco, despite a national meat shortage, people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers. Vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants even as meat eaters will return to animal proteins at an accelerated pace.

And, sadly, “sustainability sales,” which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate. Badaracco attributes this to cost, not desire.

What food and beverage trends have you noticed in your region? Do these trends sound familiar to you?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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Both of my grandmothers were terrific cooks and one, my mom’s mother, was also an accomplished baker. I have a collection of recipe cards from her, my Nana, but when I was in my 20s I asked her to make me a cookbook of her recipes. By then she was closing in on 80, if not that already. Her memory of exact recipe ingredient amounts was sliding and her handwriting had become a bit wispy. But she accommodated my request and within months presented me with a blue denim three-ring notebook filled with handwritten recipes. I adore that book. It’s on my list of items to grab in case of evacuation.

I’m going to take a big leap and assume that you, too, have some stacks of cherished family recipes in a drawer or box, or shoved into cookbooks. Would I be right as well in assuming that on some to-do list somewhere is a goal of organizing them for yourself or your kids? I ask because I happened upon an article in My Recipes that has all sorts of wonderful ideas for how to turn old family recipes into heirlooms. Sure, there were the expected takes, like the notebook and box for index cards. But the author also surprised me with some unexpected ideas I just have to share. Because it seems to me that if you’re stuck at home looking for a new project to take on after binging on all your favorite shows and mastering baking sourdough bread, creatively corralling all those recipes–perhaps even your own, if not those of parents and grandparents–could be a satisfying activity.

What does the author suggest?

First, the photo album, of course. I’m partial to this idea, along with the next, because I love being able to hold the pieces of notebook paper, the backs of the envelopes, and the stained index cards with my Nana’s or mom’s sprawling handwriting.

Then, there’s the recipe box. This can be as well-ordered with section markers or totally random for the fun of discovery. When my mom sold her house following my dad’s death a few years ago, she gave me a hefty orange recipe box that I periodically riffle through. I even found what had been someone’s (my little brother’s?) art project with a recipe lightly written on it. Was it the first thing she grabbed to take down a recipe from a friend on the phone? I’ll have to ask her.

Now, you could just buy a recipe box on Amazon. Or you could get creative and make one or get a bare bones box and decorate it. Or have a kid decorate it. Or scour Etsy for the recipe box of your dreams.

From inmyownstyle.com

Then the writer surprised me. How about framing favorite old, handwritten recipes? She demonstrates this with recipe cards and burlap as the matting, but whatever works for your style could be wonderful. This is where inspiration from Pinterest could come in handy.

Next came the idea of creating a memory recipe box. This is quite a bit different from gathering and organizing family recipes. Here you’re hitting on a recipe or group of recipes that strike you where you live and build a sort of altar to them, placing them in a shadow box with photos and other items that represent what those recipes mean to you.

WeeCustomDesigns on Etsy

Finally, there’s this very cool idea of transposing a cherished family recipe onto a tea towel or cutting board. Imagine this as a gift idea for relatives who all know and love Grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies or lasagna. It can be a DIY project (you can go to the original story for a couple of sources) or you could have an artisan do it for you–and you can find them on Etsy.

Do you have a collection of family recipes that need organizing? How have you pulled them together or displayed 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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

 

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There’s the Rub

Filed under: Cooking Tips , Tags: , , , , , , , — Author: Caron Golden , May 4, 2020

Have you been absorbed over the past several weeks with intense cooking projects beyond or instead of what you do for your clients? Perhaps some attempts at sourdough bread? Maybe a complex cooking technique you’ve been itching to experiment with?

Well, if you’ve exhausted all those experiments or feel exhausted by them, here’s a hugely satisfying kitchen endeavor that requires minimal effort, yet will yield wonderful flavors to the other dishes you make:

A homemade herb rub.

I got to thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I saw this piece in The Kitchn that advocates making taco seasoning at home instead of buying those tired, usually stale yellow packets at the market. In fact, you probably have many of the dried herbs and spices already.

The same goes for making your own curry seasoning. And chile. And so many others.

But if you have a garden filled with herbs, you can also do what I’ve been doing for years and make an herb rub.

I wrote about this particular rub years ago. But I thought that with spring here and our gardens our havens now more than ever, enjoying the bounty of those fast-growing herbs would be a joy. A good rub is not only perfect on meats, poultry, and fish, but also roasted vegetables. And, they’re so versatile you can enjoy them mixed with a really good, young extra virgin olive oil as a dip for bread. Make your rub the basis for a vinaigrette or creamy dip. Stir it into a sauce for pasta or into a soup. Oh, man, I can’t stop!

Now the rub I made last weekend features what’s going crazy in my garden right now: rosemary, sage, and thyme. Sometimes I add oregano. Or chives. To this foundation, I include garlic cloves–lots of them–along with hot pepper flakes, and coarse sea salt. I’ve also added lemon zest from Eureka lemons. Right now all I have are Meyer lemons, but the skin is too thin and delicate to zest well.

Collect your herbs and pull off the leaves. If the stems are young, go ahead and leave them on, but rosemary can get woody and thyme stems brittle, so if you have older rosemary and thyme stems, make sure you take just the leaves.

Unless you want to mince the herbs, garlic, and salt together by hand (which I used to do), pile everything into the bowl of a food processor (which I now do) and let it whirl. Make sure the mixture is reduced to small pieces that are about the same size. They don’t need to be–and shouldn’t be–reduced to powder.

Then pour out the very fragrant mixture onto a sheet pan. Spread it out thinly. Don’t dry this in the oven. Its secret power is the oils in the ingredients so place the sheet pan somewhere where the mixture can slowly dry on its own over the course of about three or four days, depending on the humidity. Stir it around daily with your fingers to break up any clumps. Once it feels dry, place it in spice containers. You may want to give some of it away to friends or clients to enjoy.

And, the additional benefit? Your house will have the most devastatingly delicious fragrance and you’ll be hungry all the time the rub is drying.

Do you make your own spice mixes or herb rubs? What ingredients do you use?

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 or point of view to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

 

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