Personal Chef Spotlight

Chefs Dennis and Christine

PCs of the Year 2013

APPCA Live Seminars

Chefs, now that summer is here again and the temps inside and out make us dread turning on the stove, how about a break? Inside of turning up the heat, turn on the blender and make your clients (or yourself) some easy, refreshing chilled soups.

This is something I’ve been doing for years–and it’s been made so much easier with a powerful Vitamix. Some of my summer soups are savory, filled with veggies and garlic and herbs–to which chilled seafood, like shrimp or crab, can be added.

Others soups are more of a dessert treat. Melons and berries are terrific for them. Great a little good dark chocolate over the top or dunk a nice sandy shortbread into it and you’ll have a satisfying meal ender.

So, what have we got? The first is my most recent creation: Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup. I had a bit of a gardening episode and landed myself with a huge pile of green onions. So, soup! This recipe is easy and so satisfying on its own. The only thing I add is a hunk of sourdough baguette and homemade cultured butter.

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup
Serves 4

2 cups spinach, tightly packed
1 cup green onions, sliced (set aside a couple of tablespoons for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat or “light” sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces panko crumbs

1. Place all of the ingredients until the butter in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the panko crumbs. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until the crumbs become slightly brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
4. To serve, divide the soup between bowls. Garnish with the set aside slices of green onions and a sprinkling of the panko crumbs.

Another chilled savory soup I’ve loved for years is gazpacho. As many of my friends know, this chunky gazpacho is something my mom has made for years and I adopted as my own. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients and the more nutrients, the better the flavor. This soup is packed with it. It starts with the tomatoes, but adds cucumbers, corn, onions, garlic, bell peppers, chilies, cilantro, and lime juice–and I’m just getting started! Just be sure to chop each vegetable individually–unless you want a puree. Make your own tortillas to accompany this!

Evie’s Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 8 to 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 tbls lime juice
2-6 tbls red wine vinegar
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp 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 or cooked chunks of chicken or pork
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.

To make the flowered corn tortillas, simply prepare the masa according to the directions on the package (water, masa, and salt). Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls. On your tortilla press, lay an edible flower (we’ve used nasturtiums, pansies, society garlic, and the flowers of herbs that bolted) right side down. Then put the dough ball on top of the flower and press.

Place the uncooked tortilla flower side up on a hot skillet. When the edges curl, flip it over and cook just a minute or so more. That’s it.

Now for the sweet soups. Let’s start with this Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup. Chilled melons may be the most refreshing of summer eats. Combine the melon–and an über sweet honeydew at that–with fresh ginger, coconut milk, lime juice, and a smidge of kaffir lime powder and you have a dish that will serve as virtual armor against the dastardly rays of the summer sun.

Chilled Honeydew Coconut Milk Soup
Yield: 2 cups

1/2 honeydew melon (about 2 cups), seeded and cut into chunks
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon ginger, minced or grated
1 pinch kaffir lime leaf powder (available at spice shops)
Juice from one lime
Drizzle of honey

Combine all the ingredients. Puree in a blender until smooth. Chill for an hour before serving. Grate a little lime zest over the soup as garnish.

Finally, here’s my Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup. When the heat is on I love this combination of melon with blueberries and potent herbs like tarragon and basil. Thanks to the yogurt, it has a welcome creaminess and tang.

Chilled Melon Blueberry Soup
Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups melon
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain yogurt
Pinch kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Puree. Taste and adjust seasoning. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for two hours before serving.

What’s your favorite go-to summer soup? Feel free to share the recipe!

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!

We’ve written here before–many times, in fact–about the importance of marketing your business via social media. Clearly, more of you are doing this. So, how’s it going?

As social media platform user numbers grow, it admittedly can get harder to get eyes on your page. Let’s talk specifically about Facebook. As of March 2017, they had 1.28 billion active daily users on average. These numbers along make it feel like everyone’s playing in someone else’s sandbox. On top of that, it seems we’re always griping about how Facebook is constantly changing their news feed algorithms in ways that make our likes and views drop. Now we can add to that the scales weighing more toward advertising as opposed to organic views.

You couldn’t be faulted for wanting to throw up your hands and giving up. Don’t. Instead be smarter and be more strategic.

Here’s what you need to know to form that strategy. Let’s start with content, since the media you can include has expanded. According to Sprout Social, these are the options:

  • Status: The simplest form of communication can sometimes be the most powerful. With new features like larger text for shorter messages and the option to put your text on a colored background, you can get your essential message out in a more vibrant and eye-catching way.
  • Images: Posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement, so being visual helps. But don’t rely on images to do all the work–put effort into high-quality photos and awe your audience. If your product is considered “boring,” use beautiful images to highlight your brand’s creative side. Inspire users with virtual reality features or 360-degree content.
  • Videos: Video is in high demand and 43% of users would like to see even more from marketers. However, only 15% of Facebook videosare watched with sound. Video should be accessible, easy to digest and always have captions. Create videos that catch a user’s attention and provides something worthwhile.
  • Links: Links are perfect for sharing industry news and your own blog content. Find your most engaged content and continue to share it on Facebook. It’s not easy doing so organically, but it shouldn’t stop you from posting your best content.
  • Facebook Live: Live content drives three times more engagementon Facebook. With in-the-moment content growing in popularity, see how your brand can give sneak peeks into industry or office events, product launches and other behind the scenes content. Go Live, wow your audience and engage.
  • Facebook Stories: New to 2017, Facebook Stories are in-the-moment content clips. This was based off Instagram Stories, which ultimately were from Snapchat Stories–seeing a trend here? Brands have tested their efforts on Snapchat for a few years now. But with the newest release, you can attempt this style of content with one of your biggest networks.

You’re chefs, so the best way for you to share on Facebook is through visuals of your food. That means really good images. Dark, drab, out-of-focus photos are going to turn potential clients off. If they don’t look mouth watering, don’t post them. Period. So, get better at photography, even if it’s phone photography. And don’t be afraid to take short videos and post them. Or, post live video. You can do this. It’s fun!

So, let’s get into some strategic tips:

  1. Put together a basic approach with goals and how to meet them. What are you trying to accomplish on Facebook? Getting more business? Raising your professional profile? Networking? Any and all are valid–just have those goals in mind as you post.
  2. Understand your demographics. Click on “Insights” on your Facebook business page and study the numbers. That includes page view, likes, reach, and post engagements. Click on People to learn about how the numbers break down. You’ll learn what’s popular and what’s been a dud, if you’re growing your audience, and where they come from.
  3. Bring in more views through tagging. Did you just put on a great catering event? Did you take fab photos of the food and the space? Post them and tag your client if he or she’s on Facebook. Their friends will likely get that post in their news feed. That may get you some extra attention–and possibly inquiries about your services.
  4. Post just enough–and at the right time. You don’t want to spam people with your self-promoting photos but you don’t want to be forgotten. Look at those Insights on your page to learn when your posts get the most attention and schedule posts for that time and day.
  5. Experiment with content and form. Instead of posting a bunch of photos together in a static collage, try using the slideshow tool. Those same photos have movement and attract more eyes.
  6. Consider ads if your goal is to drive business. Start small and see how it goes with results. But remember, ads only spread content–so you have to be sure you are creating great content.

Finally, as we always say, social media is not so much about promoting as it is about engagement. Share your friends’ and clients’ great news and achievements. Post comments. Invite comments. Ask questions. Join groups, including our own APPCA group for members, to network and increase your visibility. And, if you’re on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, cross post. Instagram, for instance (owned by Facebook), has tools that facilitate posting simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter.

How’s your Facebook experience going? Any tips or tricks you can share with your colleagues here?

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!

I’m a huge sausage lover. I grew up on Hebrew National salami and grilled Dodger dogs in LA, continued with Sabrett and Nathan’s street hot dogs in New York, and eventually graduated to Italian soppressata, coppa, and other salumi.

But would I make them at home? Well, I’ve pretty much decided to forego making cured sausages, although there are many home cooks who do it successfully thanks to various classes and terrific instructional books like those by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, Rytek Kutas, and Bruce Aidells.

But fresh sausage? Absolutely. Especially after a couple of sessions with San Diego chef Joe Magnanelli. Magnanelli is himself self-taught with cured sausages. He is thoroughly grounded in technique plus he’s got great equipment to help ensure that the curing process results in both delicious and safe salumi.

Knowing that I wanted to learn how to make a fresh sausage, Magnanelli, demonstrated how a home cook or personal chef could do it—and it’s pretty easy. You could buy equipment to help you case the sausage but you don’t have to. In fact, here we have recipes for sausage patties for a delightful eggy breakfast sandwich and for a pasta dish. And once you’ve mastered the basic sausage recipe, you can create all sorts of unique dishes for clients.

Let’s start with what you will need: a meat grinder. And if you have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, you can easily buy a grinder attachment. You also need access to a freezer—yeah, of course you have that. You’ll want to briefly freeze the pork (or turkey or chicken or fatty fish) after prepping it before running it through the grinder. The chill keeps the protein and fat from sticking to the grinder blades and smearing.

If you’re making a pork sausage, the best cut to use is pork shoulder, Magnanelli said. That’s because it already has a good amount of fat in it. For his saucisson sec, the recipe calls for 20 percent pork fat and 80 percent meat.

The first time I met with Magnanelli, he made his saucisson sec, a traditional French salami, flavored with roasted garlic, salt, finely ground black pepper, and white wine. The second time, it was with minced garlic, red chili flakes, dried Sicilian oregano, kosher salt, toasted crushed fennel seed (crushed in a mortar and pestle), and a splash of white wine. The fennel, he said, gives the sausage a distinctive Italian quality. Both approaches will yield a delicious sausage. In fact, the beauty of sausage making is that you can add whatever seasonings appeal to you.

So, here’s how the process works: Cut the pork shoulder into one-inch pieces or what will fit into your grinder. Be sure as you cut that you trim off and discard the sinew and silver skin. Then put the pieces on a try and into the freezer until they are firm. Then mix the pork meat with the seasonings quickly so the pork stays cold. Grind the meat and flavorings together. If you don’t have a plunger for the grinder, Magnanelli suggests using the bottom of a whisk handle to help push the meat through the grinder.

Once you have your ground mixture in a bowl, season with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, along with a touch of white wine. Mix it together by hand. That’s it!

If you are going to case the sausage, Magnanelli said hog casings (scrubbed, salted pig intestines) are the best. You can ask a butcher. If you are in the market for a stuffer, you can buy a five-pound sausage stuffer from a company called Northern Tool for about $100. There are lots of videos online that demonstrate sausage stuffing technique.

If you’re not going to case the sausage, you can use this ground mixture in many ways. You can make the best meatloaf or meatballs ever. You can make sausage patties. You can sauté the mixture, breaking it up into chunks, to serve with pasta. You can add it to a tomato sauce, soup, or stew. You can use it as a pizza topping or a calzone or sandwich filling. It’s that versatile. And what you don’t use right away you can freeze for later.

For Magnanelli’s Sausage Breakfast Sandwich, he buttered one side of two slices of New York rye bread and toasted them buttered side up until golden brown. Then, on the other side of the bread, he spread mayonnaise mixed with sriracha sauce. In a pan, he added a small amount of olive oil and then some of the sausage mixture. In a second pan, he added butter and olive oil, then an egg, which he fried. Just before the egg was ready, Magnanelli topped it with a slice of smoked cheddar cheese. He placed some cooked sausage on one slice of bread, then topped it with the egg and cheese and placed the second slice of bread over it to make the sandwich.

Magnanelli’s Spaghetti with Italian Sausage also included plump yellow chanterelle mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms you prefer), cipollini onions that he had already roasted, cherry tomatoes, white wine, and fresh minced basil. The process is simple. In a large pot you’ll cook your pasta in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat a skillet and add olive oil. Then add the sausage. Break it up but leave it a little chunky. Brown the sausage then add the onions and mushrooms. Sauté for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes and basil. Add a splash of wine and stir. Then add a splash of the pasta water before adding the cooked, drained pasta. If you like, you can grate parmesan cheese over it and stir it together while it cooks for another 30 seconds to let the flavors come together.

Once you plate the dish you can drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it and sprinkle more minced basil and grated cheese.

Basic Sausage Recipe

Serves 6

5 pounds pork shoulder
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Clean and dice pork shoulder to 1-inch pieces, or small enough to fit through a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment. Place pieces on a flat plate or tray and put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to make very cold, but not frozen.

Slightly grind up the fennel seed with the chili flake. You can do this in a mortar and pestle or use the back of a sauté pan.

When the pork is ready, mix with fennel seed, chili flake, and garlic. Slowly add the mixture into the top of the grinder and grind into the bowl of your mixer. Season with salt and pepper and red wine. You can mix the ingredients by hand or on the low speed of your mixer using the paddle attachment. To check for seasoning, take a small piece and flatten to a small disk. Heat a sauté pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook on both sides until cooked through, about 1 minute on each side. Taste and re-season the rest of the pork mixture if necessary.

At this point the sausage is ready to use in various recipes. It can also be frozen to use later.

Sausage and egg breakfast sandwich

For 1 sandwich

2 ounces raw sausage mixture (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices New York rye bread or other sliced bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sriracha or other chili sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 farm egg
2 slices smoked cheddar cheese

Start by forming sausage into a disk like shape and keep refrigerated.

Spread 1 tablespoon of butter on each slice of bread on 1 side, then toast in a toaster oven butter-side up. While the bread is toasting, mix the mayonnaise and sriracha in a small bowl. When the bread is done toasting, spread the mayonnaise evenly on both slices.

Use the other tablespoon of butter and olive oil to fry the farm egg sunny side up. While the egg is cooking fry the sausage patty in another pan for about 1 minute on each side or until fully cooked in the middle. You want each side to brown slightly.

When the egg is ready, place the slices of cheese on top of the egg to melt.

To assemble, place the sausage patty on the bread, topped with the egg, and top with the other side of toast.

Spaghetti with Sausage, Cippolini, Chanterelle, and Cherry Tomato

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 cippolini onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces sausage mixture (see recipe above)
½ pound chanterelle mushrooms (or any other mushroom), sliced in bite-sized pieces
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
5 leaves fresh basil
8 ounces fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and heat an oven-ready sauté pan. Toss onions in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place them on the hot sauté pan and put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. At about 5 minutes, pull out the pan and carefully flip each onion over to cook on the other side. Remove the onions from the pan and let cool. Cut them in half and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While water is heating up, in a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil and cook sausage, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces. When the sausage is almost done, add cippolinis and chanterelle mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes more. Add cherry tomatoes and basil.

Cook the fresh spaghetti in the boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds or until al dente (fresh pasta cooks very quickly); drain spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture, along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Toss all ingredients together and finish with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pasta in a bowl and drizzle with a nice extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!

 

Have you ever made homemade sausage for clients? What did you make and how did they turn out?

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!

I don’t know about you, but as the temperatures warm, I’m drawn to pickles. I love the chilly crunch that explodes all sorts of tangy flavors in my mouth, depending on the vegetable–or even fruit–I choose and the seasonings I include. Onions, radishes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and even fennel make for wonderful and unusual pickles; in other words, pickles don’t have to be synonymous with cucumbers–although they’re, of course, pretty wonderful, too. And while I will start with salt for some pickles, employing a tasty vinegar leads to some great flavors. Pair with herbs and spices–and a little sugar–let them sit briefly in the fridge and you’ll dazzle clients with your creativity. And, yes, they’re that easy.

The chefs I know in San Diego are always toying with pickles, using them as the acidic accompaniment to a charcuterie plate, to finish a piece of fatty fish like black cod or salmon, or in the case of my friend Chef Christopher Logan, to go with a dish of Peruvian-style Bay Scallop Ceviche.

He plated that dish with pickled red onions, pickled kumquats, and pickled purple carrot. Each flavor profile was unique in its own way, but together they further brightened what is always a fresh tasting dish, ceviche. I can see each of these three pickles served throughout the summer with many other dishes–grilled flank steak, fish tacos, sushi/sashimi, and even burgers–so I asked Logan for more his recipes–and can share them with you.

For the ceviche, Logan created a marinade for the scallops of lime zest and juice, garlic, basil, serrano chili (with seeds), cilantro, and sea salt. Blend the ingredients in a blender or food processor, then pour over the scallops and refrigerate.

Once the scallops have been “cooked” by the marinade, you can plate it with the pickles and add a little micro cilantro for garnish.

But before you get there, you’ve got to make those pickles. Here’s how:

Pickled Red Onion
from Christopher Logan

1 medium red onion
Sweet rice vinegar, enough to cover the onions in a bowl
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar

Peel and slice the onion–either whole or cut in half–and place in a metal or glass bowl. Mix together the salt, sugar, and vinegar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour over the onion and cover the mixture in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. The color should be a nice purple. Refrigerated, it can keep for a week.

Pickled Kumquats
from Christopher Logan

1 pound kumquats, washed in warm water and drained dry
2 cups sweet rice vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt,
1/4 cup whole allspice
1 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
4 sticks fresh rosemary
1/8 cup red chile pepper
1/8 cup cracked black pepper

Place dry kumquats in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and allspice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved taste to be sure you have the flavor you want, then adjust to more sweet or spicy or salty. Add the garlic, rosemary, red chile pepper, and black pepper. Stir, and then pour over kumquats. To be sure the kumquats are covered, weigh them down with a plate. Let cool, then place in refrigerator for two days, mixing the pickles twice, tasting for the flavors you want and adjusting over that time. These can be kept for up to a month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Pickled Purple Carrots
from Christopher Logan

It’s tempting to blanch or roast these gorgeous carrots so they’ll retain their color, but Chef Logan says that, in fact, the color will end up bleeding in this recipe. So, instead, just peel them very thinly and enjoy the vibrant color that results.

3 to 4 pounds purple carrots (You can find these at farmers markets–or you can also use conventional carrots.)
1 cup white sugar
4 cups white distilled vinegar (or just enough to cover the sliced carrots)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1/2 cup fresh tarragon

Peel and slice the carrots and place in a glass or metal bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the carrots. Let cool, then cover and place in the refrigerator for two days, periodically stirring and tasting. At that point, they’re ready to use. They can be kept for  up to one month, covered, in the refrigerator.

Do you make pickles to serve clients when you’ve got a catering gig? Tell us 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!

It’s so easy for contemporary home cooks and chefs who consider themselves sophisticated in the kitchen to poo poo casseroles. Many of us grew up in the days of tuna embalmed in noodles and Campbell’s mushroom soup. Or macaroni and ground beef. Yeah, we’ve all been there.

But think of it this way: lasagna is essentially a casserole and we all love lasagna. It’s really a matter of what you do with the concept, which is basically a meal in a baking dish. For some, it’s a way to use up leftover ingredients. For others, it’s the quintessential dish you bring with love to friends or family who are too stressed (from grief, illness, new babies) to be able to make meals themselves. For personal chefs, it can be an easy way to prepare a comprehensive meal packed with nutrition in a single container that just needs reheating by clients.

I got to thinking about this recently when I saw a piece on casseroles in The Kitchn. They ran a list of casserole links and what was interesting was that recipes not only described how to prepare the dish but in advance of that, how to prep the ingredients for freezing and provide instructions to the recipient for  making it later.

One of those recipes struck a chord with me. It was baked chicken with rice. Once I sorted through the freezing instructions, which I didn’t need, I realized that this was a casserole I could fall in love with. After all, it takes two dishes I really enjoy–roasted or baked chicken and grains filled with vegetables and herbs and spices. All this does it put them together in an easy-to-make, one-dish meal.

Like all great casseroles, you can change this up, depending on the season or the ingredients you have or prefer. I happened to find elephant garlic scapes at a specialty market in San Diego. These are a rare find so I nabbed what I thought I could use (I usually make pesto with scapes) and decided to add some to my casserole, along with mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, and onion.

You could add sliced kalamata olives and capers for one specific flavor profile. Or you could go in a totally different direction with tomatillos, fresh poblano or Anaheim chiles. Or eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, pine nuts, and za’atar. Cooking for one? I do–and I easily cut this recipe in half for two meals. I just used a smaller baking dish.

So, use this as a foundation for building your own one-dish wonder for clients. I hope you’ll share with us what you came up with.

Chicken and Whole Grains Casserole
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
½ cup of your favorite vinaigrette
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup garlic cloves sliced (or, when in season, garlic scapes)
1 cup marinated artichoke heart quarters
2 cups brown rice
¼ cup wheat berries, wild rice, farro, or other grains
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups water, white wine, or chicken broth, depending on your preference

Directions
1. The day before you make the dish, combine the chicken thighs and vinaigrette in a freezer bag. Seal and massage the bag to coat the chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
3. Grease a 9X13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
4. Combine the vegetables, grains, and herbs and spices in the baking dish. Stir in the liquids. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them on top of the grains mixture.
5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover the dish and bake for up to another hour. You want the grains to have absorbed the liquid and the chicken to be cooked through with crispy skin.

Do you enjoy a casserole or make them for clients? What is your favorite?

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!

All too often on our private forums and our Facebook pages, we hear from chefs about sketchy and downright fraudulent communications they receive that seemingly inquire about personal chef services. In reality, these missives are almost always phishing scams.

Here’s a typical one that several chefs around the country received about five years ago:

Hello,
I’m in need of a professional chef to handle surprise birthday party i’m planning for my Husband upon our return from Quito, Ecuador. We’re here right now on vacation and my husband will be turning 45 on 28th of this month while our return is slated for 27th but we’re looking at planning the party between 28th Nov and 8th Dec. As you would see, there’s hardly any time for me to make all the plans myself so i want to hire a professional chef on standy for that day who would cater for at least 20 friends/family members for a sit down dinner party style. Kindly respond back to let me know how much you charge and if you’re able to accept payment in form of check so we can finalize plans long before our return.
Thanks.
(Tee Marcy)

As member April Lee of Tastefully Yours explained, these phishing scams have many things in common, “most noticeably is poor English, poor grammar or improper use of capital letters and punctuation (although I’ve noticed that the scam emails have gotten a little better about this over the years).”

She added that the context of scams also follow certain themes:

  • Vacationing in “fill-in-the-blank” area with family and needing meals for everyone for one to two weeks (or more)
  • Need to throw a surprise party/dinner with little advance notice, but inquirer is impossible to contact directly via telephone (because s/he is in the military and overseas, or s/he is deaf and doesn’t communicate by telephone) and they cannot give a physical address of the venue
  • Wanting to hire you for the event without even talking to you
  • Requesting a bizarre menu, ranging from 100 wrapped chicken salad sandwiches to everything that’s listed on a deli menu somewhere
  • Offering to send a driver to pick up the food and/or deliver a check. Many times they offer to send you a big check and will ask you to pay the driver when they get there.

Seasoned email recipients who have endured their fair share of banking requests from Nigerian princes will immediately see that these emails that are too good to be true are. But all too often personal chef newbies, eager for new gigs, are vulnerable to these scams. And, as Lee pointed out, they can stand to lose thousands of dollars to rip-off artists.

How do they do it? APPCA Executive Director Candy Wallace explained that once they lure you with the full service for an extended time, ask you to submit menu plans, and basically befriend you, they then go for the close.

“What they want is the chef’s banking information so they can clean out the chef’s account,” Candy said. And, she added, while that letter above is typical, they are growing more sophisticated.

“You could at one time spot these right off the bat because the scammers use of the English language was so bad, or their lack of knowledge of food was also a tip,” she said, “but they have done their homework and present a much more believable scenario.”

So, how do you protect yourself?

Christine Robinson, who with partner Dennis Nosko, owns A Fresh Endeavor Personal Chef Service, suggests several tactics: “Google the person contacting you; ask questions, pointed questions; use common sense; and, if you doubt what is sent, use the APPCA Forums, ask, run it past people you know.”

Candy has offered some tips of her own on our forums:

  • Watch out for “phishy” emails. The most common form of phishing is emails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization, or government agency. The sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed, an order for something has been placed in your name, or your information has been lost because of a computer problem. Another tactic phishers use is to say they’re from the fraud departments of well-known companies and ask to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft! In one case, a phisher claimed to be from a state lottery commission and requested people’s banking information to deposit their “winnings” in their accounts.
  • Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony Web sites that looks just like the real sites of the company, organization, or agency they’re impersonating. If you follow the instructions and enter your personal information on the Web site, you’ll deliver it directly into the hands of identity thieves. To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call it directly or go to its Web site (use a search engine to find it).
  • Beware of “pharming.” In this latest version of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you’re taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
  • Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company’s, organization’s, or agency’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you against pharming and other techniques that phishers use. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer – which is especially important if you have a broadband connection because your computer is open to the Internet whenever it’s turned on. Look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches that manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems. Go to www.onguardonline.gov and www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about how to keep your computer secure.Also check out Microsoft Phishing Info page: http://www.microsoft.com/secur…ishing-symptoms.aspx
  • Only open email attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain. Even if the messages look like they came from people you know, they could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal your personal information.

You can report internet scams to the FBI via their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and to Consumer Fraud Reporting:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
Consumer Fraud Reporting

Oh, and are you tempted to reply with a scathing little letter of your own? Yeah, it’s almost irresistible to give them a taste of their own medicine and some of our chefs have responded with rather brilliant responses. But a word of warning. Often these scammers will send emails to test if the email address is live (not unlike those annoying telemarketing calls you also get). Don’t respond, just trash the email and move on in your life.

But not before checking in on our Forum. Yes, we have one specifically dealing with Internet frauds issues. If you’re an APPCA member, this is a benefit you should take advantage of.

Have you gotten fraudulent, phishing emails? How did you handle 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!

Ideas for what to publish in à la minute can come from the least obvious situations. Back in January on the morning of the big Women’s March I met a number of friends in San Diego’s Little Italy to head to the Civic Center where the march was gathering. When I reached the parking lot pastry chef Joanne Sherif, who owns Cardamom Cafe & Bakery, was handing out the most stunning madeleines. Coated in sugar and grapefruit zest, you could almost eat the fragrance before taking a bite. And the bite! Crunchy from the sugar coating but with a bright citrus flavor in the subtly sweet chewy cookie. At that moment that’s all I wanted and I told her I needed her to teach me how to make them.

She did. And she added a chocolate version to the mix.

Now publishing recipes is all well and good but what you really get here is the benefit of Joanne’s expertise–her tricks and tips. When it comes to madeleines, which she considers more of a cake than a cookie but with a thick, cookie-like dough, Joanne’s firmest piece of advice is to refrigerate this dough for at least two hours before baking (and you can even refrigerate it overnight).

She has two reasons for insisting on this. The first is that you want the flour fully hydrated. The second is you want it completely chilled when it gets into the oven. Like bread baking, the steam for the cold moisture when it hits the heat will give it “oven spring.” In other words, it will help it puff up.

Another suggestion Joanne has, and this is for the chocolate madeleines, is to use a top grade cocoa. Joanne discovered Guittard’s Cocoa Rouge, which she adores. I found it on Amazon’s and Sur La Table’s websites, along with Guittard’s own site.

Finally, again for the chocolate madeleines, add a bit of espresso powder. This brings out the flavor of the chocolate.

Now if you aren’t a grapefruit fan, no worries. You can use any kind of citrus. The day I was with Joanne, she had blood oranges and the reds and oranges in the zest were striking. And assuming you have leftover citrus sugar, don’t toss it! Instead, says Joanne, use it to sweeten iced team, rim a cocktail glass, or add to a homemade salad dressing.

Finally, before you place the dough in the madeleine forms, brush a little butter inside the forms to make sure the cookies won’t stick. And don’t fuss over smoothing the top of the dough. Use your fingers to press the dough into the molds but as they bake, the top will smooth itself.

Chocolate Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons espresso powder
100 grams all-purpose flour
90 grams cocoa powder
pinch salt
185 grams plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup cocoa powder

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and espresso powder. Slowly add flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix and then slowly stream in 185 grams of melted butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl several madeleines. Place cocoa powder in a sifter and sift cocoa over madeleines. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are topped with cocoa powder. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Citrus Madeleines
From Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery
Yield: 2 to 3 dozen depending on mold size

Ingredients
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups sugar
2 pieces of citrus, zested (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit all work)

Directions

  1. In a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Slowly add flour and then butter. Mix until fully incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least two hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of the madeleine molds. Place about a tablespoon of the dough in each mold.
  3. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway for an even bake. To make sure they’re done, lightly tap the top. When it springs back, they’re fully baked.
  4. Remove the madeleines from the oven and let cool.
  5. In a medium-size bowl, mix together the sugar and citrus zest. Place several madeleines in the bowl and gently toss them in the sugar and zest mixture. Remove and repeat with the next set of madeleines until all are coasted in the sugar and zest mixture. Serve or place in a plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for about 4 days.

Do you make desserts for clients? If so, what are your favorites to prepare?

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!

Back when my Rhodesian Ridgeback Ketzel was a young dog there wasn’t much that she saw or sniffed that didn’t wind up in her mouth. On our way out of the dog park one late fall afternoon she suddenly started vomiting what looked like moth balls—something I have never had in my home. I rushed her to the emergency vet, described what I’d seen land on the ground, and wracked my brain trying to think of what she may have eaten. And then in my mind’s eye I saw it—my beautiful camellia bush that sits in a large pot in a corner on my patio. In November it was dripping with buds—white buds. Ketzel must have scarfed them down during the day before we went to the park. Sure enough, when we got home, I saw the bush had been stripped naked. Fortunately, research showed they weren’t toxic. But it was a pricey conclusion to a long afternoon.

Azaleas–a no no for pets. They’re now on the front porch where the dogs and cat can’t nibble on them.

Many of our members are pet owners and pet owners with gardens face a difficult balancing act. We want an outdoor space that reflects our aesthetic but we want it to be safe for our animals. Often we move in to a stunning mature landscape and bring in a dog or cat, only to discover that the colorful lilies or azaleas or foxgloves that make us smile when they’re blooming are also enticing to our pets—and horribly toxic, perhaps even deadly, when chewed on. Or the space is attacked by pests that we have to eradicate.

Most pet owners are aware of various lists of outdoor plants to avoid. “The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants on its website, divided by dogs, cats, and horses,” noted David Ross, the senior manager of Walter Andersen Nursery’s Poway store in San Diego County. For dogs, this includes azaleas, bay laurels, clivia lily, and even geraniums, which can cause vomiting, anorexia, depression, and dermatitis.

But Anita Sly, a registered vet tech in San Diego, knows simply following a plant list is not a cut-and-dried solution. Over the years she’s found that many people don’t even understand the implications of toxicity. Sly pointed out that toxic may not always mean fatal, but it can lead to damage—including neurological damage or liver, heart, or kidney failure. And the source of toxicity can be confounding for a well-intentioned gardener.

“Some plants are entirely toxic but for others it may be the flower or the leaves,” she pointed out. “You also have to remember that some medications are derived from plants, like digitalis or poppies. You wouldn’t just eat medication but we make available in our garden the plants they come from. We also think in terms of a single plant type as being toxic, but not others in that species. So we wouldn’t have oleanders in our garden, but we don’t realize that thevetia peruviana and thevetia thevetioides are in that species and are also poisonous. And there are trees that can cause problems. Macadamia trees aren’t a problem themselves, but the nuts are toxic. So are the seeds that drop from sago palms.”

And, Ross pointed out, like people, any pet can have a bad reaction to a plant, even one that’s not on a toxic list.

“I had a client that had a lot of pencil cactus and the dog, chasing rabbits into the cactus, was having reactions in its eyes,” he recalled. “The client finally had to remove the cactus because they couldn’t stop the bunnies.”

Finally, there’s pest control. Sly said when it comes to insecticides you spray on plants you have to be very careful about reading labels. Pyrethrinis, she said is fine, but permethrins are toxic—more to cats than dogs. Her suggestion? Use diatomaceous earth or boric acid. If you’re dealing with rodents, don’t use loose pellets. They’re anticoagulents and your pet can bleed out if they ingest them.

So, what can you do? Paige Hailey of Urban Plantations, a San Diego landscaping company, suggests some preliminary steps. Spend time in your yard with your pet to see what they go for. What are their habits so you can make informed planting choices?

 

Also address your dog or cat’s specific issues, especially if they come to you as rescues. Trainer Alexandra Gant of Behave LLC in San Diego explained that when dogs are on their own on the streets, they learn to eat anything for survival and that starving can cause food anxiety that doesn’t automatically go away when they’re finally in a good home. So address the root of the problem. And for any dog, address issues like boredom, diet imbalance, and your own reactions.

“Owners, particularly with puppies, can turn plant eating or digging into a game by racing around and shouting at the dog,” she said. “Don’t reward bad behavior; instead be calm when you catch them, quietly take the plant away, and give them something in return, like a toy, that’s safe.”

These experts had additional tips:

  • Bring your mobile computer, i.e. cell phone, with you when shopping for plants and consult the ASPCA list to avoid bringing home anything dangerous. Consult the experts who work at nurseries. Review a proposed plant list with your landscaper and double check it against a toxic plant list.
  • If you want to keep pets away from a plant or tree that you just don’t want to take out, fence it or wall and groom the tree behind the fence. With palms that drop seeds, religiously rake them.
  • For dogs or cats who get into edibles like tomatoes or beans, build raised beds if you have the space. It creates an automatic barrier and also makes it easier to fence off the vegetables if necessary.
  • When fertilizing, keep your animals out of the yard for the rest of the afternoon to let the nutrients off gas and lose some of their deliciousness. Cultivate it well and cover with mulch to mask the smell.
  • If you have a dog who chews on dripline irrigation, enclose the area with chicken wire or deer fences.
  • Encourage cats to hang out in a separate space in the garden by planting catnip or cat grass as an attractant.
  • To keep snakes out of the yard, bury 1/2-inch mesh into the ground and a good foot and a half above the ground and secure it to the regular fence. Sly said you can also vaccinate dogs against rattlesnake venom, but it’s not a cure all.
  • Finally, if you have the space and have an incorrigible dog or you’re an incorrigible gardener, build a dog run that can be the dog’s safe space.

Do you have pets who spend time in the garden? What issues have you had to address?

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!

Did the title get your attention? When cookbook author Jill O’Connor told me that was one of the cakes she wanted to show me how to make, it sure got mine.

As a personal chef have a great job. But you’re not Jill. You see, She’s is a pastry chef who writes dessert cookbooks for a living. She’s written six–the latest, published in 2009, is Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey Treats for Kids. And this month, number seven debuts: Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-able Recipes. In between her books, Jill develops recipes and writes for a variety of publications, including The San Diego Union-Tribune’s food section.

Imagine a life of making sweet treats that bring joy to others. Oh, yeah, you do. And, that’s pretty much Jill’s world, too. And, knowing Jill as I do, it all comes from the heart.

Jill invited me to her house recently to make one of the cakes in the book. Imagine the wealth of choices I had–from her Coconut Fudge Snow-Ball to Blood Orange Ricotta Pound Cake–Jill offered me a few choices.

And, as I said above, this Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting was clearly the winning choice. Chocolate. Chocolate with Mayonnaise. And Chocolate Bar Frosting? Whew!

Sounds decadent and difficult, right? In fact, yes, it is decadent if you adore chocolate. But, says Jill, “This is what I would call an after-school cake.” Meaning it’s accessible to the home baker. And certainly to personal chefs who know their way around a kitchen.

Now Jill writes a great recipe. Everything is clear and straightforward. But it was wonderful to be with her in her kitchen in Coronado to pick up some of her cake making and layer cake frosting tips. Let’s face it. Baking a cake can be pretty easy if you follow the recipe. But the skill involved in making the layers even and then frosting it? That’s an art. And I wanted to learn that art from the master.

As Jill set up her Kitchen Aid stand mixer and began to mix the liquid cake ingredients she gave me her first tip: always add sugar slowly to eggs. Why? Doing this in reverse will burn the eggs. Who knew?

Now you may be wondering about the mayo and why it’s in the recipe. This is actually a pretty common ingredient going back to the 1930s and 40s when butter and eggs were being rationed because of World War II. It basically was an accessible and economical fat substitute for baking.

Another tip Jill employs is adding a bit of coffee to chocolate. You may already do this or have heard about this trick. No, you won’t get coffee flavor with such a small amount, but what it does is enhance the flavor of the chocolate.

Let’s talk cocoa for a moment. Be sure to read the label when you reach for a container. What you do not want is Dutch processed cocoa. Here’s why, according to Jill: Baking soda, which is in this recipe as a leavening agent, needs something acidic to make it work to activate its leavening power. If you add too much acid (such as what’s in Dutch processed cocoa) you’ll get a salty soapy taste. Instead, Jill uses Hersey’s Dark Special Process cocoa.

Once you have mixed the batter, if it seems too thick, Jill says you can thin it with boiling water–just a little at a time to come to the right consistency. You also want to eliminate any lumps, so whisk until they’re all gone.

Now, you could bake this as a sheet cake, but it makes for a gorgeous layer cake. So, you’ll want two round cake pans, sprayed with Pam or some other nonstick cooking spray. Then you’ll line the bottom with parchment paper. Split the batter evenly between the two pans and give them some sharp taps to eliminate any bubbles. If you’re really concerned about whether you’ve evenly divided the batter, go ahead and weigh each filled pan on a digital scale.

Okay, now it’s time to focus on the frosting. If you’re the type who plans ahead, Jill suggests making it the day before so it can sit and thicken naturally overnight.

Jill calls this a chocolate bar frosting, but she’s actually not using chocolate bars. “It’s chocolate bar like because I use milk chocolate chips,” she explains.

The frosting calls for powdered sugar. You can add more than what’s listed in the recipe if you want a firmer texture and sweeter flavor.

The recipe for the frosting is pretty straightforward. But what you really want to know is how to get it on the cake so that you have something irresistibly gorgeous and not like you’re five-years-old. This is how you do that.

First, place the cake on something higher than the counter, like a cake plate but it could also be a large upside down mixing bowl–and the cake itself should be on a cake board, which is stiff and lets you more easily maneuver it. You can find cake boards at Michael’s.

 

Now, using an offset spatula, you spread on a “crumb coat.” Basically, it’s a thin coat of frosting that covers the crumbs “like spackle,” Jill says.

Then it’s the moment of truth. You glide on that luxuriant second coat of frosting all over the cake.

Still listing a bit? Take a cue from Jill, who does experience this from time to time. “Toss on chocolate sprinkles,” she says. “It’s like a cake bra. It helps hold it in place and creates a visual camouflage.”

That’s just what she did with our cake. And it was the source of one last trick. To put the sprinkles on the cake, place them in a large bowl. Carefully hold the cake over the bowl by the cake board. Using your free hand, grab a handful of sprinkles and gently press into the side of the cake, letting the excess fall back into the bowl. Turn the cake little by little and repeat until you’ve covered the sides with the sprinkles.

That’s it! Oh, except for digging in. The cake itself is a marvel. It’s moist and slices beautifully. It has the most sumptuous chocolate flavor–not too sweet but definitely satisfying for the sweet tooth. Make it for your kids to enjoy after school or impress your clients at a dinner party.

Cake, I Love You will be published on May 23. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake with Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting
From Jill O’Connor and her book Cake, I Love You: Decadent, Delectable, and Do-able Recipes

I am always looking for an easy-to-bake cake that’s good enough to make an ordinary Wednesday feel special. This chocolate cake is luxuriously rich, yet with a surprisingly light texture. The batter is versatile and sturdy enough to be baked in a 9×13-inch pan for an everyday celebration, or into two 9-inch round cake pans if the occasion calls for a layer cake instead. Mayonnaise cakes were popularized in the late 1930’s by Hellman’s Mayonnaise as a more economical substitution for butter and eggs. Since mayonnaise is simply an emulsion of eggs and oil with a dash of vinegar, it works beautifully. This cake is tasty enough to eat plain, but I prefer to slather it with Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting; it takes 5 minutes to whip together from pantry staples and all you really need is a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a strong arm.

Yield: One 9- by-13-inch cake, or 9-inch round double-layer cake

Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (do not use low-fat)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder or coffee powder
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Large pinch fine sea salt
2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a metal 9- by-13 inch sheet pan (or two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. (If using round cake pans, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and eggs together at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the mayonnaise and the vanilla until smooth.

Lower the mixer speed to its lowest speed and beat in 1/2 the dry ingredients just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder with the boiling water. Add 1/2 of the espresso mixture to the batter and beat on low speed just until the batter is smooth, about 5 to 10 seconds. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Beat in the remaining espresso and beat just until smooth. The batter will be somewhat thin.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (s) and bake 22 to 25 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting: In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine the semisweet and milk chocolate chips with the butter. Heat on high power for 1 minute. Stir together until the butter and chocolates are completely melted and smooth. If not completely melted after 1 minute, heat again in 15-second increments, stirring until smooth. Use a large balloon whisk or a wooden spoon and stir in the sour cream. Beat in add 2 cups [xx g] confectioners’ sugar, just until smooth and spreadable. If a thicker, sweeter frosting is desired, beat in an additional cup of sugar.

Spread the top of the cooled cake with the Melted Chocolate Bar Frosting. Cut into squares and serve. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil, and store at room temperature. The cake will stay fresh for about 2 days. (For layer cake: place one layer on a cake stand and frost the top with about 1 cup frosting. Top with second layer and spread the remaining frosting on the top and around the sides of the cake.)

Do you bake cakes for clients? Let us know if you’d like to share it on our blog.

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!

Marticza’s Salmon Ball Recipe

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , April 24, 2017

Hey all, Candy’s weighing in with a delightful appetizer recipe she wanted to share with you. I’ll let her explain its background:

My sister, Marticza, aka Marti, and I developed this tasty spread over 40 years ago for family gatherings and celebrations because everyone in our big crazy Eastern European family loves horseradish, salmon, and being together.

I provided these salmon balls for many a  personal chef client over the years because they could keep them frozen and be able to pull them out, defrost them, roll them in chopped nuts and parsley, and have something delicious, beautiful, and different to offer their guests in a jiffy.

It is seldom that a friend or guest who samples this treat does not request the recipe, and we make certain they don’t leave the house without one.

Providing frozen appetizers and simple desserts like pre-sliced frozen cookie dough for clients was a service many requested pre-holiday time so they could entertain spur of the moment, or enjoy homemade treats any time they wanted.

It is ultimately all about service.

And keeping it personal!

Marticza’s Salmon Ball

Ingredients

  • 1, 15-ounce can of pink salmon
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese (low fat is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion (or ¼ teaspoon onion powder)
  • 2 Tablespoons horseradish*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hickory Smoke Liquid
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or chopped toasted pecans
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • favorite assorted crackers

Directions

Mix together all ingredients EXCEPT the walnuts and parsley. Roll into ball and wrap in waxpaper. Refrigerate the ball for at least an hour, overnight is better. Remove waxpaper and roll the salmon ball in the chopped walnuts and parsley. Refrigerate until time to serve, or freeze (without nuts and herb coating) for future use. Serve with a selection of crackers or small breads.

* Marti often doubles the recipe and uses a drained 5-ounce jar of horseradish

Do you have a go-to appetizer your clients love? Let us know if you’d like to share it on our blog.

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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