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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Serves 8 – 10

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

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

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

What are your no cook summer go-to recipes? What are client favorites?

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

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

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Every year our friends in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter (MARC) of APPCA gathers in the spring to share stories, business insights, and a cooking demo followed by a potluck lunch. This year, the meeting was held on April 13 at Lettie Lavallee’s home near Annapolis, Maryland, and attended by Keith Steury, April Lee, Katie Enterline, Mary Stewart, Laura Knight, Lettie Lavallee, Shelbie Wassel, and Iva Barrera-Oro.

The meeting first addressed old business–reviewing the Treasurer’s report and member dues) and then nominated chapter officers for a tw0-year term. Keith Steury will hand over the presidential reins to Lettie Lavallee. Treasurer Laura Knight nominated Mary Stewart for her job, which was accepted. And Secretary Katie Enterline accepted a second term.

April Lee let the attendees know about a new Zavor (formerly Fagor) equipment promotion she helped organize for APPCA members. (Note: we’ll have all the info about this great discount for equipment in an upcoming post.)

Next, the group spent some time discussing Personal Chef Kits. Photos were provided by many of the chefs to demonstrate the items and equipment that they take with them to a typical cook date. The discussion provided the participants with some useful tips for improving efficiency when packing materials in support of their cook dates for clients.

The next portion of the meeting was reserved for the very robust topic of “Maximizing Profits,” including alternative income streams and tips for increasing overall business efficiency. This section of the meeting included a wide range of topics, such as:

  • Executing “Pop-Up” Demo Dinners
  • Transitioning to a commercial kitchen space
  • Tips for how to differentiate ourselves from the glut of meal delivery service providers now active in the marketplace
  • Exploring less traditional methods for marketing/extending our services:
    • Cozymeal 
    • TryHungry 
    • Publishing regular newsletters to provide useful content to clients/potential clients about our services (e.g., ConstantContact, MailChimp, etc.)
    • Considering “partnerships” between chefs to accommodate and support larger jobs or client requests that we might not consider if working alone.
    • Increasing community involvement to help generate goodwill for your business and get your name out to a broader group of people.
    • Exploring summer camp and/or summer course meal preparation and/or cooking class opportunities for school-aged children
  • A discussion of recipe management software options to help improve product consistency and efficiency of service, including:

    • Bigoven

    • Mastercook

    • Modern Meal

Iva Barrera-Oro

The meeting continued with a demonstration of a Vegan/Plant-Based recipe by Iva Barrera-Oro of Chef Iva’s Kitchen. Iva prepared a delicious Indian-Style Mung Bean Soup for the group. The chefs exchanged their own plant-based recipes for the benefit of the group. The demo was followed by a delicious sit-down pot-luck lunch prepared by the members of the chapter.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several of the participants extended their stay and traveled to Great Frogs Winery for a wine tasting before breaking for the day.

The next meeting, which will be hosted by member Laura Knight, has been tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2019.

Now, you may ask, why get a group of personal chefs together–let alone organize a chapter? I asked Keith Steury and he responded, “For me the MARC group provides a networking opportunity with fellow chefs who understand the unique challenges of running their own businesses. It is an opportunity to see what others are doing. What is working for them, as well as what is not. All of the members are very open, supportive, and willing to share both their successes and failures with the group. This exchange helps to make us all better business owners, because being a personal chef is about so much more than being a good cook. We have to wear many hats in order to make our businesses successful and keep them that way. Since I started my business back in 2007, this has become an increasingly more difficult task. Many of us work alone or rarely with other chefs, so this time together helps to recharge or batteries and re-focus our efforts on the tasks and activities that are likely to yield the best results for us moving forward. I always come away with at least one great idea for my business – typically many more. This is why I look forward to our meetings and so value the benefits that the chapter provides to me and my business.”

April Lee

Member April Lee, who founded the chapter, explained,”When I decided to create MARC eight years ago, the idea was to form a network of local personal chefs to get together a couple times a year to share ideas. What I didn’t know then is that I would meet not only talented chefs from this area, but we would form friendships that have lasted and grown over the years. I have been to every meeting (of course) since MARC’s inception and, even though I am one of the more veteran personal chefs in the area, I still come away from every meeting with at least one new idea, inspired and revitalized by the other members. There is nothing like the bonding and spontaneous brain-storming that goes on during our face-to-face gatherings, every member contributing with their experience and ideas to help support their colleagues. I suspect that even when I hang up my apron and retire as a personal chef, I will still want to be part of MARC just to be inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of my fellow PCs whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Katie Enterline

And for member Katie Enterline,”It is such a pleasure to get to meet with all the wonderful chefs in our area. I learn so much every time. It makes a mostly solo profession feel less lonely.”

If you would like to launch a chapter in your region, get in touch with our Executive Director Candy Wallace. She’d be happy to give you some tips on how best to get organized.

Chefs, are you interested in gathering fellow personal chefs into a local chapter? 

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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What are you doing Oct. 8? In San Diego, Candy will be seeing the fruits of her hard labor come to life. She’s been organizing the first Disciples Escoffier International Induction and Celebration Dinner for Southern California and Baja chefs and culinary professionals. The event, presented by the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a group Candy is active in, will be held at The Marine Room Restaurant in La Jolla and presided over by Michel Escoffier, great-grandson of the renowned August Escoffier and president of the Foundation Escoffier in France.

This year’s inductees include Bernard Guillas, executive chef at the Marine Room; Patrick Ponsaty, chef de cuisine at 1500 Ocean; Jeffrey Strauss, owner/executive chef of Pamplemousse Grille; Mark Kropczynski, executive chef of U.S. Grant Hotel;  Javier Plascencia, executive chef/owner of Mision 19, Finca Altozano, Jazamando, Erizo and Cafe Saverios;  Luis Gonzalez, executive chef/owner of Puesto Restaurant Group; Dame Flor Franco, executive chef/owner of Indulge and Franco’s on Fifth; as well as, Dame Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach, Founder of Berry Good Food Foundation; Dame Maria Gomez Laurens, Past President of LDEI International/Hospitality Professional/Philanthropist; and Dame Araceli Ramos, Director of Worldwide PR for Mundo Cuervo.

Chef Bernard Guillas

Guillas described the menu:

“I have designed an Escoffier “Evolution” menu based on classic recipes from the early 1900s Escoffier cookbooks from my collection in memory of the Grand Maitre Auguste Escoffier. The highlights will include porcini veloute cappuccino, wild steelhead tartare, purple haze goat cheese pot de crème, Brandt farm beef cheeks bourguignon and, for dessert, passion fruit macadamia Dacquoise, paired with wines from the Languedoc Region of France, which is the birthplace of Escoffier.”

Candy’s Induction Ceremony in 2014

For Candy, who is already a Disciple d’Escoffier, this is a hugely important milestone. “Presenting the first induction ceremony in Southern California highlights the significant contributions being made by area culinary professionals,” she said. “San Diego and Baja California have become dining destinations and they are now receiving their richly deserved acknowledgement, both chefs and food and wine purveyors.”

These new inductees are in exemplary company. Along with Candy, who was inducted in 2014, recent inductees into Disciples Escoffier include Thomas Keller, Jeremiah Tower, Mark Franz, Nancy Oakes, Fred Dame, David Fink, and Cyril Chappellet.

Disciples Escoffier International is an invitation-only society of professional chefs, food and wine producers, sommeliers, Maitre d’Hotel, restaurateurs, hospitality industry professionals, epicures and food industry media. Its mission is to honor Auguste Escoffier’s memory and preserve and honor the kitchen, its culture and its continuing evolution. The iconic French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. Today, Disciples Escoffier has a worldwide membership of more than 30,000. It is in this spirit that the Disciples Escoffier International USA strives to develop its national membership, establish a culinary scholarship fund, and continue its charitable endeavors.

Want to join us? The event, which will also be the last High Tide dinner of the season at The Marine Room, will begin with a champagne and appetizer reception followed by a three-course dinner with paired wines and a silent auction.  Seating for this grand culinary evening is limited. Tickets are $179 and can be purchased on Eventbrite or by calling 619-838-5040. Proceeds will fund educational scholarships and grant programs in San Diego.

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Aged Fruit 911: Savory Plum Compote

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Cooking Tips,Recipes , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , July 9, 2018

No doubt, like me, you have the best of intentions when you are at the market, especially during spring and summer. All that gorgeous produce in all their vibrant colors and alluring fragrances can be too much to pass up. So you buy. And buy. And buy. You put the veggies away in the bins in the fridge and set out the fruit on the counter to ripen.

And you forget about them. Or you accept too many dinner invitations. Or you just overbought and can’t keep up. But time passes and what was once bursting with freshness and seduction is now just this close to becoming garbage.

Of course, you want to prevent that to begin with, but if you somehow let that produce go beyond nature’s expiration date there are ways to save it before it’s time to toss. Veggies can go into soup or a sauce or undergo roasting. And, the same with fruit, too. Puree strawberries (which have virtually no grace period),  add them to a smoothie, or make jam or sorbet. Turn blueberries into a granita. And, as I did recently, rescue über soft plums and pluots and make a savory compote.

Those plums. Oh, they were delicious when fresh. Dribble down the chin juicy with a hint of crunch. Sweet yet tart. But, then I had a spell of outings and there they sat, waiting–fruitlessly–for me to remember they were there. They softened. They sank. And then finally when they caught my eye again they no longer held any attraction and I tried to ignore them. But there was no ignoring them and since I had some free time–and a gorgeous Berkshire pork chop I planned to make for dinner–it occurred to me that I could work their sad state to my advantage and turn them into compote.

Plums and pluots have plenty of natural pectin so they are perfect for jamming and for compote. Since I only had half a dozen pieces of fruit to work with, I decided on the compote as a perfect accompaniment for the pork chop and in about an hour and a half had a gorgeous purple sauce at the ready.

The process is simple. You’ll sauté shallots and garlic until they’re translucent, add a little wine–in my case, Madeira–and reduce it, then add the plums and the rest of the ingredients. Simmer slowly, stirring periodically, and the liquids will gradually evaporate, leaving you with a deeply rich perfumed sauce that complements pork, chicken, and duck.

Now, I’m offering this in the context of preventing waste, but even if you’re cooking for clients and think they’d enjoy a fruity but savory sauce to accompany the proteins you’re cooking for them, a plum–or peach or other fruit–compote is a lovely addition.

Plum Compote

Ingredients
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot bulb, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Madeira
6 plums, very ripe, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons blackberry balsamic vinegar (or other fruity balsamic)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 dried red chile
2 dried lemon verbena leaves, crushed (or 1 teaspoon fresh, minced)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
In a stainless steel saucepan, add olive oil and heat. When warm, add shallots and garlic. Sweat them until they’re translucent. Add the Madeira and simmer until it disappears.

Add the plums and the rest of the the ingredients and stir to mix. Slowly and gently simmer until the mixture reduces and thickens until jammy–stirring occasionally. It should take about an hour. Discard the cinnamon stick and red chile.

Serve as a sauce with pork, chicken, or duck.

What are the ways you use up tired produce (besides soup)?

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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Do you ever have an occasion in which you feel you should gift one of your clients? Usually we discuss this around the holidays but over the course of the rest of the year there are birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or other special events your client celebrates. And, how about a thank you on the anniversary of your beginning work for them?

Well, if you’re feeling the need to present a gift, how about making them sea salt caramels? If your client can eat–and absolutely loves–sweets, this will be such a cool way to say thanks or congratulations.

There are certain foods that no matter how simple they actually are to make if you actually endeavored to learn how still have a mystique about them. Caramels, for me, fall into this category. Honestly, we’re talking just four basic ingredients–butter, cream, sugar, and corn syrup. But this quartet, once cooked together, is the foundation of sweet magic–that is, if you use really good ingredients and have the finesse and creativity to take it to a sublime level of deliciousness. I found someone in San Diego, where I’m based, who taught me her secrets.

Nancy Flint created a small business–Sugar Mamma–around caramels five years ago. She’s taken these four basic ingredients and elevated them with various flavorings to create 17 flavors of caramels that you can find all over San Diego County.

Flint makes everything by hand by herself out of her Talmidge home kitchen, usually working in the neighborhood of 12 hours a day every day to meet her orders. She starts by combining her foundational ingredients–the butter, sugar, cream, and corn syrup, in a large pot, heating the mixture over medium high heat until it reaches 248° F–stirring all the while.

“Once the sugar dissolves, you can step away briefly, but stay close,” she advised. “You can stir every minute instead of constantly but you don’t want it to stick or burn.”

With a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper next to her, Flint stirs until she reaches the temperature she wants, at which point she removes the pot from the heat. Then she adds kosher salt and vanilla, stirs to incorporate them and pours the mixture into the pan. If it’s her Sea Salt Caramel flavor, she’ll give the mixture a few minutes to set, then sprinkle Maldon sea salt over it. In general, fruity flavors get the fruit addition during the cooking process. Any alcohol flavor gets that at the end of the cooking process, once it’s off the heat.

If you make these–Flint has generously given us her Sea Salt Caramel recipe–follow these additional tips of hers:

  • Use the best ingredients you can.
  • Pour what comes out into the pan. Don’t scrape the dregs of the pot into the pan because they won’t crystalize. Instead, scrape them into a silicon ice cube mold.
  • Got bubbles? Don’t worry. Flint said they tend to pop on their own over the 12 hours.
  • Got a sticky pot? Soak it in hot water to melt the sugar so the mess will release.
Sea Salt Caramels
from Sugar Mamma
Yield: 240 1-inch pieces
Ingredients
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups corn syrup
2 teaspoons kosher stalt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Maldon sea salt to sprinkle
Directions
1. Line a 10- X 15-inch jelly pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. Combine the butter, cream sugar, and corn syrup in a large pot. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Once the mixture comes to the boil continue stirring by just every minute instead of constantly. Add a candy thermometer to the side of the pot reaching into the caramel mixture. Once it reaches 248° F, remove the pan from the heat.
4. Stir in the kosher salt and vanilla. When mixed well, pour into the jelly pan.
5. After 5 minutes sprinkle the Maldon sea salt over the mixture.
6. Let set for 12 hours or overnight. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap them individually in wax paper.
Have you ever made caramels? Do you ever make special edible gifts for clients?

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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Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup

Filed under: Bites & Bits,Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , April 9, 2018

We’re in that weird in-between seasonal period when we expect the weather to warm but then it doesn’t. Or, it can go the other way and there’s a brief strange heat wave. Are we ready for refreshing salads or could we use something warm and comforting.

Well, here’s a recipe that can go either way: Moroccan Spiced Lentils.

Meet my friend, chef Flor Franco introduced it to me at a potluck gathering of friends several years ago. My mom was with me for that lunch and raved about it so much that Flor later went over to my mom’s house to prepare it. An amalgam of lentils and split peas, it’s infused with fragrant cumin, coriander, turmeric, Spanish paprika, and cayenne. Add roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onions; fresh minced parsley and cilantro; and a splash of olive oil and that’s about it.

The result is a richly flavored but very healthy dish that can be eaten as soup on a chilly day or spread over a steaming mound of rice, depending on how thick or loose you want it. Just add or take out water. The day Flor came over, she prepared the soup version, and it was accompanied a platter of chicken, rice, salad, and fresh fruit for lunch.

Flor also gave us some handy kitchen tips. Roast garlic and cut-up onions, then package them and keep in the fridge for about a week to use whenever you might need them in a recipe. And, for this recipe, combine the spices in larger quantities in advance and keep in an airtight container.

Cooking the lentils took less than an hour. If you’re dealing with a cold “soup” day, heat up naan and take off the chill. If the day is warm, pull out some cold roasted chicken, add a salad and rice, then spoon a thicker version over the rice. Or chill it for a dip or rich spread. Yes, this is a hugely versatile dish year round.

Moroccan Spiced Lentil Soup
Yield: about 5 servings

15 cups of water
2 cups lentils
2 cups yellow split peas
2 cups green split peas
5 tomatoes (plum tomatoes are good for this)
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Moroccan spice mix 
2 tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
3 dried Chinese chiles

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro

Preheat the broiler.

Add the lentils and split peas to a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook about 35 minutes until soft.

Broil the tomatoes, onions, and garlic until they start to brown and soften. Remove from the oven and peel the skin from the tomatoes.

When the legumes are ready you can remove some of the liquid if you want this mixture to be very thick (so you can mound the dish on a bed of rice or use as a spread) or add more water if you want it more like soup. Then add the rest of the ingredients except the salt, pepper, parsley, and cilantro. Cook for another 10 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and sprinkle with the parsley and cilantro.

Do you have a versatile year-round dish that you can adapt to the seasons? We’d love to learn about it!

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

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

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The UCSD Multiple Sclerosis Expo was held in San Diego on Sunday, October 8 on the Medical School Campus of University of California San Diego (UCSD).

The Expo was designed and offered in support of individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis, caregivers, physicians, and all interested parties. A program developed and offered by Dr. Revere Kinkel, Clinical Director and Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program, offered speakers on “An Integrated Medicine Approach to Living with Multiple Sclerosis” as well as a Keynote Speaker topic, “Medical Cannabis for Chronic Neurological Diseases.” Exhibitors offered information and demonstrations of programs and equipment in support of MS patients needs.

A menu of anti-inflammatory, plant-based and MS program-specific foods was offered by Candy Wallace, APPCA’s founder and executive director, a duo of talented and well-known San Diego chefs, Mary Platis and Chef Mia Saling, as well as a team of talented volunteers. The chefs offered culinary coaching for MS patients and caregivers as well as demos, information sources and healthy plant-based anti-inflammatory recipes. The demos included how to peel fresh turmeric and fresh ginger with a teaspoon, how to break down a watermelon into triangles, and an olive oil tasting.

“It was a beautiful, supportive, enlivening day spent answering questions, assisting in designing menu plans for patients, coaching, answering questions and just enjoying being helpful,” Candy said. She was there with plenty of food samples to show patients and caregivers support of their eating fresh food rather than prepared HMR’s or worse yet, frozen gunk from the cases in the grocery store, and provided info and examples of how food prepared from a fresh local source can have a terrific impact on their wellbeing.

Some of the dishes offered were Watermelon Radish Tacos, Brussels Sprout Apple Raisin Slaw with Honey Mustard Dressing, Creamy Potato Leak Soup, Mediterranean Multi Bean Salad, Roasted Spiced Nuts and Lemon/Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.

Candy, Mary, and Mia not only served food, but were available to answer attendee questions about how to shop and cook for themselves in support of their–or their loved one’s–specific medical challenge.

Here are a couple of recipes from the dishes they served. Candy explained that the vinaigrette recipe accompanied a demonstration on how to use a microplane to zest citrus and how zested citrus and chopped fresh herbs can enhance dressings and sauces.

Basic Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, slat, pepper, and pinch of sugar.
  2. Slowly add the oil, whisking until emulsified, or shake the ingredients in a jar, or whirl them in a blender.

Variations

To make different types of vinaigrette:
Garlic: Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1/2 clove, crushed
Balsamic: Substitute balsamic vinegar for the wine vinegar
Lemon Parmesan: Use fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar and add 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Scallion: Add 3 chopped whole scallions (about 1/4 cup)
Herb: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, parsley, or tarragon
Blue Cheese: Add 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort

Roasted Spiced Nuts
Adapted from Union Square Spiced Nuts

Ingredients
2 ½ cups of assorted unsalted nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, etc.
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
½ cup dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Toss assorted nuts in a large brown to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chopped rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, dried cherries, and olive oil.
  4. Toss hot roasted nuts in the spiced olive oil mixture to coat nuts evenly, and serve warm.

Do you have an area of specialization when it comes to cooking for clients with health issues? How do you help spread useful culinary information?

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!

 P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re an APPCA member you can take advantage of our great 50 percent discount sale of selected Fagor appliances. We wrote about it here. The deadline is October 24! Hurry!
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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!

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APPCA member Anne Blankenship is a long-time APPCA member. She recently posted on Facebook about an achievement in marketing to registered dietitians. What she did was so cool we asked her to expand on it for our blog. Take a read and try this in your community!

I am a personal chef in the Dallas, Texas, area and have been for 10 years now as “Designed Cuisine, A Personal Chef Service.” As with many personal chefs, I have cooked for a variety of clients over the years and do dinner parties and other such events. Normally my events are no greater than 20 people as I much prefer those to larger functions. Clients come and go so I never stop marketing and this article details my latest idea.

As personal chefs, we are constantly marketing and trying to come up with new and different areas to promote our business. Marketing to registered dietitians (RDs) is an idea I had when trying to “think outside the box” for promoting my business. I happen to have a friend who is a registered dietician at the University of Texas in Austin so I had someone I could approach who was a “friendly face.” She put me in touch with a contact in the Dallas area whom she knew but only on a professional level, so it was up to me to take it from there.

With Texas Academy of Nutrition Dietetics NE Region, Ft. Worth

When I sent an e-mail to the Dallas contact, I used some of the language from my website and LinkedIn profile as it was written to say as much as possible in about two sentences, describing what a personal chef does and giving the basic details. The contact responded within a day and I knew I had hit a home run, as she immediately “got” what I was wanting to do. She volunteered to put my information and website link on her group’s Facebook page, which is the DFW Area Nutrition Entrepreneurs (I didn’t even have to ask!). She copied her Ft. Worth colleague with my information and said she would get back to me about making a presentation at a group meeting. I also heard from the Ft. Worth contact who was interested in having me speak to her group as well and who put my information on her group’s page, which is the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, N.E. Region.

About a month later both contacts gave me dates in March for the presentations. As time for the meetings approached, they put notices on their respective group’s Facebook pages which I then shared on my business Facebook page and even my personal Facebook page, as well as an update on LinkedIn. The power of social media!

The presentation was an outline of the basics of what a personal chef does and how it works (planning client-specific menus, shopping, cooking in the clients’ homes, etc.). I tried to think what I would have in common with an RD and it dawned on me that educating the public about nutritional food was something we both faced on a regular basis. An RD works in various capacities such as consulting with a chef or chefs at a restaurant chain, in a hospital system to devise healthy meal plans for various requirements (gluten-free, strict calorie limit, etc.), as well as in private practice and a myriad of other positions. Since I had taken Nutrition in culinary school, I spoke briefly about how helpful it has been to have that knowledge and it enhanced my presentation since I could “speak their language.”

The biggest issue for me was how could I benefit THEM? I was honored to be asked to speak and they were all very interested to learn about what I do and how I do it, but I am always conscious about the “mutually beneficial relationship” aspect in a given business situation.

Many of the RDs to whom I spoke have private clients and they are in a position to refer those clients to me, if they choose. In some cases we could then work together to devise a meal plan or plans for the client and could pass any costs incurred along to the client. So I had my answer as to how we could both benefit with our relationship. Since some RDs work in hospitals, I touched on gift certificates that I offer, particularly for those who have recently had surgery, pregnant ladies, and new mothers. I could see that they really took to this idea and could pass along my information to their clients who might need my services or to family members who could give my service as a gift to a relative or friend. In speaking with them I was also inspired to start completing a project I had been working on for some time, which is to put complete sample menus on my website that reflect a specific amount of calories so that those interested in a low-calorie meal plan as an example, could see what I had to offer. One of the questions asked was whether or not I saw a trend in people wanting to eat a more healthy diet and I said absolutely, since many potential clients want to hire a personal chef for this reason. The RDs said that the majority of private clients they work with ask for the same information.

I followed up with the individuals in both groups within a few days after each presentation and have since connected with many of them on LinkedIn and asked them to follow me on Instagram, as well as encouraging them to “like” my business Facebook page. Since there were about 12 people at each meeting, I now have almost 24 new business contacts.

One lady was so excited because she said a member of their group was about to become one of the RDs for the Dallas Cowboys and that I would be a perfect fit in that situation. Time will tell, but I surely do love football and as a native Dallasite, always root for my home team!

How are you marketing your services? Have you also reached out to RDs?

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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