Many clients are eager, especially as part of New Year’s resolutions, to cut their carbs consumption. And yet they still crave a hearty, warming meal–like lasagna. Now, if you have clients who love eggplant–and all the great ingredients that eggplant complements–you can’t go wrong with this faux “lasagna.”

Eggplant is such a versatile vegetable. Fry them, bake them, roast them, marinate them… the list goes on and on. And you find them in so many cultures around the world, which adds even more to their versatility and the range of flavor profiles you can create.

Here’s a dish that features sliced, roasted eggplant; roasted, peeled red and yellow peppers; homemade tomato sauce, rich with spicy Italian chicken sausage and mushrooms; and lots of garlic mixed into the ricotta, Parmesan, egg mixture. Oh, and let’s not forget the panko mixed with grated Parmesan that tops it all off.

All of these ingredients are layered into a deep 9 by 9-inch ceramic baking dish and baked at high heat for about half an hour. It comes out of the oven brown and bubbling from the cheese. Cut into it and you have layers of sublime flavors all complementing each other. Your clients can pair it with a salad and serve it with a crisp white wine. And, you can freeze it before baking or freeze well wrapped baked slices.

Baked Eggplant and Bell Pepper in Ricotta

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus 2 teaspoons for the baking dish and to drizzle on the casserole
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise, about ½ inch thick
3 bell peppers (any color but green, which is too bitter)
2 fresh spicy Italian chicken sausages
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups marinara sauce
15 ounces ricotta
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus ¼ cup reserved for topping
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup panko crumbs

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place eggplant slices on two half sheet baking pans and brush lightly on both sides with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for about 25 minutes, turning slices over halfway. The eggplant slices should be golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. While the eggplant is roasting, roast the peppers on your stove top or alongside the eggplant until all sides are blackened. Remove and place in a brown paper bag with the top rolled up to steam the skins off the peppers. Wait about 10 minutes and remove the peppers and peel the skins off. Slice in half and remove the core and seeds. Then slice into segments and set aside.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Slice through the sausage casings and add the meat to the skillet. Break it up and sauté until browned. Set aside and add the mushroom slices. Let them brown. Add the sausage meat and the mushrooms to the marina sauce.

4. In a medium bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper.

5. To put the casserole together, brush an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil. Then layer half of the eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Follow that with half of the marina sauce and a layer of the peppers. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat these layers and end with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the ¼ cup reserved Parmesan cheese and the panko crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and golden brown. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

What’s your favorite low-carb riff on lasagna? What ingredients do you feature?

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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Last week the annual Consumer Electronics Show hit Las Vegas and among the gadgets being touted were hyped up electronics for the kitchen. Eater wrote about several. Some were worth drooling over–like LG’s Harvester, a fridge-adjacent cabinet that controls light, water, and temperatures and even allows you to grow herbs indoors. Some were curious, like the $229 “Smartypans,” a “smart” frying pan that tracks the nutritional value of the food you’re cooking in the pan. Huh. And then there were the “what were they thinking” gadgets such as a smart trash can that seals and replaces your full plastic bag automatically but needs weekly charging and pricey trash bags, and a smart voice-activated faucet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All this is to say that as kitchens–and homes, of course–are growing increasingly automated, there’s a lot that personal chefs need to keep on top of when working at client homes.

If you conduct–as you should–an assessment when meeting with a new client, this category is something you need to add as a review item.

Consider just some of the things in your own home that may be controlled by apps or devices:

  • Indoor lights
  • Outdoor lights
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fans
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Slow cookers
  • Blenders
  • Microwave ovens
  • Doorbells
  • Door locks
  • Light bulbs

And these may be controlled by a hub, like Apple HomePod, Google Nest, or Amazon Echo (aka Alexa).

If you aren’t informed about your client’s automated appliances and home devices you could find yourself unable to see your way out the door (literally if the lights are off and you can’t just flip a switch to turn them on or figuratively if you can’t unlock the door). What if something you’re cooking begins to smoke? A Nest smoke detector, for instance, can give you a heads up that it senses smoke and will release an alarm. If you have the app you can dismiss it. If you don’t, you’re in for a lot of noise.

You may not be able to turn on a house or stove top fan if you need it, adjust the home’s temperature, or use the client’s kitchen scale. What do you do when a light goes out?

I’m sure you can come up with more examples based on how you work in a kitchen and within a given client’s home. What makes the most sense is to discuss with them what e-connected appliances and devices are in the house, figure out how it impacts you while you’re there, and how to control them–especially if your client isn’t home while you’re there. Do you need to download the relevant apps and log into their account? Can they be temporarily disconnected from the apps and used manually?

And don’t forget to have them apprise you of when they add a new e-controlled device to the home or change something.

You don’t want to be left in the dark.

Have you experienced any e-controlled device issues at client’s homes? How do you manage working in an automated home?

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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Don’t waste time feeling anything like pity for those of us who live in Southern California and “endure” its  winters. While the rest of the country is digging out of snow over the next few months, we shiver when the temps drop into the low 60s. But it does at least mean we can all agree on one thing: the magical qualities of a steaming bowl of soup. Warming, comforting soup that’s also deliciously healthy with winter veggies.

I’m working on a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune on healthy winter soups and have my recipe line up ready. Somewhat similar to one of these recipes is one I came up with a few years ago when I was gifted with a huge bag of baby spinach, already cleaned and prepped and looking for a purpose. I had just made spanakopita so that was out. There’s only so much spinach salad one person can eat, so that wasn’t going to do it. And back then San Diego was about to get hit with another storm so a cold salad didn’t appeal to me anyway.

I already had the remains (meaning the breast meat) of a rotisserie chicken I had bought at Costco. (Existential question: Does anyone really enjoy a market rotisserie chicken beyond the convenience factor?) I had feta cheese and a just wrinkling jalapeño pepper I needed to use, a huge head of garlic, a quart of vegetable stock and an onion, fresh herbs and Meyer lemons in my garden, and purple prairie barley in the pantry. As I scoured my kitchen and garden I figured, okay, I had the makings of a big pot of soup.

Now you can, of course, add other vegetables to this. Mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, or winter squash would all be nice. You could leave out the chicken for a vegetarian soup or add sausage or other proteins to make it even more hearty. Couscous or rice would work instead of barley. Basically, add whatever your clients will love most. But what you really want to keep in–besides the spinach, of course–is the lemon juice. It’s the magical ingredient that makes this soup special. It turns a very nice conventional soup into something bright and interesting. And makes it the perfect go-to for a chilly cloudy weekend. And it freezes beautifully for clients to store.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Chicken and Barley
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 pound baby spinach, thoroughly washed, dried, and chopped
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces shredded chicken or other protein (optional)
6 ounces barley
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
crumbled feta for garnish

Directions

1. Heat a large Dutch oven and add olive oil. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until golden. Add the pepper and sauté another 30 seconds.

2. Add the spinach in batches, stirring until it cooks down.

3. Add the stock and water, stirring to mix. Then add the chicken and barley. Bring to a boil, then reduced to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 40 minutes or until the barley is tender.

4. Add the herbs and lemon juice. Stir. Let cook another 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Serve with feta.

What winter soups are you preparing for clients–or your own family? What are your favorite riffs on ingredients?

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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Fennel Gratin

Filed under: Recipes,Vegetarian , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , January 6, 2020

Fennel is the coolest vegetable. It’s a bulb and an herb, thanks to its feathery green fronds. The bulb and stems can be eaten raw (think thin slices for a sweet crunchy salad) or cooked–braised, sautéed, roasted, or featured in a soup. It has its own unique anise flavor but is welcoming to all sorts of other flavors. And–at least in Southern California, where I live–it’s a perennial plant.

But, sadly, it’s a much overlooked vegetable. Let’s change that for your clients, especially this time of year when we all want to focus on vegetables, but also are keen for warming food!

For years I’ve used fennel for fresh salads but I’ve also sliced the bulbs in half lengthwise, brushed the surface with olive oil and then sprinkled grated cheese and bread crumbs on top before baking. It’s a side dish I got from my mom.

But, inspired by an eggplant gratin dish I enjoy making, I thought I’d do something similar with fennel. I had two super large bulbs that still had some fronds attached. I separated those and minced them. I then trimmed the fennel top and then cored the bulbs before quartering them. With the oven primed for roasting, the bulb quarters and sliced stems went onto a foil-lined baking sheet (along with some garlic cloves for me to snack on), got drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt before going into the oven for roasting for about half an hour.

Then I made a modified sauce with milk, gruyere and parmesan cheeses, green onions for flavor and color, and garlic. I don’t love sauces that drown the main ingredient, but having just enough to bathe and flavor can be delightful. This does it. The onions and garlic were sautéed in olive oil to which I added the minced fronds and fresh thyme from my garden. I mixed them in a bowl with the milk, cheeses, and some salt and pepper.

Once the fennel bulbs came out of the oven, I placed them into a ceramic baking dish I’d brushed with olive oil. I tucked the cheesy oniony mixture over and around them. On top I sprinkled a topping made of panko crumbs and more cheese. Finally, I drizzled olive oil.

Into the oven it all went, back at 400° F for about 25 minutes until it was all brown and bubbly. You know you have something when you take a bite and involuntarily sigh and smile.

Fennel Gratin
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt
6 green onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fennel fronds, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
½ cup milk
½ cup grated gruyere cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For topping:
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup gruyere cheese
½ cup panko crumbs
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400° F degrees.

Place fennel bulb quarters on a foil-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30 minutes until soft and just becoming brown.

While the fennel is roasting, sauté the green onions and garlic in olive oil (about a tablespoon or more). Don’t brown them. You just want them soft. Add the minced fennel fronts and thyme and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Remove the roasted fennel from the oven and place quarters in a baking dish coasted with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together green onion and garlic mixture with milk, cheeses, salt and pepper.
Spread over the fennel in the baking dish.

To make the topping, combine the cheeses with the panko and evenly spread over the fennel bulbs and green onion and garlic cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake uncovered at 400° F degrees for 25 minutes until brown and bubbly.

Are you a fennel fan? If so, how do you like to prepare 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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Okay, chefs, it’s that time. We’re used to all the vows to lose weight and exercise, but what are you going to resolve to do in 2020 to improve your life’s work?

We need to talk. We need to engage in ways to make your business more successful in whatever way that’s meaningful to you. After all, you chose this career path to earn a living your way. You’re not working the line. You’re not clocking in. You’re choosing your own clients, serving food you enjoy preparing, doing it according to your timeframe, and charging what you feel is fair.

So, how can you improve on that?

Here are some resolutions you may find inspiring, divided into several categories.

Health and Well Being

APPCA members Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson of A Fresh Endeavor in Boston told us that their 2020 resolution is “taking care of ourselves physically and mentally so we can be the best examples of our business and what we have to offer.” This is a great “do as I say and as I do” approach, given that the couple are geared toward cooking healthy meals for clients. They are the change they want to offer clients.

What else could you resolve to do to improve your health and well being?

  • Learn and practice meditation.
  • Be realistic in managing your schedule so you stay healthy and fresh.
  • Set aside time to be outdoors and active.
  • Set aside time for family and friends–and special interests you have.
  • Commit to travel.
  • Make changes in your diet to strengthen your body.

Skills Development

We’re going to assume that if you’re a personal chef you are talented in the kitchen. But that’s not the only skill you need to make your business a success–and kitchen skills are evolutionary anyway. So, let’s consider what you could resolve to do to amp up your business chops:

  • Take cooking classes in an area you want to develop. It could be food from another culture, baking skills, specialized techniques like sous vide or working with pressure cookers, or something totally out of the culinary box that you’ve always been curious about.
  • Take a food photography and video class. Your website and social media are critical to “selling” your offerings. Taking good quality photos of your dishes, and videos of you doing cooking demos, even with a smart phone, is easily done if you understand the basics. But you have to learn those basics.
  • Take a food writing class to help you write a blog or write articles for publication.
  • Learn how to do social media better. Take a class or get a coach to help you better navigate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and draw more people into your sphere of influence.

Business Expansion or Contraction

For some personal chefs who are just getting started, finding clients is a challenge. For others who have a steady stable of  clients branching out into a related endeavor, like catering or teaching, is a goal. And some chefs are preparing to downshift toward retirement. Here are some resolutions that may inspire your business plans:

  • Reboot your website and keep it updated. Create a blog or news section that you can regularly update when you’ve achieved a milestone potential clients would be interested in knowing about you. Were you on a local TV news show? Did you publish an article in the local newspaper? Are you expanding your offerings? Have you updated your menu? All of these achievements should be public!
  • Rev up your networking. Make 2020 the year you join one or more organizations–from formal networking or leadership groups to community-based organizations that allow you to shine as a volunteer. Whatever you do should enable you to share what you do with others in a position to hire you or refer you to those who will.
  • Downshift with love. Perhaps you’re now on the road to retirement but not sure how to start letting go. Take a page from Dallas personal chef and APPCA member Anne Blankenship of Designed Cuisine, who is having knee replacement surgery and assigned a former intern to handle her clients during her rehab. She’s grateful, “to have an extremely competent person take over my business, possibly permanently. And she is inspired to now start her own PC business.” Anne will be helping this next generation chef with her business, she said. “And when I am ‘coherent’ again after surgery, will be doing all I can to help her towards being a successful personal chef.”

Improve Finances

Just because you can cook doesn’t automatically mean you have the financial expertise to run your business. APPCA member Jennifer Zirkle-Grawburg of The Ginger Chef in Michigan acknowledges that she needs to better balance the financial end of her business. “Too often, I find something fun while shopping for my cook day and I tell myself, ‘I’ll use that’ and I never do! I typically end up donating it to a food pantry after it’s sat in my cupboard for a few months.”

  • Resolve to spend time in January–before tax season–with your accountant to learn some basic financial strategies. Work with a financial planner, if you can afford it, to assess your needs and wants, how to direct funds for the business, learn what expenditures are deductible, how to track earnings and spending, and how to invest in your future.
  • Take a business class at your local community college to get a handle on how to manage your business.
  • Carve out time to review your expenses and set up a system to help you curb whimsical spending and make your money work for you–so you can enjoy your life and worry less.
  • Learn how to use accounting software like Quickbooks, which will help you see where your money is going and produce reports for paying taxes.

Work/Life Balance

Like many of us, Jennifer also mentioned that she needs to balance her work/home life better. “I find myself working until 10 p.m. or later getting paperwork done,” she said. “I’m setting the goal of having everything done by 6 p.m. daily (with the exception of special events) so that I can have the evening free for my family.”

Does this sound familiar to you? How about resolving to follow Jen’s lead?

  • Take the time in January to conduct an honest assessment of your goals for 2020. Is this the time to blow it all up and take on new, consuming challenges; to stay in the same lane and enjoy the current pace; or to slow things down? Do you want to expand your offerings because you need novel, exciting work challenges or pull back to try novel, exciting personal challenges?
  • Take on new clients only if you have the time to serve them and not drop from exhaustion.
  • Hire help to enable you to grow your business in a rational way and avoid burnout. This could range from getting help in the kitchen to hiring a bookkeeper to reduce paperwork.
  • Set boundaries. Decide for yourself or with your family what your life priorities are and learn how to say no. Or to say yes to opportunities only if they work for you.

As Candy likes to remind members, this career path was born out of a desire to give chefs the opportunity to live the life they want to lead. New Year’s is a customary time to make change. It’s helpful to have a big moment each year to reassess what we want and how to achieve it. Are resolutions made to be broken? Only if they’re unrealistic. Use these suggestions to spark the ones that resonate with you and make 2020 full of joy and purpose!

Happy New Year!

What New Year’s resolutions are you focused on? What path will you be taking in 2020 with your business?

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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It’s the time of year for gift giving–and for personal chefs, nothing says “Thank you for your business. I so appreciate you!” like handmade edible gifts. Over the years we’ve published a number of ideas. Now, just a day before Christmas but still a week out from New Year’s, here’s one more: Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts.

I don’t know about you, but I love spiced nuts, especially my recipe for those from Union Square. You know, their Bar Nuts. But I was surprised to see a recipe in The Kitchn for Slow Cooker Spiced Nuts. As in, why would you make spiced nuts in a slow cooker?

But curiosity got the better of me and since I have an Instant Pot I thought I’d check it out. Only instead of their “spiced nuts,” which only include ground cinnamon as the spice, along with some vanilla paste, I thought I’d amp it up with a sweet and savory version–like the Bar Nuts.

I’m lucky to have planted a garden filled with herbs so I clipped rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage, washed and chopped them up and prepped everything else–melted the butter, whisked the egg whites to make the sauce. I added cayenne pepper to get a kick of heat but if you have spice-averse clients, you can, of course, leave it out. After prepping, you make the sauce in the slow cooker pot. Then add the nuts, stir up the mixture to coat the nuts, and let it rip–or, in this case, gently cook. It’s actually a very easy recipe–but, it’s a slow cooker recipe so it requires patience. And your presence. Unlike other slow cooker recipes in which you can head out and it all takes care of itself, with this recipe you need to stir the nuts in their salty, herbaceous sweet sauce every 20 minutes.

The recipe also gives you an option in cooking times. Cook low for three hours or high for one hour. I went all in since this was, after all, a slow cooker recipe. But after three hours it still didn’t look done–whatever that was. So, I amped the heat up to high and gave it another half an hour.

And I liked them. They’re gooey, and the nuts won’t be crisp as they would if you toasted them. But they actually have a lovely almost creamy texture and addictive flavor. You’ll be as stuck on these as kettle corn. And don’t try to have any self-control. They only last a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Nuts
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 6 cups

Ingredients
2 large egg whites
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper (optional)
6 cups raw, whole nuts, such as almonds, pecans, cashews, or walnuts

Instructions
1. Lightly coat a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. Place the egg whites in the slow cooker and whisk until frothy. Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, herbs, and cayenne pepper, and stir into a thick syrup.
3. Add the nuts and stir with a spatula until they are evenly coated.


4. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cover with the lid and cook, stirring every 20 minutes, until nuts are fragrant, lightly browned, and the coating appears dull and not shiny, 3 to 3 1/2 hours on the LOW setting or 1 to 1 1/2 hours on the HIGH setting. If you go with 3 hours on LOW, you can add another half hour on HIGH.


5. Stir one final time, then pour onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread into an even layer, separating the nuts as much as possible, and cool completely.
6. Once cool, break apart any nuts that have stubbornly stuck together and transfer to a serving dish, jar for gifting, or airtight container for storage. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

What edible gifts are you making for clients? Have you ever made this kind of dish in your Instant Pot?

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 Ready for 2020?

Filed under: Business Strategies , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 16, 2019

While you’re hard at work prepping meals for regular clients and perhaps also taking on catering events, there’s one more task you need to take on: preparing for 2020.

Nothing stays the same. Clients leave, new clients come on board. Food trends change. Your own life changes. And if you’re running a successful business you must be ready and even eager to evolve your business so that it continues to work for you.

So, let’s look at some things you need to do to know what tweaks you might have to make in various areas of your personal chef business:

  • Take a fresh look at your business plan and make revisions. Consider whether you’re enjoying your work and if not, why not? Then you can make adjustments to your schedule, your services, and even your goals. Have your priorities changed? Have your skills evolved? Before 2020 hits, determine what exactly you want to make of it and write it all down as a commitment to yourself.
  • Take a hard look at your finances, especially your profit and loss report. That end-of-year P&L will help you figure out ways to improve 2020 finances. Are you earning enough of a profit? Is your pricing realistic? Are you charging enough to make a profit? Are you ready for quarterly tax payments? Are your expenses getting away from you and what will they look like next year? We’re talking marketing, insurance, fuel/transportation, new equipment, perhaps even part-time help.
  • Review your equipment. Speaking of expenses, your cooking tools are some of the most consequential investments you make in your business? Do you need to replace anything or buy new and novel equipment for new menus you’re creating? Are there tools you no longer use and can stop hauling around with you? Do you need to get knives sharpened or buy fresh uniforms? Hey, if your car is your transportation to clients and events, you need to consider if it needs servicing or new tires.
  • Examine how well you’re promoting your business. Sure, your business is currently thriving but you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. A good, long-term client can go away in a snap. Have you been consistently marketing yourself and your business? What kind of professional networking are you doing and how can you improve it in 2020? Do you have business cards and do you hand them out? Are you promoting yourself through social media? Have you ever reached out to guest post on this blog (so you can then promote it on social media or your website)? Do you take great photos of your food for your website and social media—if not, how about taking a food photography class?
  • Look at your client mix and potential new opportunities. If you started your business even five short years ago you know that food culture and culture in general has dramatically changed. Five years ago you may have had an interest in cooking vegan food, but couldn’t find clients who were all that interested. Today it’s a thing so now’s your opportunity to seek them out. Perhaps you’ve developed an interest in cooking for people who have specific health issues to address—from heart disease to cancer to dementia. Or you want to help pregnant moms and young families. Or you want to prepare healthy “on the run” foods for young, time-deprived professionals. This is the time to research opportunities and make them happen in your 2020 business plan. It’s also the time to review and refresh your menus, maybe challenge yourself with new skills and trending ingredients.
  • Finally, look at your personal life and how well you’re balancing it with work. Are you and your family happy with your schedule or do you need to tweak it to give yourself family or personal time? Are you exercising and doing fun things that keep your body, mind, and heart satisfied? Are you prioritizing vacation time? Are you exploring continuing education that doesn’t just help your business but also feeds your soul?

Candy and Dennis are eager for you to succeed. If you are an APPCA member and have any questions about how to make your business work better for you, reach out and ask. If you’re considering becoming a personal chef in 2020, join APPCA. We can help you set up your new business.

What kinds of issues are you mulling over that we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2020?

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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Yep, we’ve got another batch of anticipated food trends for 2020 to hit you with. This one’s from Innova Market Insights, which describes itself as a “global knowledge leader in the food and beverage industry.”

According to Innova, storytelling is the key trend. Increased consumer interest in the stories behind their food and beverage products and their notable influence on purchasing decisions has resulted in companies increasingly paying attention to storytelling in branding strategies.

1. Storytelling: Winning with Words

Although ingredient provenance has always been important, consumer interest in discovering the story behind their foods has risen further and increasingly influencing purchasing decisions. Consumers’ attention is piqued by opportunities to learn more about how products are produced, which promotes an understanding of product benefits and helps build all-important trust in the brand.

As a result, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on ingredient provenance platforms in order to highlight the taste and quality of their products, as well as their uniqueness and sustainability efforts. Provenance platforms can communicate a whole range of messages to the consumer, including flavor/taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds, as well as the more obvious geographical origin.

2. The Plant-Based Revolution

Plant-based innovation in food and beverages continues to flourish as a result of consumer interest in health, sustainability and ethics, which ties into the broader consumer lifestyle trend towards cleaner living. As the use of the term “plant-based” moves more into the mainstream, the industry and start-up companies in particular, are taking up the challenge to deliver more clean label meat and dairy alternatives with improved nutritional profiles.

3. The Sustain Domain

Consumers increasingly expect companies to invest in sustainability, with Innova Market Insights research indicating that 85% of, on average, US and UK consumers expected companies to invest in sustainability in 2019, up from 64% in 2018. In the area of food waste, upcycling is the new recycling, as companies strive to follow a zero-waste approach by creating value from by-products. Meanwhile, in packaging, the focus is on using less of it, as well as developing sustainable alternatives.

4. The Right Bite

Stress and anxiety are key concerns in modern life as consumers manage careers, families and social lives while striving to maintain healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally. Responses to this vary, although the majority of consumers aim to balance the benefits and costs of busy lifestyles. This, in turn, raises the demand for nutritious foods that are easy to prepare, convenient and portable. Indulgent treats play a role in relaxation and enjoyment.

5. Tapping into Texture

Last year’s leading trend “Discovery: the adventurous consumer” is still prominent, with consumer demand for something new and different being reflected in more product launches with textural claims. Consumers increasingly recognize the influence of texture on food and beverages, allowing a heightened sensory experience and often a greater feeling of indulgence. According to Innova Market Insights research, 45% of, on average, US and UK consumers are influenced by texture when buying food and drinks, while 68% share the opinion that textures contribute to a more interesting food and beverage experience.

The other top trends for 2020 identified by Innova Market Insights are:

6. Macronutrient Makeover

7. Hello Hybrids

8. A Star is Born

9. Eat Pretty

10. Brand Unlimited

According to Innova’s director of Insight and Innovation, Lu Ann Williams, customers want honesty, transparency, and authenticity. In the context she was speaking of, it’s directed toward brands and their customers. But as chefs can see, it amounts to the same thing. These trends may be identified to help food manufacturers develop and market products, but as a chef, you need to be always updating your menus and offerings. Understanding what clients are looking for and how they’re influenced can help you develop and fine tune an approach to your business and the kind of clients you’re seeking, as well as the services you want to provide.

Do these trends align with your experiences as a chef with clients? If not, how do they differ and what are you seeing?

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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One of the great things about our website’s forums and our Facebook business and closed group pages is that members share all sorts of great ideas they have about food. When I saw longtime member Suzy Brown’s post about making a lentil-walnut meat substitute I had to ask her to share it here. The owner of Thyme to Heal, Brown has been on a quest to offer clients holistic nutrition therapy. Here we get to share this cool concept and chefs can try it out with their own clients. Thanks, Suzy!

As many people are looking to reduce their animal protein consumption they look to different alternatives to emulate the same taste and texture of animal protein. Some people, like myself, prefer using whole food plant-based foods instead of resorting to the highly processed plant-based foods on the market.

I started using lentils and walnuts in combination to give the texture of ground beef. Even though the taste is not exactly the same as ground beef it is a great substitute even for your pickiest eaters.

When you combine black lentils and walnuts together almost any recipe calling for ground beef can be substituted with 1:1 swap.

Why use lentils? These gems are easy to prepare and are an affordable ingredient to swap in many meals. And they’re so nutritious. One cup of cooked lentils contains around 230 calories, 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 16 grams of fiber–both soluble and insoluble. 

As for walnuts, they are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. While walnuts are harvested in December, they’re available year round and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and benefit the heart and circulatory system. 

How to Prepare the Lentil Walnut Mince:

Boiled walnuts

I prefer to use the Beluga Black Lentil. I like their texture and flavor, especially when using it as a ground beef swap. For a quick and easy batch which would replace roughly one pound of ground beef I use 1 can of organic black lentils, drained and rinsed, and 1/2 cup of organic walnuts, boiled for 5 to 10 minutes. Then you strain and chop the walnuts into a mince. Combine them with the lentils. That’s it.

Note: Sometimes, I will pulse lentils in a food processor or smash with a fork to give a greater ground beef texture.

So, here’s how I make Lentil Walnut Taco Meat:

Lentil Walnut Taco Meat

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 recipe of lentil-walnut mince (about 2 cups of mince)
  • 1 can green chilis
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat avocado oil and add onion. Sauté until golden brown. Add lentil walnut mince and continue to cook until well combined.

Add green chilies and dry spices. You may need to add some water to thin the mix. Continue to cook until you have the texture and consistency of ground taco meat.

Adjust seasonings as needed.

I also like to make Cuban “Beef” Picadillo using lentil-walnut meat. Here’s the recipe:

Cuban Beef Picadillo
Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup diced Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 recipe of lentil-walnut mince
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoe
  • ½ cup whole green olives, stuffed w/ pimentos
  • ¼ cup capers, drained
  • Vegetable stock, as needed

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the diced onion until soft.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and tomato paste. Cook until almost golden.
  3. Mix in the bell pepper, cumin, pepper and a little salt – not too much as the olives and capers are salty.
  4. Add potatoes pieces and cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the lentil-walnut and the wine, let the liquid reduce.
  6. Add diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 more minutes and then add the olives and capers.
  7. Add as much stock to cover. Reduce heat and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are ready, the sauce thickens–about 90 minutes
  8.  Taste and adjust any seasonings: salt, pepper, cumin or additional olives/capers.

Have you created any delicious and nutritious meat substitutes you’d like to share?

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!

Photos by Suzy Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you making for Thanksgiving this year? 

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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