La Cocina Que Canta

One of my favorite food writing jobs was contributing to Rancho La Puerta’s blog and app. Every month, I would go down to their cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta, and participate in a hands-on class taught by a renowned cooking teacher, restaurateur, or cookbook author. One month it was Deborah Madison and it was memorable. For one thing, it was pouring rain, so the usual routine of participants first going to the magnificent garden just outside of the cooking school and picking the produce before returning to cook had to be scratched. But that was okay because the plan for that day was to make soup.

The kitchen

So, 15 of us sat around a long table and Madison led us through what you could call the soup-making journey—10 basic steps that most soups require, a concept she developed for her book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a book she’s just updated and reissued. See, while recipes are wonderful, being liberated from them to make delicious soups through inspiration and basic knowledge is something any cook or chef aspires to. Of course, we had seven of her recipes on hand to guide us in the kitchen that rainy day—from Red Lentil Soup with Lime and Spinach to Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese (recipe below).

New Vegetarian Cookbook

Not familiar with Madison? You should be. A chef, writer, and clearly talented cooking teacher, she was among the first contemporary chefs to develop the farm-to-table menu style now so popular among restaurants across the country. With Greens restaurant in San Francisco, where she was the founding chef in 1979, Madison established a career that has led to more than a dozen cookbooks (which have earned awards from IACP and the James Beard Foundation among others) and writing assignments from Saveur, Cooking Light, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Garden Design.

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While she admitted she doesn’t spend time thinking about the connection between words and food, Madison believes that food is bigger than a recipe and has everything to do with what we are. For her food is a lens through which anyone can view his or her life.

“It has nothing to do with being interested in food, or a good cook, or a lousy one, or a foodie or any of that,” she told me that day. “It has to do with everything we are, starting with nurture or the lack thereof.”

Given her enthusiasm for the bounty of the garden and farm, it makes sense that Madison’s starting point is the contemplative space of her home garden in New Mexico, and the community scene of the local farmers market. In fact, Madison spent time as a market manager and is a big fan of the Santa Fe Farmers Market. “It’s about running into friends, some of whom are the farmers, exchanging greetings and news, maybe sharing a recipe idea for some new squash or other produce, sometimes planning an impromptu dinner.”

One of her books, Local Flavors, gives advice on how to shop at a farmers market, but she also offered some tips for those just venturing away from the grocery store and into the open air:

  • First of all, shopping at a farmers market for the first time is an adventure, and adventures are good for us to have, so go with an open mind and don’t worry.
  • Always make a pass through the market and take a look at what’s there, the prices, the quality, what appeals to you, before you buy. That way you get the lay of the land. As you shop more and more at a market, you may find you have favorite vendors that you always return to—I know I do —but even so, I like to take a look around first just to see what’s there.
  • Do accept tastes and ask questions about foods that may be unfamiliar.  And just because you took a taste of something, it doesn’t mean you have to buy. You’re sampling and informing yourself.
  • If you feel very unsure about what the food you see at the farmers market, for you might well see different varieties than what’s in the supermarket, start with those vegetables and fruits that are familiar, that you already use—carrots, onions, garlic, apples, strawberries. Then maybe choose one food that’s new to you—a white eggplant, a different variety of cabbage, an exotic fruit.

Once you have that produce back home—and maybe it’s a soup kind of day like ours was—Madison has suggestions that include making your own quick vegetable stock from the trimmings you would ordinarily immediately toss into the compost pile, tasting the soup not just for more salt but perhaps acid to create balance (it turns out a little lemon juice can go a long way to creating that “aha” flavor moment), and to just make plenty.

“Soup generally gets better as it sits,” Madison said. “It can make an instant homemade meal when you’ve got a big pot on hand, and, if you give a little thought to the garnishes and textures, you can turn one pot into many soups.”

That’s the über cooking teacher offering practical guidance. But now that we’re into cool, even cold, weather when soups become more than just a flavorful meal but, in their heartiness, are embracing and nurturing, it’s worth thinking about the connections Madison draws between food and our inner lives.

“Perhaps that’s where the magic lies,” she proposed. “Food is really about our larger, deeper lives, and we all have those, whether we’re close to our deeper selves or not.”

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Quinoa, Potato and Spinach Soup with Feta Cheese
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Serves 6

“This grain-based soup is light, delicious, pretty, fresh, and very simple to make. And with the quinoa, it’s highly nutritious. What more could one ask of a recipe?” DM

Ingredients
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 small bunch spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and chopped
8 ounces Yukon Gold or other potato, diced in 1/4-inch cubes
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seed
1 teaspoon salt, to taste, and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, finely diced in small cubes
3 scallions, thinly sliced in rounds, including a few of the greens
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 hard-cooked egg, diced (optional)

1. Simmer the quinoa in 7 cups water for 10 minutes. When the quinoa is done, drain it, reserving the water, which you’ll use in the soup.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, cut the vegetables and set them aside.
3. Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan with the garlic and chile, cook for about 30 seconds, without browning the garlic, then add the cumin, salt and potatoes. Measure the quinoa cooking liquid plus water, if needed, to make 6 cups. Add it to the vegetables, bring to a boil, then add the quinoa and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Taste for salt and season the soup with pepper. Add the cheese, then stir in the spinach and the scallions. As soon as the spinach is wilted, serve the soup, garnished with the cilantro and hard-cooked egg, if using.

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Is there a chef/cookbook author who inspires you? Tell us about that connection!

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APPCA member Jim Huff of the Traveling Culinary Artist in New York is a self-described Nutella-holic, constantly fiddling with Nutella desserts. He admits that many have been complete failures while others have been just passable, thanks to the Nutella. And there have been some good and a few great. One of the great ones is this bread pudding.

So, how did it come about? As chefs, I’m sure you’ve had what you thought was a great idea for a dish that contains an ingredient you’re passionate about. Then reality hits as you struggle to turn that concept into reality. This bread pudding was no different. Its roots come from banana bread, specifically Kathy Huff’s Banana Nut Bread. Jim’s wife made this on request for get togethers f0r years. The recipe itself was no secret. It came from the Jiffy Mix baking mix box. Unfortunately, by the late ’80s, Jiffy Mix was becoming hard to find and what Jim could find didn’t yield the delicious bread everyone had loved.

“We ordered some directly from Jiffy and by the time we used them up they must have been stale because the famous Banana Nut Bread was never as good as we remembered,” Jim says.

In the meantime, Jim’s grandmother had given him James Beard’s famous Beard on Bread cookbook, which Jim fell in love with. So the Huffs started making the quick breads from the book. 

Then Nutella entered the equation. According to Jim, “The idea for the recipe came from two of these experiments. 1. Nutella Bread Pudding–great concept boring application. Might as well have made good brioche toast with Nutella spread on it!  2. Banana bread with Nutella swirled a la Marble cake. The Nutella ended up gathering itself while baking and the result was more like blobs than swirls!  My quest for a great Nutella Bread Pudding led me to the Internet. I found lots of recipes adding bananas and or chocolate chips, etc.  Then I had an epiphany, what if I used Banana Bread!  I found many bread pudding recipes using banana bread, now to adapt, using bananas, Nutella and Chocolate Chips.”

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding

Good enough, but then there was the quest to turn this concept into individual desserts, something that could be served at the dinner parties he caters.

“We find we get great response for people receiving their ‘own’ self-contained slice of heaven versus an actual slice of something made en masse,” he explains. “So simultaneously my Internet searches included bread pudding in muffin tin recipes.”

The problem was coming up with the right ratio of bread to custard, plus factoring in using muffin tins. Every chef friend and home baker Jim consulted had their own advice–more milk/less egg, soak longer/don’t soak. “A less obsessed person would have moved on,” he jokes.

But eventually, after many failed attempts they finally got the right proportions of bread, custard, Nutella, and banana bread down pat–and they did their testing in oversized muffin tins. The biggest test? How would their son-in-law, also a borderline Nutella-holic like it? But all was well after sending their daughter home with two. His comment after his second bite? “There’s only two?”

Cross section

Jim and Kathy added the bread pudding to their menu, pairing it with vanilla gelato and caramel drizzle. They got their first request for a client party of 10 and plated their new creation over raspberry sauce. Everyone loved it but couldn’t finish it because the portion was too big. So, they’ve downsized it to standard muffin size. And, as Jim says, “They’re always devoured completely!”

The recipe is still a work in progress. The Beard on Bread recipe calls for nuts, which Jim’s omitted. But now he says he’ll be experimenting–with hazelnuts of course.

Nutella Banana Bread Bread Pudding
from Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist
Servings: 6

Use the banana bread recipe you like. We link below to the banana bread recipe found in Beard on Bread, which is what Jim uses.

Ingredients:

6 slices banana bread, ¾”-1” thick
4 ripe bananas
1/3 cup Nutella
3  large eggs
1  cup whole milk
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1/2  cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

Cut the banana  bread into small cubes.

Place onto a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes to create dry stale bread. Cut into cubes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl mash the ripe bananas with a potato masher. Add in the Nutella and mix with the masher until blended with the potato masher. Add the eggs and mix until blended, add the milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Stir.

Once fully mixed add your bread cubes and stir until the bread is totally wet. Let it soak for 10 minutes. Stir again and spoon mix into a 6 cup extra large muffin tins. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350°F 25 to 30 minutes until set.  Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove from the tins and serve immediately.

Serve with vanilla gelato and a drizzle of salted caramel!

Ready for plating

Do you have a recipe you’re passionate about that took awhile to reach perfection? Share your story!

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Like Candy and Dennis, I live in San Diego. And I’m cold. All of you on the East Coast and Midwest may laugh but thin-skinned San Diegans have been living in temperatures in the 50s with winds and rain. We’re shivering, actually wearing jackets and rain boots, turning up the heat in the furnace.

And eating a lot of soup.

I’m sure each of you has your favorite for the winter months. I know I have a bunch–hot and sour, roasted tomato, lentil, and, of course, chicken soup come immediately to mind. But one that truly warms me is this Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens. It’s hearty and thick, thanks to the barley and beef. And the umami flavor that comes from the mushrooms (my favorite to use are dense shitakes) gives it a rich, earthy mouth feel.

Shitake mushrooms, barley, garlic

Plus, like most soups, once you wrangle the ingredients, it’s so simple to make–and then freeze in individual containers for weeks to come.

A note about the barley. While pearled barley is the most common you’ll find, try to find hulled barley. This is the whole grain version of the grain. Both are chewy. Both are healthy. But compared with pearled barley, where the outer husk and bran layers are removed, hulled barley only has the outermost layer removed, which makes it even more nutritious. Remember, also that with the additional layers removed, pearl barley takes less time to cook than hulled barley.

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Can you change this up to suit your clients’ or your own preferences? Of course! If you have vegetarian or vegan clients, eliminate the meat and use vegetable stock and more mushrooms. For those who don’t eat beef, substitute with chicken and chicken stock. Use multiple varieties of mushrooms and multiple types of greens. Add root vegetables and winter squash. Consider this a template and make it your own.

Mushroom Barley Soup with Beef and Greens

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound of boneless beef short ribs, cut into cubes
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, grated
3/4 cup of barley, preferably hulled
1 quart of beef stock (if using meat, otherwise you can use chicken or vegetable stock)
A couple of splashes of good dry sherry
Salt
Pepper
3 cups or so of Swiss chard or kale

Directions

Use a large stock pot. If you’re including the beef, heat the pot, add enough oil to cover the bottom, let that heat for a minute till it shimmers and then add the beef. Let it brown on all sides and then remove and set aside.

Add a splash more olive oil and then add the onions and garlic. Sauté on low heat until the onion turns translucent and just a little golden.

Then start adding everything else: the mushrooms and carrots, then the beef, then the pearl barley. Then add the liquid. If that’s not enough to cover the contents, add a little water, then a splash or so of sherry to up the flavor. Finally add some salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom Barley soup

Mix it well. Then bring it all to a strong simmer and skim the fat. After that, turn down the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let it cook for a couple of hours and toward the end of the cooking time, add the greens. Adjust the amounts if it doesn’t look right to you. Add other ingredients you might like. Cook until they’re wilted and serve.

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

What’s your favorite winter soup to make for yourself or 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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Stew3

With all the buzz in the last six months or so, you’d think that the Instant Pot was a brand new piece of kitchen equipment. In fact, Instant Pot Company, a Canadian-based company, was founded in 2008. The appliance itself debuted in 2010. Thanks to social media and huge deals from Amazon, though, Instant Pot has more recently become a sensation. There are user clubs on Facebook, bloggers who post Instant Pot-specific recipes, and vast numbers of postings on places like Pinterest and Instagram. 

With that in mind, we thought we’d ask one of our members who uses Instant Pot to explain why she does and how it’s working for her. Jennifer Zirkle, who runs The Ginger Chef in Michigan, loves hers. Read on to learn what it helps her with. And enjoy her GF Beef Stew Recipe:

Following social media these days can be an adventure but if you’re following food trends on your favorite sites you’ve no doubt seen mention of an Instant Pot. These electric pressure cookers seem to be the biggest trend launching 2017 and home cooks are in love with them. They’re part slow cooker, part pressure cooker, part rice cooker and part saucepan. As a personal chef, they can be incredibly versatile and free up some much needed stovetop space.

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I have been using my Instant Pot since September with amazing results. I’m working to become an expert in all of its many uses and I have found it to be such a time saver. My clients have reveled in the results of tender meats and stews that taste like they’ve been cooking all day. I’ve used it to make tender Osso Bucco, Wild Rice Chicken Stew, Beef Tips in Gravy, perfect Homemade Chicken Stock and even quick items like steamed green beans that turn out perfect. These little pots of magic combine the convenience of a crock pot with the speed of stovetop cooking. Perfect mac and cheese can be done in 15 minutes rather than 4 hours in a crock pot or even the multi-pan inconvenience of stove-top morney sauce and noodles.

Electric pressure cookers have many preset settings to choose from. Settings vary from model to model but most have a stew setting, rice cooker setting, beef, chicken, etc. Some models even offer you a customization tool to add more or less pressure or to add more or less time to each setting. For example, when making chicken stock, I set it to the “soup” setting and increase the time from 40 minutes to 100 minutes.

Recipes are popping up everywhere from Pinterest to even more reputable sites like Tasting Table https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/national/instant-pot-recipes-pressure-cooker?utm_medium=email&utm_source=TT&utm_campaign=Weekend&utm_content=Editorial

I’ve taken several of my favorite crock pot recipes and cut the time by a quarter. I’ve even taken my gluten- free beef stew recipe and given it an Instant Pot twist. I’ve included the recipe below. I encourage you to schlep the extra equipment to your next cook day.

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Gluten-Free Beef Stew for Electric Pressure Cooker

Yield: 2 to 3 quarts

Ingredients

2 pounds stew meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup rice flour
2 medium carrots, diced
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
6 cups beef stock
¼ cup sherry vinegar
1, 10-ounce bag mixed vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Season stew meat. Set Instant Pot to “sauté.”
  2. Add olive oil and stew meat. Brown meat to develop flavor.
  3. Add butter and rice flour. Stir to combine.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, stock, and sherry vinegar.
  5. Place cover and set Instant Pot to “Stew.”
  6. Let Instant Pot run. When finished cooking, let pressure release naturally.
  7. Uncover and add mixed vegetables. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let vegetables warm thoroughly and serve or freeze for later.

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Are you using an Instant Pot for client service? What difference has it made to your cooking routine?

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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Phyllo rolls

Are you launching a catering service under your personal chef business umbrella? If so, you may be looking to build your appetizer recipe repertoire. We have just the pass-around app for you for this season: Savory Ricotta + Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls!

I got this recipe years ago from Atlanta chef Alisa Barry when she was visiting our region and teaching at Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta. Her Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls was so straightforward and so divine I knew I’d be making them for parties. And I have, twice. Plus, I made them with the kids when I taught at Olivewood Gardens.

So, what is it that makes this such a winning recipe? I love the crunch of baked phyllo combined with the lusciousness of ricotta and wilted Swiss chard. The touch of nutmeg adds a spicy note. But, what’s truly great about this recipe is how versatile it is. Add tiny pieces of preserved lemon. Add toasted walnuts or pine nuts. Or, as I did the last time, add scallions, marash pepper for some subtle heat, and plump raisins soaked in Grand Marnier for sweetness.

rolling up

The other change I made to Alisa’s recipe was to the assembly part. Alisa calls for folding one sheet of phyllo dough twice. That’s fine, but yesterday I decided to make the rolls a little thinner so I sliced the sheet in half lengthwise and folded it just once. Since you roll the filled dough like a cigar, it’s still plenty thick. But, I leave that choice to you.

Savory Ricotta + Wilted Winter Greens Phyllo Rolls
Adapted from Alisa Barry

1, 1 pound box frozen phyllo (or filo) dough (follow the directions on the box for thawing)

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups mixed winter greens (Swiss chard, kale, arugula, for example)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 large scallions (green onions), sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Marash pepper or other red pepper flakes
3/4 cup raisins, marinated for at least two hours in Grand Marnier
1 container (15 ounces) of ricotta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For Assembly:
Olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray baking sheet/s with olive oil (or use parchment paper.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and add garlic, greens, scallions, and salt. Cook until wilted. Strain excess liquid and add to a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3. Add Marash pepper, ricotta, drained raisins, and nutmeg to greens and mix well.

4. To assemble, lay out one sheet of phyllo dough* and slice in half lengthwise. Brush both pieces lightly with olive oil. Fold in half lengthwise. Spoon two teaspoons of the filling mix at the short end of the dough and roll up like a cigar. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling, placing each roll on the baking sheet. Brush the rolls with olive oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

baking

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown. Depending on the quality of the phyllo and how many usable sheets you get, you should have about 3 dozen rolls.

*Note: When working with phyllo, be sure to keep the sheets from drying out. Dampen a dish towel and lay it over the stacked dough, removing it only to remove a sheet of dough and then placing it back over the stacked dough.

Just out of the oven

Are you developing new appetizer recipes for new catering gigs? What will be on your menu?

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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Crabby salad2

We’ve written about Suzy Brown of The Brown Bag Nutrition & Chef Services. Suzy is a longtime APPCA member and recently started using essential oils. We’ve long been curious about these oils–what they are and how they’re used in the kitchen so we asked Suzy to give us a primer. If you, too, have been wondering about them, you’ll want to ready Suzy’s post below and enjoy the recipe she’s included that incorporates two essential oils:

I went into my local nutrition store and picked a couple, black pepper and lemon, then started learning more about the healing properties of EOs. What I found out is that while they are rising in popularity today, using plants for healing dates back thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals have their origins in plants. And it’s not uncommon today to use lavender oil for calmness or ginger to treat nausea. Using essential oils in cooking, however, requires research because some EOs are only meant to be used topically, as cleaners, or sprays, not ingested, while others that are edible are very strong and could cause problems if they aren’t used correctly. Look for a supplemental facts area on the bottles, which notes the oils are safe to ingest.

Once I felt I understand how essential oils worked, I started teaching a monthly class on their healing properties and how to cook with them.

Here are answers to some of the most basic questions I get about EOs:

What is an essential oil (EO)? EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, skins and/or seeds. Funnily enough, EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to perform various functions with a few drops.

What purpose do they serve? EOs can provide a myriad of benefits to the body, mind, spirit…and wallet! EOs are used to treat everything from anxiety to yeast infections. All EOs are adaptogens, a natural substance that promotes a balancing reaction in the body.

EOs work by targeting the cause of the problem rather than simply addressing a symptom(s). In some cases you are likely to experience rapid relief and steady improvement. Many EOs are analgesics, acting directly with the nervous system to subdue pain; anti-inflammatory; antiseptics; promote relaxation and stress relief.

Let me give you two examples of how the two favorites I mentioned above work:

Black Pepper: Spleen strengthening, digestive issues, stress reducer, natural painkiller, stimulates the circulatory system, added to hot water or tea, savory dishes.

Lemon: Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, fights (colds, flu, fever, headaches). Add to water, warm or cold for a natural detox. Flavor Enhancer for savory, sweet, cocktails.

How are EOs made? EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, including water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. For example, citrus EOs are cold pressed. One pound of essential oil requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. So, for instance, one pound of rosemary EO requires 66 pounds of fresh rosemary.

Are EOs safe to digestWhile contemporary society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, civilizations have been using them for centuries. Today, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven safe to ingest.

When you buy essential oils, look for organic, therapeutic-grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company labels that include the following: 100 percent natural, an English plant name, a botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. And they should state they are safe to ingest.

What is the toxicity of EOs? Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic when ingested in large doses. A little goes a long way. It only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they may experience these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS, list has been tested with contemporary technology. Note, per the FDA, there are oils that are NOT recommended for ingestion, and oils that are not recommended for use by folks with particular medical conditions, or who are pregnant or nursing.

How do you cook with EOs? First, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic, therapeutic-grade oils (these oils are 100 percent pure). Also, keep in mind brand reputation. Choose products from reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe.

Some of my favorite EOs you’ll find in my kitchen include black pepper, cilantro, grapefruit, lemon, all varieties of citrus, and peppermint. Below is my recipe for “Crabby Salad,” which features black pepper and lemon essential oils.

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“Crabby” Salad Featuring Black Pepper & Lemon Essential Oils
Recipe by The Brown bag; Nutrition & Chef Services

Ingredients:

  • 1, 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1, 15-ounce can whole hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
  • 5 cups fresh celery, minced (baby leaves too)
  • 1/4 cup shallot, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 bunch chives, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, vegan or homemade preferred
  • Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
  • Large pinch Himalayan Salt
  • 4 drops black pepper essential oil
  • 2 to 4 drops lemon essential oil

In a large mixing bowl add in the chickpeas. Dice the hearts of palm into small pieces, about the size of the garbanzo bean. Mince all the remaining vegetables and add them into the mixing bowl. Toss with the mayo, spices and essential oils. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serving suggestions:

  • Lettuce cups
  • Avocado half
  • With crackers
  • If you mash the garbanzo beans a bit you can even put this salad into a sandwich

Essential Oil Chefs Notes:

  • Start with 1 drop of oil then taste.
  • Adjust as needed.
  • Remember you can always add… you can not remove.

Are you using essential oils for cooking? What are your favorites?

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

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

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Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes

Happy 2017! With the holidays in the rear-view mirror now, we’re guessing clients are asking you for more healthy meals. Maybe they’re going vegetarian–or at least cutting back on meats. This dish isn’t the most low fat, but let’s say it’s for those times when clients want a vegetable dish but also want a little indulgence. Plus, you can make the Spicy Chipotle Mayo on its own to serve on sandwiches or top tacos or tostadas. It’s wonderfully versatile.

If you’re familiar with elotes you know that they’re a summertime treat–traditional Mexican street food in the form of corn on the cob that’s been grilled to smoky perfection, sprinkled lavishly with salt and chile powder, then slathered with mayo or crema, and topped with cotija cheese and lime juice. One crunchy bite yields layers of popping flavors and textures.

Of course, corn is summer crop. So what to do when it’s unavailable? One of my favorite hang outs is Galaxy Taco in La Jolla. Its chef de cuisine Christine Rivera says take the basic concept and extend it to other vegetables–in this case, Brussels sprouts.

For the Brussels sprouts dish the idea was to create the same flavor profile as traditional elotes, but use vegetables currently in season. I love the charred, smoky flavor the roasting gives the Brussels sprouts. Combining them with the heat and richness of the Spicy Chipotle Mayo, the acid of the lime juice and the salty cheese creates a lively bite that makes you just keep digging in. It brightens the fundamental earthiness of the Brussels sprouts. I can see making this dish with corn kernels, with cauliflower, string beans, carrots, and baby artichokes. It’s just a perfect side to add to your repertoire for clients.

Adding the ingredients

While the finishing of the dish is done in a cast iron skillet, Rivera pre-cooks the Brussels sprouts to cut the working time. Here she roasts them in a pan with olive oil. She also makes the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so that the flavors come together. Be sure to get everything prepped before starting because the stovetop cooking goes very quickly.

Brussels sprouts in the Style of Elotes (Street Corn)
Christine Rivera of Galaxy Taco
Yield: 4 to 6 servings as a side dish

You can use Brussels sprouts—or other vegetables you enjoy—to make this dish when corn is out of season. Or instead of corn, if you like. If you make it with corn, you can grill the corn on the cob and add the ingredients when you serve the corn (traditional style) or remove the corn from the cob and prepare it as directed below. Be sure to mix up the Spicy Chipotle Mayo ahead of time so the flavors will meld. Once you get started with the cooking process it will take about five minutes so you want everything prepped and ready to go.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, and halved
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup cilantro, chopped, reserving 1 teaspoon for garnish
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Cotija cheese plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
1 lime, cut in half
Spicy Chipotle Mayo (see below for recipe and make ahead of time*)

Spicy Chipotle Mayo
1 cup mayo
1 chile from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (you can find this in your local supermarket)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice

Combine and mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss Brussels sprouts in extra virgin olive oil and salt. Roast Brussels sprouts for about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on size) and let them chill.

Place a pan on the stove at a low medium heat, add extra virgin olive oil. Once the pan is hot add Brussels sprouts. Toss them to cook evenly, then add cotija cheese, cilantro (saving some for a garnish), and lime juice from half a lime. Stir for about 5 minutes on low to medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chipotle mayo. Stir well to insure that the mayo is evenly distributed. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the reserved cotija cheese and cilantro on top and squeeze the second half of the lime.

Christine Rivera and dish2

What new dishes are you incorporating this year for clients? Any you want to share with readers?

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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This is it! The last week of 2016. We hope it’s been a busy year, filled with exciting challenges, plenty of new clients, and a satisfying work/life balance.

But we also hope you’ve been thinking ahead to 2017 and how you can implement the changes you want to make in all aspects of your life. To do that takes some organization so you don’t get bogged down in the frustrations of the mundane.

We’ve come up with a six-point year-end checklist to help. They’re a mix of big things you can’t afford to ignore, modest but still very important, and things we hope Mom or Dad taught you growing up that are just as valuable in the professional environment as the personal. The idea is to create a foundation of success by taking advantage of the arbitrariness of the end of a calendar year to reinforce the good stuff you should be doing for yourself.

  1. Review and update your business plan: This is more than going over a checklist. This requires deep thought about where you’ve been, where you are, and what you want for next year. What are your priorities now? Have they changed? How do you go about meeting them? Do they involve new marketing strategies? New skills development? A new direction or emphasis in your service offerings? What can you do to implement them? Putting down some concrete steps to achieving your 2017 goals gives you a running start come January.
  2. Change over your annual file system: It’s so much easier to go through life having your essential documents organized–especially anything related to taxes and business records. Everyone has their system. Some still using paper. Some on the computer or in the cloud–or a combination of both. Just take the time to start your 2017 files so you have what you need easily at hand.
  3. Organize financial records for taxes: Fourth quarter taxes are due next month and perhaps your accountant, if you have one, has already sent you forms to complete before you meet to get the 2016 lowdown. This is the time to go through those well-organized files and gather your documents so you can pull everything together to file your taxes. If you’re new to having your own business, ask your accountant what expenses are deductible, how to track mileage, and how to write invoices. If you use Quickbooks, you can print out a record of your income and expenses and use that as a blueprint.
  4. Review your equipment: As a chef, your tools are among the most essential investments you make in your business. Do you need anything new or repaired? Are there utensils you lug around unnecessarily that load you down and you can get rid of? Could you use a better system for hauling your equipment? Do your knives need sharpening? Do your uniforms need refreshing? Hey, does your car need a tune up or new tires? That counts, too!
  5. Review your menus: How regularly do you update your menus? Certainly, clients will have favorite dishes you’ll need to keep in your repertoire, but it’s a good idea to refresh dishes so no one–including you–gets bored. It’s also an opportunity to challenge yourself with new skills and flavor combinations, not to mention wow potential new clients with your versatility.
  6. Say thank you: Before the year ends, get out some nice stationery and send thank you notes to clients. They’re the reason you have a business. Your letter of appreciation is an old-world gesture that will go a long way in letting them know how much you value them and their business.

We’re looking forward to an exciting 2017 and hope you are, too! Candy, Dennis, and I wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

What is on your end-of-year checklist we haven’t mentioned? What exciting plans have you got for 2017?

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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Spatchcock Your Client’s Holiday Turkey

Filed under: Holiday Foods,Recipes , Tags: , , , — Author: Caron Golden , December 19, 2016

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Yeah, I know. For some people a roasted turkey is strictly a Thanksgiving affair. But many people also feature turkey for the Christmas holiday table. Turkeys can be a challenge. You want the skin crisp but if only the breast if facing the heat, the skin on the thighs below tends to get greasy and unpleasant. You want moist white meat but it can get overcooked while waiting for the dark meat to reach the right temperature. Bottom line? Roasting a turkey can be an aggravating guessing game.

So, I’m going to make it easy for you. Spatchcock your bird and roast it at high heat.

Spatchcocking is a way of breaking down the bird so it will rest flat in a roasting pan and cook evenly. You avoid the age-old problem of having the white meat dry out while the dark meat continues to cook below. Instead, you have moist meat from the drumstick to the breast. And because it roasts at high heat, the turkey cooks quickly and the skin all over the turkey is fully exposed, making it all nice and crisp.

But heads up–it really only works well with turkeys 14 pounds and smaller so it will fit in a roasting pan. Think that’s not a big enough bird for a crowd? Well, I had 14 people for Thanksgiving dinner at my house and with all the sides that 14-pound bird was plenty and there were still some leftovers.

Here’s how you do it. Place the turkey on a cutting board and pull out whatever may be in the cavity (neck, giblets), trim any excess fat, and drain the bird of any liquid. Pat it down with paper towels so it’s as dry as possible. Using a very good pair of kitchen shears, cut the bird from one end to the other along the backbone. Most people cut the backbone out entirely but I like to keep it and roast it too. When you’ve done that open up the bird skin side up with the breast facing you. Place the heel of one hand over the breast bone and your other hand over the first. Bear down on the breast until you feel and hear a crack. That would be the breast bone. Now your turkey can rest flat on the pan, which is where it should now go.

Pre-heat a conventional oven to 450° F.

I season my bird lightly with garlic salt and paprika. Then I rub in olive oil (you can also use butter) and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over before tucking the remaining lemon halves under the bird. You can also add slices of onion and fresh herbs.

Put the turkey in the oven and let it roast for about an hour and 20 minutes. Don’t baste it. Really. Just leave it alone so the skin gets crispy.

At 1 hour, 20 minutes, pull the turkey out of the oven and measure its temperature with a meat thermometer to test if it’s done. The breast should hit 150° and the thigh should be 165°. If you’ve hit that, turn off the oven and lightly tent the turkey (if not, put the turkey back in the oven and try again in five minutes). Let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

Yeah, it’s that simple. Here’s my cheat sheet from year to year:

Turkey instructions

 

P.S. This is a great roasting technique for chicken and even Cornish game hens (just shorten the roasting time).

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Whole Foods announced its top 10 food predictions for 2017. Their predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s experts and industry leaders who source items and lead trends across the retailer’s cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments, and spot trends for the retailer’s more than 465 stores.

Here’s what they expect:

Wellness Tonics – The new year will usher in a new wave of tonics, tinctures and wellness drinks that go far beyond the fresh-pressed juice craze. The year’s hottest picks will draw on beneficial botanicals and have roots in alternative medicine and global traditions.

Buzzed-about ingredients include kava, Tulsi/holy basil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms (like reishi and chaga), and adaptogenic herbs (maca and ashwagandha).

Products from Byproducts – Whether it’s leftover whey from strained Greek yogurt or spent grains from beer, food producers are finding innovative – and delicious – ways to give byproducts new life.

Coconut Everything – Move over coconut oil and coconut water – coconut flour tortillas, coconut sugar aminos and more unexpected coconut-based products are on the rise. Virtually every component of this versatile fruit-nut-seed (coconuts qualify for all three!) is being used in new applications. The sap is turned into coconut sugar as an alternative to refined sweeteners; the oil is used in a growing list of natural beauty products; and the white flesh of the coconut is now in flours, tortillas, chips, ice creams, butters and more.

Japanese Food, Beyond Sushi – Japanese-inspired eating is on the rise and it doesn’t look anything like a sushi roll. Long-celebrated condiments with roots in Japanese cuisine, like ponzu, miso, mirin, sesame oil and plum vinegar are making their way from restaurant menus to mainstream American pantries. Seaweed is a rising star as shoppers seek more varieties of the savory greens, including fresh and dried kelp, wakame, dulse and nori, while farmhouse staples like Japanese-style pickles will continue to gain popularity.

The trend will also impact breakfast and dessert, as shoppers experiment with savory breakfast bowl combinations and a growing number of mochi flavors like green tea and matcha, black sesame, pickled plum, yuzu citrus and Azuki bean.

Creative Condiments – From traditional global recipes to brand new ingredients, interesting condiments are taking center stage. Once rare and unfamiliar sauces and dips are showing up on menus and store shelves.

Look for black sesame tahini, habanero jam, ghee, Pomegranate Molasses, black garlic purée, date syrup, plum jam with chia seeds, beet salsa, Mexican hot chocolate spreads, sambal oelek or piri piri sauce, harissa, and adobo sauces.

Rethinking Pasta – Today’s pastas are influenced less by Italian grandmothers and more by popular plant-based and clean-eating movements. Alternative grain noodles made from quinoa, lentils and chickpeas (which also happen to be gluten free) are quickly becoming favorites, while grain-free options like spiralized veggies and kelp noodles are also on the rise. That said, more traditional fresh-milled and seasonal pastas are having a moment too, which means pasta is cruising into new territories with something for everyone.

Purple Power – Richly colored purple foods are popping up everywhere: purple cauliflower, black rice, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple sweet potatoes, purple corn and cereal. The power of purple goes beyond the vibrant color and often indicates nutrient density and antioxidants.

On-the-Go Beauty – “Athleisure” is not just a fashion trend; the style is now being reflected in natural beauty products, too. With multitasking ingredients and simple applications, natural beauty brands are blurring the line between skincare and makeup products, and simplifying routines by eliminating the need for special brushes or tools.

Flexitarian – In 2017, consumers will embrace a new, personalized version of healthy eating that’s less rigid than typical vegan, Paleo, gluten-free and other “special diets” that have gone mainstream. For instance, eating vegan before 6 p.m., or eating paleo five days a week, or gluten-free whenever possible allows consumers more flexibility. Instead of a strict identity aligned with one diet, shoppers embrace the “flexitarian” approach to making conscious choices about what, when and how much to eat.

Mindful Meal Prep – People aren’t just asking themselves what they’d like to eat, but also how meals can stretch their dollar, reduce food waste, save time and be healthier. Trends to watch include the “make some/buy some,” approach, like using pre-cooked ingredients from the hot bar to jumpstart dinner, or preparing a main dish from scratch and using frozen or store-bought ingredients as sides.

Fresh oven-ready meal kits and vegetable medleys are also on the upswing as shoppers continue to crave healthier options that require less time.

The USDA’s food price outlook shows modest increases for 2017. According to the USDA, supermarket prices are expected to rise between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. Despite the expectation for declining prices in 2016, poultry, fish and seafood, and dairy prices are expected to rise in 2017. These forecasts are based on an assumption of normal weather conditions throughout the remainder of the year; however, severe weather or other unforeseen events could potentially drive up food prices beyond the current forecasts. In particular, the drought in California could have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices. Also, a stronger U.S. dollar could continue to make the sale of domestic food products overseas more difficult. This would increase the supply of foods on the domestic market, placing downward pressure on retail food prices.

What food trends are you expecting for 2017? What are clients telling you they’re interested in?

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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