How are your clients feeling? A little achy around the joints with arthritis? Perhaps they’ve got diabetes or cancer or are concerned about developing Alzheimer’s. According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, our immune systems become activated when our bodies recognize something foreign—be it an invading microbe, pollen, or chemical. What follows can be a process called inflammation and while intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders can protect our health, if the inflammation persists when we’re not threatened, it can take us down. And so many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s, have been linked to inflammation.

If you’re looking for a do-it-yourself way to address inflammation, you can find it in the kitchen via farmers markets and grocery stores. Instead of eating refined carbohydrates, soda, and fried foods, for instance—all foods that cause inflammation—you should prepare more anti-inflammatory foods for clients using ingredients like olive oil, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and fruits, in your diet.

And spices, like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Let’s focus on turmeric.

Turmeric, which is related to ginger, and its most active compound curcumin, is grown throughout India, other parts of Asia, and Central America. The National Institutes of Health reports that turmeric has been shown in preliminary studies to reduce the number of heart attacks bypass patients had after surgery, control knee pain from osteoarthritis, and reduce skin irritation that can occur after radiation treatments for breast cancer.

One simple thing you can make for clients to add to their coffee or tea is a spice compound that my friend Su-Mei Yu, a San Diego expert in Thai cooking and former owner of Saffron Thai restaurant in San Diego, taught me. It’s something she spoons into her morning coffee daily to help her address the inevitable aches and pains of aging.

Su-Mei Yu grinding spices

She combines one-part organic turmeric powder with half a part ground black pepper, and one-quarter part each of ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom. She adds a teaspoon of this compound, along with a dash of olive oil, which she explained boosts the spices’ effectiveness, to her coffee. The flavor is comforting, yet potent—kind of like chai on steroids. If your clients are coffee or tea drinkers, they should find it compellingly delicious. I add it to my coffee every morning now, too, and love it.

Turmeric root can be found in some specialty ethnic grocery stores, but, of course, you’re more likely to find the ground form in the spice section of grocery stores. You can find turmeric supplements in capsule form at various health stores.

Turmeric can be included in fresh root or powder (or both) forms in curry paste or marinades. You can also encourage clients to make a Turmeric Tea. Here’s a recipe from DLife:


  1.  Water
  2. Turmeric powder
  3. Honey


  1. Boil 2 cups of water
  2. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered turmeric.
  3. Let the turmeric seep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
  4. Strain the tea, add honey if desired and sip.

And here is Su-Mei Yu’s recipe for her Yellow Curry Paste.

Yellow Curry Paste
5 cloves garlic
2 shallots
2 teaspoons rice bran oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 dried de arbol chilies, soaked, dried, roasted and break into small pieces
1 lemongrass, outer tough layer and green parts removed, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced galangal
1 teaspoon minced kaffir lime peel (substitute with lime)
1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric
1 teaspoon red miso
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, roasted and ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  1. Wrap the garlic and shallots in separate aluminum sheet, coat with oil and bake at 400 for at least 20 minutes, cool. Remove from the foil and peel. Set aside.
  2. In a mortar with a pestle, pound the salt and dried chilies together until combined into a coarse paste.
  3. Add the lemongrass and pound to puree.
  4. Add the fresh ginger, galangal, kaffir lime peel and turmeric. When the paste becomes pureed, add the roasted garlic cloves and shallots. Pound to combine and puree. Add the red miso and pound to puree and combine.
  5. Add the ground coriander seeds, cumin, white peppercorns, cinnamon, chili powder, ginger powder and turmeric. Mix and combine with the puree.
  6. The paste can be stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator for several weeks

Be sure when you use this past to add it to coconut oil in a large saucepan over low heat to keep the ingredients from burning. Once it darkens, add a bit of coconut cream to render the paste to release its flavor. Then you can add ingredients like bite-sized pieces of room-temperature chicken or very firm tofu, cut-up potatoes, onions, and other vegetables, along with chilies, bay leaves, salt, and brown sugar–and then more coconut cream. If the chilies make the dish a little too spicy, add some more brown sugar to balance the flavors. Su-Mei likes to finish the dish off with a little fish sauce at the end. And, if you can find chewy red rice from Thailand, clients should really enjoy it with your curry.

Do you cook with turmeric for clients? What dishes do you use it in?

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Linda Berns

For Linda Berns of CustomKosher, LLC in Bethesda, Maryland, her fondest memories are of cooking with her grandma from the time she was a little girl in St. Louis. “I went to the culinary school of Gramma,” she says. “My grandparents cooked for everybody. They made challah and sweet rolls for everyone that friends would pick up for Shabbat–for no charge.”

The family held huge seders–the celebratory dinners at Passover–with a table that stretched from the dining room to the living room. In fact, Linda has all of her grandmother’s glasses, plates, silverware, and pots and pans. “So I cook with the same things she cooked with and it’s the same table she set.”

While she grew up cooking, Linda actually studied international studies and communications at American University in Washington, D.C. with the motivation of designing educational materials. Eventually she opened a graphic design company, Berns & Kay, Ltd., a business she’s had for more than 30 years.

Spinach Salad with balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts

Spinach Salad with balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts

But, with the onslaught of computers, she realized that everyone could now be a designer. While running her graphic design business, she was also cooking for her synagogue and friends whenever there was a simcha (celebration) or a shiva (mourning ritual). Need a meal for 200? Linda could and did make them. So, when she was watching the Food Channel with her husband one evening and saw a show on personal chefs, she turned to him and said, “Well, shoot, I could do that!.”

That was 14 years ago. Linda joined APPCA and took the course to learn how to launch her business. And, in doing so, believes she became the only kosher personal chef in the country. As a graphic designer, she can create her own tablecloths, room decorations, signage, invitations, programs, and wedding announcements for her clients.

Indeed, her business is a mix of catering and cooking meals for regular clients, many of whom aren’t Jewish and some of whom have significant health conditions. As part of her design business she created a lot of health materials for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, picking up a wealth of nutritional information as part of developing the materials. So, she finds it easy to create healthful, delicious meals for elderly clients with medical issues like heart disease or diabetes.

“I’m like their Meals on Wheels girl,” she jokes. “I enjoy it and its a wonderful connection to my love of my grandparents. I used to go with my grandmother to visit old people and cook for them, so being around old people has always been very special to me.”

Curried Cauliflower

Curried Cauliflower

Over the years, Linda has taught cooking classes at synagogues and nutrition classes at women’s organizations. She was the food manager at the George Washington University Hillel for four years, which gradually came to feed 150 to 200 students on Friday nights and serve 450 meals for Passover. Today, she gets a kick out of teaching the kids on her street how to cook–everything from sufganiyot (sweet donuts for Chanukah) to potato latkes (potato pancakes, also for Chanukah).  And, she kvells about her grown sons’ cooking talents. “My sons are spectacular cooks. My oldest son, who is 29 and a trombone player in L.A., finds people hiring him to cook for them. My 25-year-old son in Boston is also a terrific cook.”

One of Linda’s greatest achievements is having six custom kosher recipes in the book, Made With Love: The Meals on Wheels Family Cookbook. “It’s filled with recipes from celebrities like Joan Rivers, Al Franken, and Martha Stewart, but I actually have more recipes–and healthy ones–than any other contributor,” she says.

Since Passover begins early next week, we asked Linda to give us some tips for cooking for Jewish clients who observe the holiday–and some recipes that would fit into the restrictions that eating during Passover entails. The two recipes below are healthy and delicious–and perfect for any occasion, including Passover.

“Although my gramma never made these dishes, they are infused with her love of blending traditional ingredients to create new holiday meals, and to celebrate everyday and for all occasions,” Linda says.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Linda’s Passover Cooking Tips:

The Jewish religion is complicated! Levels of observance vary widely, as do types of observance depending on regions of the world. The easiest thing to do when shopping for processed products of any kind is to look for items labeled “Kosher for Passover”. They are always safe.

The smartest thing to do when preparing Passover meals is to always ask your customers their level of observance and what fresh and processed foods they consider kosher for Passover.

Passover is the Jewish holiday of unleavened bread. Jewish people from Eastern European countries – Ashkenazi Jews (the majority of Jewish families in the U.S.) — don’t eat foods that rise, including bread or pastry with yeast, pasta, rice, barley, rye, legumes, soy, or corn. Substitute quinoa, potatoes, matzo, matzo meal, and matzo farfel.

Substitute white vinegar — a wheat derivative — with apple cider vinegar.

Substitute pure cane sugar or honey for anything containing corn sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Mediterranean stuffed eggplant

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant

Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant
from Linda Berns
Hardy and heart healthy all year round!
Recipe serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main course

1 Medium eggplant cut in half lengthwise. Remove the meat. Leave the shell intact and set aside.
2 Large zucchini diced into approximately 3/8-inch pieces
2 Large yellow squash diced into approximately 3/8-inch pieces
24-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
8 ounces fresh mushrooms wiped clean, stem tips removed, cut in large pieces
2 cups diced onions
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil as needed
1/4 cup wine, red or white–whatever is on hand (optional)
8 ounces firm tofu cut into approximately 1/2-inch cubes (optional)
8 ounces canned beans of your choice drained and rinsed (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup mozzarella or feta cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar to taste
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
Additional salt & pepper to taste

1. Dice eggplant meat into approximately 1/2 cube.
2. Fry eggplant cubes in 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Stir frequently to brown evenly. You may have to add extra olive oil. When brown remove from pan and set aside in a large bowl.
3. Brown onions and 2 tablespoons of garlic together in sauté pan with another 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Scrape up eggplant bit. Cook until onions begin to turn golden.
4. Add diced tomatoes and juice, sautéed eggplant, wine, sugar, kosher salt, black pepper to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Let sauce simmer uncovered until most of the liquid is reduced.
5. Add trimmed and quartered button mushrooms. Continue to let simmer 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and remove from heat.
6. Mix sauce with uncooked and diced squash, beans, and tofu in a large bowl.
7. Spread the saved 1 tablespoon of ground garlic and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil around the inside of each half of the eggplant shell.
8. Fill the shells with the vegetable stuffing and top with mozzarella or feta cheese (optional)
9. Bake in oven preheated to 375° until the cheese is melted, the yellow and greens squash turn bright colors, and the stuffed eggplants are hot throughout — approximately 20 minutes.

Note: You can also substitute the eggplant with portobello mushrooms or acorn squash. Follow steps 1 through 6. With mushrooms, then spread pureed garlic and drizzle olive oil on the underside of each cap and fill with stuffing mixture, then top with cheese. Line a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms with foil and brush with oil. Add mushrooms and bake at 400° until the cheese is melted, yellow and green squash is brightly colored, and stuffing is hot–approximately 15 minutes.

With acorn squash, you’ll cut the squash across the middle, scoop out the center seeds, turn the cut side down in a baking dish with water about half way up the sides of the squash and bake at 400° while you make the stuffing (steps 1 to 6 above). Remove squash from oven and baking dish when it feels soft to touch and let cool, then fill with vegetable stuffing and top with cheese. Bake in preheated 375° oven until cheese is melted, yellow and green squash is brightly colored, and stuffing is hot–approximately 20 minutes

Kale and sweet potatoes

Kale and Sweet Potatoes

Please Pass the Kale & Sweet Potatoes!
From Linda Berns
Eat as a healthy side dish with fish, chicken or beef
Recipe serves 4

Medium large bunch of kale (approximately 3/4 lb. kale)
3 to 4 medium sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Remove the kale leaves from the hard center stems. Tear leaves in large bite size pieces.
2. Soak leaves in large bowl of water while you peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into approximately 2-inch chunks.
3. Boil sweet potatoes until just tender as you assemble all the other ingredients.
4. When just tender, drain the sweet potatoes and set aside.
5. Drain kale leaves in colander and set aside.
6. Add olive oil to large skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat.
7. Add kale and stir to coat with oil. Continue tossing and stirring kale until it turns bright green and becomes tender. Do not over cook.
8. Add sweet potato chunks to kale and toss.
9. Add balsamic or sherry vinegar to pan and toss to coat kale and potatoes.
10. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Sweet potatoes, usually an integral ingredient in tzimmes, are traditionally served at Passover because root vegetables were often the only vegetables available in Eastern Europe.

What are you favorite Passover dishes? What the journey that led you to becoming a personal chef? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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

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