Posted on February 6th, 2011 1 comment
Whetting your appetite
We are moving ever closer to spring and I am contemplating new items for my personal chef clients’ menus. I thought I would whet your appetite with some pictures and descriptions of some of the things my clients have eaten lately. Some things stay on the menu year round and many things are seasonal. As you faithful readers of this blog know, I am a firm believer in eating according to the seasons. The reasons are many. The quality of locally grown in season food is higher, has more nutritive value, and is less expensive. Each season has its own energies, as does the food that grows during that time.
I must admit I am ready for the spring produce – peas, asparagus, strawberries! But, we have a few more weeks of root vegetables and squashes ahead of us. We are blessed here in California with an early spring but Mother Earth is still resting and waiting and so must we.
Here is a Winter Vegetable Stew I made for a vegetarian couple, rich with mushroom broth and locally cultivated mushrooms, winter squash, celery root, celery, onions, spinach, and sundried tomatoes which were picked and dried in the height of the season and so carry that life force in them.
A soup that sticks around most of the year is Chicken Noodle soup. Obviously, this was not for the same clients, but a family who orders soup every week. Here is where I get to be creative. I hardly ever use a recipe for soup. I have a memory of a recipe or a concept and either see what looks good at the market and/or what is available in the fridge. This means each time it is a one of a kind masterpiece, never to be exactly repeated. This soup contains chicken thighs which I find have so much more flavor and richness, especially good for soups and stews. It also has onions, carrots, celery, spinach and noodles. This day, I used what noodles were available in the clients’ cupboards. It also has a healthy dose of garlic, and some salt and pepper.
Next up is a recipe, often requested by my vegetarian clients, from the wonderful Molly Katzen for Spaghetti Squash Pancakes. You first bake the squash and when cooked scrape out the flesh which is noodle like in shape. Personally, I have never quite gotten into using this squash as a substitute for noodles but many people do. The batter is simple with the cooked noodles, rice flour, onion, eggs, salt and pepper. I like using red onion and adding some fresh thyme. This definitely is a seasonal recipe, appearing in the fall and winter. These clients love little patties and cakes so I am sure some sort of spring pancake will be on their menus soon, perhaps peas.
Lastly is a recipe I found on a piece of paper when cleaning out my garage. I suspect it is a Zone diet recipe but I cannot give appropriate credit for it. Delicious little good for you cookies, made of dried figs, almond flour, salt, vanilla,orange zest, and a bit of coconut oil. ( the oil was not in the original recipe) Happily, they are processed sugar free, grain free, and gluten free.
Almond Fig Bites
2 cups almond meal
1 c. ( 6 oz) soft dried figs ( one of my personal chef friends suggested subbing apricots, yum!)
2 tsp. orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. coconut oil
Heat oven to 325º. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 1 minute.
Form dough into small slightly flattened balls and place on baking sheet 1/2 in. apart. ( cookies do not spread during baking). Bake until bottoms of cookies are slightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes, turning pan once half way through. Cool and eat!
There is a small taste of what has been keeping me busy lately. I love my work as a personal chef. Every day is different and every client is different. Stay tuned for Spring will surely come and new ideas will emerge along with the new vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
This post is part of GNOWFGLINS Tuesday Twister. Head over there and read all the other interesting posts, please.
Posted on February 11th, 2010 6 comments
A good healthy seasonal recipe from a personal chef colleague
I started my personal chef career with membership in, training and support from The Personal Chefs Network. Sadly, this wonderful organization is now defunct, which is a whole other story. One of the great benefits was our online forum, part of which was a recipe exchange/posting site. You name it, you could find a recipe for it there. Fortunately, many of the recipes live on in online and paper files all over the world. Many of us are still in contact through other chef associations and on Facebook so there is still much sharing of those recipes. This is one of them, came from Gretchen Petery of Washington.
Cabbage is a good winter food. I can buy it in the farmers’ markets here all winter. And sauerkraut is an excellent way to eat cabbage and I can also buy it at the market. This jar came from a store but it is the same sauerkraut. Thank you Farmhouse Cultures of Santa Cruz. Indigenous cultures ( pun intended) all over the world know that fermenting a food increases its quality and nutritional value as well as the length of the food’s life for storage purposes. People all over the world drink fermented beverages. The Koreans are famous for fermenting cabbage and other vegetables ( traditionally underground) to become kimchi. This form of cabbage is European in origin, sauerkraut. Fermented foods are good for us as they can aid and improve digestion, and boost our immune systems in the process.
Cream of Sauerkraut Soup
3 slices thick bacon ( please please use pasture raised, no additives)
1 medium onion
2 ( or more) stalks of celery with tops
16oz. jar of sauerkraut
32 oz. chicken broth or stock
1 bay leaf
32 oz half and half, or 16-24 oz full raw cream is my recommendation
salt and pepper to taste
In stock pot, cook bacon over med/high heat until crispy. While Bacon is cooking, finely chop the onion and celery. ( you could use the food processor) When bacon is crisp, remove, drain, and crumble. Add onion and celery to the pot and saute in the bacon drippings until tender. Meanwhile, drain and rinse sauerkraut. ( I skipped this step, there wasn’t much liquid and I wanted to add it to the soup) Finely chop the sauerkraut ( again you could use the processor and again I did not. I wanted more texture) When the onion and celery are tender, add the sauerkraut, chicken broth, and bay leaf. Cook on a low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add half and half, or cream, and bring back up to a serving temperature. To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream and some crumbled bacon. Season as desired with salt and pepper. ( I opted to not use bacon and made some meatballs out of a mix of equal amounts of ground pork and turkey thigh, mustard, pepper, 1 egg, 1/4c. brown rice crumbs. The sauerkraut I used had caraway seeds in it, so I added a tsp. of caraway seeds to the soup broth.
Creamy, decadent but earthy, comfort food for a chilly winter supper.
Posted on January 5th, 2010 2 comments
Personal Chef Charity’s recommendation for keeping warm in the winter
Winter, even the mild ones here in Santa Cruz, is the time for soup.I frequently make soup for my personal chef clients. I was inspired this week by a visit with my friendly nutrition expert to make this concoction, using fresh organic ingredients specifically good to eat in the winter.
Soup, in general, is good because of its warming properties. We all know this instinctually. Parsnips and carrots are in season now and root vegetables are good to help us stay grounded ( a quality much appreciated during the busy holiday rush). Barley is full of fiber and minerals and can have a good effect on blood sugar. ( another good thing for remedying those holiday indulgences). I hadn’t had any beef in a while, so went for some good grass fed. I bought a bag of bones and made Bone Building Broth from The Garden of Eating by Rachel Albert-Matesz and Don Matesz, an excellent guide to produce dominated eating. You can find more information about the broth here.
Bone Building Broth
3 to 4 lbs meat bones, leg, marrow or assorted bones ( raw or from cooked meats), beef, bison, lamb, venison, pork
5 to 6 qts. filtered water ( you will need to add more)
2 bay leaves and/or 2-3 ( 5 in.) pieces kelp or kombu
3 T lemon juice or 2 T raw apple cider vinegar
Combine ingredients in an 8 qt. stockpot. Add water to cover bones. Cover and bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium low to keep broth gently bubbling. Kim off foam that rises to surface during first 30 minutes. Simmer for 10 to 14 hours ( yes, that long) or until broth appears milky. Add water if needed to keep bones covered. Uncover and simmer 1 hour longer or until liquid is reduced to 4 qts. Remove bones with large slotted spoon or pour through a large colander over an extra large bowl. Return broth to pot and place in sink filled with several inches of ice water. Cool for 30 mins. Strain and ladle into 1 qt Mason jars or freezer containers, allowing 1 in. of head room. Broth will thicken as it cools. Skim off and discard fat layer before using or freezing broth. Use refrigerated broth within 10 days, frozen broth with in 9 mos.
I used all of my broth to make my delicious Mushroom Barley Beef Soup.
Mushroom Barley Beef Soup
Bone building broth
5 cloves of garlic
generous amounts of salt and pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 c. chopped fresh dill ( use whatever herbs you like)
large handful chopped parsley
one large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 packages of dried porcini mushrooms ( a bit extravagant but so flavorful, you could substitute fresh mushrooms)
2 large carrots, sliced
1 VERY large parsnip, sliced and chopped
1 small savoy cabbage ( kale would be awesome, mine was too far gone to use)
2 lbs. organic grass fed beef stew meat
1 T olive oil
1 c. barley ( not the pearled kind), which has been soaked in water for 24 hours and drained. ( this may seem tedious, but really helps digestion)
Brown the meat in the olive oil. Add to broth along with all the other ingredients and simmer for several hours. I usually add more parsley and celery at the very end so there is something green and crunchy. If I would have had some, I would have added 1/2c. red wine. Other root vegetables would be an excellent addition – celery root, turnips. This would be good with lamb.
As with most of my recipes here, you are encouraged to make this your own. Let me know how you like it. If you live where it is really cold, curl up in front of the fire with a warm bowl of soup and watch the snow fall. Here in California, I will sip soup and wait for more rain.