Chef Tools and Products I Can’t Live Without!

Chef Tools and Products I Can’t Live Without!

Last week, my beloved ricer broke in the middle of making 30lbs of mashed potatoes and it almost broke your Chef!  My creamless mashed potatoes are one of my signature dishes.  So after having a complete melt down and calling everyone I know, I found one and the crisis was averted. If you haven’t used a ricer to make mashed potatoes, you are missing out!

Also check out this link for other creative ways to use it-  4 Ways to Use a Ricer

Another tool that is essential to my cooking is a zester. I use it to infuse citrus into my breadcrumbs and dressings. I also grate onions, garlic and whole spices like nutmeg, it’s super handy.

But probably the most amazing tool I own is this nifty julienne peeler.   There are so many different types out there but none that have the precision and technique to make vegetables like carrots, zucchini, potatoes and squash look so beautiful.

Lastly, I am addicted to lemon infused olive oil.  Just a few lovely drops take all my recipes to the next level.

Meatballs and Their Endless Possibilities

Meatballs and Their Endless Possibilities

With everyone home and cooking 3 meals a day and several more weeks of staying home on the horizon, why not perfect your meatball skills! Once you get the base right there are endless opportunities, I use them in appetizers, soups, sandwiches and entrees. Meatballs are not just for Spaghetti, every country has a version check out this link https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/01/meatball-style-guide-varieties-around-the-world.html

Tips for the Perfect Meatball:

  1. It’s all about the base decide on what meat you want to use. If a recipe calls for pork and you don’t eat pork, substitute it for turkey or whatever you like. *Note the classic meatloaf and meatball combination is ½ pound each pork, veal and beef.
  2. Breadcrumb and Milk Binder. One trick to making sure meatballs are totally tender once they are cooked is to use a binder. Place a combination of fresh and dry breadcrumbs such as Panko, Italian or even Saltines in a bowl and add enough milk, crème, ricotta to cover or a few eggs to create a binder or a panade. This will add moisture to the meat and prevent the meat proteins from becoming tough during the cooking process.
  3. Don’t skip the flavor profile! Make sure to add fresh and dry herbs, cheese, vegetables, sauces or any flavors that when finished make the meatball the star.
  4. Avoid overworking the meat. Mix the meat with the binder and other ingredients until combined. Using your hands form the meatballs into desired shape.
  5. Roasting, Frying or Simmering. For me, if the quantity isn’t to large, I go for a combination. Frying to get that color and caramelization and finishing in the oven to keep them moist.
  6. Freezer Friendly. The beauty of meatballs is that they freeze perfectly and make a quick dinner in a pinch. So double up on your recipe when you decide to make them.

My go to recipe for meatballs is organic chicken with scratch made marinara check it out:

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SAUCE:
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans imported Italian San Marzano crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes
6 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
Pinch of dried oregano
Parmesan Rind
Salt and ground black pepper (I use red pepper flake)

FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1-pound ground white meat organic chicken *Can use beef or meatloaf mix
½ cup fresh bread crumbs can use dried Italian bread crumbs or a combination of both
Half n half
1 cup diced peppers, zucchini, squash and purple onion (can omit but adds flavor)
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and a pinch or 2 red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon garlic powder *Can use fresh garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Yields 10-15 Meatballs depending on size

PREPARATION:
1. Make the sauce: Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Sauté onion with salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté just until softened. Add tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Add the basil, oregano, parm rind and reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. If adding meatballs, place in sauce to simmer.

2. Make the meatballs: Toss peppers (no green pepper), vegetables and onions in evoo, garlic powder, salt and pepper and roast in 350-degree oven until tender about 15 minutes, let cool. While vegetables are cooking, soak fresh breadcrumb combination in half n half in a large mixing bowl. After liquid is absorbed, add chicken and balance of items, plus cooled vegetables. Do not over work. Shape into desired shape of meatballs. *Cooks Tip I take a small amount of meatball mixture and test in Skillet to make sure flavors are balanced.

3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches and taking care not to crowd the pan, add meatballs and fry until undersides are brown and slightly crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and brown the other sides, about 5 minutes more. Transfer meatballs to 350 oven and finish cooking about 10 minutes then add to the marinara sauce. * You can Bake the Meatballs on Parchment Paper 35-40 minutes make sure internal temperature is 160 they will continue to cook in Sauce.

Treat Your Kitchen Like a Business

Treat Your Kitchen Like a Business

When I left the corporate world, I retired to raise my children and pursue my beloved hobby of Show Jumping. A bad accident ended that chapter and I was left with the question of would what would I do with my time? Having grown up in the restaurant business coupled with the luxury of eating my way around the globe for 20 years, I decided to attend Culinary School. When I finished I was lucky enough to have a friend Susan Casey, the founder of the Purple Onion Saluda, who put me to work. Not only was her menu amazing but it was a great way for me to hone my skills. However, the amount of business generated in that little kitchen was overwhelming and often times I felt like I was drowning. I realized that using my business skills was the only way to survive! Fast forward to the present and the number one tip I can give you for creating the perfect kitchen at home is“Treat Your Kitchen Like a Business.”

I hope these tips inspire, excite and, most importantly, save you money.

  1. Create a weekly menu. That menu is your road map for saving money, so choose a day where you can have a little quiet time and have some fun with it! Meatless Monday’s, Taco Tuesday or Thursday’s, Pizza Friday’s, Italian Sunday, whatever you like. It’s a good way to stay organized and if you have kids you are creating future memories.
  2. From that menu develop your shopping list. Challenge yourself each and every week to use whatever is left from the previous week in the fridge while reducing your freezer and pantry inventory. Simply adding any protein or not to what you already own will save you money! I cannot tell you how much food I see in people’s fridge and freezers that eventually goes to waste from sitting there month after month. The average American throws away $2800 of unused groceries a year. Imagine what you could do with even half that amount and how much better you will feel not wasting food!
  3. Be sure to list your items in the order of the store or stores you frequent, try and stay on the outer aisles, Produce, Meat and Dairy. This will help you stay on track while avoiding processed foods and impulse items!
  4. When you return home from shopping, use this motto “Need it 3 times chop it once”.  Process all your fresh produce and set yourself up for success. If all your fruits and vegetables are prepped and stored at the beginning of the week, you simply pull them out and create a salad or add them to your main course. No mid-week prepping. *Chefs Tip: I keep diced celery, garlic, onions and carrots on hand at all times. By having these items you can just add a box of stock, beans, canned tomatoes and some spices, or whatever you like, and you now have an Instant Pot Dinner.
  5. Overwhelmed or just to busy let me help! Either with kitchen organization, check out this link https://www.chefpatricia.com/fall-2019-kitchen-staples/ or pick a day where I can come in and work with you to create a week’s worth of meals.
Diet Wheel of Fortune

Diet Wheel of Fortune

Having just returned from an amazing Food Journey in Austin, my creative juices are on overdrive! Austin is just bursting with any and all kinds of food options, and with the endless amounts of fresh everything, the sky’s the limit. Going to the Market in Austin is a cook’s dream. With Whole Foods based there and Central Market a cornucopia of the best as well as countless other options, I could spend a week just browsing aisle after aisle.

My classes were informative but nothing earth shattering other than me taking a look at macrobiotic eating coupled with Ayurvedic principles. I really love how Rachael used these principles to heal her health issues. Check out this recipe and her website for more information. All the dishes we made were comforting and digestible. Imagine this a diet that doesn’t eliminate grains!

 With national ad campaigns running every 5 minutes, diets run the gamut!  Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Jenney Craig, Keto, Atkins, Vegetarian, Paleo, Vegan etc…, and now the latest, The Pegan Diet.

Many of us are left with our heads spinning while asking, “What is the right diet to keep me healthy and happy?”

My conclusion, there is no one size fits all solution! I think that is what makes the Personal Chef Services, I offer unique, as you know, I work with each individual client to ensure that what I prepare works for their family. The foundation is always whole foods, the freshest ingredients (locally sourced when available) and lots of love.

Tips for Cooking Chicken Breasts Perfectly

Tips for Cooking Chicken Breasts Perfectly

Chicken has finally taken over as the number one spot for American Meat Eaters! Not only is it a healthier choice than Beef but check out so many other reasons to reduce your Beef intake https://www.peta.org/living/food/top-10-reasons-eat-cows/.

The issue with Chicken is cooking it properly! It is either to dry, has no taste or worst case scenario if handled incorrectly can make you sick!Between working in Commercial Kitchens and cooking as a Personal Chef I have developed some tricks over the years to ensure flavorful and moist Chicken.

  1. Dry Brine it is worth the time. Remove Chicken from package one day prior to cooking. Pat it dry and place on foiled lined baking sheet then sprinkle both sides generously with Kosher Salt. Place in lowest shelf in refrigerator overnight. This method relaxes the fibers and lets the meat absorb their natural juices making it juicy and tender.
  2. Cook at a higher Temperature 450. Using a shorter cooking time will help to seal in moisture. Internal temperature should read 160. Remove the Chicken and place a loose foil tent over as there will be carry over cooking.
  3. Even surface, make sure to pound or slice the Chicken Breast so they are same size this will ensure even cooking.
  4. Breading, the standard breading practice is FEB Flour, Egg, Breadcrumbs but there are so many options, With so many people going Gluten Free it’s easy to get the same amazing flavors using substitutes https://spoonuniversity.com/how-to/gluten-free-bread-crumb-substitutes don’t forget to add fresh herbs and your favorite cheese.
  5. Baking versus Frying I like the below recipe!

Perfect Baked Chicken Parmesan

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 chicken breasts, about 8 oz each, sliced in half lengthwise to make 8
  • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, I use a combination of Italian Breadcrumbs and Panko
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted (or olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup marinara
  • olive oil spray

PREPARATION:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a large baking sheet lightly with spray.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl. Melt the butter in another bowl. Lightly brush the butter onto the chicken, then dip into breadcrumb mixture. Place on baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  3. Lightly spray a little more oil on top and bake in the oven 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature reads 160.
  4. Remove from oven, spoon 1 tbsp sauce over each piece of chicken and top each with 1 1/2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
Chef Tips for a Perfect Holiday Celebration

Chef Tips for a Perfect Holiday Celebration

Food Tips for the Perfect Holiday Celebration

holidayparty
With a little planning this just might be your best holiday yet!

Tip #1: For a successful celebration – “Keep it Simple.”
Here is a formula that works: 2-2-2. It works this way, I like to offer six items: two that are store bought, two that are semi-homemade and two homemade. That lets you take time to focus on your special recipes while keeping the other prep easy. Next you want to make sure you have something for everyone in the mix. These days that can be challenging. So many people are gluten-free, vegan, aren’t eating dairy and such so make sure you have that information when crafting the menu. In a perfect world offer vegetarian, seafood and meat options so it feels like a meal. People are moving more towards tapas so the basic crudité, meat and cheese board doesn’t cut it anymore. There is no shortage for ideas on the internet so menu planning is just a click away! If you find yourself stumped just take a look at my catering options and I am happy to help.

Tip #2: Focus on the Platters and Decorations and keep the dishes in the cupboard!
Select nice napkins, small paper plates, if needed, and plastic cups rather than creating extra work that comes with lots of dishes.They are perfectly fine for these holiday gatherings. You can then put some thought and design into your selection of platters and decorations to create a lovely setting. I have yet to hear anyone complain, especially when the food is tasty.

Tip #3: A Simple Self-Serve Bar
Provide a selection of beverages that includes sparkling water, craft beer, red wine and maybe a signature cocktail like an Aperol spritzer.

Tip #4: Bites per Person
People always ask me this and it’s the larger groups that can be challenging. The rule of thumb is 4-6 bites if a meal is being served and 8-10 bites without a meal. Having gourmet nuts, chips and olives and maybe a dip like pimento cheese with crackers staged in several areas will always help to fill people up!

Tip #5: Deserts
This is the time of year when people splurge! Either make your favorite holiday deserts or save yourself time and have Jessica at All Good Things Bakery whip you up an assortment of her beautiful creations! Actually, this is where fruit and cheese can also work well. A beautiful platter of warm brie drizzled with honey surrounded by dried and fresh fruit and chocolate covered almonds it’s just enough to finish off the evening!

Tip #6: One Bunch of Flowers Will Do
There is no need to a spend lot on elaborate flower arrangements. You can save a bundle by picking up a loose bunch of flowers from the grocery or florist and add to it with simple greens and berries from the yard or local garden center. With this inexpensive combination you can create stunning and memorable decorations without breaking the bank.

Tip #7: Cooks Tip:
No need to feel overwhelmed this holiday season. Look to your closest grocery store, like Ingles. They can make stunning holiday platters with just 24-hours’ notice. By delegating those labor-intensive items like tea sandwiches and deviled eggs you will have more time to do the holiday prep that you find the most fun.