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.

Soups a Complete Meal

Soups a Complete Meal

Last months Newsletter gave you the tools to stock your kitchen with basics so now that the cooler weather is here it’s time to create Soups! Everyone loves Soups and the benefits are pretty amazing. Most Soups are a meal unto themselves, can be made in a slow cooker, are inexpensive, can be frozen and the bonus if done right loaded with Nutrition! I have spent countless hours in my Test Kitchen perfecting each and every one of my recipes! Many of my Soups are a version of a favorite comfort food and several have an International theme. Remember the key to a great Soup is the Stock.

I am available to make individual batches of any of below. Minimum order is 1 Gallon but larger quantities are available. With the Holidays on the horizon these Soups are great to have on hand for busy schedules or several clients have me create Soup Dinners to take the pressure off when family and friends roll in.

Soups

  • Chicken Cacciatore
  • Chicken Noodle or Rice
  • Chicken Vegetable
  • Chicken Tortilla
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Ala King
  • Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
  • Chicken Florentine
  • Stuffed Cabbage and Peppers with Organic Chicken Meatballs
  • Thai Chicken and Rice
  • Italian Wedding with Orzo and Lemony Kale
  • Clam Chowder New England or Manhattan
  • Old Bay Shrimp Corn Chowder
  • Brazilian Shrimp Stew
  • Shrimp Bisque
  • Cream of Mushroom
  • Velvet Cauliflower
  • Broccoli Cheddar
  • Mac N Cheese
  • Roasted Vegetable
  • Roasted Red Pepper with Smoked Gouda
  • Sausage Lentil (Vegetarian Available)

More Soups

  • Black Bean (Can add Chorizo or Smoked Turkey)
  • Cheddar Corn Cheddar
  • Minestrone (Vegetarian Available)
  • Brunswick Stew
  • Split Pea (Vegetarian Available)
  • Roasted Pork Vegetable
  • Pork Mexican Pozole
  • Tuscan White Bean and Rosemary Crusted Ham
  • Velvet Tomato Basil
  • Potato Leek
  • Tuscan Sausage White Bean served over Baby Kale (Vegetarian Available)
  • Organic Chicken and Chorizo Chili
  • Beef Barley
  • Texas Chili
  • Pepper Steak
  • Beef Bourguignon
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Beef Shepherd’s Pie
  • Beef Goulash
Fall 2019 Kitchen Staples

Fall 2019 Kitchen Staples

Be Prepared With a Well Stocked Pantry and Fridge

Now that Fall has arrived it’s a great time to get back in the Kitchen and start making lots of great Stews, Soups and Casseroles. Surprisingly enough many of the Ingredients for your Fall Favorites are already at your fingertips, either in your Pantry or Fridge. The beauty of these items is that you can create a meal even without the benefit of a Protein or Fresh Vegetables. The below list are items I keep on hand and can’t live without! Also check out the easiest Pasta Dish ever Cacio e Pepe https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a24175464/cacio-e-pepe-recipe/

Pantry

  • Kosher Salt
  • Extra Virgin Oil
  • Boxed Stock and Broth
  • Pastas All Shapes and Sizes
  • Jasmine Rice, Quinoa, Barley, Couscous, Polenta
  • Artichokes, Roasted Red Peppers
  • Canned and Dried Beans All Varieties
  • San Marzano Tomatoes, Tomato Paste in a Tube
  • Coconut Milk, Curries, Water Chestnuts
  • Nuts and Dried Berries
  • Italian Tuna and Sardines
  • Bread and Nut Crumbs
  • Spices of your choice

Fridge

  • Lemons, Limes and Fresh Herbs *Keep Fresh Basil in a Jar with a Little Water and Plastic Bag over It on Your Countertop and Mint, Cilantro and Thyme Wrapped in Damp Paper Towel in a Ziploc Bag
  • Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino, Cheddar, Feta, Gruyere or Whatever You Like
  • Olives, Capers
  • Pickled Jalapenos, Banana Peppers, Relish
  • Eggs/Butter
  • Hot Sauces, Asian Condiments
  • Mustards, Mayonnaise
Why Use San Marzano Tomatoes

Why Use San Marzano Tomatoes

It may seem like a weird time of year to feature Canned Tomatoes but San Marzano Tomatoes really take your Marinara and any Dish to the next level! One of the most distinctive traits is the rich sweet taste that other canned tomatoes don’t have! Also, you may have noticed with many canned brands that there is a tinny flavor and the only way to balance that out is to add sugar. Check out this link for more information.

Many of have asked for my Marinara Sauce and Chicken Meatball Recipesso here they are and have fun making it! If you have never heard of Rao’s it is amazing! https://www.bonappetit.com/story/nycs-most-exclusive-italian-restaurant

Organic Chicken Meatballs with Rao’s Marinara Sauce

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 1/4 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
  • 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
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs can use dried Italian bread crumbs or a combination of both
  • Half n half
  • 1 cup small diced peppers, zucchini, squash and purple onion (can omit but adds flavor)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 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
  • 1/4 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 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 breadcrumbs 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.
Benefits of Bone Broth

Benefits of Bone Broth

Because my diet is primarily Vegetarian I struggle to get the Protein I need. As I really have trouble eating Meat I find that drinking Broths is much more palpable. So, in addition to Juicing I also keep Bone Broth and Thai Broth on hand especially for when I feel I am coming down with something. I know most of you don’t have the time to make your own so I have tested and tasted many store-bought versions and found Kettle and Fire to be the best! https://www.kettleandfire.com/pages/bone-broth-benefits

By far the best Scratch Made Broth I make is the base for Thai Chicken Soup that most of you have ordered and love. I have been asked many times to share the recipe so here it is. After you complete Day 1and strain the Broth that is when you portion Ziploc Bags of Broth for the Freezer or place in a Glass Jar for up to 5 days.This Broth has so many Medicinal qualities and really will help when you feel you are coming down with something!

Thai Chicken and Rice Soup

  • 1 Whole Organic Chicken or 2-3 Bone in Chicken Breasts (Can Add More Chicken This Broth Freezes Beautifully and Since It Takes 2 Days to Make I Encourage That)
  • 2 Boxes Organic Chicken Broth or Good Chicken Base Added to Water
  • 1 Can Coconut Milk
  • 4-6 Sticks of Lemongrass (Cut in Half Then Pound a Little to Expose Center)
  • 3-4 Chunks of Ginger (Cut in Half or Quartered If Pieces Are Large)
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro (Separate Stems) Reserve Roughly Chopped Leaves for Garnish
  • Fresh Basil (Chop Before Serving)
  • 1 Bunch Green Onion (Sliced Thinly on the Bias) Reserve Half for Garnish
  • 1-2 Fresh Jalapeño for Garnish
  • Pickled Jalapeños and Their Juice 2 Tbsp * You May Add More on Day 2
  • 2-4 Kaffir Lime Leaves (Optional)
  • 2-3 Limes (Juiced)
  • Green Curry (Optional)
  • Jasmine Rice (1cup) May Vary Depending on Number of People You Are Feeding. I like Add a Piece of Ginger and a Lemongrass Stalk in the Water. Then When Finished Zest Some Lime to Enhance the Flavor

Day I

Cover Chicken with Enough Broth or Chicken Base and Water to 3/4 of the Pot. Add Cilantro Stems, Ginger, Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Pickled Jalapenos and Their Juice (Probably 4-5 Slices and 2 Tbsp of the Liquid) If You like It Spicier You Can Add More the Next Day). Bring to a Boil Then Cover and Lower Heat to a Good Simmer Cook for 30-45 Minutes Depending on Size of Chicken. Cool Completely Then Store in Fridge Overnight.

Day 2

Strain Stock into a Large Bowl, Take out Chicken and Shred and Place to the Side. Discard All the Other Stuff. Place Liquid Back in Pot and Bring to a Simmer for 15 Minutes. * This Is Where You Can Freeze Some Broth for When You Are Feeling Under the Weather. Add Coconut Milk Stirring Until Incorporated Then Add Chicken, Lime Juice and Green Onion If Using Green Curry Add a Little. *Taste Your Soup

Ladle over Hot Rice Then Garnish with Fresh Jalapeno, Basil, Green Onion and Cilantro

Cook’s Note: Lee’s Asian Market in Asheville on Highway 25 Has Everything You Need for This Soup and All Things Asian. Lime Leaves, Lemongrass, Ginger, Green Curry, Green Onion and Beautiful Cilantro. the Owner Is Very Helpful and If You Have Never Been to an Asian Market It Is Worth the Trip. Your Flavor Profile May Need Help Day 2 Depending on the Strength of Day 1. Adding a Little Salt, Extra Lime Juice or Jalapeno Juice or You Can Even Add Chicken Base to Really Amp up the Flavor. Play with It!

How to Make the Most out of Fresh Produce and Herbs and Carrot Top Pesto

How to Make the Most out of Fresh Produce and Herbs and Carrot Top Pesto

Summer is a great time to really clean out your refrigerator. With the farmers markets and fruit stands in full swing eating fresh is a breeze but it can seem like a lot of work! Here are a few tips to make your food prep really work for you!

  1. Throw out any old produce and try to plan a menu for the week ahead. If you are a person who would rather decide what to cook as you are shopping you still need to keep your purchases realistic, not only from a time management perspective but for reducing waste. Most people throw out 15- 20 % of fresh items weekly because they just don’t get to it or it goes bad before they do.
  2. When you return from the grocery or farmers market wash and store everything that day. By prepping all your vegetables that day you set yourself up to enjoy fresh salads and vegetables all week with only minutes to plate a salad or sauté whatever you like.
  3. Fresh Herb Storage: Basil should be kept at room temperature in a glass container filled with a few inches of water with a plastic bag covering it. This will keep it fresh all week. Other herbs like cilantro, dill and mint can either be kept the same way as basil but in the fridge or wrapped in damp paper towel and placed in plastic storage bag in the vegetable drawer.
  4. What to do with excess Herbs? Here is a link with great ideas https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/what-to-do-with-herbs

RECIPE: CARROT TOP PESTO
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup carrot leaves (from about 1 bunch carrots)
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup of nuts of your choice (roasted cashews, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pulse the carrot tops, parsley leaves, nuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped. With the processor on, slowly drizzle olive oil, and process until blended. Add the Parmesan and salt, and pulse until combined. *Cooks Note: Mint leaves are also a great addition to this recipe