Part of my service is to create a total experience for my clients. In doing so, I am constantly on the lookout for items that have loads of flavor and pair up with what I am featuring! These items may be store bought, semi-homemade or homemade. I spend lots of time purchasing and tasting several versions to come up with what I think are the best! Many of you ask me where I purchase some of these items, so here is the information.
Calabrian Chili Paste – I use this to amp up the flavors for any Italian Meal.
Organic Cracker Bites – actually comes in 3 flavors, but these are the best.
Rosemary Crackers – can be purchased on-line, but if you haven’t checked out the Gourmet Food Section at World Market it is a must!
Nut Crumbs – it seems like the entire world is gluten free, but finding items that taste like the real thing is really a challenge! Finally, a product that just tastes so delicious you don’t even know it’s gluten free. The Italian are my favorite.
Whenever I make a Casserole I always add a Crunchy topping so here is my Recipe….
Lemon Parmesan Herb Breadcrumbs
- 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs * Also available in Gluten Free
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1. Melt butter in microwave.
2. Combine rest of ingredients.
3. Sprinkle on top of casseroles or pan fry to top salads and vegetables.
Cooks Note: Gluten Free Option replace Panko with Italian Nut Crumbs. These breadcrumbs freeze beautifully! Make a big batch and keep them in the freezer. Use them in your meatballs or breading for chicken and fish.
Ask any professional chef if they were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one tool and they’d would probably pick a chef’s knife. I would have to agree but beyond the chef’s knife, I have just 3 other knives that complete my collection.
So many folks buy sets and I think it’s psychological as they are looking at the number of knives versus what they will really use! Often times sets can be the same price or close to the same price as the individual knives I am recommending. So, use my tips as a guide or validation for what you already own. Shop around and maybe stick with one brand or not but, at any rate, investing in good knives will change your experience in the kitchen.
Not looking to completely replace what you already own? Then consider just starting with one. Or if you are happy with what you already own, then make sure your blades are sharp, not only for crafting your meals, but for safety! A dull knife is a dangerous knife, so I am very disciplined about keeping my knives sharp. Luckily, I found a local source the Ace Hardware in Landrum. A fellow named Pete keeps my knives super sharp and does them in a flash.
Chef’s – https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/shun-classic-hollow-ground-asian-chefs-knife/
Cleaver – https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-classic-nakiri-knife/
Paring – https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-gourmet-paring-knife/
Serrated – https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/wusthof-gourmet-bread-knife/
With Spring in the air and the farmers markets to look forward to, my creative juices are always trying to think of ways that I can add more vegetables to your dishes! One success has been the creation of the Super Salad crafted after the beloved Buddha Bowl idea. I would best define this concept as an assortment of various vegetables both, raw and cooked, with a protein, grain or starch and sometimes fruit and seeds. The key is to balance all the flavors to ensure you get the perfect bite! The beauty of these bowls is that there are endless ways to keep them interesting, but for me, adding global themes really brings the concept together. If you need some inspiration, check this out this Pinterest board.
But the Bowls do take some work! So here are my tips to ensure your success:
- Select a Bowl or Bowls recipe. Don’t forget the dressing.
- Create your grocery list. Try and get as much organic produce as possible.
- When you return home from shopping, use this motto – “Need it 3 times chop it once”. This sets you up for a week’s worth of bowls or salads. I use this amazing tool for the most beautiful julienne vegetables.
- Storage, I prep most of my vegetables a week in advance and store them as follows: carrots, celery, radishes and potatoes in water. Peppers, loose fruit, cabbage and lettuce in damp paper towel placed inside a Ziploc bag. Avocados, apples, oranges once ripe store in vegetable drawer. Items like grains can be made and stay fresh up to five days stored in air tight containers. Dressings stored in glass jars. Proteins best made the day of use. *Protein short cut, buy a Rotisserie Chicken they add a lot of flavor and bonus use carcass to make chicken stock.
- Lastly, choose a nice bowl that will highlight all your hard work!
Too much work then let me help! Pick a day where I can come and train you or you can always take the easy way out and order a Super Salad off the Weekly Menu
Since January is the month when most folks decide that they need to clean up their diets, I thought I would give you a few suggestions that I really love. Most you have already shifted your diets to less meat and dairy, no gluten, less salt and sugar and more vegetables. As your Personal Chef, part of my service is to create a total food experience. In doing so, I am constantly on the lookout for items that have loads of flavor and pair up with what I am featuring. Additionally, I spend countless hours testing and researching foods that may play an important role in your diet! These items may be store bought, semi-homemade or homemade. Give the below a try an see what you think!
Cassava Pasta so many benefits with this pasta it’s free from glutens, grains the top 8 allergens, legumes, gum and lectin. With an earthy flavor and fantastic texture this truly is the closet to the real thing. Check it out here.
Cauliflower Hot Cereal just when you thought there couldn’t be another item made with Cauliflower now you can replace your Oatmeal with this plant based power house. Check it out here.
Chick Pea Flour Tortillas Enjoy Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday with these tasty tortillas. Roast off some cumin dusted sweet potatoes, add some smoky black beans topped with cheese or crema and fresh cilantro and you have the perfect dinner. Check it out here.
Oat Milk Ice-Cream I’m not a fan of sweets but I keep up on what is healthy and tastes like the real deal and oat milk ice -cream is delicious. Here is a link to several brands check it out.
A lot of planning goes into crafting the Weekly Menus, I work hard to keep on top what is happening in the food world so that I can continue to deliver healthy fun food experiences to my clients. One trend that isn’t going away is the amount of meals you will be cooking at home! Continue looking at the positives, like being able to control the ingredients going into your meals. Creating weekly menus of your favorites while trying new things. Many of you have even found clever ways to stretch my meals, impressive! After 8 months of quarantine you should also be reaping big savings from not eating out and becoming a pantry ninja.
I’m no different than you in that I get bored of cooking the same things so I usually take some time in January to get re-energized and improve my skills. For the last two years I visited Austin and came back with so many new ideas. I even put myself through boot camp. Unfortunately for me I will not be taking any trips in the near future so I must look for my inspirations elsewhere. I have recently spent countless hours reviewing what the experts are saying about 2021 food trends check out this link.
Planning your holiday meals in the midst of a pandemic may create a bigger challenge than in years past. The list below is a road map for any meal but even more important now so that you can spend more time with family and friends. Hopefully since everyone has been home for so many months you have had the time to a create a well-stocked pantry, freezer and fridge (see tips on stocking your fridge and pantry here), so crafting your menu and supplementing with the holiday extras should be a breeze. Don’t forget, I am here to help. The holiday sides menu will go out in 2 weeks, so if all the cooking and planning isn’t for this year, I have you covered!
- PLAN YOUR MENU AND GUEST LIST: Now you can create your grocery list including flowers and beverages.
- PREP AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK: Make sure your fridge is completely cleaned out. When you bring home all your fresh produce take the time to clean, prep and label. I can’t emphasize this enough, if you are using an item for several dishes, prep it once. Items like potatoes, celery and carrots can be prepped up to a week in advance and stored in water. Stage an area for silverware, glasses, dishes, linens, slow cookers and warming units.
- HOLIDAY MEAL COOKING SCHEDULE: Working backwards, figure out what dishes can be made several days in advance, then either place in the freezer or the fridge depending on their shelf life. If storage is a challenge I use coolers to store vegetables and condiments. When I cater big events, I use large trash bags filled with big bags of ice and then place my platters and salads on top.
- OUTSOURCE: Delegating labor-intensive items like desert, appetizers and especially the turkey not only frees up space but gives you the time to prepare your signature dishes. *Never was there a better time to support your local restaurants. Many of them offer complete meals as do places like Whole Foods, Fresh Market even Bojangles.
- TURN YOUR HOME INTO A RESTAURANT: Set up stations for carving, beverages, deserts, appetizers and sides. Or carve the turkey at the table then pass. Place bread baskets at both ends of the table to complete the meal.
- HAVE CONTAINERS ON HAND FOR FOLKS TO TAKE HOME LEFTOVERS: If you want to take it up a notch from Ziplocs and plastic containers, check out these cute holiday containers or craft your own to go containers. This a perfect opportunity to package a holiday meal for friends and folks that can’t be with you or that are housebound.
- KEEPING SIDES WARM: This can be a challenge for many. We have found utilizing your grill is a great option for extra help when stove tops and ovens are full, but here is a link for other ideas.