Chef Tips for a Perfect Holiday Celebration

Chef Tips for a Perfect Holiday Celebration

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


Tip #1: For a successful celebration “Keep it Simple.”
Here is a formula that works for appetizers: 2-2-2. I recommend six items: two store bought, two semi-homemade and two homemade. That lets you take time to focus on your signature items 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 or aren’t eating dairy, 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 want the tapas experience, so the basic crudité, meat and cheese board doesn’t cut it anymore. If possible add one surprise item from the oven served mid party that can easily be added to the table or enlist a friend to pass around, so fun……

Tip #2: Focus on the Platters, Flowers and Decorations to add the “Wow” factor!
Select nice napkins, small paper plates 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 use your energy to put together festive platters, seasonal floral arrangements and decorations to create a lovely setting. 

holidayparty

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

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 10-12 bites without a meal for 2 hours. Having gourmet nuts, chips and olives and maybe a dip like pimento cheese with crackers staged in several areas will also help to fill people up!

Tip #5: Desert
This is the time of year when people splurge! Either make your favorite holiday desert or this is where fruit and cheese really work well. A beautiful platter of warm brie drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pomegranates surrounded by dried and fresh fruit and artisan chocolates. It’s just enough to finish off the evening!

Tip #6: Cooks Tip:
No need to feel overwhelmed this holiday season if you don’t feel like cooking. One positive from the Pandemic we now know is anything we need is just a click away. My favorite go to is Williams Sonoma. They have so many choices and excellent qualityhors doeuvres. You can also look to your local grocery store like Fresh Market or Ingles. They can make stunning holiday platters with just a few days notice.

Maybe you are not interested in doing anything but hosting. Beau & Ashley Menetre at The Nest Catering and Events are wizards at throwing amazing parties.
The Nest Catering & Events
– 404-319-1052

My Secret for Cooking Shrimp!

My Secret for Cooking Shrimp!

Due to where we live, I’m limited in getting good quality seafood consistently, but I can get beautiful wild caught North Carolina shrimp. The good news is shrimp and related prawns have so much versatility. They are the perfect candidate for entrees, salads, tacos, stews and soups and can be baked, boiled, fried and grilled, but my go to method is roasting! Each and every time they come out moist and juicy. So, give the recipe below a try and see what you think. Bonus I added my Green Goddess dressing recipe. It’s the perfect dip for the shrimp.

INGREDIENTS

For the shrimp:
2 pounds large shrimp (14 to16 shrimp per pound)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I often times use Old bay Seasoning it really amps up the flavor

For the Green Goddess Dressing:
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (5 to 6 scallions)
1 cup basil leaves (18 to 20 leaves)
1/2 cup parsley I prefer curly
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
• Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on if using for shrimp cocktail. Be sure to pat them dry. Place in bowl and toss them until evenly coated. Pour on to a foil lined sheet pan and spread them in one layer. Roast for 8 -10 minutes depending on the size. Check at 8 minutes as there will be carryover cooking. If you think they are getting to done place in fridge to cool down. If not set aside to cool.
• For the dressing, place herbs in food processor and coarsely chop. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings if needed. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Serve as a dip for the shrimp with the crudités or for your favorite salad. 

Lemon Parmesan Herb Breadcrumbs Recipe and Some Recommended Chef Patty Products!

Lemon Parmesan Herb Breadcrumbs Recipe and Some Recommended Chef Patty Products!

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

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

PREPARATION:

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.

Chef’s Tips for Choosing the Best Knives!

Chef’s Tips for Choosing the Best Knives!

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/ 

Chefs Tips for Crafting the Perfect Buddha Bowl at Home

Chefs Tips for Crafting the Perfect Buddha Bowl at Home

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

New Yummy Foods You Have to Try!

New Yummy Foods You Have to Try!

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.