Monday, November 5, 2007

Tis The Season - For Pumpkin!

October brings thoughts of haystacks and jack-o-lanterns. Jack-o-lanterns get me thinking about recipes using pumpkin. Pumpkin is loaded with the antioxidant, beta-carotene, which some sources say can prevent disease. In addition to being healthy, pumpkin is also delicious and adds flavor and moisture to dishes. I like all types of recipes that call for pumpkin, from snacks to main courses to desserts. Some of my pumpkin recipes have come to be family and friend favorites. In fact, the Pumpkin Ring recipe below makes a cake that I consistently get requests for at potlucks.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

32oz Marinara (homemade or in a jar)

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1 (16oz) can solid pack pumpkin

½ cup dry Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

36 jumbo-sized pasta shells, cooked to firm stage, drained, and cooled

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Spoon a thin layer of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish.

Combine beaten egg with pumpkin, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg.

Stuff shells with mixture and arrange stuffed side down in a single layer in the baking dish.

Cover shells with rest of spaghetti sauce.

Cover dish tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle mozzarella over top and bake uncovered 10 to 15 minutes more until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbling.

Adapted from Woman’s Day Magazine

Roasted Pumkin Seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons Canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Let pumpkin seeds dry on paper towels. Toss cleaned pumpkin seeds with oil and salt; spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 250° oven for about 1 hour, or until the pumpkin seeds are dry, stirring occasionally.

Pumpkin Fluff

2 c. skim milk

2 pkgs. sugar free vanilla pudding mix

Blend till stiff

Then blend in:

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup fat free cool whip

cinnamon and nutmeg or pumpkin pie spices to taste

Serves 8, Serving Size: 1 cup, Points per serving 2

Adapted from Weight Watchers Online

Pumpkin Smoothie

1c. skim milk

1 low fat vanilla yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 pkts splenda

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup pumpkin

4-6 ice cubes

....mix it up in the blender.

Makes 1 serving, 4 points.

Adapted from Weight Watchers Online

Pumpkin Ring

3 cup bisquick baking mix

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened

4 eggs

1 can (16 oz) pumpkin

2 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup milk


1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 12-cup bundt cake pan or angel food cake pan, 10 x 4 inches. Beat all ingredients on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Spread in pan. Bake about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely. Beat glaze ingredients. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sauteed Spinach & Roasted Beets

I love root vegetables. From beets to sweet potatoes to rutabega. I have clients who love them as well, so I've been preparing them quite a bit this week.

On Tuesday, I finished shopping for my client and was on the way to their home when I realized I had forgotten my latex gloves - a MUST when preparing beets. I stopped at the craft store, a sporting goods store, and another grocery store in the area, seeking gloves. None were to be had. As I was pulling out of that last parking lot, trying to decide if I should go back home for the gloves (adding an extra 45 minutes to my day) or just suffer with red hands for a few days until the beet juice wears off, I noticed a dentist office. Hey! Dentists have GLOVES!! I walked into the office and told the receptionist of my dilemma. She was happy to provide a pair of gloves and another employee even requested a business card as she may be interested in hiring a personal chef!

Sautee'd Spinach & Roasted Beets

1 pound beets, scrubbed but not peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried

20 ounces spinach, fresh

1 teaspoon ginger, grated

1 teaspoon garlic, pressed

Heat oven to 450 degrees

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment. Slice beets into thin rounds (about 1/8 inch). Toss slices with olive oil, salt and thyme and spread in one layer on baking sheets. Roast 20-25 minutes, the beets should be soft, glistening and dark around the edges. The thinest slices will be crisp and almost burnt around the edges.

Meanwhile, saute the spinach with 1-2 T olive oil, the ginger and garlic in a saute pan. When both are done, combine

Serves 4

Fine Cooking Magazine

Friday, October 5, 2007

Two Contest Prizes This Month!

I sent my October eNewsletter before realizing it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month so I'm sending another newsletter at midmonth with ANOTHER contest prize in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness. That's right - October will have two prizes! This second prize is a custom handmade bracelet made by Jenny T Designs in the Healing Jewels collection.

Each month, my eNewsletter contains news, recipes, and a CONTEST with prizes. You can't win if you don't enter. You can't enter if you don't get my newsletter. :-)

If you don't already subscribe to my enewsletter, sign up now!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Now Accepting Plastic

I don't know about you, but I rarely write checks anymore - nor do I carry cash - I use plastic; both debit and credit cards. The card I use for any given transaction depends on several factors, not the least of which are the perks related to each card. With my personal debit card, I get cash back that adjusts to the top three spending categories each month. One of my business credit cards gives extra points for grocery and fuel purchases. Being a personal chef, 90% of that card's usage is groceries - Cha-Ching!!

In my business Your Place Gourmet - Personal Chef Service I've decided to accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express cards. I find it terribly irritating when the particular store or service provider, from whom I'd like to make a purchase, doesn't accept the card of my choice. I wanted my clients to be able to use their favorite card. I also wanted to offer payment plans and automatic billing to my regularly scheduled clients.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Grapeseed Oil?

Have you tried this stuff? It's fabulous! It's got a higher smoke point than olive oil, no cholesterol, and expands when heated so you use less. I had someone send me a bottle to try it out and I'm hooked! Natural grapeseed oil is absolutely flavorless and light. The infused oils are terrific too. So far, I've tried garlic infused and butter flavored. Next on my list to try are jalapeno and zesty lemon!

Another thing I learned about grapeseed oil is that the bargain-priced oils tend to be chemically extracted, rather than expeller pressed. Chemically extracted?? YUCK!

I found the Wildtree Herbs products to be the best for my dollar, but couldn't find anyone in my area who sold it. So... I became a culinary consultant for the company in order to purchase it directly. I don't do home parties and such - just not my thing - so this territory is wide open if someone wants to do that. If that's you, contact me and I'll get you hooked up.

Speaking of Wildtree, the products helped me get dinner on the table in a flash today. I cubed up some pork tenderloin and tossed it in the slow cooker with some Wildtree Asian Ginger Plum marinade & dressing before I left the house for my son's lacrosse practice. Once we returned from practice, I heated some garlic infused grapeseed oil and stirfried some Asian veggies in a snap. Brown rice rounded out the meal. This dinner was healthy (as the Wildtree products are all-natural and cholesterol free), quick, and delicious! My husband packed up the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Asian Mini Buffaloaves with Honey-Garlic Sauce

Last week, I hit the pavement in search of locally grown/produced foods. I ended up purchasing some buffalo and some honey. The buffalo was from Arizona Buffalo Company in Buckeye and the honey was produced at Uncle Mac's Honey Company, which is located in Laveen but the products are only sold in Goodyear at the SwapMart.

At first, I created dishes using each ingredient. I made honey-peanut butter bread in the bread machine and bison bourguignon in the pressure cooker. Both recipes were outstanding! Now to create some tasty meal using both buffalo AND honey in the same dish. After tweaking some classic dishes, I came up with a play on meatloaf, "Asian Mini Buffaloaves with Honey-Garlic Sauce." My 14-year old (who initially turned his nose up at the idea of "buffaloaves") just finished up his second helping. Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Asian Mini Buffaloaves with Honey Garlic Sauce

1-1/2 lbs ground buffalo
1/3 cup water chestnuts, finely chopped
3/4 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 egg
1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Mix lightly but throughly to blend. Too much mixing will make the loaves tough.
Spray insides of muffin cups with cooking spray. Divide meat mixture into 12 muffin cups.
Bake at 275-300 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from pan and serve immediately with honey garlic sauce.

Combine ingredients in a sauce pan.
Cook and stir on low heat until hot and bubbly.
Serve loaves and sauce with rice or Asian noodles.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Herb Gardening For Dummies

Growing tired of spending $4 for each little package of fresh herbs at the grocer (then having half of them go to waste), I decided to invest in one of these hydroponic gardens so I could grow my own herbs, then harvest only what I need each day. I'm sure I could have created a cute little dish garden on my own - much more cheaply too - but I know from past experience that I would forget to water it and all that good stuff.

This is my herb garden, about 10 days since set-up. The pods that still have their little "greenhouse caps" on them are later sprouting varieties. For my first attempt at herb gardening in water, I've got Mint, Italian Basil, Dill, Thyme, Parsley, Purple Basil, and Chives. This is also the first time I've taken a picture with my phone. I hope my herb-growing skills are better than my photography skills.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Personal Chef for Pups?

With the recent news of contaminated pet food and treats, I have received a few requests to make all-natural pet products - ie: offering pet personal chef service. Currently, I am recipe testing several items (my three pups are the lucky tasters!) and hopefully should have something to offer my pet clients within the next couple of weeks. I'm working on kibble (dry) dog food as well as fresh/frozen moist dog food, doggie biscuits and cookies, as well as doggie birthday pup-cakes!

Stay tuned to this blog and to Your Place Gourmet for updates.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Celebrating the End of Summer with Food

Labor Day BBQs signal the unofficial end of summer - even though summer feels like it lasts until November here in the Valley.

While we are not hosting a Labor Day party this year, we will be attending one and bringing a side dish. I've decided to make a tasty, colorful salad that takes advantage of the season's fresh sweetcorn and tomatoes. This salad is easy to make and holds up well on a buffet. If you don't have access to fresh corn, frozen roasted corn in your grocer's freezer will work almost as well.

Corn Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
6 ears of corn, cooked, cleaned, and removed from the cob OR 1 – 12oz bag frozen roasted corn (Trader Joe’s is fantastic!)
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

If using frozen corn, thaw in refrigerator and drain.
In a large bowl, toss together the corn, tomatoes, onion, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Chill at least one hour before serving.
Serves 4

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How Old Is That Food I Bought Today?

In researching local food sources, I found that, on average, our food travels 1,500 miles before it reaches our dinner tables, according to 100 Mile Meals. This means our "fresh" food is probably 5-8 days old by the time it reaches our grocers' shelves.

Gaining momentum is a movement to eat more locally produced food. By doing so, local growers are supported, and an awareness created of what is actually produced within a 100 mile radius of our own back yards.

The trick is trying to eat mainly (or only) locally produced foods. I'm going to give it a shot, so I and my company will participate in the September 2007 Eat Local Challenge and make this an option for my clients as well.

Off to find recipes using the tasty ingredients produced within my 100 miles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Foodies and Winos

I am just back from the USPCA's annual conference, held this year in Philadelphia. Aside from the interesting classes that I attended, the best part of the conference had to be the people I met and the friends I made. Over many, many glasses of wine, I got to know chefs from all over the country. The sharing of helpful hints, war stories, and names of reasonably priced packaging suppliers was plentiful as we ate, drank, and laughed our way through the weekend.

During the conference, one of the classes I attended was given by Mark Tafoya of The Gilded Fork. This particular class was titled, "Harnessing the Power of the New Media," and was all about using blogs, podcasts, and other new media as a way to boost our businesses. While I am miles away from any sort of podcast, consider this my first attempt at blogging. If I get really daring, I might attempt to make my own changes on my website

Another memorable class I attended was a Food Styling class, given by the master food stylist, Denise Vivaldo. What a fun gal she is! While I haven't really started experimenting with food styling, the image above is of a dish I made while writing my monthly food column for My Hometown Estrella magazine.
All photography is by Michelle Roles Photography in Avondale, Arizona.