Sunday, December 21, 2008

Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies

Maybe it's because I only decorate sugar cookies once a year, but I seem to have amnesia for what a pain in the rear it is for me. Not being artistically talented, I find decorating sugar cookies to be challenging. Leaning toward OCD, I'm never happy with the results and it takes me quite a bit of time to do the decorating. Take a look at the picture to the left. There are 19 cookies in that photo. It took me SIX HOURS to decorate those 19 cookies. I have three dozen more, undecorated, in ziplock bags. I am not going to decorate them. Hell, I probably won't even frost them at all. In my opinion, they are just as good with a cup of coffee when not decorated. In fact, maybe they are even BETTER since I don't care about messing up the decoration by eating them. Each year, I swear I won't do decorated sugar cookies again. Then, each year, my "cookie-amnesia" kicks in and I get to rolling and cutting that sugar cookie dough. Maybe next year, I'll re-read this blog entry and it'll all come back to me before I preheat that oven.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 5 Has Shipped!

Well, here are a couple of the packages being sent out for Round 5. Each round, I include something in addition to the homemade cookies. This round, it was beef jerky and sunflower seeds. The cookie varieties for this round included requests by the soldiers for: No-Bake Cookies, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter, and Rice Krispies Treats.

I packaged the cookies in the personal chef meal packaging that I use for my clients. Once packaged in the lidded, plastic containers, I vacuum sealed the containers with my FoodSaver.

My soldier from Round 3 is safely back in the States from Afghanistan. Nick said the guys would get excited whenever they'd see a bunch of boxes being delivered. He also gave me some feedback on the cookies/packaging that worked the best and worst. Nick noted that cookies packaged in plastic containers (gladware, rubbermaid), those that were vacuum packaged, and those containing apple peels or bread, arrived the best and freshest. He said the worst were those packaged in recycled food containers (Pringles cans).

I want to thank the bakers on both of my teams for the time, effort, and resources you have donated to boost the morale of these soldiers. I know how busy everyone is around the holidays. You are appreciated more than you know. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Pot Winter Meals

This is my son’s second year playing a winter sport. Since the games and practices take place mainly on weekdays, we need meals that are quick and easy to avoid the fast food and carryout trap. One pot meals can really fill the bill. Just add a loaf of crusty bread or a salad and you’re all set. One pot meals are also perfect for winter and for busy schedules because they keep warm well on the stove until the end of practice and they reheat beautifully the next day.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
1lb. lean ground beef

1/2 cup instant brown rice
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
4 cups cabbage or cole slaw mix
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brown the ground beef. Drain. In a large bowl, mix everything else into the meat. Pour into an ungreased casserole dish, cover and bake for 60 minutes.

Chicken & Noodles
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
10 cups hot water

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder (or soup base)
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 1-1/2 pound cooked, boneless skinless chicken breast, torn into large pieces
1 (16oz) bag frozen egg noodles

Mix carrots, celery, onions, water, bouillon, melted butter, pepper and chicken pieces in large stock pot.
Bring to a boil, turn to low heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add noodles and simmer on medium-low heat for an additional 10 minutes.
Serves 6-8

Savory Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
3 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon Season-All seasoning salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (I use Wildtree grapeseed oil)
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced onions
1-3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons beef bullion powder or beef base
2 bay leaves

Coat roast with Season-All. Brown roast in oil, on all sides (I use the pressure cooker base). Add carrots, celery, and onions when meat is nearly browned, add water and Worcestershire sauce.
Place potato halves on top of roast and add pepper, beef bullion powder, and bay leaves.

Lock lid in place and bring to pressure over medium-high heat. Cook at high pressure for 1 hour.

Release pressure naturally – do not use quick release. Test for tenderness. If not done to your liking, return to pressure for 10 minutes, quick release and test again.
When finished, serve with crusty bread for a hearty meal.

One Dish Chicken Fajita Dinner
2 (1-1/4oz) packages of fajita seasoning mix (I use Penzy’s, to taste)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips or chunks
2 red bell pepper, cut into strips or chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into strips or chunks
4 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
Vegetable oil, for sautéing (I use Wildtree grapeseed oil)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Sautee chicken strips or chunks, until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm.
Sautee peppers for 3-4 minutes.
Add chicken back to pan with peppers.
Add fajita seasoning and 1/2 cup water to pan with chicken and peppers.
Cook until chicken is done.
Serve mixture over rice and top with grated cheese.
Serves 4-6

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turn Leftover Turkey Into Two Different Dinners

Ah... Thanksgiving night. The stock has been made from the turkey bones and all the leftovers are put away. Now I start thinking about what I'm going to do with all that turkey. We had an extra turkey this year due to a fluke, so I'm looking to make two delicious dishes from the leftovers. Of course I will make a Turkey Pot Pie, but the cool and rainy weather today has me thinking soup. I really enjoy soup and a Turkey Posole sounds wonderful!

While I have all the ingredients on hand to make the pot pie, I am short a few items for the posole. I refuse to hit the stores the day after Thanksgiving with all the crazy shoppers & drivers, so it looks like the posole will have to be made later this weekend.

The Turkey Pot Pie is a meal unto itself, but a nice green salad is a good accompaniment. I like to serve a good, homemade cornbread (possibly jalapeno or cheddar) with my Posole. Both of these meals are terrific comfort foods as well as family favorites.

Turkey Posole
Serves 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, cubed
2 fresh poblano chile peppers,
seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 quarts turkey broth

4 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green
chile peppers
2 (15 ounc
e) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 (15 ounce) cans white
hominy, drained
1 tablespoon chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons dried oregano

water, as needed

salt and pepper to taste

In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions and poblano chiles in oil until soft. Stir in garlic, and cook for one or two minutes.

Season with chile powder, cumin, and oregano. Add turkey broth, cooked turkey, canned green chile peppers, cannellini beans, and hominy. Add water if more liquid is needed to just cover everything in the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to blend flavors.

Garnish with tortilla chips and sour cream or a squeeze of lime.

Turkey Pot Pie
Serves 8
1 recipe pastry for a (10 inch) double crust pie
4 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, diced

3 tablespoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

2 cubes chicken or turkey stock/broth

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups cooked turkey,
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roll out bottom pie crust and place in the 10 inch pie pan and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the bouillon and water. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in the potatoes, and cook until tender but still firm.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the turkey and flour. Add the milk, and heat through. Stir the turkey mixture into the vegetable mixture, and cook until thickened.

Pour mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Roll out the top crust, and place on top of filling. Flute edges, and make 4 slits in the top crust to let out steam.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 5 - The Holiday Round

Your Place Gourmet is again hosting two Operation Baking Gals teams for Round 5. This round is really special since the packages will arrive around Christmas and New Year's Day. Since Operation Baking Gals is designed so that the featured soldier shares all the goodies with his/her fellow soldiers, it helps to get goodies into the hands of soldiers who may never receive letters or packages from home.

Our soldiers for Round 5 are Alan Scobel, deployed to Qatar, and Kathy Miller, deployed to Iraq. Alan is based out of Maryland and Kathy from Phoenix.

Below is a little info about both soldiers as well as some pics. To join one of my baking teams to send holiday goodies to these brave soldiers who are far from home, protecting our freedoms, please go to the Baking Gals website . There, you can register, and then join a team - it is a two-step process. For my past bakers, you should already be registered so all you have to do is sign in and join a team or two! The shipping window for Round 5 will be December 5th - December 19th, so get signed up NOW!

Alan Scobel is a Senior Airman stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar. He is in the 379th Expedititionary Civil Engineer Squadron and is an HVAC Technician, which is heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, there are about 150 soldiers in his squadron, which also includes carpenters and plumbers as well. Alan deployed to Qatar on August 1st and will be there till late January or early February, than he will return to his home base, which is Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and is part of the Air Force District Of Washington Command. He works the night shift and and for the bakers, the temperature can get to 85 in November. He was asking about no bake cookies and oatmeal raisin.

Kathy Miller is also a flight nurse here in Phoenix and, when not deployed, works for the same company as Deb Davis. Here is some info from Kathy: "I miss everyone back in Phoenix, but really love what I am doing here as well. Deb is about 3-4 hours away by plane. We landed in Qatar, dropped Deb off, then flew on to Iraq. Qatar is a small country that comes off of Saudi Arabia and sticks out into the Persian Gulf. We are in the middle of Iraq north of Bagdad. Would love to receive some cookies for my troop. We have 5 providers, 6 nurses, and 13 med techs. The people I have asked said either chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, oatmeal raisin, or chocolate chip with walnut. Whatever you guys want to bake would be great though. The food here isn't that good and anything from home is a big treat!!"

Again, to join one of my baking teams to send holiday goodies to these brave soldiers who are far from home, protecting our freedoms, please go to the Baking Gals website . If you have difficulty with the site, please send me an email to chefkim(at)yourplacegourmet(dot)com with "I want to bake" in the subject line.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 4 Has Shipped!

Round 4 is Done! A huge thanks to all the bakers on my TWO teams this round. Here is a few pic from one of them who also got their local library to donate books and movies. Looking forward to Round 5 - Get your favorite holiday cookie recipes out to share them with our brave men and women serving overseas.

Round 5 will be our holiday round, with our shipping window falling early to mid-December for delivery around Christmas. I'll be posting again shortly with the info on joining an Operation Baking Gals team for Round 5. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holiday Guests on Special Diets

With food sensitivities on the rise, chances are at least one of your holiday guests will have some sort of food or ingredient restriction. A couple of years ago, we had a guest for holiday dinner who had casein (dairy) sensitivity. This prompted me to seek out alternative recipes for traditional favorites. From dairy free to diabetic, your food sensitive guests will appreciate your effort and you can feel good knowing your holiday table includes something for everyone.

Casein Free Apricot and Toasted Almond Stuffing

1 cup brandy
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced (10 apricot halves)

2 tsp vegetable oil

1 cup celery, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

5 cups stuffing cubes, (cubed dried white bread)

1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup toasted almonds, sliced

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 egg, beaten

1/2 tsp thyme

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F
Place the brandy and apricots in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add celery, onion and garlic, sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add brandy and apricots, and cook until half of the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and cool.
In a large bowl, combine apricot mixture, stuffing cubes, broth, almonds, cranberries, egg, thyme and pepper; tossing gently.
Spoon the bread mixture into a 2-quart casserole that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray.
Cover with lid, and bake for 45 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
From Nature’s Bounty Health Notes

Gluten Free Rolls

4 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons honey

2 eggs

1 packet yeast (about 1T)

1 cup sour cream

½ cup potato starch

1 cup cornstarch

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients. Mix well to remove all lumps. The dough will be quite wet. Wet hands to handle dough. (Re-wet hands as needed.) OR use a portioning scoop and just “plop” into muffin cups
Take about 1/4 cup of dough and shape into a ball. Drop into greased muffin tin. Repeat until all dough is used.
Bake 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in middle tests clean.
From Recipe Zaar #42322

Diabetic Friendly Pumpkin Custard

4 eggs' worth of egg-substitute/eggwhites (1 carton Eggbeaters or store-brand equivalent)
1-2/3 cups Splenda

1-1/2 tsp ground cinammon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

A pinch of ground cloves

1 tsp salt

2 15-oz cans solid pack pumpkin (Libby's is good)

2 cups low-carb soy milk (I use Silk brand or the H-E-B store brand)

Using an electric mixer, combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Start with the eggs, work in the Splenda and spices and salt, then the pumpkin and the soy milk (slowly) last.
Pour it into a 2-quart glass pan. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes, then 60 minutes on 350, or until a knife comes out clean.
Cool on a rack, then either serve warm, or refrigerate. Makes six fairly generous servings.
Adapted from S.John Ross at

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Go to where you can register, check out all the teams, and then join a team. Registering does NOT commit you to baking, you must JOIN a team if you'd like to participate.

Once you register, you will receive an email from the moderator to notify you of your registration. After that, please go back to to join a team!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Portion Distortion

Sponsoring the Estrella's Biggest Loser event and leading a nutrition and cooking class has got me doing research into the common reasons people have been gradually gaining weight for the last twenty years.

Americans waistlines are growing and a big part of that is the gradually increasing portions being eaten. Be it convenience foods or restaurant meals, the quantities of food being served has multiplied. I think this can be attributed equally to 1)Consumers not realizing the portions have gradually gotten larger, and 2)Consumers not being aware of proper portion sizes.

Check out these examples of portions 20 years ago versus today.

It is difficult for the best of us to estimate proper portion sizes. Here are some visuals that can help you Eat Healthy! Courtesy of

Handful = 1-2 oz.
1 oz. nuts = 1 handful or 2 oz. pretzels = 2 handfuls
Fist = 1cup
Example: Two servings of pasta or oatmeal

Palm = 3 oz. Example: a cooked serving of meat.
(NOT including your fingers or thumb)

Thumb = 1 oz.
Example: piece of cheese
1 fruit serving= ½ cup canned or 1 medium fruit
(about the size of a tennis ball)
1 meat, poultry or fish serving= 3 oz
(about the size of a deck of cards)
1 grain= 1 slice bread, presliced
(about the size of a cassette tape) or
1/2 cup pasta
(about the size of an adult woman's palm, stacked 1" high)
1 dairy serving=8 ounces
(the size of a container of individual yogurt)
1 vegetable serving = 1/2 cup cooked or canned vegetables (about ½ a baseball)
1 fat serving= 1 teaspoon
(about the size of 4 stacked dimes

Operation Baking Gals - Round 4

October brings Round 4 of Operation Baking Gals and Your Place Gourmet is hosting another team. This team will be shipping to two soldiers, one in Iraq and one in Qatar.

Here is some info on each of them:

Our soldier in Iraq is Crystal Sheffield. Crystal is a Weapons Director assigned to the 607th Air Control Squadron. She is in Iraq, serving with another unit, because that unit did not have enough soldiers. The unit Crystal is serving with will be in Iraq through the holidays. Crystal is based out of Luke Air Force Base and is married to a fellow soldier.

Our soldier in Qatar is Debbie Davis. Debbie is a nurse, working with many of our wounded warriors who would absolutely love to receive baked goodies - not to mention all the medical personnel who would love the goodies as well. Debbie has been in the military for 17 years, with the first 8 being active duty and the last 9 in the Air Force Reserve. This is her third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In her first two deployments, she worked as a critical care air transport nurse and transported the most critically injured soldiers by fixed wing aircraft. In this third deployment, she is working at a medical squadron at Al Udied Air Base, Qatar. She says, "I can't tell you how fulfilling it is to be able to help men and women who are fighting for our country. They are truly the best of the best."

All these soldiers are a long way from home and family. Knowing there are people who support their hard and sacrifice makes the deployments tolerable.

If you'd like to join Team Your Place Gourmet, please register on this site and email me with your username at ChefKim(at)YourPlaceGourmet(dot)com with "I want to be on your baking team," in the subject line. Once you are registered, you will receive an email from the site moderator. After receiving that email, please come back to the site to join a team.
Feel free to forward the information to your family and friends who may want to bake.

This is how it works: Ship anytime between October 30th - November 10th and use the USPS (Post Office) to ship your package. What can you bake? That's up to you! Just keep in mind that it will take about one week to get to Crystal and Debbie and will be subjected to temperatures over 100 degrees and lots of jostling around along the way.

Just because you baked in previous rounds does not automatically put you on a team. You MUST register for each round in which you want to participate.

*NEW EASIER WAY TO JOIN A BAKING TEAM* Go to where you can register, check out all the teams, and then join a team. Registering does NOT commit you to baking, you must JOIN a team if you'd like to participate.

If you or any of your baking friends want to join my team, please post a quick comment here and email me at chefkim (AT) yourplacegourmet (DOT) com and I'll send you more info and either Crystal's or Debbie's address.

The USPS has special APO/FPO flat-rate Priority Mail boxes. You can fill this box and mail it for only $10.95 ($10.50 for click-n-ship), regardless of how much it weighs. These boxes are available at your local post office and are free of charge.

Thank you for participating!
Your Place Gourmet - Personal Chef Service

Monday, October 13, 2008

Estrella's Biggest Loser Kick-Off

Tonight was the kickoff to the Estrella Biggest Loser event and the turnout was terrific! Each registered participant weighed in and had their official start weight recorded by Lisa of Easy Fitness Solutions, as well as "before" pictures taken by Michelle of Michelle Roles Photography.

Each week, contestants will weigh in and have the opportunity to participate in that week's class. The classes range from a group bike ride around the lakes to nutritional classes given by Chef Kim of Your Place Gourmet and Dr. John Monroe of Healthy Life Family Medicine.

Prizes will be awarded for the most weight loss by the mid-point of the competition at October 30th weigh-in, and then grand prizes for the final weigh-in, to take place on November 20th. The prize at the mid-point will be a one week personal chef service provided by Your Place Gourmet and the final prizes will be his and hers fitness bicycles provided by Estrella Mountain Cyclery.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Operation Baking Gals - Round 3 Photos!

Here are some of the favorite pictures sent by members of Team Your Place Gourmet during Round 3 of Operation Baking Gals!